Saudi Arabia: Current Issues and U.S. Relations
Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations
Updated May 22, 2008
Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding
in 1932, wields significant political and economic influence as the birthplace of the
Islamic faith and by virtue of its large energy reserves. Since 2005, King Abdullah
bin Abd al Aziz Al Saud has sought to strengthen Saudi relations with European and
Asian counterparts and has worked to build and lead an Arab consensus on regional
security issues such as Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recent domestic
reforms have codified royal succession rules, begun restructuring the justice system,
and updated some educational curricula and practices. An Al Qaeda-inspired
terrorist campaign inside the kingdom appears to be ebbing as security improvements
and anti-extremism campaigns are implemented. However, the threat of domestic
terrorism remains. Robust energy export revenues and investment-friendly reforms
continue to strengthen the kingdom’s regional and global economic position.
A close Cold War-era relationship between the United States government and
the ruling Al Saud family was built on shared interests in securing Saudi oil
production and in combating global Communism. In the post-Cold War period, the
emergence of the Al Qaeda terrorist threat and volatile regional security conditions
in the Middle East have tested U.S.-Saudi relations. The direct participation of 15
Saudi nationals in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the identification
of several Saudi nationals and entities as alleged supporters of terrorism have called
into question Saudi Arabia’s reliability as an ally for some U.S. observers. Increased
official counterterrorism cooperation and shared concerns about Iranian foreign
policy have provided a new strategic logic for U.S.-Saudi security relations since
2003. Longstanding defense ties remain intact, and U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia
have continued, with over $14 billion in potential Foreign Military Sales to Saudi
Arabia approved by the Bush Administration and Congress since January 2005.
While security cooperation has improved since 2003, the United States and
Saudi Arabia continue to face a core challenge identified by the 9/11 Commission in
its final report: reestablishing a broader bilateral relationship that “leaders on both
sides are prepared to publicly defend.” The Bush Administration has attempted to
meet this challenge by continuing high-level consultations with key decision makers
in the Saudi royal family on issues of mutual concern, including energy policy,
finance, Israeli-Arab peace, human rights, and political and economic reform. In
conjunction with a recent visit by president Bush to Saudi Arabia, the Administration
announced new agreements relating to nuclear and security cooperation and visas.
Congress has included prohibitions on the provision of U.S. foreign assistance
to Saudi Arabia in annual foreign operations appropriations legislation each year
since FY2005. However, the Administration has used presidential waivers, existing
legal authorities, and “no-year” funding to continue the provision of limited
counterterrorism and International Military Education and Training assistance to
Saudi Arabia during this period. This report provides background information about
Saudi Arabia and analyzes current issues in U.S.-Saudi relations. It will be updated.
See also CRS Report RL32499 - Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues and CRS
Report RS21695 - The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya.
Saudi Arabia’s Political Development..............................2
Saudi-U.S. Relations, 1931-1991..................................3
Saudi-U.S. Relations, 1991-2001..................................5
September 11, 2001 and its Aftermath.............................6
The 9/11 Commission Report................................7
Terrorist Financing Concerns.................................8
Toward a New Relationship?.....................................9
Recent Congressional Interest in Saudi Arabia..........................12
U.S. Foreign Assistance to Saudi Arabia and Congressional Prohibitions.12
International Military Education and Training (IMET)............13
Prohibitions on Foreign Assistance...........................15
Continuing Resolutions and FY2008 Foreign Operations..........16
U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia.................................16
Criticism and Action in the 110 Congress.....................18
BAE Corruption Inquiry...................................19
Current Issues in U.S.-Saudi Relations................................20
U.S. - Saudi Military Cooperation................................20
U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia (USMTM)........21
Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program
(P M-S ANG) ........................................22
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula...........................23
The Arab-Israeli Conflict.......................................26
Saudi Peace Proposals.....................................27
Saudi Policy Priorities in Iraq...............................29
Saudi Foreign Fighters.....................................29
Saudi-Iraqi Economic and Diplomatic Relations.................32
Economic Relations and Trade..................................33
U.S. Oil Imports and Saudi Policy............................33
U.S.-Saudi Foreign Direct Investment.........................34
Saudi Boycott of Israel and WTO Membership..................35
Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Political Reform..............36
Political Reform Debates...................................37
Further Reading and Historical Resources..............................43
Appendix A: Recent Proposed Arms Sales.............................45
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of Saudi Arabia.......................................3
Figure 2. Non-Immigrant U.S. Visas Issued to Saudi Nationals, 1996-2007...41
List of Tables
Table 1. U.S. Military Training Provided to Saudi Personnel...............14
Table 2. U.S. Assistance to Saudi Arabia, FY2002-FY2009 ...............14
Table 3. U.S. Oil Consumption and Imports...........................34
Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S.
President Bush visited Saudi Arabia in May 2008 to mark the 75th anniversary
of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In conjunction with the President’s visit, the
Administration announced new bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia relating to
nuclear cooperation, counterterrorism and proliferation security, and visa policy.
The Administration signaled its readiness to transmit a Letter of Offer and
Approval to Saudi Arabia for the sale of 900 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
bomb guidance kits. Delivery would begin in 2011. The Administration formally
notified Congress of the sale on January 14, 2008 (see Defense Security Cooperation
Agency Transmittal No. 08-18). A joint resolution of disapproval (H.J.Res. 76) was
introduced in the House to prohibit the proposed sale, but the resolution was not
considered within the 30-day period specified by the Arms Export Control Act.
However, Congress may modify or prevent an arms sale at any point up to the
physical transfer of Foreign Military Sale items. S.J.Res.32 and H.J.Res. 87 seek to
link approval of the JDAM sale and other sales to Saudi oil production increases.
The FY2008 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (Division J, Section 697
of H.R. 2764, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) prohibits the use of funds
appropriated in the act for assistance to Saudi Arabia, unless the President certifies
to the Congress that Saudi Arabia is cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts
and that such assistance will further those efforts. The Administration is requesting
$15,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET) and $350,000 in
antiterrorism assistance funding for Saudi Arabia for FY2009. IMET assistance
makes Saudi Arabia eligible to purchase other training at a reduced rate.
In November 2007, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal attended the
U.S.-sponsored peace meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, lending the kingdom’s
support to renewed U.S. efforts to broker a two state solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. The foreign minister stated Saudi Arabia’s willingness to
normalize relations with Israel subject to conditions, including the establishment of
a Palestinian state on territory occupied by Israel in 1967, a negotiated solution for
the return of Palestinian refugees, and some degree of Palestinian sovereignty over
East Jerusalem. In February 2008, Prince Saud al Faisal stated that, “We hope that
Israel responds positively to our quest and efforts, to avoid desperation that would
force us to review our options.” In May 2008, he expressed the Saudi government’s
“dissatisfaction with and strong condemnation of Israel’s continuation of its
collective punishment policy against the Palestinian people, and its continuing
blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Saudi Arabia’s Political Development
As the birthplace of the Islamic religion in 622 A.D. and as the home of Islam’s
two holiest sites (the cities of Mecca and Medina), the Arabian Peninsula has long
occupied a position of importance within the broader Middle East. However, with
the establishment of Arab empires based in Damascus and Baghdad in the centuries
following the Prophet Mohammed’s death, the peninsula sank into disunity and its
relative political influence gradually declined. In the 16th century, much of the
Arabian Peninsula came under the nominal rule of the Ottoman Empire, although
tribal leaders effectively controlled most of the region. In the mid-eighteenth century,
an alliance developed between an influential eastern family, the Al Saud, and the
leaders of a puritanical religious movement known by outsiders as Wahhabism, after
its founder, Mohammed ibn Abd Al Wahhab. The Al Saud-Wahhabi alliance built
two states in the Arabian peninsula during the next century that eventually collapsed
under pressure from outside powers and inter- and intra-family rivalries.1
During the first quarter of the 20th century, a chieftain of the Al Saud family,
Abd al Aziz ibn Abd al Rahman Al Saud (commonly referred to as Ibn Saud)
overcame numerous tribal rivals with the support of his Wahhabi allies and, at times,
the British government. By 1932, King Abd al Aziz had unified most of the Arabian
Peninsula by force under his rule, and declared the establishment of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia. Five of his sons — Kings Saud, Faisal, Khaled, Fahd, and Abdullah
— have succeeded him as rulers of the third Saudi state during seven decades
characterized by a rapid socioeconomic transformation of the country. A series of
agreements, statements by successive U.S. administrations, arms sales, training
arrangements, and military deployments have demonstrated a strong U.S. security
commitment to the Saudi monarchy since the 1940s.
Saudi Arabia in Brief
Population (July 2007):27,601,038 (includes 5,576,076 foreign residents)
Growth rate: 2.06%
Area:1,960,582 sq.km. (756,985 sq.mi.); just over one fifth the
size of the United States
Ethnic Groups:(native Saudis only) Arab 90%; Afro-Asian 10%
Religion:(native Saudis only) Sunni 85-95%, Shiite 5-15%
Literacy (2003):78.8% (male 84.7%, female 70.8%)
GDP (2006):$340.9 billion; growth rate: 4.3%
External Public Debt (2007 est.):$52.9 billion
Inflation (2007 est.):4%
Unemployment (2004):13% (males); some estimates range up to 25%
Sources: International Monetary Fund (IMF); U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook; Economist Intelligence Unit; and Saudi Arabian
Monetary Agency (SAMA).
1 For more information about Mohammed ibn Abd al Wahhab, see CRS Report RS21695,
The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya. For an account of the earlier Al Saud
states see Alexei Vassiliev, History of Saudi Arabia, New York University Press, 2000.
Figure 1. Map of Saudi Arabia
Saudi-U.S. Relations, 1931-1991
Saudi-U.S. diplomatic relations were established on the foundation of military,
political, and commercial understandings developed during and immediately
following the Second World War. The United States recognized King Abd Al Aziz
as the ruler of Hejaz and Nejd (the western and central regions of the peninsula) in
1931. However, prior to 1942, the United States did not have resident diplomatic
representatives in the kingdom. From the early 1930s through 1945, U.S.-Saudi
relations were shaped significantly by the awarding in 1933 of an oil exploration
concession to the California Arabian Standard Oil Company [CASOC, the forerunner
of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco, the forerunner of today’s Saudi
Aramco)]. CASOC’s discovery in 1938 of substantial oil reserves in eastern Saudi
Arabia and subsequent private and public U.S. efforts to manage and defend oil
production operations during the war years led to a deepening of bilateral relations.
The United States gradually replaced the United Kingdom as the chief external
political and economic supporter of the Saudi government during this period.2
Many observers of U.S.-Saudi relations identify a February 14, 1945 meeting
between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abd al Aziz aboard the
U.S.S. Quincy as the starting point for the more robust U.S.-Saudi political
relationship that developed thereafter.3 The construction of a U.S. military airfield
at Dhahran and the provision of U.S. military planning and training assistance from
the mid-1940s onward formed the basis for bilateral military cooperation during the
early postwar era. Aramco operations and oil exports, U.S. contributions to the
establishment of the Saudi financial system,4 and the involvement of U.S. contractors
in the development of the kingdom’s infrastructure were the key pillars of bilateral
economic and commercial relations during this period.
Saudi Arabia and the United States pursued some common national security
objectives from the 1950s onward, in spite of recurring differences of opinion over
regional issues, the most significant of which was the Arab-Israeli conflict. The
Saudi and U.S. governments’ divergent responses to Arab-Israeli conflicts in 1948,
Nevertheless, the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon
Administrations each viewed the Saudi monarchy as an ally in relation to other
nationalist and socialist governments in the region and as a bulwark against the
spread of Communism in the Gulf region and beyond.
The October 1973 Arab-Israeli war brought latent tensions in U.S.-Saudi
relations to the surface and altered the prevailing political and economic dynamics
of the relationship. Saudi leaders responded to U.S. support for Israel during the war
by instituting an oil embargo and oil production cuts. In the United States, the oil
shocks produced inflation, new concern about foreign investment from oil producing
countries, and open speculation about the advisability and feasibility of militarily
seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia or other countries.5 In the wake of the embargo,
both Saudi and U.S. officials worked to re-anchor the bilateral relationship on the
2 See Aaron David Miller, Search for Security: Saudi Arabian oil and American foreign
policy, 1939-1949, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1980; and, Simon
Davis, “Keeping the Americans in line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia,
Volume 8:Number 1, 1997, pp. 96 - 136.
3 See Memorandum of Conversation Between King of Saudi Arabia (Abdul Aziz Al Saud)
and President Roosevelt, February 14, 1945, Aboard the U.S.S. “Quincy”. Foreign Relations
of the United States (FRUS), 1945, Volume VIII, pp. 2-3, 7-9. See also, “Texts of Letters
Exchanged by Ibn Saud and Roosevelt,” New York Times, October 19, 1945, pg. 4.
4 Arthur N. Young, Saudi Arabia: The Making of a Financial Giant. New York University
Press, 1983; and, Oral History Interview with Arthur N. Young, Pasadena, California
February 21, 1974 by James R. Fuchs, Harry S. Truman Library, available at
[ h t t p : / / www.t r umanl i b r a r y.or g/ or al hi st / young.ht m] .
