Saudi Arabia: Current Issues and U.S. Relations [Updated March 6, 2002]   [open pdf - 106KB]

"Saudi Arabia, a monarchy ruled by the Saudi dynasty, enjoys special importance in the international community because of its unique association with the Islamic religion and its oil wealth. Since the establishment of the modern Saudi kingdom in 1932, it has benefitted from a stable political system based on a smooth process of succession to the throne and an increasingly prosperous economy dominated by the oil sector. Decrees by King Fahd in March 1992 establishing an appointive consultative council and provincial councils and promulgating a basic law providing for certain citizens' rights could signal a gradual trend toward a more open political system. Since late 1995, King Fahd has suffered increasingly from ill health, and Crown Prince Abdullah has assumed many routine governmental functions. The upsurge in oil prices that began in 1999 has relieved pressure on Saudi budgets but created concern in the U.S. Administration and Congress. In March 2000, Membersof Congress introduced legislation to reduce or end U.S. assistance or arms sales to countries engaged in oil price fixing. […] Principal issues of bilateral interest include the Saudi position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, security in the post-war Gulf region, arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, Saudi external aid programs, bilateral trade relationships, and Saudi policies involving human rights and democracy. Saudi Arabia has supported Arab positions on the Palestinian question and Saudi leaders feel strongly about Muslim claims in Jerusalem, which is the third holiest site in the Islamic religion. At the same time, Saudi Arabia supports Arab-Israeli peace talks and has endorsed several key Israeli-Palestinian agreements reached during the 1990s."

Report Number:
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93113
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