"Saudi Arabia, a monarchy ruled by the Saud dynasty, enjoys special importance in much of 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 a prosperous economy dominated by the oil sector. Some commentators have suggested that growing internal pressures and regional tensions may have weakened the Saudi regime in recent years; others point to an apparent consensus behind Saudi institutions over much of the last century as evidence of long-term stability. The United States and Saudi Arabia have long-standing economic and defense ties. A series of informal agreements, statements by successive U.S. administrations, and military deployments have demonstrated a strong U.S. security commitment to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was a key member of the allied coalition that expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991. Saudi Arabia subsequently hosted U.S. aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Saudi officials expressed opposition to the U.S.-led military campaign launched against Iraq in March 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom), although Saudi Arabia reportedly permitted certain support operations by U.S. and British military forces, in addition to making some facilities available to them. By mutual agreement, the United States withdrew virtually all its forces from Saudi Arabia at the end of August 2003. […] Other principal issues of bilateral interest include security in the post-war Gulf region, the Saudi position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, Saudi external aid programs, bilateral trade relationships, and Saudi policies involving human rights and democracy."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93113
U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://fpc.state.gov/