5 See, for example, Miles Ignotus, “Seizing Arab Oil,” Harper’s Magazine, March 1975;
and, Congressional Research Service, “Oil Fields as Military Objectives: A Feasibility
Study,” Committee Print Prepared for the House Committee on International Relations
Special Subcommittee on Investigations, August 21, 1975.
basis of shared opposition to Communism, renewed military cooperation, and
through economic initiatives that promoted the recycling of Saudi petrodollars to the
United States via Saudi investment in infrastructure, industrial expansion, and U.S.
During the Carter and Reagan Administrations, the Saudi Arabian government
supported anti-Communist causes around the world in efforts that often ran parallel
to or that were coordinated with U.S. policy.7 The 1979 Iranian revolution and the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan helped fuel a decade of collaborative U.S.-Saudi
foreign policy efforts, including shared support for anti-Soviet mujahidin fighters in
Afghanistan and for Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran. The 1991 Persian Gulf War
placed Saudi Arabia in the role of host for U.S. combat troops and military
equipment involved in operations to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The continued
presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s was cited as a serious
provocation by some Saudi opposition figures and extremists, including Al Qaeda
leader Osama Bin Laden, whose supporters, allies, and affiliates have since attacked
the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others around the world.
Saudi-U.S. Relations, 1991-2001
The end of the Cold War eliminated the shared anti-Communist interests that
had helped define U.S.-Saudi security relations since the late 1940s. Continuing
interests in preventing conflict from threatening the political status quo in the Persian
Gulf region and from interrupting the continued flow of Saudi oil to international
markets remained strong. U.S.-Saudi differences over the Arab-Israeli conflict and
other regional issues also persisted. The Clinton Administration’s policy of “dual
containment” of both Iraq and Iran was supported in part by U.S. military personnel
based in Saudi Arabia, 24 of whom were killed and hundreds of whom were injured
in two terrorist bombings in Riyadh in 1995 and Dhahran in 1996.8
Inside the kingdom, Saudi political activists sought to reopen domestic debates
over fiscal policy, constitutional government, and foreign policy that had been largely
proscribed by the government since the 1950s and 1960s. Following the 1991 Gulf
War, citizens submitted several petitions to King Fahd calling for reform, and several
Islamist opposition figures who were critical of the Saudi government were
imprisoned. The pan-Islamic solidarity movement that drove Saudi involvement in
Afghanistan during the 1980s continued to inspire international activism among
6 These economic initiatives were coordinated in part through the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint
Commission on Economic Cooperation, which was established in 1974. See Joint Statement
on Saudi Arabian-United States Cooperation, June 8, 1974, 26 UST 1689.
7 This included Saudi funding of anti-Communist groups that were prohibited from receiving
U.S. foreign assistance by Congress, such as the Nicaraguan Contras. See Independent
Counsel, Court Record, “U.S. Government Stipulation on Quid Pro Quos with Other
Governments as Part of Contra Operation,” April 6, 1989, available at
[http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm]; and Rachel Bronson,
Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, Oxford University
Press, 2006, pp.168-190.
8 See The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 60, and House National Security Committee Staff
Report, “The Khobar Towers Bombing Incident,” August 14, 1996.
Saudis, as private Saudi citizens, Saudi government charitable committees, and
international Islamic charity organizations based in the kingdom funneled financial
and material support to a range of Muslim groups around the world. This included
support for entities and individuals engaged in or victimized by nationalist conflicts
in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kashmir, Kosovo, and the West Bank and Gaza.
At times, this support complicated U.S. policy and peacemaking efforts in those
regions and, whether directly or indirectly, contributed to the development and
sustainment of a transnational network of violent activists, some of whom were
affiliated with Al Qaeda. U.S. policy makers’ concern about these trends predated
the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as evidenced by Clinton Administration’s
efforts to secure Saudi cooperation with regard to Saudi detainees and citizens
suspected of supporting international terrorism.9
As the first post-Cold War decade of U.S.-Saudi relations came to a close, the
bilateral relationship remained strong in traditional areas such as defense cooperation,
but showed signs of weakness in other areas. Political ties were challenged by the
lingering effects of anti-U.S. terrorist attacks, disagreements over the resurgence of
Israeli-Palestinian fighting from late-2000 onward, and basic incompatibilities in
some U.S. and Saudi figures’ expectations concerning political reform and human
rights in the kingdom.
September 11, 2001 and its Aftermath
The direct participation of 15 Saudi nationals in the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks kindled strong criticism in the United States of Saudi involvement
in terrorism or of Saudi laxity in acting against terrorist groups. The attacks
constituted the most serious challenge to U.S.-Saudi relations since the 1973-1974
oil embargo, and some analysts have since contended that Al Qaeda planners may
have chosen a large number of Saudi participants for the attacks in an attempt to
damage U.S.-Saudi relations. Saudi officials have acknowledged the deeply negative
effect the attacks had on Saudi Arabia’s relations with the United States.10 Al Qaeda
leader Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi national, although Saudi authorities revoked his
citizenship in 1994.
Some critical commentators have gone as far as to accuse Saudi government
officials of responsibility for the September 11 attacks through design or negligence.
Others have taken a longer-term view and argued that Saudi policy decisions over
several decades directly or indirectly supported the development of certain types of
9 For example, the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States (the 9/11 Commission) highlights a series of unsuccessful U.S. government
efforts to gain access to a senior Al Qaeda financial operative who had been detained by
Saudi Arabia in 1997. The report credits the Saudi government with assisting U.S. officials
in interviewing members of the bin Laden family in 1999 and 2000.
10 Current Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Al Jubeir famously characterized the
revelation that 15 Saudi nationals had participated in the attacks as “a disaster” and argued
that “Bin Laden, at that moment, had made in the minds of Americans Saudi Arabia into an
enemy.” See PBS Frontline, “House of Saud,” February 8, 2005. Available at
religious extremism and international terrorism, which now threaten citizens of the
United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. In particular, many critics of Saudi
policies have cited reports that the Saudi government permitted or encouraged fund
raising in Saudi Arabia by some charitable religious groups and foundations that
espoused extremist ideologies or were linked to or exploited by Al Qaeda and other
terrorist groups. As noted above, this trend emerged as an outgrowth of a pan-
Islamic solidarity movement in Saudi Arabia that began under King Faisal in the
1960s and 1970s and was embraced by the United States in the 1980s as an asset
during the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan.11
Nevertheless, by the 1990s, Osama bin Laden and other Saudi dissidents had
increased their criticism of the Saudi government’s domestic and foreign policies and
its close relationship with the United States. Bin Laden and his followers declared
war on the United States in 1996, ostensibly to secure the withdrawal of U.S. troops
from the Arabian Peninsula and the broader Middle East.12 Following September 11,
2001, Bin Laden sought to justify the attacks as a response to what he and his
supporters perceived to be anti-Islamic U.S. policies in the Middle East and other
regions. However, Al Qaeda rhetoric condemning secular democracy, U.S. society,
and aspects of Western culture leads many observers to question the notion that Bin
Laden and other Al Qaeda figures were then or are now motivated by political
concerns that can be distinguished from a broader religious or cultural agenda. Al
Qaeda attacks in the kingdom following the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops
in 2003 created further doubts about Al Qaeda’s stated motives.
The 9/11 Commission Report. In its final report, released on July 23, 2004,
the U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (the 9/11
Commission) described Saudi Arabia as having been “a problematic ally in
combating Islamic extremism.” However, the Commission found “no evidence that
the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded”
Al Qaeda. According to the report, Saudi Arabia “was a place where Al Qaeda raised
money directly from individuals and through charities,” and indicates that “charities
with significant Saudi government sponsorship,” may have diverted funding to Al
Qaeda. The report takes note of long-standing cooperative relations between the U.S.
and Saudi governments, growing misunderstandings at the popular level, and the
U.S. government’s desire for Saudi officials to do more to fight terrorism. The report
acknowledged increased Saudi efforts in that regard after mid-2003, when terrorists13
began attacking targets in Saudi Arabia with more frequency.
11 Saudi antipathy to Communism was based largely on the view that the Soviet Union’s
atheistic official ideology posed a direct threat to Saudi Arabia and Muslims globally. See
Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From
the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Penguin Press: New York, 2004. See also
footnote 70 below.
12 See CRS Report RL32759, Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology.
13 The Commission concluded that the Saudi government had become “locked in mortal
combat with Al Qaeda.”
Saudi Responses. The Saudi government has denied any knowledge of or
involvement with the September 11, 2001, attacks and has focused intensely since
2003 on combating the domestic terrorist threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (AQAP). Members of this group and others inspired by its activities have
carried out a number of attacks on civilians, government officials, foreigners, and oil
facilities in the kingdom. Saudi officials maintain that they are working closely with
the United States against Al Qaeda and its supporters, whom officials on both sides
say are targeting both the Saudi regime and the United States. Saudi efforts to
confront and control extremist religious beliefs and practices continue, but remain
complicated by the ruling regime’s historically close relationship with Saudi Arabia’s
conservative clerical community and by the beliefs and activism of some Saudi
citizens (see below).
U.S. government statements have generally complimented Saudi cooperation
with U.S. counterterrorism initiatives since 2003, while sometimes suggesting that
the Saudi government can and should do more, particularly with regard to terrorist
threats beyond Saudi borders. In its most recent Country Reports on Terrorism, 2007
(published April 30, 2008), the U.S. Department of State assessed that, over the last
year, “the government of Saudi Arabia continued to confront terrorism and extremist14
ideologies, though with varying degrees of success.” The 2006 report stated that
the Saudi government still had “significant ground to cover” to address terrorism15
financing and educational extremism concerns, and the 2007 report describes new
initiatives by the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Islamic Affairs to address these
challenges. Administration officials routinely praise Saudi domestic counterterrorism
efforts, led by Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs Prince Mohammed Bin
Nayef (see below).
Terrorist Financing Concerns. Terrorist financing concerns have proven
to be a persistent point of contention.16 The 2007 Country Report on Terrorism in
Saudi Arabia praises Saudi authorities for arresting 30 terrorist financing suspects
over the last year and for enacting new declaration requirements for the cross-border
transfer of cash and other high value items. Nevertheless, U.S. counterterrorism
officials continue to express alarm about alleged terrorist financing activities
involving Saudi nationals. For example, on September 11, 2007, Undersecretary of
the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey stated in an
interview that, “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one
14 U.S. Department of State, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on
Terrorism, 2007 - Saudi Arabia, April 30, 2008. Available at
[ ht t p: / / www.st at e.gov/ s/ ct / r l s / c r t / 2007/ i ndex.ht m] .
15 U.S. Department of State, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on
Terrorism, 2006 - Saudi Arabia, April 30, 2007. Available at
[ ht t p: / / www.st at e.gov/ s/ ct / r l s / c r t / 2006/ ] .
16 See CRS Report RL32499, Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues.
country, it would be Saudi Arabia.”17 Saudi authorities were highly critical of
Levey’s September remarks.
Undersecretary Levey repeated his criticism before the Senate Finance
Committee in April 2008, stating that, Saudi Arabia is “serious about fighting Al
Qaeda in the kingdom, and they do,” but that “the seriousness of purpose with respect
to the money going out of the kingdom is not as high.” According to Undersecretary
Levey, “Saudi Arabia today remains the location from which more money is going
to terror groups and the Taliban — Sunni terror groups and the Taliban — than from
any other place in the world.”18 Saudi officials insist that their counter-terrorist
financing efforts are robust and are not limited to targeting domestic threats.
Other U.S. government entities offer general praise for Saudi efforts, while
acknowledging there remains work to be done. In testimony before the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence on February 5, 2008, Central Intelligence Agency Director
General Michael Hayden stated that “there are some cultural challenges for our
[Saudi] partners to take [terrorist financing] on as thoroughly as we might want.”
However, he added that, “there have been very concrete steps taken by the Saudis
against donors.”19 Similarly, the 2007 Country Report on Terrorism in Saudi Arabia
highlighted efforts by Saudi government and religious figures to encourage Saudis
to exercise caution when making charitable donations.
Toward a New Relationship?
Following the last severe test of U.S.-Saudi relations in the early 1970s, Saudi
and U.S. officials engaged in a multi-track effort to re-anchor the bilateral
relationship on a range of joint military and economic commitments. Official
political relations recovered and remained close, but a degree of public mistrust
persisted on both sides. Several contentious debates regarding proposed U.S. arms
sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and 1990s demonstrated this mistrust; some
Members of Congress and others made evident their doubts about Saudi Arabia’s
reliability as an ally, and some Saudi officials questioned the reliability of U.S.
commitments to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi support for the coalition response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990
helped mitigate some of those mutual doubts, but created conditions that ultimately
made it more challenging for officials on both sides to publicly defend the bilateral
relationship. Saudi officials faced withering criticism from some quarters for inviting
foreign military forces into the kingdom, for hosting U.S. troops after the end of
major combat operations against Iraq, and for continuing to cooperate with the
United States diplomatically, in spite of U.S. airstrikes on Iraq and ongoing U.S.
