"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. […] The United States and Saudi Arabia have long-standing economic and defense ties. Between World War II and 1975, the United States provided a total of $328.4 million in economic and military aid to Saudi Arabia, reducing and ultimately terminating these programs as Saudi oil derived income burgeoned in the 1960s an d 1970s. 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 […] Principal issues of bilateral interest include the Saudi position on t h e 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."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93113
U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://fpc.state.gov/