Ibrahim Al-Shammary (Al Riyadh Newspaper)
Saudi Arabia and USA.. A Firm Alliance Despite Storms

Founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman, strengthened bilateral relations with the United States in his historic meeting with US President Franklin Roosevelt on February 14th 1945, twelve years after the signing of a cooperation agreement between the two sides, so that relations in the historic meeting moved to the stage of strategic alliance at all levels and fields, which indicates the depth of the Kingdom's foreign policy and its focus on principles before interests in the service of Arab and Islamic issues.

Despite the social and cultural differences between the two countries, strategic interests continue to unite between any US administration and the Kingdom, as the US administrations change, and the relationship between the two countries is stable and developing, in a way that serves the common interests of the two countries.

Founder's Vision

King Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman, after entering Hijaz in 1924, began to draw the features of the Kingdom's foreign policy, and was keen to ensure that his relations with countries were diversified and strengthened enough to achieve the interests of the Kingdom, while preserving the Saudi decision's independency.

He began to contact the influential countries to recognize the Kingdom. His efforts resulted in the first recognition by the Soviet Union in 1926, then soon European countries such as Britain, France, Germany and others recognized the Kingdom, and strengthened with them commercial relations and agreements. Yet, the founder had a long-term vision, as he realized earlier that the United States will have an influential role in the global arena, and that gaining its recognition and establishing strong relations with it would enhance the Kingdom's position and influence in the region.

At a time when the United States viewed the Middle East before World War II as a British area of influence, however, in the summer of 1930, it commissioned the assistant of the Commercial Attaché in Alexandria (Ralph Chiseprove) to visit the Kingdom to explore the situation and prepare a report on it, a matter which happened when he made his report, "The economic sources and commercial activities of the Kingdom of Najd, the Hijaz and their annexes". He expected that the Kingdom would see growth and prosperity in the near future, which encouraged the United States to move towards establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries, and then recognizing the Kingdom in 1931, after which some trade and oil agreements were concluded.

Strategic Relationship

The bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, based on mutual respect, cooperation and common interests, enjoy a special place for both sides. These relations crystallized between the two countries on February 23th 1930, and were further strengthened in May 1931 when the commercial flow of Saudi oil started, and King Abdulaziz granted privilege to the US Company (Standard Oil) to explore oil.

1932 was considered a distinguished year for the Kingdom and the United States, as the two countries witnessed two important events:

First: The unification of the Saudi State under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the signing of the temporary trade diplomatic agreement between the two countries.

Second: The United States broke the cordon of isolation from the outside world and provided support for its companies and investments abroad.

When World War II broke out in 1939, King Abdulaziz - Allah rest his soul in peace - declared neutrality from the beginning, despite his relations with Britain and Germany. In the meantime, the American oil companies operating in the Kingdom were pressuring their government to protect their interests and support the Kingdom in a way that strengthens the US presence in the region and provides oil flows to it. Soon, the remarkable interest in the Kingdom and its King Abdulaziz began to increase among US politicians who were alerted to the Kingdom's strategic importance and saw it as a way out of the problems that President Roosevelt expected to occur in the region.

May 1st 1942 witnessed the appointment of James Moss as the first US chargé d'affaires in Jeddah after its commission in Cairo had been responsible for relations between the two countries, after which official contacts began and the US envoys arrived in the Kingdom, then soon an US consulate was opened in Dhahran. Military cooperation also kicked off through training and supplying the Saudi army with weapons, in addition to establishing the Dhahran Base.

The meetings of the leaders of the Kingdom and the United States date back to 1943, when King Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman Al Saud could not visit the United States in response to the official invitation of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and so he sent his two sons, His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and His Royal Highness Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - may God have mercy on them - to discuss the future of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Therefore, it is not surprising that US President Roosevelt declared in February 1943 that "Defending Saudi Arabia is a vital matter for the defense of the United States," after an oil facility in Dhahran was bombed by Italian forces allied with Nazi Germany.

Over time, relations began to deepen more until the Kingdom gained a major strategic importance in US foreign policy, which officially recognized the Kingdom in 1944 and established full and comprehensive diplomatic relations with it.

However, the most prominent turning point in the Kingdom's relationship with the United States was through the historic meeting that brought King Abdulaziz with President Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy on February 14th 1945. That meeting was the actual beginning that underpinned the Saudi-American relations, and the foundations for a solid alliance between the largest power in the world and the most important power in the Middle East region. Understandings established by King Abdulaziz and President Roosevelt withstood the severe regional and international storms, and that meeting continues to witness the depth of the Saudi-US historical friendship based on mutual cooperation and common interests.

After this meeting, King Abdulaziz sent his son, King Faisal, to the United States in June 1945, as a representative to attend the founding of the United Nations Organization in San Francisco, and to sign the agreement of the Kingdom's accession to the organization, to become the forty-fifth member state.

Relations continued to flourish until 1951, when the mutual defense agreement was signed between the two countries. It was the same year that saw the change of the name of the American oil company in the Kingdom from the California Arabian Standard Oil Company to the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco).

Founder's Footsteps

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's policies remained entrenched on the basis of its pure Islamic belief.

After his death, his sons followed his approach and regime. They have successfully led the Kingdom's foreign policy in a world in which international relations were complicated and characterized by conflicts, disputes and contradictions.

The first royal visits to the United States of America were made by King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the invitation of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 29th 1957, becoming the first Saudi king to visit the United States.

In February 1962, King Abdulaziz visited the United States again and met President John F. Kennedy, and discussed with him means of economic cooperation between the two countries.