17 Brian Ross, “U.S.: Saudis Still Filling Al Qaeda’s Coffers,” ABC News, September 11,
18 Testimony of U.S. Department of the Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and
Financial Intelligence Stuart A. Levey before the Senate Finance Committee, April 1, 2008.
19 Testimony of Central Intelligence Agency Director General Michael V. Hayden before
the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, February 5, 2008.
support for Israel. The Bush and Clinton Administrations sought to justify
continuing military cooperation and arms sales initiatives with Saudi Arabia for
strategic reasons amid growing U.S. concern about human rights and political reform
in the kingdom, terrorist attacks on U.S. forces stationed there, and increasing U.S.
awareness that some Saudi citizens were espousing religious extremism and
supporting international terrorism.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks compounded the effects of these
negative factors in both the official and broader public spheres. The 9/11
Commission Report recommendations directly addressed the resulting challenges
which continue to complicate the U.S.-Saudi official relationship:
“The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly. The
United States and Saudi Arabia must determine if they can build a relationship
that political leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend — a
relationship about more than oil. It should include a shared commitment to
political and economic reform, as Saudis make common cause with the outside
world. It should include a shared interest in greater tolerance and cultural respect,
translating into a commitment to fight the violent extremists who foment20
Since 2001, the Saudi and U.S. governments have sought to maintain the mutual
strategic benefits of existing cooperative arrangements while managing the potential
negative side effects of policy differences and working level disagreements. In 2005,
the United States and Saudi Arabia established a cabinet-level strategic dialogue to
address issues of mutual importance. Six associated working groups meet “as
needed” to discuss: (1) counterterrorism; (2) military affairs; (3) energy; (4)
economic and financial affairs; (5) partnership, education, exchange, and human
development; and (6) consular affairs.21 The relative strengthening of Iran as a
regional power since 2001 has helped provide a new strategic logic for official U.S.-
Saudi cooperation. However, U.S. military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan,
rising oil prices, and dilatory Saudi action on some reform and counterterrorism
issues continue to complicate public relations. One former U.S. Ambassador to
Saudi Arabia recently characterized the state of U.S.-Saudi relations as reflecting “an
odd disconnect”, in which, in his view, there is:
“...recognition on the part of the governments in both countries that this is a very
important relationship. But in both cases, the public is extremely negative. Saudi
Arabia has been successfully vilified in American politics, and the United States22
is now extraordinarily unpopular in Saudi Arabia.”
20 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Final Report, p. 374.
21 H.Con.Res. 202 (referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on August 3, 2007)
calls on the Administration to create an additional working group to address human rights.
22 Ambassador Chas Freeman, President of the Middle East Policy Council, served as U.S.
Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992. Tabassum Zakaria, “Analysis — Saudi
smile likely for Bush on oil plea, not more,” Reuters, May 12, 2008.
Efforts to restore and redefine U.S.-Saudi partnership have continued during the
term of the 110th Congress. Section 2043 of P.L.110-53 (the Implementing the 9/11
Commission Recommendations Act of 2007) required the Administration to report
on the long-term strategy of the United States to work with the Saudi government to
facilitate political, economic, and social reforms, including greater religious freedom,
and to combat terrorism, including efforts to prevent and prohibit terrorist financing
by Saudi institutions and citizens. The report was transmitted to the Congress on
January 30, 2008, and describes a “multi-dimensional” U.S. approach to achieving
goals for relations with Saudi Arabia.23
On the eve of President Bush’s May 2008 visit to Riyadh to commemorate the
75th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Saudi relations, U.S. National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley argued that the U.S.-Saudi relationship was in “pretty good
shape.”24 In conjunction with the President’s visit, the Administration announced a
series of new bilateral agreements designed to strengthen bilateral relations in key
!Civil Nuclear Cooperation - Both governments signed a
Memorandum of Understanding on Civil Nuclear Energy
Cooperation under which the United States agreed to “assist the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop civilian nuclear energy for use
in medicine, industry, and power generation and will help in
development of both the human and infrastructure resources in
accordance with evolving International Atomic Energy Agency25
guidance and standards.”
!Enhanced Security Arrangements - Saudi Arabia agreed to join
the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the
Proliferation Security Initiative, both of which are multilateral
Administration initiatives aimed at reducing the threats posed by
weapons of mass destruction proliferation, terrorism, and related
activities. A White House statement released prior to the President’s
visit indicated that “the United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed
to cooperate in safeguarding the kingdom’s energy resources by
protecting key infrastructure, enhancing Saudi border security, and
meeting Saudi Arabia’s expanding energy needs in an
environmentally responsible manner.”26
23 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Strategy Toward Saudi Arabia, Report Pursuant to Section
January 30, 2008.
24 Tabassum Zakaria, “Analysis — Saudi smile likely for Bush on oil plea, not more,”
Reuters, May 12, 2008.
25 U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, “Media Note: U.S.-Saudi Arabia
Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation,” May 16, 2008.
26 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: Strengthening Diplomatic
Ties with Saudi Arabia,” May 16, 2008.
!Reciprocal Visa Policies - Both governments agreed to issue
business and tourist visas to each others’ citizens on reciprocal
terms: valid for five years, with multiple entries. Both governments
also agreed to issue student visas valid for the duration of the
student’s study program, up to a maximum of five years, without
two-year renewal requirements. See “Consular Issues” below for
Recent Congressional Interest in Saudi Arabia
The September 11 terrorist attacks created an atmosphere of skepticism about
U.S.-Saudi relations that has characterized much of the discourse in Congress on
Saudi Arabia since late 2001. During the 107th and 108th Congresses, some Members
of Congress frequently criticized what they perceived to be Saudi policies that may
have contributed to the development of terrorist threats to the United States and other
countries. In the 109th Congress, some Members’ perspectives evolved to reflect a
degree of solidarity with Saudi citizens in the face of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks inside
Saudi Arabia, amid persistent concerns about the Saudi government’s
counterterrorism policies, reform efforts, and positions toward Iraq and the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. Many Members of Congress have acknowledged Saudi
domestic counterterrorism efforts as significant, while continuing to raise questions
about Saudi efforts to combat religious extremism and to support U.S.
counterterrorism and regional policies.
During the 110th Congress, issues of mutual interest to Members of Congress
and Saudi Arabian officials have included the conflict in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear
technology development efforts, Saudi political and economic reform efforts, Saudi
oil policies, counterterrorism cooperation, and new initiatives to revive dormant
Israeli-Arab peace negotiations.
U.S. Foreign Assistance to Saudi Arabia and Congressional
U.S. foreign assistance programs for Saudi Arabia have remained a point of
contention between some Members of Congress and the Bush Administration since
the 107th Congress. Some Members have criticized the provision of U.S. foreign
assistance to Saudi Arabia by arguing that Saudi oil revenues make U.S. assistance
unnecessary or by citing security and terrorism concerns about Saudi government
policies. Others have argued that security-related support for the Saudi Arabian
government is necessary and important in order to help Saudis confront the threat of
Al Qaeda terrorism in their country, to secure Saudi support for U.S. counterterrorism
priorities overseas, to bolster Saudi Arabia against a potential threat from Iran, and
to ensure continuing access to and cooperation with the Saudi armed forces.
From 1946 through 2006, the United States provided Saudi Arabia with $328.4
million (current dollars) in foreign assistance funding, of which $295.8 million was
military assistance and $32.6 million was economic assistance.27 Significant U.S.
military training and advisory programs in Saudi Arabia have continued in various
forms since the mid-1940s. Currently, these programs include the United States
Training Mission to Saudi Arabia (USMTM, established 1953) and the Saudi
Arabian National Guard Modernization Program (PM-SANG, established 1973).
The costs of these training programs are paid by the Saudi government through
Foreign Military Sales purchases (see below).
International Military Education and Training (IMET). The Bush
Administration has requested limited funding for a small International Military
Education and Training (IMET) program for Saudi Arabia since FY2003. The
Administration supports Saudi IMET participation because it reduces the cost to the
Saudi government of other training purchases28 and provides a range of benefits for
U.S.-Saudi military to military relations. According to the U.S. Department of
Defense and U.S. Department of State:
“Providing minimal IMET to Saudi Arabia permits them to purchase military
training at the significantly reduced Foreign Military Sale (FMS) incremental
rate ensuring a continued high level of Saudi attendance at U.S. military
institutions; enhances technical capabilities; exposes all levels of Saudi military
personnel and their families to U.S. values, ideas, and policies; and increases
awareness of international norms of human rights, the principle of civilian29
control of the military, and the rule of law.”
The Administration has requested $15,000 in IMET funds for FY2009. On
September 20, 2007, the Administration notified the Congress of its intention to use
$15,800 in unobligated no-year IMET funds appropriated in 2002 to support the
IMET program with Saudi Arabia.30 Table 1 displays the number of Saudi students
receiving U.S. military training from FY2002 through FY2007, with the total dollar
27 U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID], U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants,
Obligations and Loan Authorizations. Available at [http://qesdb.usaid.gov/gbk/].
28 Section 21(c) of P.L.90-629, the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), states that IMET
recipient countries are eligible to purchase non-IMET training at reduced cost. Section
108(a) of P.L.99-83 amended the AECA to provide this reduced cost benefit to IMET
recipients. The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) implements the
authority provided in P.L.99-83 to apply a lower cost to U.S. military training purchased by
Saudi Arabia and other IMET recipient countries through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS)
program. At present, the “incremental rates” applied to the FMS training purchases of
IMET recipient countries are calculated according to the terms outlined in Department of
Defense Financial Management Regulation (FMR), Volume 15, Chapter 7 (Sections 0711
29 U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State Joint Report to Congress on
Foreign Military Training In Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007, Volume I, August 2007.
Available at [http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rpt/fmtrpt/2007/].
30 Executive Communication 3416. A letter from the Director, Defense Security Cooperation
Agency, transmitting notification of the intention to use unobligated X-year IMET funds
appropriated in fiscal year 2002 for Saudi Arabia, pursuant to the Foreign Operations,
Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002, P.L. 107-115; jointly to
the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Appropriations.
value of the training purchased by the Saudi government (see below). For FY2003
through FY2007, this total value includes courses purchased using nominal amounts
of IMET assistance. The value of IMET-funded training is provided in Table 2
below. The net value of the reduction in cost for other non-IMET training purchased
by Saudi Arabia through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) program is not reported by
the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
Table 1. U.S. Military Training Provided to Saudi Personnel
F Y 2002 F Y 2003 F Y 2004 F Y 2005 F Y 2006 F Y 2007
St udent s 1,110 1,664 596 416 524 435
Val u e $57.4 $20.2 $21.1 $11.2 $8.9 $15.9
Source: U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State Joint Reports to Congress on
Foreign Military Training, FY2002-FY2007. Available at [http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rpt/fmtrpt/].
Table 2. U.S. Assistance to Saudi Arabia, FY2002-FY2009
FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 a
IMET b $0.0 $27.0 $23.5 $6.9
NADR-EXB S $30.0 $80.0 - -
NADR-AT A - - - 7 6 0 c
NADR-CT F - - - $200.0
FY2006aFY2007c FY2008EstimateFY2009 Request
IMET b $20.3 $19.0 $14.0 $15.0
NADR-E XB S - - - $350.0
NADR-AT A $1,387.0 $300.0 $99.0 -
NADR-CT F $189.0 - - -
Sources: U.S. Department of State - Congressional Budget Justifications for Foreign Operations; and,
U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State Joint Report to Congress on Foreign
Military Training, Fiscal Years 2002-2007.
a. The Administration requested $24,000 in IMET and $100,000 in NADR-CTF funds for FY2006.
In late 2005, $25,000 in no-year funds were obligated for IMET programming for Saudi Arabia.
b. Based on figures contained in the Joint Reports to Congress on Foreign Military Training, Fiscal
Years 2002-2006. FY2007 IMET figure based on FY2007 Country Aid Allocation Report by
Account (653a Report), June 2007.
c. FY2007 Country Aid Allocation Report by Account (653a Report), June 2007.
Counterterrorism Assistance. The Administration provided export control
and related border security funds (Non-proliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and
Related programs account, NADR-EXBS) to Saudi Arabia from FY2001 through
FY2003. The assistance supported a program to improve Saudi export laws and
enforcement procedures. Anti-terrorism assistance (NADR-ATA) was provided in
FY2005 in the form of VIP protection courses for Saudi security officers along with
counterterrorism financing assistance (NADR-CTF). Assistance in FY2006 funded
crisis management training and counterterrorism financing courses related to bulk
cash smuggling. The Administration obligated $300,000 in NADR-ATA funding for
Saudi Arabia for FY2007 (see Table 2 above) and requested $100,000 for FY2008,
which was planned, in part, to support Saudi efforts to establish a national
counterterrorism center. For FY2009, the Administration has requested $350,000 in
NADR funds to improve Saudi border enforcement capabilities, specifically as a
means of combating weapons of mass destruction and small arms trafficking.
