"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant political and economic influence as the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large energy reserves. Since 2005, King Abdullah bin Abd al Aziz Al Saud has sought to strengthen Saudi relations with European and Asian counterparts and has worked to build and lead an Arab consensus on regional security issues such as Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recent domestic reforms have codified royal succession rules, begun restructuring the justice system, and updated some educational curricula and practices. An Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist campaign inside the kingdom appears to be ebbing as security improvements and anti-extremism campaigns are implemented. However, the threat of domestic terrorism remains. Robust energy export revenues and investment-friendly reforms continue to strengthen the kingdom's regional and global economic position. A close Cold War-era relationship between the U.S. Government and the ruling Al Saud family was built on shared interests in securing Saudi oil production and in combating global Communism. In the post-Cold War period, the emergence of the Al Qaeda terrorist threat and volatile regional security conditions in the Middle East have tested U.S.-Saudi relations. The direct participation of 15 Saudi nationals in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 2001, and the identification of several Saudi nationals as alleged supporters of terrorism have called into question Saudi Arabia's reliability as an ally. Increased official counterterrorism cooperation and shared concerns about Iranian foreign policy have provided a new strategic logic for U.S.-Saudi security relations since 2003."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33533