Bilateral relations of the USA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia started when diplomatic relations were instituted in 1933. Saudi Arabia’s exclusive role in the Islamic and Arab worlds, its strategic locality, and ownership of the globe’s largest oil reserves make its comradeship vital to the US. The US and the KSA share universal concerns and seek advice from each other on a variety of regional and worldwide issues. As the Middle East region undergoes great transformations, the US appreciates KSA’s leadership due to its hard work toward a prosperous and peaceful future for the Middle East region. Moreover, the KSA is a strong collaborator in counterterrorism efforts and regional security, providing diplomatic, financial, and military cooperation. The two nations collaborate to protect their interests. It is eminent that bilateral relations between the two nations do not only exist because of oil. Although the original source of bilateral relations between the United States and the KSA was oil, it is now evident that it is not the only factor that strengthens them. This paper will disagree with the statement that strong relations exist between the US and the KSA due to interests in oil only.
Firstly, Saudi Arabia and the United States have a bilateral relationship in counterterrorism and defense cooperation. The government of Saudi Arabia regards Al Qaeda, its supporters, and affiliates as undeviating threats to the national security of the country. Recent reports by State Department have credited the government of Saudi Arabia with functioning to safeguard a healthy counterterrorism relation with the US exemplified by improved bilateral cooperation. The US and Saudi officials affirmed that Al Qaeda is situated in the Arabian Peninsula and in Yemen and is guided by the nationals of Saudi, which comprises the principal terrorist threat to Saudi Arabia.
There is an outstanding partnership between Saudi and US defense forces and they regularly take part in joint exercises to promote common welfare in the Gulf region. The KSA is the largest US customer for Foreign Military Sales, with open and active cases being valued at an estimate of $97 billion as forces in Saudi Arabia build abilities across the complete continuum of local challenges. The US Army Corps of Engineers participate in civilian and military construction activities in the KSA. The US program for Foreign Military Sales funds three organizations for security assistance. It gives support and training in the utilization of arms and other services that are security-related to the KSA armed forces, as well as coaching and providing the Facility Security Force and helping in the transformation of the KSA National Guard (Hart, 1998). The US has sold the KSA air defense weapons, military aircrafts, and armored vehicles. Currently, the US and the KSA are developing partnerships on border security and critical infrastructure, as well as on the Interior Ministry initiative, a multi-billion dollar project to enhance coastal and land border defenses.
Saudi-US internal security and counterterrorism cooperation has developed ever since 2008 when a bilateral agreement on technical cooperation was signed, setting up a US-interagency vital infrastructure safeguard advisory assignment to the KSA. Saudi Arabia and the United States have been strong counterterrorism partners aimed at interrupting Al Qaeda elements (Hart, 1998). The US works closely with the authorities of Saudi Arabia on a variety of counterterrorism issues such as counteracting terrorist financing. In addition, the KSA and the United States work hand in hand to assist various states in the Middle East region to counteract mutual terrorist threats. Moreover, the US Military Training Mission oversees a program funded by Saudi Arabia to coach the Facilities Security Force for the Interior Ministry to safeguard major infrastructure locations (Hart, 1998).
Sources reveal that Saudi nationals have been key financiers of terrorists. This issue poses as a solemn threat to the global community and the kingdom. The authorities of Saudi Arabia have prohibited their nationals from engaging in fighting in Syria; as a result, the government has come up with strict measures to prevent it. They have implemented ways that will limit funds that are privately raised from Saudi citizens meant for equipping Sunni groupings and charitable associations in Syria (United States, 2010).