Prohibitions on Foreign Assistance. Since 2004, several legislative
proposals to prohibit the extension of U.S. foreign assistance to Saudi Arabia have
been considered and adopted by Congress. As the total amount of U.S. assistance to
Saudi Arabia has been relatively minuscule in recent years, the practical effect of the
prohibitions has been to rescind Saudi Arabia’s eligibility to purchase U.S. military
training at a reduced cost, absent the issuance of presidential waivers or the assertion
of existing executive authority. As noted above, some supporters of the prohibitions
have raised questions regarding Saudi Arabia’s reliability as a counterterrorism
partner, while opponents of the assistance bans have argued that the provisions may
unnecessarily jeopardize continuance of cooperative diplomatic and security efforts
with a longstanding regional ally. Each legislative proposal has differed in its cited
reasons for prohibiting aid as well as whether or not it provides national security
waiver authority for the President.
For example, H.R. 505, the Prohibit Aid to Saudi Arabia Act of 2005, would
have imposed a ban on U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia outright and contained no waiver
authority. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2005 (P.L. 108-447,
December 8, 2004) contained a ban on U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia (Section 575)
but provided for a presidential waiver if the President certified that Saudi Arabia was
cooperating in the war against terrorism. The President issued this waiver on
September 26, 2005, by Presidential Determination 2005-38. Anti-terrorism
assistance (NADR-ATA and NADR-CTF funding) was provided in FY2005 and
FY2006 without a waiver based on “notwithstanding” language in Section 571 of the
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 [P.L. 87-195], as amended.31
On June 28, 2005, the House adopted H.Amdt. 379 to H.R. 3057 (the Foreign
Operations Appropriations bill for FY2006) by 293-122 (Roll no. 330); this
amendment added a section prohibiting U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia and
containing no provision for a presidential waiver. The Senate version of the bill,
passed on July 20, 2005, did not contain this ban. The conference report (H.Rept.
31 Section 571 reads as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law that restricts
assistance to foreign countries (other than sections 502B and 620A of this act), the President
is authorized to furnish, on such terms and conditions as the President may determine,
assistance to foreign countries in order to enhance the ability of their law enforcement
personnel to deter terrorists and terrorist groups from engaging in international terrorist acts
such as bombing, kidnaping, assassination, hostage taking, and hijacking.”
109-265, November 2, 2005) retained the ban (renumbered Section 582), but
provided waiver authority if the President certified that Saudi Arabia was cooperating
with efforts to combat international terrorism and that the proposed assistance would
have facilitated that effort. President Bush signed the bill as P.L. 109-102 on
November 14, 2005.
Continuing Resolutions and FY2008 Foreign Operations. The
prohibition on foreign assistance to Saudi Arabia contained in Section 582 of P.L.
109-102 was carried forward in subsequent continuing appropriations resolutions for
FY2007 (P.L. 110-5)32 and FY2008 (P.L. 110-92). On October 19, 2007, President
Bush certified that “Saudi Arabia is cooperating with efforts to combat international
terrorism” and waived the prohibition on the use of funds appropriated in P.L.
and FY2008 (P.L. 110-92) for foreign assistance to Saudi Arabia.33
The House version of the FY2008 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill
(Section 699N of H.R. 2764 EH) would have prohibited the use of appropriated
FY2008 funds for assistance to Saudi Arabia, including under authority granted to34
the President by Section 571 or 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. It did
not provide waiver authority for the President. The Senate version of the bill did not
include a similar provision. Section 697 of Division J of P.L.110-161, the FY2008
Consolidated Appropriations Act, prohibits the use of funds appropriated by the act
for assistance to Saudi Arabia, without any other reference to the Foreign Assistance
Act of 1961. It also provides waiver authority for the President, if he certifies that
“Saudi Arabia is cooperating with efforts to combat international terrorism and that
the proposed assistance will help facilitate that effort.” As of May 21, 2008, President
Bush had not issued a waiver applicable to the FY2008 funds appropriated by
U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
Background. The United States has long been Saudi Arabia’s leading arms
supplier. From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia purchased and received from the
United States weapons, military equipment, and related services through Foreign
Military Sales (FMS) worth over $62.7 billion and foreign military construction
services (FMCS) worth over $17.1 billion (figures in historical dollars). These
figures represent approximately 19% of all FMS deliveries and 85% of all FMCS
deliveries made worldwide during this period. The largest single recent U.S. foreign
military sale to Saudi Arabia was a $9 billion contract for 72 F-15S fighter aircraft.
32 On June 9, 2006, the House adopted H.Amdt. 997 to H.R. 5522 (Foreign Operations
Appropriations Act, FY2007) by a vote of 312-97 (Roll no. 244); this amendment would
have prohibited U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia during FY2007 and contained no
33 Presidential Determination Relating to Assistance for Saudi Arabia (No. 2008-5), October
34 See H.Amdt. 389, adopted by voice vote on June 21, 2007. For consideration see
Congressional Record (CR), June 22, 2007 (H6941-6942); for text, (H6941-6942).
The contract was signed in May 1993, and delivery of the F-15S aircraft was
completed in 1999.
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq removed the primary
conventional military threat to Saudi Arabia’s security. According to many military
experts, Saudi Arabia enjoys some qualitative conventional military advantages over
Iran, its larger, more populous neighbor and primary peer competitor in the Gulf
region. These advantages are expected to grow, and key Saudi deficiencies in areas
such as naval technology are expected to diminish as a multi-year Saudi defense
investment initiative continues. Saudi officials have announced their intention to
devote $50-60 billion to upgrading existing weapons systems, improving command
and control, and expanding the size, training, and capabilities of the Saudi armed
forces.35 From January 2005 through May 2008, the Bush Administration and
Congress approved a number of potential36 U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia with
a possible combined value of over $14.8 billion.37 In spite of these improvements,
some security analysts believe that Saudi Arabia will remain dependent on the United
States to serve as the ultimate guarantor of its security from conventional external
Unconventional threats from Iran, the threat of domestic terrorism, and the
residual effects of continuing instability in Iraq and Yemen now constitute the
primary threats to Saudi national security. Counterterrorism and border security
improvements are ongoing to respond to these threats, and the United States is
seeking to improve the deterrent and defensive capabilities of Saudi and other Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) militaries vis-a-vis Iran. These efforts are coordinated
with other GCC countries via a U.S. initiative known as the Gulf Security Dialogue.38
However, at present, the Administration continues to engage with Saudi Arabia on
these security issues using established bilateral mechanisms (see below). U.S. and
Saudi officials report that future arms sale requests and proposals will be determined
35 A downward trend in Saudi arms procurement prevailed from the mid-1990s through 2003
as Saudi Arabia completed payments for many of its post-Gulf War purchases and the
country faced strained finances. Rising oil prices, perceived regional threats, and
counterterrorism requirements have led Saudi officials to reassess their defense and security
needs and procurement plans in light of recent developments. Purchases from the United
States and other suppliers have increased accordingly. From 2003 through 2006, Saudi
Arabia made arms agreements worth $12.4 billion (in current dollars), including deals
signed with four major European suppliers ($7.6 billion) and the United States ($4.5
billion). For more information, see CRS Report RL34187 - Conventional Arms Transfers
to Developing Nations, by Richard F. Grimmett.
36 The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notifies Congress of the potential
value of sales, because the final value of actual sales may change once congressional
approval is granted and contracts are signed. DSCA officials report that the notified totals
reflect an approximate upper limit of the potential value of a given sale. Author interview
with DSCA officials, Arlington, Virginia, December 12, 2007.
37 DSCA notification press releases are available at [http://www.dsca.mil/PressReleases/
38 For more information see, CRS Report RL34322 - The Gulf Security Dialogue and
Related Arms Sale Proposals, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Richard F. Grimmett.
by joint assessments of Saudi defense needs and regional security conditions. Recent
arms sale proposals are detailed in Appendix A.
Criticism and Action in the 110th Congress. Members of Congress have
not initiated a coordinated bicameral legislative effort to block or significantly
modify any U.S. arms sales to any of the GCC states since the early 1990s. However,
some in Congress have expressed reservations about sale of sophisticated weaponry
and armament packages to the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, in recent years.th
Debate in the 110 Congress over weapons sales to the GCC states in general, and
to Saudi Arabia in particular, largely mirrors past congressional debate over the sale
of major weapons systems to these countries.
As in past debates, some Members recently have argued that sales of
sophisticated weaponry to the GCC states may erode Israel’s “qualitative military
edge” (referred to as QME) over its Arab neighbors if those states choose to join in
any potential joint Arab military action against Israel. Others also express concerns
about the fate of weaponry should currently-allied Gulf governments suffer abrupt
regime changes. Successive U.S. Administrations have maintained that Saudi Arabia
and the other Gulf states are too dependent on U.S. training, spare parts, and
armament codes to be in a position to use sophisticated U.S.-made arms against Israel
or any other U.S. ally under current conditions or in the event of significant regime
changes.39 By all accounts, Saudi officials continue to view U.S. willingness to sell
sophisticated military technology to Saudi Arabia as an indicator of the strength of
U.S. commitments to Saudi security and the health of the broader bilateral
Proposed Sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). On January
14, 2008, the Administration formally notified Congress of a proposal to sell 900
Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb guidance kits to Saudi Arabia (Defense
Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Transmittal No. 08-18). A joint resolution of
disapproval (H.J.Res. 76) was introduced in the House to prohibit the proposed sale,
but the resolution was not considered within the 30-day period specified by the Arms
Export Control Act. In May 2008, a bill (S.J.Res. 32) disapproving of the proposed
JDAM sale and three other proposed sales was introduced in the Senate. S.J.Res. 32
seeks to link approval of four proposed arms sales to Saudi willingness to increase
The Administration has indicated that a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the
sale of JDAMs to Saudi Arabia was scheduled to be delivered in May 2008. Delivery
of the weapons would begin in 2011.40 Congress may take legislative action to
modify or prevent the sale at any point up to the physical transfer of Foreign Military
Sale items. In the Middle East region, to date, the United States has sold JDAM kits
39 Gopal Ratnam and Amy Svitak, “U.S. Would Keep Tight Rein on Missile Sold to
Bahrain,” Defense News, September 11, 2000. The U.S. Department of State and the
Defense Security Cooperation Agency routinely offer briefings to Members of Congress and
congressional and committee staff regarding proposed Foreign Military Sales to Saudi
Arabia and other countries.
40 CRS analyst correspondence with DSCA officials, May 9, 2008.
to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Since August 2007, the
Administration has notified Congress of proposals to sell 10,000 JDAM kits to Israel
and 200 JDAM kits to the United Arab Emirates.
BAE Corruption Inquiry. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating
British defense contractor BAE Systems plc and its U.S. subsidiary BLC Systems
Incorporated for suspected violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in
connection with past arms sales to Saudi Arabia. BAE executives are alleged to have
made illegal payments to Saudi officials in support of a multi-billion dollar, decade-
long arms sale package known as Al Yamamah.41 BAE officials and Saudi
authorities have denied any wrongdoing and claim that any and all payments
associated with the deal were legal and reflected commonly understood terms of
government-to-government sale agreements between the United Kingdom and Saudi
The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropped a similar
investigation in 2006 when ordered to do so by the government of then-Prime
Minister Tony Blair.42 The Blair government determined that the continuation of the
SFO investigation constituted a threat to U.K. national security, based on alleged
Saudi threats to withdraw terrorism-related intelligence cooperation or to cancel a43
pending arms sale agreement for U.K.-produced Typhoon aircraft. Britain’s High
Court overturned the SFO decision in April 2008 and criticized what it deemed the
Blair government’s willingness to “surrender” to alleged Saudi threats, which, in the
court’s view jeopardized “the integrity of the criminal justice system.”44 The British
government is appealing the High Court ruling. U.S. investigators detained two BAE
executives in U.S. airports in May 2008 in connection with their ongoing45
investigation. In February 2008, a U.S. judge froze the U.S.-based real estate
proceeds of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, long-time Saudi Ambassador to the United
States, in response to a lawsuit filed by a Michigan pension system that held stock
41 Detailed press coverage of the allegations is available from the British newspaper The
Guardian at [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/bae].
42 In a personal minute to Attorney General in December 2006, Prime Minister Blair wrote
“it is in my judgement very clear that the continuation of the SFO investigation into Al
Yamamah risks seriously damaging Saudi confidence in the UK as a partner. It is also my
judgement that such damage risks endangering UK national security, both directly in
protecting citizens and service people, and indirectly through impeding our search for peace
and stability in this critical part of the world.”
43 SFO Director Robert Wardle has testified that in response to his inquiries about the
alleged threats, he was told by the Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom that “British
lives on British streets were at risk” if the investigation continued.
