The alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia could be counted among the most bizarre alliances of the powers in the world. There are perhaps no more ideologically opposing allies than these two. On the one hand, there is a republic where lawmakers swear on the Bible, on the other hand, there is an absolute monarchy that promotes the most radical form of Islam called Wahhabism, whose members, largely directly from the Saudis, are behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. But how did this alliance come into being and what are the main reasons for its persistence to this day?
The roots of the Saudi kingdom go back to 1744, when Muhammad bin Saud founded a dynasty. He succeeded through an alliance with Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of a strict Islamic ideological movement called Wahhabism. The country itself was united after bloody fighting on the Arabian Peninsula between several local kingdoms in 1928. The winner of the fighting was Ibn Saud, whose name gave the name to the new state. However, he too had to get military support from followers of Wahhabism.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia did not begin until 1931. In 1933, the American company Standard Oil of California obtained permission from the Saudi government to explore oil fields. Oil was not discovered until 1938 in unprecedented quantities. Since then, the alliance between the two countries began to grow in strength and was sealed after the Yalta Conference, when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.
Relations continued to grow over time until October 1973, when, in response to Israel's support in the Yom Kippur War, a coalition of Arab states imposed an oil embargo on the United States and its allies, which had a very negative impact on the affected economies. The United States subsequently sought to straighten relations with Saudi Arabia, and in particular to maintain a stable oil price. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, began to buy military equipment in bulk from the Americans.
Saudi Arabia was a strong ally of the United States in the fight against the Soviets in the Cold War. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia subsequently began sending Saudi citizens equipped with American weapons to Afghanistan. These fighters, consolidated by the fight against the Soviets and influenced by Wahhabism, were later united under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's spark for declaring war on the United States was the Gulf War, when Saudi Arabia, despite objections from bin Laden and other radical Islamists, allowed nearly half a million American troops to be deployed.
Numerous terrorist attacks, largely carried out by the citizens of Saudi Arabia, have created negative public opinion on both sides. Nevertheless, the United States and Saudi Arabia remain allies. The benefits of this alliance include
- sale of crude oil to the United States,
- strategic military position of the United States in the region,
- protection of the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia,
- counterweight to Iran,
- sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.