Americans have long considered Saudi Arabia the one constant in the Arab Middle East. The Saudis banked our oil under their sand, and losing Saudi Arabia would be like losing the Federal Reserve. Even if the Saudi rulers one day did turn anti-American, the argument went, they would never stop pumping oil, because that would mean cutting their own throats. This, at any rate, is the way we looked at the matter before fifteen Saudis and four other terrorists launched their suicide attacks on September 11; before Osama bin Laden suddenly became for the Arab world the most popular Saudi in history; before USA Today reported last summer that nearly four out of five hits on a clandestine al Qaeda Web site came from inside Saudi Arabia; and before a recent report commissioned by the UN Security Council indicated that Saudi Arabia has transferred $500 million to al Qaeda over the past decade.
Five extended families in the Middle East own about 60 percent of the world's oil. The Saud family, which rules Saudi Arabia, controls more than a third of that amount. This is the fulcrum on which the global economy teeters, and the House of Saud knows what the West is only beginning to learn: that it presides over a kingdom dangerously at war with itself. In the air in Riyadh and Jidda is the conviction that oil money has corrupted the ruling family beyond redemption, even as the general population has grown and gotten poorer; that the country's leaders have failed to protect fellow Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere; and that the House of Saud has let Islam be humiliated-- that, in short, the country needs a radical "purification."
"For over sixty years, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a strong relationship based upon mutual respect and common interests. Diplomatic relations were established in 1933. The U.S. Embassy opened in Jeddah in 1944 and moved to Riyadh in 1984. In addition to the Embassy, the American government maintains consulates in Jeddah and in Dhahran. The United States and Saudi Arabia share a common concern for regional security, oil exports and imports, and sustainable development. Close consultations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have developed on international, economic, and development issues such as the Middle East peace process and shared interests in the Gulf. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S. export market in the Middle East. The United States and Saudi Arabia have a history of technical and educational exchange which has benefited both nations, and the longstanding security relationship continues to be important. As the twenty-first century dawns, the vibrancy of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, based on multifaceted interests in the political, economic, business and humanitarian fields, remains secure. "
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family without elected representative institutions at the national level and with a 2004 population of approximately 26.7 million of which an estimated 7 million were foreign citizens. On August 1, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud ascended the throne upon the death of his half-brother, King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. As the custodian of Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, the government bases its legitimacy in governance according to its interpretation of Islamic law (Shari'a). The Basic Law sets out the system of government, rights of citizens, powers, and duties of the state, and provides that the Koran and the Traditions (Sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad serve as the country's constitution. The government generally maintained effective control over the security forces.