During the reign of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, he met US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and discussed with him the establishment of a partnership to carry out development projects in the Kingdom.

In 1971, King Faisal met US President Richard Nixon in Washington. Three years after that meeting, specifically in 1974, Nixon visited the Kingdom, and his visit is of historic value in the relations of the two countries, as it is the first visit by an American president to the Kingdom, in which it was agreed to establish the Saudi-American Joint Economic Committee, and that was in 1974.

In his welcoming speech at the Conferences Palace in Jeddah, Nixon said in response to King Faisal's welcoming speech, in which he spoke about the historical and important relations between the two countries, "Your Majesty, I know that many people - at least as expected - come to Saudi Arabia to obtain oil, but we need what is more valuable than oil, we need wisdom ..., and because I am a pragmatic politician, let me say just as we will obtain a lot of wisdom that we will carry with us after this visit, we also need oil to reach our next destination. 

To be clear, Your Majesty, the world price will be paid." That visit came in the wake of the two countries overcoming the oil export embargo crisis.

King Faisal with President Richard Nixon

During the reign of King Khalid bin Abdulaziz, he visited the United States in October 1978. US President Jimmy Carter visited the Kingdom in the same year, and discussed with King Khalid Carter’s project to move the peace process between Arabs and Israel.

The era of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz saw many transformations that strengthened the relationship between the two sides, especially the liberation of Kuwait, and the events that followed in the region.

King Fahd bin Abdulaziz also visited the United States in 1985 and met US President Ronald Reagan, who asked King Fahd to use the Kingdom’s influence to bring peace to the Middle East and to try to find direct negotiations between Arabs and Israelis.

During that visit, coordination was also made to increase American investments in the Kingdom's development plans.

King Fahd commissioned his brother, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, to visit the United States in September 1985, and to deliver the Kingdom's speech at the United Nations, then followed by an official visit to meet US President Ronald Reagan in the same month.

Saudi-American relations cam at their greatest power at the beginning of the 1990s during the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in August 1990, when the Kingdom sought the help of the United States as part of an international alliance to repel the aggression and liberate Kuwait. That actually took place through joint military operations. US President George H. W. Bush was the most US president visiting the Kingdom, as he visited it three times over three years running, the first of which was in November 1990.

US President Bill Clinton visited the Kingdom in 1994, and met the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd in the city of Hafar Al-Batin, and both leaders discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries. During that visit, President Clinton also asked King Fahd to grant an American company specialized in communications systems a contract to upgrade the telecommunications system in the Kingdom at the cost of four billion dollars.

In 1995, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz visited the United States to attend the United Nations 50th anniversary.

Three years later, in 1998, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, as he was crown prince, met US President Bill Clinton in the United States, as part of his world tour that included seven countries to discuss the situation in the region and discuss economic cooperation between the two countries.

Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz visited the United States in November 1999, and met President Bill Clinton.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz also visited the United States during his tenure, in 2002, during the reign of George W. Bush. That visit is one of the most important visits by a high-ranking Saudi official to the United States after September 11th 2001 attacks, which created hostility to everything related to Islam.

Although the committee that prepared the final report to investigate the September 11th attacks, issued in July 2004, it confirmed that the Kingdom were uninvolved in those attacks. Rather, every now and then, the US government has been praising the Kingdom’s efforts and cooperation in combating terrorism and drying up its financing sources.

These American confirmations and praises blocked the way for the attempts of many who sought to destabilize the strong relationship between the two countries.

Two Allies Despite Disparity

This relationship between the two countries has continued and developed over time, and has never changed despite its very difficult regional and international junctions represented in the 1967 and 1973 wars, and the subsequent repercussions, especially the 1973 energy crisis, in which the Kingdom banned the exportation of oil to the United States and Europe because of its position on the October War. 

This Arab position by King Faisal was not motivated by the desire to cut ties with the United States as much as it was a legitimate right that stemmed from his firm belief in the importance of siding with the Arab brothers and supporting their urgent causes that the United States did not show interest in their justice. 

Although the relationship between the two countries was governed by two contradictory positions: the Kingdom is the biggest supporter of the Palestinian cause, and the United States is biased towards the Israeli side, however, the relationship between them went well despite that disparity that did not prevent them from cooperating on various regional issues.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with US President Donald Trump

Relationships' Future

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is aware of the importance of having multiple allies in the region and the world. It has reorganized its existing alliances beyond unilateral or economic alliances, thus establishing strategic relations at the political, military, security and economic levels with multiple countries.

Although the Kingdom did not depend on one single ally, it remained, according to the American political orbit, the greatest ally of the United States in combating terrorism, especially since the Kingdom's record is full of local and international achievements.

US policymakers are also aware that the Kingdom is one of their most important allies in the Islamic world. It is not true that it has only the largest oil reserves in the world and controls it in the market, but what successive US administrations understand well is that the Kingdom maintains its important economic position in the world, and religious position as the land of the Two Holy Mosques and the cradle of the Islamic faith.

The Saudi-American bilateral relations are based on mutual respect, cooperation and interests, each being important to the other, a matter which negates the common saying that relations between the two countries are based on the economy in general, and oil in particular, based on the beginnings of the history of their relations, in which oil used to dominate their great interest.

However, reality indicates that the Kingdom's place in the heart of the United States is getting more and more important day after day, due to its religious standing and its economic importance, that the United States is well aware as necessary to maintain the highest levels of coordination and cooperation with the Kingdom in relation to the region's issues and crises. The United States often adopts certain positions regarding regional issues, and there is a Saudi reservation on them, so they are halted or rendered unsuccessful.

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