"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. Domestic reforms under King Abdullah 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 have ebbed as security improvements and anti-extremism campaigns have been implemented. However, the threat of domestic terrorism remains: In February 2009, Saudi authorities identified several dozen individuals suspected of continuing involvement in Al Qaeda activities, including some former prisoners of the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay. Robust energy export revenues in recent years strengthened the kingdom's regional and global economic position and are now providing Saudi leaders with resources to meet fiscal challenges posed by the global economic downturn. […] While security cooperation has improved since 2003, the United States and Saudi Arabia continue to face a core challenge identified by the 9/11 Commission in its final report: defining a broader bilateral relationship that 'leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend.' The Bush Administration attempted to meet this challenge by continuing high-level consultations with key decision makers in the Saudi royal family on issues of mutual concern, including energy policy, finance, Israeli-Arab peace, human rights, and political and economic reform. In conjunction with a May 2008 visit by President Bush to Saudi Arabia, the Administration announced new agreements relating to nuclear cooperation, infrastructure security, and visas."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33533
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