"Since taking power in 2005, King Abdullah has created greater public space for domestic social reform debates and has promoted the concept of a strong national identity among Saudis in the face of a determined domestic terrorism campaign. He also has codified royal succession rules, begun restructuring the justice system, and taken clear steps to exert stronger government control over religious authorities. Robust oil export revenues have strengthened the kingdom's economic position and provide Saudi leaders with significant financial resources to meet domestic investment needs and provide social benefits. In this context, the United States and Saudi Arabia continue to grapple with 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 Obama Administration has engaged the Saudi government as a strategic partner in efforts to promote regional stability and to defeat Al Qaeda, and current U.S. policy initiatives seek to help Saudi leaders address key domestic economic and security challenges. It remains to be seen whether these U.S. initiatives and, more importantly, Saudi leaders' own reform efforts will enable the kingdom to meet the energy, education, employment, and security challenges that its citizens face. Shared challenges have long defined U.S.-Saudi relations, but questions about political, economic, and social reform may become more pressing in light of the calls for change that are now swirling around the kingdom."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33533