44 High Court of Justice (UK), Approved Judgment, Case No: CO/1567/2007, Neutral
Citation Number:  EWHC 714 (Admin), April 10, 2008. Available at
45 The executives were identified as BAE chief executive Mike Turner and non-executive
director Sir Nigel Rudd. Suzy Jagger, “BAE accused of being uncooperative with US
investigators,” The Times (UK), May 20, 2008.
in BAE and has sued the prince, BAE, and others in relation to the Al Yamamah
Current Issues in U.S.-Saudi Relations
Saudi-U.S. relations have grown increasingly complex as the number of policy
challenges facing both countries has multiplied and as both countries’ security and
economic interests have become more intertwined. The United States remains the
principal external actor in the Middle East region, but by most accounts, many
regional policy makers, including those in Saudi Arabia, perceive potential U.S.
influence to be limited by current U.S. military commitments in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Saudi confidence in U.S. influence and guarantees reportedly has
diminished, and the ability of the United States to simultaneously pursue a political
and social reform agenda and a close strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia remains
in question. Saudi Arabia has weathered economic strains and a dangerous domestic
terrorism campaign and arguably has emerged as the most economically and
politically powerful Arab state.47 Growing demand for oil in developing countries,
declining oil reserves outside of the Persian Gulf region, and expanding Saudi oil
revenues are likely to further raise Saudi Arabia’s international profile and influence
over time. U.S. national security interests with regard to Saudi Arabia are likely to
persist, while U.S. efforts to achieve policy goals may be complicated by these
trends. At present, formal U.S.-Saudi security and political relationships remain
strong, in spite of differences on some key policy issues.
U.S. - Saudi Military Cooperation48
Longstanding military training programs remain an important pillar of U.S.-
Saudi relations. The United States has played an integral role in the development,
training, and arming of the Saudi Arabian military since the 1940s, when U.S.
military advisors first carried out a comprehensive assessment of the kingdom’s
defense requirements.49 Since the 1940s, a number of subsequent U.S. defense
assessments, joint planning activities, and training programs have established close
and cooperative relationships between the U.S. military services and their Saudi
counterparts. The Saudi Arabian government has continually sought U.S. military
46 Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, “The Prince and the Prime Minister,” Newsweek,
April 16, 2008; and, Brent Gardner-Smith, “Bandar’s Aspen real estate proceeds frozen by
D.C. judge in bribes case,” Aspen Daily News, February 12, 2008.
47 “Saudi Arabia is arguably the most powerful and influential country in the Arab world
today.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Strategy Toward Saudi Arabia, Report Pursuant to
Section 2043c of the Implementing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act,
P.L.110-53, January 30, 2008, p. 1.
48 A detailed account of the history of U.S.-Saudi military cooperation is contained in David
E. Long, The United States and Saudi Arabia: Ambivalent Allies, Westview Press, Boulder
and London, 1985, pp.33-72.
49 The survey was undertaken by Air Force Major General Richard O’Keefe. See
Memorandum of Conversation, 890F.00/12-849, December 8, 1949, Washington, DC,
FRUS, 1949, Volume VI, pp. 1625-7.
technology and training as a guarantee of its national security, and Saudi authorities
have pursued military procurement and modernization initiatives based on the
recommendations of U.S. defense surveys.50 In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the
United States Army Corps of Engineers completed a series of massive military
infrastructure construction projects across the kingdom; many U.S.-built facilities
remain critical to the operations of Saudi security forces.
As noted above, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and subsequent coalition
efforts to evict Iraqi forces and enforce United Nations Security Council Resolutions
provided the basis for the expanded U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia that lasted
from 1990 until 2003. Following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in
2003, the U.S. military withdrew almost all of the 5,000 troops that had been
stationed in Saudi Arabia and moved its Combat Air Operations Center from Saudi
Arabia to neighboring Qatar. Now, as before, between 200 and 300 U.S. military
personnel remain in Saudi Arabia at any given time to administer long-standing U.S.
training programs in conjunction with U.S. civilians and local hires. Almost all U.S.
training for the Saudi armed forces is funded via Saudi government purchases
through the Foreign Military Sales program. The existence of parallel U.S. training
programs for different Saudi security forces reflects the relatively unintegrated nature
of Saudi Arabia’s security and defense establishment; anecdotal evidence suggests
that different Saudi ministries and security forces do not operate jointly and may
serve as sources of influence and patronage for different members of the royal
U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia (USMTM). The U.S.
Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia (USMTM) has served as the focal point
for U.S.-Saudi military-to-military relations since its establishment in 1953. Through
USMTM, the U.S. Department of Defense and the joint military services work with
counterparts from the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MODA) and Saudi
armed forces, which are led by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abd al Aziz and his son
Prince Khaled bin Sultan. The USMTM is a joint services training mission under the
command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and works with the Saudi MODA
“to assist and advise the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces with respect to the building of
military equipment, plans, organization, administrative procedures, training methods,52
and the conduct of such training.” Organized in 1953 under the auspices of the
50 Prominent examples include the U.S. air defense survey of the country, which was
completed in 1963, and the U.S. naval defense survey associated with the Saudi Naval
Expansion Program (SNEP), which was completed in 1969.
51 See Joshua Teitelbaum, “A Family Affair: Civil-Military Relations in Saudi Arabia,”
Draft Paper Presented to the Fourth Mediterranean Social and Political Research Meeting,
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Florence, March 2003.
52 USMTM Mission Statement, available at [http://www.usmtm.sppn.af.mil/].
U.S.-Saudi Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement,53 the program is now
administered according to the terms of a 1977 memorandum of understanding.54
Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program (PM-SANG).
The Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which operates separately from MODA
forces, is led by King Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz and his son, Prince Miteb bin
Abdullah. The United States Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC)
administers PM-SANG, which seeks to “develop, within the Saudi Arabian National
Guard, the capability to unilaterally initiate, sustain, and operate modern military
organizations and systems.” According to USASAC, modernization support under
the PM-SANG mission is “open-ended and includes training, supply, maintenance,
operations, medical, construction, equipment fielding, equipment post fielding55
support, and a host of other related activities.” The program was chartered by and
operates according to the terms of a 1973 memorandum of understanding.56 The
Vinnell Corporation, a subsidiary of the Northrop Grumman Corporation, is the
primary U.S. contractor charged with training SANG units.57 In 2004, terrorists shot
and killed an American Vinnell employee based in Riyadh.
Counter ter r or i sm
The Administration’s January 2008 Strategy Toward Saudi Arabia asserts that,
“Victory for the United States in the global war on terrorism will be impossible
without a partnership to dry up funds for terrorists and to combat Islamic extremism58
in the kingdom.” Terrorism has long been an issue in U.S.-Saudi relations, and the
strategy document constitutes the latest acknowledgment by U.S. officials of the roles
that Saudi nationals play in both supporting and combating terrorism. U.S. policy
makers sought the support of Saudi authorities throughout the 1970s and 1980s in
combating various terrorist groups. However, after terrorist attacks on U.S. military
facilities in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the need for additional U.S.-Saudi
counterterrorism cooperation grew more urgent.
53 Agreement Providing for a Military Assistance Advisory Group, June 27, 1953 (4 UST
1482; TIAS 2812; 212 UNTS 335). Terminated February 27, 1977, except that the
provisions of paragraph 7 remain in force in respect to activities under the agreement of
February 8 and 27, 1977 (28 UST 2409; TIAS 8558).
54 Agreement Relating to a United States Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia,
February 27, 1977 (28 UST 2409; TIAS 8558).
55 OPM-SANG, “Historical Perspective,” available at [https://www.opmsang.sppn.af.mil/].
56 Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Saudi Arabian National Guard
Modernization Program, March 19, 1973 (24 UST 1106; TIAS 7634).
57 Information on VinnellArabia operations with the SANG is available at
[http://www.vi nnell.com/ ArabiaRecr uiting/ recruiting.htm] .
58 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Strategy Toward Saudi Arabia, Report Pursuant to Section
January 30, 2008, p. 1.
Current counterterrorism issues include joint U.S.-Saudi efforts to eliminate
threats posed by violent extremists in the kingdom as well as internationally. U.S.
officials acknowledge significant Saudi domestic counterterrorism efforts and
encourage the Saudi government to build upon the positive steps it has already taken
to combat international terrorism. Both U.S. and Saudi officials have said the
impetus for closer counterterrorism cooperation in recent years came from a series
of terrorist attacks against Saudi, U.S., and other facilities in Saudi Arabia beginning
in May 2003. One knowledgeable observer described the May 2003 attacks as “the
inevitable wake up call” for Saudi leaders increasingly concerned over attempts by
terrorists to target the Saudi regime.59 According to the 9/11 Commission’s final
report, “[a]s in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries, [Saudi] attitudes changed when
the terrorism came home.”
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Terrorism “came home” to Saudi
Arabia gradually during the 1990s, although attacks against non-U.S. targets did not
begin until May 2003. Saudi veterans of anti-Soviet fighting in Afghanistan (the
“Afghan Arabs”), Saudi combatants from subsequent conflicts involving Muslims
in other regions, and Saudi graduates of terrorist training camps based in Afghanistan
returned to the kingdom during this period. Some eventually formed the core of an
organization calling itself Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which
launched a deadly campaign of terrorist attacks in cooperation with local allies in
May 2003.60 Saudi counterterrorism officials describe the AQAP terrorism campaign61
and the government’s counterterrorism response as having three stages:
!The “Momentum” Phase - From May 2003 through June 2004,
Saudi counterterrorism officials faced an organized campaign of
terrorist attacks planned and executed by a trained network of AQAP
operatives. Saudi officials describe AQAP as having created a
network of storage caches and safe houses based on the work of
local and foreign operatives trained in document forgery, fund-
raising, publishing, weapons and explosives use, and personal
security techniques. Major attacks during this period included the
May 2003 bombing of residential compounds in Riyadh and the May
Saudi officials announced they had shot and killed Abd al Aziz al
Muqrin, the then-leader of AQAP.
!The “Regrouping” Phase - From June 2004 through April 2005,
Saudi officials report that AQAP operatives began working in
smaller cells with new leaders in an attempt to reestablish
59 Judith Kipper quoted in Patrick E. Tyler, “Stability Itself Is the Enemy,” New York Times,
November 10, 2003.
60 A detailed account of the development and leadership of AQAP is available in Thomas
Hegghammer, “Terrorist Recruitment and Radicalization in Saudi Arabia,” Middle East
Policy, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 39-60.
61 Briefings from Saudi Ministry of Interior counterterrorism advisors, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
February 2008 and Washington, D.C., April 2008.
themselves after the government’s initial counterterrorism response.
Incidents during this period included a number of attacks on Saudi
security facilities and forces, many of which ended in the death or
arrest of AQAP fighters. Major attacks during this period included
December 2004 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah and the
Ministry of Interior headquarters in Riyadh. In April 2005, Saudi
officials announced the death of AQAP leader Saud al Otaibi
following a three-day gun battle in Al Qassim province.
!The “Fragmentation” Phase - From April 2005 to the present, Saudi
officials report that the AQAP organization in the kingdom has
become increasingly fragmented. According to Saudi
counterterrorism officials, current terrorist threats in the kingdom are
associated with less organized cells that lack central leadership and
that do not exhibit the skills or training evident among AQAP
operatives previously detained or killed. Nevertheless, this period
has been characterized by high-profile attempted attacks, including
an abortive attack in February 2006 on the world’s largest oil
processing facility at Abqaiq in eastern Saudi Arabia. Shootouts and
large scale arrests continued through late 2007.
Saudi counterterrorism officials appear confident that they have killed or
captured most of the leaders and operatives that made up the original AQAP
organization. King Abdullah echoed this sentiment in June 2006, when he stated
that AQAP had been “defeated.”62 Nevertheless, continuing terrorist incidents and
arrests have sustained concerns about the threat that Al Qaeda and its sympathizers
pose in Saudi Arabia. Of particular concern is an apparent shift in attackers’
objectives toward targeting critical energy infrastructure.63 In response, Saudi
authorities are establishing a 35,000-man oil facilities protection service. Longer
term challenges include the prospect of better trained Saudi operatives returning from
Iraq (see below) and the prospect of new weapons and operatives entering the
kingdom from Yemen. Saudi authorities also are working to improve border security
controls to prevent infiltration of weapons and trained individuals from these areas.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “the security threat level remains high”
in Saudi Arabia, and a travel warning remains in effect.64
While some analysts have argued that the AQAP campaign threatened the
viability of the Al Saud family’s control over the country, developments since 2004
have shown that relatively basic improvements in Saudi counterterrorism techniques
and investigative procedures enabled the government to weather a sustained assault
from trained, experienced Al Qaeda operatives. Others have suggested that if AQAP
62 “Saudi King Says Al Qaeda Militants Defeated,” Reuters, June 7, 2006.
63 In late April 2007, Saudi authorities arrested 170 terrorism suspects on charges of
planning to target critical oil facilities in the Eastern Province. Dan Murphy, “New Saudi
Tack on Al Qaeda,”Christian Science Monitor, April 30, 2007.
64 U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, Travel Warning - Saudi Arabia,
December 19, 2007.
members had completed preparations for a national campaign the outcome of their
sustained confrontation with Saudi authorities may have been more in doubt. Saudi
counterterrorism officials, like security officials in other Arab states, report that they
do not intend to allow combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan to return and that they
plan to maintain a state of vigilance and preparedness based on the expectation of
enduring terrorist threats.