Moreover, the US and the KSA have come up with bilateral agreements and investments. The history of trade between the two nations started in 1926. The relations were fostered by security and stability of the Jeddah Red Sea port. In 2013, United States exports to the KSA exceeded $35 billion, as well as $19 billion of direct exports, which was a 76% boost since 2009, and approximately $2 billion in service exports. Other services, goods, and indirect export were prized at an extra $15 billion (Vitalis, 2007). The bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement gives a forum for the KSA and the USA to discover ways to progress economic relations. The US International Trade Administration asserts that in 2013 the KSA exports to the US exceeded $51.8 billion. To a substantial level, the elevated value of Saudi-US trade is stated by the United States’ hydrocarbons imports from the KSA and the United States’ exports of machinery, vehicles, and weapons to the KSA. It is obvious that the starter of the US-Saudi relationship was oil (Vitalis, 2007).
Oil is the primary element in the relationship between the two countries. The Kingdom supplies crude oil to the US. Variations in the value and volume of Saudi-US oil trade explain declines in the price of Saudi exports to the US in some recent years. At the end of January 2014, the US Energy Information Administration asserted that the KSA was the second in supply of crude oil imports in the US. They could provide above one million barrels of oil to the US market. Saudi oil exports to the US account for approximately 15 percent. The US- Saudi oil relations have led to trade increases between them. The KSA has opened up a variety of US companies that originally were established to provide services and products for the oil industry and afterward entered other ventures. Moreover, organizations have been established to uphold US- Saudi business ties. In 1974, the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation between the KSA and the US was founded and it was meant to give advice on how business activities could be enhanced. The two countries also formed the US-Saudi Arabian Council in 1994. The organization brought together business leaders from the two sides with the aim of advancing knowledge and appreciation of the KSA within the US business society and vice versa. Another goal is to promote investment and trade between Saudi Arabia and the US (Preece, 2001).
Thirdly, bilateral relations between the KSA and the US exist also in education programs. More Saudi students have moved to the US to study with an estimate of eighty thousand Saudi students representing the KSA future business, social, and political leadership. The American familiarity and the United States’ education assist in shaping the KSA national outlook and workplace and will support new viewpoints on tolerance, global affairs, and diversity. According to the poll conducted by BBC World Service between October 2005 and January 2006, the KSA public opinion is divided on the US, with thirty-eight percent of views being positive about the US influence and thirty-eight percent views being negative about the US influence (Qaimmaqami, Howard, & Keefer, 2008).
In 2012, KSA students were in the fourth position of international students learning in the US, representing 3.5 percent of foreigners attaining higher education in the US. Moreover, the KSA goes on to build relations with America through programs of scholarship for KSA students. Back in 2005, a program was rolled out and gave scholarships to fifteen thousand students for four years in several areas from Bachelor’s to Ph.D. Students on the scholarships go to the US to learn, get firsthand experience of the American culture, and make friends (Prados & Blanchard, 2006). These exchanges between Saudi students and the Americans deepen the relation between the KSA and the US on an individual level and assist promotion of common understanding that helps the two societies. Saudi students get to understand US culture and appreciate it, which positively enhances the relation between the KSA and the US. Many Saudi Council of Ministers members have degrees from universities in the United States.
As discussed in the paper, it is clear that the US-Saudi relations are diverse, including oil, education programs, defense cooperation, counterterrorism, business, and trade. Close security and defense ties between the nations are anchored by venerable programs of military training and are supplemented by continuing sales of high-value weapons and new initiatives of vital infrastructure safety cooperation. Presently, the bilateral relationships are mainly committed to upholding cooperation (Benjamin, 2005). President Obama visited the KSA in March of 2014 to exchange opinions with Abdulla the King and most probably enhance the bilateral ties. Education programs have strengthened bilateral relations as most Saudis go to continue their higher education in America. While studying there, they make friends in the US, which promotes stronger relations between the two nations. The KSA is among major suppliers of oil in the US, which strengthens their relations since oil is the main source of revenue in the KSA and there is a need to operate and trade effectively in this industry. Moreover, the United States and the KSA have strong business ties and have formed many organizations that link them in terms of business. The US sells military weapons to the KSA, while the KSA sells its oil to the US.