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Saudi Arabia–United States relations refers to the bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, which began in 1933 when full diplomatic relations were established and became formalized in the 1951 Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement. Despite the differences between the two countries—an ultraconservative Islamic absolute monarchy, and a secular constitutional republic—the two countries have been allies. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have close and strong relations with senior members of the Saudi Royal Family.[1]

Ever since the modern U.S.–Saudi relationship began in 1945, the United States has been willing to overlook many of the kingdom's more controversial aspects as long as it maintained oil production and supported U.S. national security policies.[2] Since World War II, the two countries have been allied in opposition to Communism, in support of stable oil prices, stability in the oil fields and oil shipping of the Persian Gulf, and stability in the economies of Western countries where Saudis have invested. In particular the two countries were allies against the Soviets in Afghanistan and in the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. The two countries have been in disagreement with regard to the State of Israel, as well as the embargo of the U.S. and its allies by Saudi Arabia and other Middle East oil exporters during the 1973 oil crisis (which raised oil prices considerably), the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (which Saudi Arabia opposed), aspects of the "War on Terror", and what many in the U.S. see as the pernicious influence of Saudi Arabia after the September 11 attacks. In recent years, particularly the Barack Obama administration, the relationship between the two countries became strained and witnessed major decline.[3][4][5] However, the relationship was strengthened by President Donald Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, which was his first overseas trip after becoming President of the United States.[6][7][8] The October 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey caused a serious rift between the countries. The United States sanctioned some Saudi nationals and Congress unsuccessfully attempted to cut off U.S. weapons sales to Saudi related to the war in Yemen. Turkish authorities and U.S. intelligence agencies concluded the killing was done on the order of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia subsidized its oil exports to the U.S. until President George W. Bush proposed the overthrow of the Iraqi government in 2002.[9] The shale oil boom enabled the United States to become a net exporter of petroleum products in 2019, making the U.S. economy significantly less dependent on Saudi oil. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia remain an important U.S. export. The U.S. Department of Defense acts an intermediary charging 7% of such sales, allowing it to fund training activities in other countries such as Bolivia.[9]

Despite the strong relationship between the two countries, opinion polls between the two nations show negative feelings between the American people and Saudi people in recent years, particularly American feelings towards the desert kingdom. Most American criticism pertains to lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia. A poll of Saudis by Zogby International (2002) and BBC (between October 2005 and January 2006) found 51% of Saudis had hostile feelings towards the American people in 2002;[10] in 2005–2006, Saudi public opinion was sharply divided with 38% viewing U.S. influence positively and 38% viewing U.S. influence negatively.[11] As of 2019, Saudi Arabian students form the 4th largest group of international students studying in the United States, representing 3.4% of all foreigners pursuing higher education in the U.S.[12] A December 2013 poll found 57% of Americans polled had an unfavorable view of Saudi Arabia and 27% favorable.[8]

U.S. President Donald Trump authorized a nearly $110B arms deal with Saudi Arabia, worth $300B over a ten-year period, signed on the 20 May 2017, this includes training and close co-operation with the Saudi Arabian military.[156] Signed documents included letters of interest and letters of intent and no actual contracts.[157]

U.S. defense stocks reached all-time highs after Donald J. Trump announced a $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia.[158][159][160]

Saudi Arabia signed billions of dollars of deals with U.S. companies in the arms industry and petroleum industry, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Honeywell, McDermott International, Jacobs Engineering Group, National Oilwell Varco, Nabors Industries, Mohammad bin Salman visited the United States where he met with many top politicians, business people and Hollywood stars, including President Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and George W. Bush.[154][155]

U.S. President Donald Trump authorized a nearly $110B arms deal with Saudi Arabia, worth $300B over a ten-year period, signed on the 20 May 2017, this includes training and close co-operation with the Saudi Arabian military.[156] Signed documents included letters of interest and letters of intent and no actual contracts.[157]

U.S. defense stocks reached all-time highs after Donald J. Trump announced a $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia.[158][159][160]

Saudi Arabia signed billions of dollars of deals with U.S. companies in the arms industry and petroleum industry, including [158][159][160]

Saudi Arabia signed billions of dollars of deals with U.S. companies in the arms industry and petroleum industry, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Honeywell, McDermott International, Jacobs Engineering Group, National Oilwell Varco, Nabors Industries, Weatherford International, Schlumberger and Dow Chemical.[161][162][163][164][165][166]

In August, 2018, a laser-guided Mark 82 bomb sold by the U.S. and built by Lockheed Martin was used in the Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a school bus in Yemen, which killed 51 people, including 40 children.[167]

On May 27, 2020, Bob Menendez, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee claimed during a CNN op-ed that the Trump administration had been covertly working on plans of initiating a new sale of weapons contract worth $1.8 billion to Saudi Arabia.[168] According to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) analysis, American weapons in Yemen have killed at least 100,000 civilians, and over 10,000 people have died as a result of preventable diseases and epidemics like cholera and dengue fever, most of them children.[169]

According to a draft version of the legislation reviewed by the CNN, the Democratic legislatures Senator Robert Menendez, Patrick Leahy and Tim Kaine were planning to introduce a legislation that put strict human rights constraints on the United States foreign arms sales, in the wake of the arms sold in the past by U.S. to countries with poor human rights records like, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. President Donald Trump has also received wide criticism for declaring emergency to bypass the opposition, in order to sell weapons worth billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accused for conducting war crimes.[170]