Combating Extremism. Saudi officials now consider efforts to combat
violent extremist ideology to be a central component in their domestic
counterterrorism campaign. Saudi leaders and official religious figures have
launched multifaceted public outreach and detainee rehabilitation campaigns that
seek to portray Al Qaeda supporters and other violent activists as “misguided”
followers of a “deviant ideology.” These characterizations have powerful negative
connotations in Saudi society, and are closely associated with longstanding
government efforts to promote social consensus and deference to the official views
of religious and political authorities. The Saudi Ministries of Islamic Affiars,
Education, and Interior have launched various programs associated with the
campaigns, as have religious bodies such as the Commission for the Promotion of65
Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The detainee rehabilitation program is based
on the engagement of Saudi counterterrorism officials, psychologists, and religious
clerics with terrorism detainees in an effort to dissuade detainees from supporting
extremism and violence in the future.66 Successfully rehabilitated detainees are
provided various types of social and financial support designed to prevent
recidivism.67 Saudi authorities report that recidivism rate estimates range from 10 -68
Some outside observers have hailed the Saudi programs as innovative and
effective, while others have questioned the wisdom of releasing and supporting
former detainees because of the tangible threats that potential recidivism could pose.
Saudi authorities state that they carefully monitor participants during and after
rehabilitation, and trials and continued detention await unresponsive detainees. The
ideological content of reeducation programs and Saudi anti-terrorism outreach
statements also may be problematic to the extent that it portrays religiously motivated
violence as illegitimate when prohibited by religious and political leaders, rather than
as being illegitimate in and of itself. Similar questions could be raised regarding the
Saudi anti-extremism campaign’s approach to so-called takfiri ideology; this term
refers to a practice known as takfir in which an individual is ruled insufficiently pious
and therefore subject to religious disavowal and potential violence. Some official
65 OSC Document FEA20070717232153, “Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Announces New
Campaigns To Confront Extremist Ideology,” July 17, 2007; and, OSC Document
GMP20080429614004, “Saudi Vice, Virtue Chief on Study Documenting
Counter-Terrorism Efforts,” Ukaz (Jeddah), April 24, 2008.
66 See Terrence Henry, “Get out of Jihad Free,” The Atlantic, June 2007, pp 39-40.
67 See for example, OSC Document GMP20071008836001, “Saudi Minister Orders Funds,
Temporary Release For Returnees From Guantanamo,” Ukaz (Jeddah), October 6, 2007.
68 Briefings from Saudi Ministry of Interior counterterrorism advisors, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
clerics continue to argue that determinations of religious fidelity and infidelity are not
divisive or illegitimate in and of themselves, but rather that the practice of takfir
should be performed only by qualified religious scholars.69
Some opposition figures have questioned the legitimacy of Saudi officials who
call on Saudi citizens to avoid supporting combatants in Iraq or other conflicts
involving Muslims. Some critics allege that Saudi officials and clerics are being
hypocritical in light of their past encouragement of similar activism among Saudis
in other cases.70 At issue is the government’s assertion that activism or violence are
illegitimate unless endorsed by the country’s leaders. Some critics counter-arguments
contend that the government’s endorsements appear to have become arbitrary or
based on secular foreign policy priorities rather than on religious principles or
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
Many Saudi citizens and officials hold and express the view that the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict is the central policy problem in the Middle East region. Many
Saudis argue that the United States should support a solution to the conflict that
adequately addresses various Palestinian and Arab concerns. Saudi Arabia supports
Palestinian national aspirations, strongly endorses Muslim claims in the Old City of
Jerusalem, and has frequently criticized Israeli settlement building in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. Since the 1940s, Saudi-U.S. relations have been challenged
repeatedly by stark differences of opinion over the Israeli-Palestinian question, with
leaders on both sides questioning the other’s devotion to achieving a just peace and
willingness to abide by stated policy commitments.
Unlike several other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia has not established open trade
or liaison channels for communication with Israel. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia
generally has supported U.S. policy since the early 1990s by endorsing Israeli-
Palestinian peace agreements; by joining with neighboring Gulf states in 1994 in
terminating enforcement of the so-called secondary and tertiary (indirect) boycotts
69 For example, Saudi Grand Mufti Shaykh Abd al Aziz bin Abdullah Al Al Shaykh recently
argued that, “The issues of holding others as infidels or debauchers or apostates are sharia
[Islamic law] issues that should be built on the scholarship of sharia and by qualified
religious scholars.” OSC Document GMP20080318913003, “Saudi Grand Mufti Lashes
Out at Terrorists, Deviants in Lecture at Islamic University,” Al Madinah (Jeddah), March
70 A prominent early example of this type of encouragement was King Khalid’s decision in
1980 to create a Committee to Aid the Afghani Mujahidin, which followed an earlier
announcement by then-Grand Mufti Shaykh Abd al Aziz Bin Baz that authorized the
payment of zakat, a 2.5% alms wealth tax required of Muslims as one of the five pillars of
faith, to anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. See Saudi Committee to Collect Funds for
Afghan Muslims, U.S. Department of State, Cable Jidda 00530, January 1980. Similar
committees were subsequently established over the next twenty years to provide “support”
or “relief” to Bosnians, Palestinians, Chechens, Kashmiris, Kosovars and Iraqis.
of Israel;71 and by adopting a more pro-active approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking
and diplomacy. The outbreak of the second Palestinian intifadah, or uprising, in late
2000 and the collapse of the Oslo peace process in early 2001 ushered in a period of
renewed tension in Saudi-Israeli relations. Saudi leaders were sharply critical of
Israeli military and security responses to Palestinian terrorist attacks and launched
massive relief campaigns for the Palestinians, some of which are alleged to have
supported the families of Palestinians who died in attacks on Israelis or in
engagements with Israeli security forces.
Saudi-Palestinian Relations. Saudi Arabia maintains frequent contact with
the two main Palestinian political entities — the secular nationalist Fatah movement
and the Islamic Resistance Movement, more commonly known as Hamas, which
remains a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. Saudi authorities and
citizens have long endorsed public and private efforts to channel financial and
material support to Palestinian organizations and causes. These efforts continued
during the period in which Hamas controlled the Palestinian Authority.72 In
December 2007, Saudi Arabia pledged between $500 and $750 million to the
Palestinian Authority over three years.73 Political rivalry and violence between
Hamas and Fatah complicated Saudi policy toward the Palestinians and, at times, the
Saudi government has pursued policies divergent from the expressed preferences of74
the Bush Administration and other members of the Quartet. Recent Saudi policy
initiatives have continued to seek reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, in light
of internecine fighting and a political stalemate that has blocked further progress in
the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Saudi Peace Proposals. In March 2002, then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin
Abd al Aziz proposed a peace initiative calling for full Israeli withdrawal from
occupied territories in return for full normalization of relations between Arab states
and Israel. Continuing violence and political developments precluded further
consideration of the Saudi proposal for several years. The overall direction of Saudi
71 Saudi Arabia maintains the primary (direct) boycott. See below.
72 In late July 2006, the Saudi Arabian government announced plans to transfer $250 million
in reconstruction assistance “to the Palestinian people” and confirmed the transfer of half
of a $92 million budgetary support pledge for the Palestinian Authority.
73 Howard LaFranchi, “Global donors exceed Palestinian expectations at Paris conference,”
Christian Science Monitor, December 19, 2007.
74 The Quartet includes the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European
Union. For example, in 2006, Saudi Arabia continued to deliver assistance to the
Palestinian territories, in spite of U.S. efforts to convince the international community to
halt support for the Palestinian Authority following Hamas’ victory in parliamentary
elections. Similarly, in February 2007, King Abdullah invited representatives of Fatah and
Hamas to meet in Mecca, where they negotiated an agreement on a national unity
government. Although the agreement represented an achievement for Saudi diplomacy, the
national unity government did not explicitly meet preconditions set by the United States and
its Quartet partners for recognition of the then-Hamas-led government (i.e., disavowal of
violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian accords).
Helene Cooper, “After the Mecca Accord, Clouded Horizons,” New York Times, February
policy has remained committed to engagement in support of an eventual negotiated
settlement. On March 28-29, 2007, the heads of state of most of the Arab League
countries met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and reconfirmed their support for King
Abdullah’s peace proposal. At the time, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al
Faisal warned that if Israel rejects the proposal, “they will be putting their future not
in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war.”75
In November 2007, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal attended the
U.S.-sponsored peace meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, lending the kingdom’s
support to renewed U.S. efforts to broker a two-state solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. The foreign minister reiterated Saudi Arabia’s willingness to
normalize relations with Israel subject to conditions, including the establishment of
a Palestinian state on territory occupied by Israel in 1967, a negotiated solution for
the return of Palestinian refugees, and some degree of Palestinian sovereignty over
East Jerusalem. In February 2008, Prince Saud al Faisal stated that, “We hope that
Israel responds positively to our quest and efforts, to avoid desperation that would
force us to review our options.”76 In May 2008, he expressed the Saudi government’s
“dissatisfaction with and strong condemnation of Israel’s continuation of its
collective punishment policy against the Palestinian people, and its continuing
blockade of the Gaza Strip.”77
Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Iraq has been tense historically, although
periods of Saudi-Iraqi cooperation have occurred when supported by convergent
interests, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Saudi Arabia publicly
opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but provided logistical support to U.S.
forces,78 and Saudi officials have called on U.S. forces not to leave Iraq on an
75 David Blair, “Accept Peace Plan or Face War, Israel Told,” Daily Telegraph (UK), March
76 Damian Wroclavsky and Fiona Ortiz, “Saudi minister calls for Israeli response on talks,”
Reuters, February 20, 2008.
77 OSC Document GMP20080514831001, “Re-filed Version of SPA Report on Saudi
ForMin Al Faysal’s News Conference,” Saudi Press Agency, May 13, 2008.
78 On March 19, 2003, a communique from then-King Fahd stated that Saudi Arabia “will
not participate in any way” in the coalition attack on Iraq. A number of news reports,
however, indicated that Saudi Arabia informally agreed to provide logistical support to
U.S.-led forces, including permission to conduct refueling, reconnaissance, surveillance, and
transport missions from bases in Saudi Arabia; landing and overflight clearances; and use
of a U.S.-built facility in Saudi Arabia known as the Combat Air Operations Center (CAOC)
to coordinate military operations in the region. Unnamed Saudi and U.S. officials later told
the press that the Saudi royal family permitted the staging of U.S. special forces operations
from inside Saudi Arabia, allowed some 250-300 mainly transport and surveillance planes
to fly missions from Saudi Arabia, and provided tens of millions of dollars in discounted oil,
gas, and fuel for U.S. forces. See also “U.S. And Saudis Agree On Cooperation,”
Washington Post, February 26, 2003; and John Solomon, “Saudis had wider role in war,”
Associated Press, April 26, 2004.
“uninvited” basis.79 Saudi Arabia’s principal interests with regard to the conflict in
Iraq are — first, to prevent instability and conflict in Iraq from threatening Saudi
Arabia’s internal security and stability; second, to prevent the repression of Iraq’s
Sunnis by newly dominant Shiites; and, third, to limit the regional influence of a
potentially hostile Iran.80 Saudi Arabia’s longer term interests include ensuring that
the revival of Iraq’s oil industry does not threaten Saudi preeminence and preferences
in global energy markets and that Iraq does not re-emerge as a strategic military
threat to the Arab Gulf states.
Saudi Policy Priorities in Iraq. The Saudi Arabian government has
refrained from overt political-military intervention in Iraq since 2003, in spite of the
threat that instability in Iraq has posed to Saudi Arabia’s national security. To date,
Saudi policy initiatives have sought to meet the humanitarian needs of Iraqis
displaced by ongoing violence; to promote political and religious reconciliation
among Iraqis by hosting and participating in various regional conferences; and, to
take preventive security measures to limit the spread of violence into Saudi Arabia.
Some analysts believe that Saudi Arabia has not fulfilled pledges of aid to Iraq
because it does not want to support an Iraqi government that many Saudis believe has
a Shiite sectarian agenda. Other observers also speculate that the Saudi government
may be offering financial support to Sunni Arab individuals and groups in Iraq,
including tribal leaders and others associated with the so called “awakening”
movement. However, Prince Saud al Faisal publicly has dismissed calls for direct
Saudi involvement in supporting Iraqi Sunnis and has stated, that “since the start of
the crisis in Iraq ... the Kingdom has said it will stand at an equal distance from all81
Iraqi groups and does not describe itself as the guardian of any group or sect.”
Saudi Foreign Fighters. The willingness of influential Saudi clerics,
wealthy Saudi individuals, and young Saudi citizens to offer rhetorical,82 financial,83
79 In October 2006, and repeatedly thereafter, then-Saudi Ambassador to the United States
Prince Turki al Faisal argued that, “The kingdom’s position has always been that since the
United States came into Iraq uninvited, they shouldn’t leave uninvited.” Arshad Mohammed,
“Saudi envoy warns US against abrupt Iraq withdrawal,” Reuters, October 30, 2006.
80 For the Saudi cabinet’s statement of its key principles for Iraq, see Saudi Press Agency
(Riyadh), “King Abdullah Chairs Cabinet’s Session,” November 20, 2006.
81 Arab News (Jeddah), “Kingdom Won’t Take Sides in Iraq, Says Saud,” December 20,
Washington Post, December 23, 2006.
