"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. In January 2003, Crown Prince Abdullah (who has effectively headed the government during the illness of King Fahd) proposed an 'Arab Charter' advocating internal reforms, increased political participation, and regional economic integration. […] 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, and over 5,000 U.S. troops remain in the country. […] U.S. officials have cited Saudi support in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, including intelligence sharing, law enforcement activities, and tracking of terrorist financing. Some commentators maintain that Saudi domestic and foreign policies have created a climate that may have contributed to terrorist acts by Islamic radicals. Saudi officials reject this viewpoint and maintain that they are working with the United States to combat terrorism."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93113
U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://fpc.state.gov/