82 U.S. Open Source Center (OSC) Document GMP20070411860009, “Saudi Clerics Appeal
Iraqi Islamic Insurgency Factions to Unite Against ‘Enemy,’” April 11, 2007; OSC
Document GMP20070122836001, “Saudi Cleric Al Jibrin Statement Denounces Shiites’
Acts Against Sunnis in Iraq,” January 20, 2007; OSC Document GMP20061211837002,
“Saudi Arabian Clerics Issue Statement Backing Iraq’s Sunni Muslims,” December 10,
83 Saudi officials generally deny that Saudi citizens provide financial support for Iraqi
combatants, and little specific information is publicly available to corroborate claims to the
contrary. Nevertheless, a number of press reports citing unnamed U.S. officials allege that
or personal support to various combatants in Iraq remains a challenge. In particular,
the phenomenon of Saudis traveling to Iraq to fight alongside other foreign fighters
has created a long-term security risk for both countries. Saudi veterans of similar
conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and other regions constituted the core
of the Al Qaeda-affiliated group responsible for the series of successful and
attempted terrorist attacks that occurred in the kingdom from late 2002 through early
A number of non-government affiliated Saudi clerics have encouraged support
for insurgents and Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. In December 2006, leading cleric
Salman al Awdah called “honest resistance [in Iraq] ... one of the legitimate types of
jihad,” and an October 2006 petition signed by 38 prominent religious figures called
on Sunnis everywhere to oppose a joint “crusader [U.S.], Safavid [Iranian] and Rafidi
[derogatory term for Shiite] scheme” to target Iraq’s Sunni Arab population.84 Anti-
Shiite sectarian rhetoric has been a consistent feature of statements on Iraq and Saudi
affairs from other Saudi clerics, including Nasser al Omar and Safar al Hawali.85
Confrontation with these religious figures over their remarks and activities poses
political challenges for the Saudi government and official clerical establishment,
since some of the clerics, such as Al Awdah and Al Hawali, have supported
government efforts to de-legitimize terrorism inside the kingdom and have sponsored
or participated in efforts to religiously re-educate former Saudi combatants. Official
Saudi clerics, including Grand Mufti Shaykh Abd al Aziz bin Abdallah Al Shaykh,
have released fatwas stating that travel to Iraq for the purpose of participating in
violent activity is illegitimate and not religiously sanctioned.86
Estimates of the number of Saudis who have traveled to Iraq to fight remain
imprecise and difficult to verify. In November 2006, a U.S. military spokesman
stated that of the approximately 1,100 foreign fighters killed or captured in Iraq over
the past year, 12% were Saudi nationals.87 One July 2007 press report cited unnamed
such support exists, and the Iraq Study Group report (p. 25) stated that, “funding for the
Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.”
84 Al Awdah’s comments were made at the “Conference for Supporting the Iraqi People”
in Ankara, Turkey. OSC Document - GMP20061211837002, December 10, 2006.
85 Both clerics signed the October 2006 statement. Al Awdah did not: he has been
outspoken in his criticism of Iranian intervention in Iraq, but at times has spoken out against
Sunni-Shiite conflict on his website: [http://www.islamtoday.net/]. See OSC Document
GMP20061107866002, “Saudi Shaykh Al-Awdah Warns of Sectarian War in Iraq, Holds
US Responsible,” November 5, 2006. Al Omar in particular is known for his blunt
condemnations of Shiites: see, for example, his 2003 memorandum, “The Reality of Al
Rafidah [derogatory term for Shiites] in the Land of Monotheism.”
86 OSC Document GMP20070610621002, “Iraqi Newspaper Reports on Saudi Fatwas
Forbidding Travel to Fight in Iraq,” June 3, 2007.
87 In a February 13, 2006, interview, Prince Turki al Faisal said that as of mid-2005
approximately 10% of captured foreign fighters held in Iraq were Saudis. See Mark Huband
and William Wallis, “Saudi Arabia Fears Attacks from Insurgents Battle-hardened in Iraq,”
U.S. military and intelligence officials as claiming that 30 to 40 Saudis were traveling
to Iraq to fight each month and that the majority of foreign suicide bombers in Iraq
were Saudis.88 To help prevent the return of Saudi volunteers or the flow of other
combatants and materiel from Iraq into Saudi Arabia, Saudi officials have
strengthened their border control efforts and are planning to implement a significant
border security infrastructure improvement program.89 In August 2007, Prince Saud
al Faisal dismissed reports that Saudis were traveling to Iraq as combatants in
disproportionate numbers and argued that volume of “the traffic of terrorists” from
Iraq to Saudi Arabia was greater than the volume flowing in the other direction.90
Recent U.S. military assessments suggest that Saudi efforts to more carefully control
exit visas have contributed to a decline in the number of Saudi fighters reaching
Ir a q . 91
Iraqi Debt.92 As of January 2004, Iraq reportedly owed the Saudi government
$9 billion in debts incurred during the Saddam Hussein regime (mostly during the
Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s), while private Saudi firms and banks hold about $1993
billion in Iraqi debt. Questions have been raised about whether Iraq’s debt to Saudi
Arabia is subject to interest, and both parties have agreed to discuss the matter. U.S.
officials have encouraged Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to forgive Iraq’s outstanding debt
to support reconstruction and economic recovery efforts. The Iraq Study Group
report speculated that Saudi Arabia could agree to cancel the outstanding debt as part
Financial Times (London), December 20, 2004; “U.S. Faults Saudi Efforts on Terrorism,”
Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2006; and, Remarks by Major General William Caldwell,
Spokesman, Multinational Force-Iraq, Defense Department News Briefing, November 20,
88 Helene Cooper, “U.S. Officials Voice Frustrations With Saudis, Citing Role in Iraq,” New
York Times, July 27, 2007.
89 According to press reports, Saudi Arabia is considering plans to construct a high-tech
system of fences and detection systems along its entire 900 kilometer border with Iraq, but
some Saudi officials have stated that the structures will be targeted to certain key areas
rather than stretching along the entire border. The Saudi government claims to have spent
$1.8 billion on strengthening the border with Iraq since 2004. See P.K. Abdul Ghafour,
“Work on Iraq Border Fence Starts in 2007,” Arab News, November 15, 2006; and Raid
Qusti, “Kingdom Denies Plans to Build Fence on Border With Iraq,” Arab News, November
90 Transcript of Press Availability with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al
Faysal, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, August 1, 2007.
91 Rear Admiral Gregory Smith (U.S. Navy), Director, Communications Division,
Multi-national Force-Iraq, News Briefing, January 20, 2008.
92 For more information, see CRS Report RL33376, Iraq’s Debt Relief: Procedure and
Potential Implications for International Debt Relief, by Martin A. Weiss.
93 Tom Everett-Heath, “Opposing Views of the Kingdom to Come,” Middle East Economic
Digest, January 23-29, 2004, p. 1.
of regional efforts to support and stabilize Iraq.94 In May 2007, Saudi Foreign
Minister Prince Saud al Faisal stated that the Saudi government will continue its
negotiations with Iraq “to have an appropriate solution to debts in line with rules of
the Paris Club.” Paris Club guidelines call for eliminating 80% of Iraq’s debt. As
of May 2008, no further announcements have been made regarding the reduction or
cancellation of Iraqi debt held by Saudi Arabia. Some media reports suggested that
Saudi officials remain reluctant to offer substantial economic concessions, such as
debt relief, until they are confident that Iraq’s new government is committed to
establishing an equitable balance of power among Iraq’s sectarian groups and to
resisting Iranian influence.
Saudi-Iraqi Economic and Diplomatic Relations. Sectarian and
strategic anxieties complicate Saudi efforts to engage the Shiite-led Iraqi government,
to establish strong trade links, and to discourage and prevent Saudi clerics and
individuals from supporting Sunni Arab combatants in Iraq. Saudi leaders maintain
regular contact with prominent Iraqi government officials, clerics, and political
figures. A Saudi Foreign Ministry delegation visited Iraq in August 2007 to explore
the possibility of reopening an embassy in Baghdad, and in January 2008, Prince
Saud al Faisal announced that an ambassador had been chosen and that Saudi Arabia
hoped to open an embassy in Baghdad “in the next few months.”95
The Saudi government has pledged $500 million from the Saudi Development
Fund to sponsor Iraqi government-requested development projects, along with $500
million to finance potential bilateral trade and close to $90 million in humanitarian96
relief assistance. However, since 2003, trade between Iraq and Saudi Arabia has
remained very limited. Saudi and Iraqi security services have increased their
cooperation over the last year, and Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq Al
Rubai said in a March 2008 press interview that, “we believe now that Saudi-Iraqi97
coordination is at its best and its highest levels.”
Reconciliation and long-term stability in Iraq could ease Saudi fears of creeping
insecurity, but could also create new challenges. Saudi Arabia’s immediate concern
in a post-conflict environment would be the reintegration or elimination of returning
Saudi militants. The outcome of reconciliation or conflict in Iraq and the leadership
and character of Iraq’s government will determine whether Saudi fears about the
empowerment of Shiite Arabs and the growth of Iranian influence persist or diminish.
94 Mariam Karouny and Alister Bull, “Iraq Finance Minister Says Still No Deal on Gulf
Debt, Reuters, August 1, 2006; and, ISG Report, p. 35.
95 Prince Saud al Faisal quoted in “U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Remarks With
Saudi Arabia Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal,” State
Department Press Releases and Documents, January 15, 2008.
96 Statement of Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal to United Nations meeting on Iraq,
September 18, 2006. Available at [http://www.mofa.gov.sa/Detail.asp
97 OSC Document GMP20080327825008 “Iraq’s Al-Rubay’i on Handling Saudi Detainees
to Riyadh,” Al Sharq al-Awsat (London), March 27, 2008.
Future Iraqi choices in key areas such as energy and military policy will have
important implications for Iraqi-Saudi relations.98
Economic Relations and Trade
U.S.-Saudi Trade. Saudi Arabia was the largest U.S. trading partner in the
Middle East in 2007. Saudi exports to the United States were estimated at $35.6
billion (up from $31.7 billion in 2006) and imports from the United States were
estimated at $10.4 billion (up from $7.8 billion).99 Comparable figures for Israel, the
second largest U.S. trading partner in the Middle East in 2007, were $20.8 billion in
exports to the United States and $13 billion in imports from the United States. To a
considerable extent, the high volume of U.S.-Saudi trade is a result of U.S. imports
of hydrocarbons from Saudi Arabia (see Table 3 below) and U.S. exports of
weapons, machinery, and vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
U.S. Oil Imports and Saudi Policy. With the world’s largest proven oil
reserves (estimated at 262.3 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia produced over 9 million
barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil by the end of April 2008.100 Saudi oil reserves, oil
exports, and excess oil production capacity make the kingdom the focal point for the
global oil market SaudiAramco is in the process of completing a multi-year, multi-
billion dollar production capacity expansion project that will raise its daily
production capacity to 12 million bpd. According to the U.S. Energy Information
Administration, approximately 10.7% of U.S. oil imports and 7.1% of total U.S. oil
consumption came from Saudi Arabia during 2006. Formerly the largest foreign
supplier of oil to the United States, Saudi Arabia was the third largest supplier in
Recent U.S. calls for Saudi Arabia to increase its daily oil production in order
to bring down climbing global oil prices have been met with resistance from Saudi
oil officials. Saudi officials have argued that current global consumption data and
oil market conditions suggest that high oil prices are not the result of a lack of supply
or excess demand, but rather a function of refining capacity restrictions, declines in
the value of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies, commodity market
speculation, and insecurity in key oil producing regions. On May 16, 2008, Saudi Oil
Minister Ali Al Naimi announced that Saudi Arabia would increase its production
by 300,000 barrels per day based on calls from specific oil contract holders for
greater supply. On May 19, the Saudi Council of Ministers stated that “the kingdom
98 With regard to oil policy, there is a possibility, in the words of one analyst, that, over the
long term, “the Saudi interest in moderate prices and preserving market share will run afoul
of the Iraqi need for maximum production at high prices to fund national reconstruction.”
See Joseph McMillan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq: Oil, Religion, and an Enduring Rivalry,
USIP, Special Report No. 157, January 2006, p. 14.
99 U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration Office of Trade and
Industry Information (OTII), National Trade Data, Custom Report - Saudi Arabia, 2007.
Available at [http://tse.export.gov/].
100 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Saudi Arabia: Energy Profile, April 21, 2008.
Available at [http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_energy_data.cfm?fips=SA].
is of the view that the quantities [of oil] produced at present satisfy all the needs of
the market, and that the production capacity is capable of responding to any real
additional needs for energy, within the framework of realizing the interests of all
parties concerned.”101 S.J.Res.32 and H.J.Res. 87 seek to link approval of four
recently proposed U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia to Saudi oil production increases.
Table 3. U.S. Oil Consumption and Imports
(in millions of barrels per day)
Category 2003 2004 2005 2006 a
Total U.S. Consumption20.03420.73120.80220.588
Total U.S. Imports12.26413.14513.71413.612
Imports from Saudi Arabia1.7741.5581.5371.461
Imports from Canada2.0722.1382.1812.303
Imports from Mexico1.6231.6651.6621.700
Imports from Venezuela1.3761.5541.5291.409
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Annual Energy Review 2006, Report No.
DOE/EIA-0384(2006), June 27, 2007. Data drawn from Table 5.1 - Petroleum Overview,
Selected Years, 1949-2006; and, Table 5.4 - Petroleum Imports by Country of Origin,
1960-2006, available at [http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/].
a. The report notes that 2006 data is “likely to be revised.”
U.S.-Saudi Foreign Direct Investment. Saudi leaders, notably King
Abdullah, have shown increasing interest in attracting foreign investment to the
kingdom. Major Saudi economic initiatives, such as plans to construct several
massive economic cities102 and to lift Saudi Arabia’s global competitiveness ranking
into the top 10 by 2010 (the ‘10x10’ initiative)103, involve efforts to secure foreign
investment and economic development partnerships. Several U.S. companies are
involved in existing or planned projects in Saudi Arabia, many of which leverage
Saudi energy resources. On May 12, 2007, SaudiAramco and the U.S. Dow
Chemical Company announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding
related to the development of a large scale, jointly operated chemical and plastic
production facility in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The value of the deal has
been estimated at $20 billion. On May 21, General Electric announced the sale of its
GE Plastics division to the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) for $11.6
billion. The Saudi Arabian government owns 70% of SABIC. Saudi officials and
business leaders have at times expressed concern that U.S. companies are failing to
adequately pursue non-energy resource linked investment opportunities in the
kingdom. Saudi plans to establish a sovereign wealth fund for overseas investments
has attracted interest in the United States, where some observers and policy makers
101 OSC Document GMP20080520825008, “ARAMCO Chairman Affirms Continuation of
Oil Supplies, Views Future Strategy,” Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 20,2008.
102 For more information see the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA)
overview, available at [http://www.sagia.gov.sa/english/index.php?page=ecs-overview].
103 For more information, see the SAGIA overview, available at
[ h t t p : / / www.sagi a.go v. sa/ e ngl i s h/ i ndex.php?page =ove r vi e w-of -10x10-pr ogr a m] .
have been advocating for increased transparency of and controls on sovereign wealth
Saudi Boycott of Israel and WTO Membership.105 Some Members of
Congress have raised questions regarding Saudi Arabia’s participation in the primary
Arab League boycott of Israel in light of the conclusion of a bilateral agreement with106
the United States on Saudi Arabia’s WTO accession. On April 5, 2006, the House
passed H.Con.Res. 370, which expresses the sense of Congress that Saudi Arabia
should fully live up to its WTO commitments and end all aspects of any boycott on
Israel. Under the terms of an agreement with the United States, Saudi negotiators
confirmed that Saudi Arabia would not invoke the non-application provision of the
WTO Agreement toward any fellow WTO member (which would prohibit
enforcement of the boycott) and confirmed the kingdom would not enforce the
secondary and tertiary Arab League boycotts.
However, in June 2006, then-Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince
Turki al Faisal reportedly stated that the Government of Saudi Arabia plans to
continue to enforce the Arab League’s primary boycott of Israel, drawing criticism
and inquiries from some Members of Congress. Prince Turki reportedly commented
that “the primary boycott is an issue of national sovereignty guaranteed within the
makeup of the WTO and its rules,” and indicated that the Saudi government had
already made its decision clear to the United States Trade Representative’s office
(USTR). A USTR spokesman was quoted as saying that “in [USTR’s] view,
maintaining the primary boycott of Israel is not consistent with Saudi Arabia’s107
obligation to extend full WTO treatment to all WTO Members.” January 2007
press reports quoted the Director General of the Saudi Customs Service, Saleh Al
Barak, as saying that goods manufactured in Israel could not be legally imported into
Saudi Arabia.108 However, Dan Catarivas, director of foreign trade and international
relations at the Manufacturers Association of Israel, stated his opinion in a March
104 See Economist Intelligence Unit, “Join the club: Saudi Arabia launches a formal
sovereign-wealth fund,” May 1, 2008. For background information on sovereign wealth
funds and related U.S. policy debates, see CRS Report RL34336 — Sovereign Wealth
Funds: Background and Policy Issues for Congress, By Martin A. Weiss.
105 See CRS Report RL33961 — Arab League Boycott of Israel, by Martin A. Weiss.
106 For more background, see American Association of Exporters and Importers, “Saudi
Arabia’s WTO Accession,” Vol. 105, No. 46, November 22, 2005. On September 9, 2005,
the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the United States and Saudi Arabia
had completed bilateral negotiations on terms of Saudi accession to the World Trade
Organization (WTO). On November 10, President Bush signed a memorandum to the USTR
noting that Saudi Arabia had concluded a bilateral agreement with the United States related
to Saudi accession to the WTO. In the meantime, the press noted that Saudi Arabia had
concluded bilateral negotiations with all other interested WTO members, and on December
107 Michael Freund, “Saudi Ambassador to U.S. Admits Boycott of Israel Still in Force,”
Jerusalem Post, June 22, 2006; and, Freund “U.S. Official Under Fire Over Saudi Flap,”
Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2006.
108 “Ban on Israeli Goods in Place: Customs Chief,” Arab News (Jeddah), January 4, 2007.
2008 interview that “the Arab boycott exists much more on paper than in
practicality,” and media reporting suggests that low levels of Saudi-Israeli trade do
exist and may grow if political conditions permit.109
Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Political Reform
U.S. efforts to encourage the protection of human rights, the establishment of
religious freedom, and the liberalization of political life in Saudi Arabia continue, but
face some significant obstacles. To outsiders, Saudi decision making processes
remain opaque. Many experts agree that the leaders of the Saudi monarchy seek to
preserve their ultimate authority over political decision making in the kingdom and
act to maintain their legitimacy among conservative constituent groups by carefully
managing changes that could affect established religious and cultural practices.
Recent experience suggests that U.S. reliance on Saudi government cooperation for
counterterrorism, regional security, and global energy supply purposes may limit the
U.S. government’s ability to press for more rapid or wide-ranging changes in Saudi
domestic and social policies. As it has elsewhere across the Arab world, advocacy
by the U.S. government and other international parties in support of social and
political reform in the kingdom has been met with skepticism and allegations of
outside interference. At the same time, some reform activists question the
commitment of the United States to promote political and social liberalization,
because, in their view, renewed U.S.-Saudi security and counterterrorism cooperation
strengthens the ability of the Saudi government and the royal family to control the
Saudi population and perceived political rivals. Some observers also believe that
apparent Saudi reluctance to adopt broader social reforms is a product of the rapid
transformation that the country has undergone since its establishment, some of which
has been met with violent opposition.
By all accounts, the Al Saud family and its close allies dominate political and
economic decision making in the kingdom, although Saudi leaders have taken some
nominal steps since the early 1990s to respond to calls for the protection of individual
liberties and for more participatory, accountable government. Within the ruling
family, political differences and intra-clan and inter-generational rivalries appear to
influence the distribution of government posts and the policy positions of leading
actors on key issues. King Abdullah bin Abd al Aziz is widely considered to be
supportive of some social and economic reforms, but appears to share the strong
commitment of other leading royal figures to preserving the Al Saud family’s
national authority and the country’s international influence. Although decision
making authority remains concentrated, policy decisions on controversial issues
appear to reflect Saudi leaders’ efforts to manage and address the demands of various
interest groups. Outside observers and Saudi officials describe the policy making
process in the kingdom as being based on the pursuit and maintenance of consensus
among key groups rather than being exclusively driven by the immediate needs of the
royal family and its allies.
Saudi Arabia’s conservative religious establishment and other non-government
affiliated clerics remain socially and culturally influential. Members of the official
109 Rachelle Kliger, “Made in Israel, sold in Saudi Arabia,” Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2008.
clerical community continue to provide a degree of religious legitimacy to the rule
of the royal family, but they have no formal political authority. Important families,
tribal groups, and business leaders also influence Saudi policy decisions on some
issues. Political and religious advisory bodies, such as the 150-member, appointed
Shura Council and the appointed Senior Ulema Council (made up of leading religious
scholars), reflect the views of these influential groups but have only cursory powers.
Political Reform Debates. Saudis have debated questions of political
legitimacy and authority in the kingdom throughout its history. Continuing petitions
from reform activists since the 1990s have called on the royal family to make
decision making and governance structures more participatory, accountable, and
responsive to citizens’ needs. To date, these calls have been met with a mixture of
embrace and resistance by the government. Since 2003, activists have submitted
petitions calling for specific political reforms, including the introduction of a110
constitutional monarchy. Then-crown prince and now King Abdullah responded
to initial calls for reform by instituting a “National Dialogue” process, which some
observers have described as an unprecedented opportunity for Saudi citizens to
publicly debate political and social issues and to offer criticism of government111
policies. However, the subsequent arrest and detention of signatories of various
reform petitions has angered reform supporters and create doubt among some Saudis
and outside observers about the royal family’s willingness to compromise on certain
core principles, particularly on issues relating to the overarching authority of the
As such, tangible changes to the structure of the Saudi political system since
2003 have been extremely limited. In 2005, elections were held for half of the seats
on 178 newly created municipal councils, which have been granted nominal powers
to oversee local government and make recommendations to regional and national
level authorities. In practice, some Saudis have criticized the government for failing,
in their views, to implement recommendations made through the National Dialogue
process or to adequately empower the municipal councils vis-a-vis municipal and
regional authorities. Several municipal council members have resigned, and support
for structural changes appears to remain strong among some Saudis. In September
2007, Prince Talal bin Abd al Aziz, half-brother of King Abdallah and a long-term
reform advocate, called for the creation of a reform-oriented political party in the
kingdom and criticized the detention of reform activists.112
Social Reform Debates. Since 2006, significant public debates have
occurred on social issues such as the powers of religious police, education reform
110 See, International Crisis Group, “Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?” Middle East Report
N/28, July 14, 2004; and, Reuters, “Saudi Arabia Frees 3 Islamist Reformists,” July 10,
111 Six sessions have been held under the auspices of the King Abdulaziz Center for National
Dialogue, with corresponding regional preparation meetings. The subjects included national
unity, combating extremism, women, youth, “dialogue with world cultures,” and education
policy. For more information, see [http://www.kacnd.org/eng/default.asp].
112 Associated Press (AP), “Key Saudi Prince Says Plans To Form Political Party,”
September 4, 2007.
proposals, the roles and rights of women, and the integration of Shiites into Saudi
Arabia’s predominantly Sunni society. Each has illustrated the challenges Saudi
leaders face in responding to some groups’ calls for change while preserving national
traditions and pursuing their own political goals.
!Numerous allegations of abuse leveled against members of the
Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice
(Saudi Arabia’s religious police) have fueled a public debate among
Saudis, many of whom appear not to question the underlying
legitimacy of the Commission as an institution, but may have serious
concerns about the Commission’s statutory powers, the
professionalism of its employees, and the protection of due process
for detained individuals.
!Similarly, many Saudis have expressed support for education reform
proposals as a means of improving the economic opportunities
available to the kingdom’s young population. However, others have
spoken out against curricular reforms they perceive to be either
contrary to Saudi religious and cultural traditions or taken in
response to the wishes of outsiders, including the United States.
!The roles and rights of women remain subjects of interest in the
United States and subjects of intense debate in Saudi Arabia. Some
Saudi activists advocate for greater employment, marital, and
political rights for Saudi women, while others seek to maintain
status quo arrangements based on their religious and cultural
preferences. The issue of restrictions on female driving, often
discussed as an example of gender bias by outside observers, is
debated among many Saudis as both a cultural and economic issue;
the views of some Saudi families appear to be changing as they
begin to face limits in their ability to meet the costs of hiring drivers
so that mothers and daughters can pursue economic and educational
goals outside the home.
!King Abdullah has made some high-level public attempts to improve
sectarian relations between Sunni and Shiite leaders, but these
efforts have been undermined amid ongoing claims of abuses against
Shiites and the issuance of a series of statements from clerics who
regard Shiite minority groups as religiously aberrant and potentially
politically disloyal. Since early 2007, Shiite groups in the Eastern
Province and the southern region of Najran have reported a number
of human rights violations and restrictions on their political and
religious rights, in spite of some government attempts to create a
more tolerant atmosphere.113
113 OSC Document FEA20070501128188, “Report On Situation Of Saudi Shiites 1 Jan
06-30 Apr 07” Al Rasid Newspaper (Saudi Arabia) April 24, 2007; and, OSC Document
GMP20080514866001, “Saudi Authorities Arrest Fatimid Leader,” Al Rasid Newspaper
Human Rights. According to the Department of State, several categories of
human rights violations occurred in Saudi Arabia during 2007, along with some
improvements in government efforts to combat torture and to allow public reporting
of human rights concerns.114 The Saudi National Society for Human Rights, an
independent organization approved by the Saudi government in 2004, also reported
and investigated alleged human rights abuses during the year, including violations115
reported by Saudi citizens. Recent Human Rights Watch reports argue that
“violations of defendants’ fundamental rights in Saudi Arabia are so systemic that it
is hard to reconcile the existing criminal justice system with basic principles of
fairness, the rule of law and international human rights standards.”116 Saudi
authorities have launched a comprehensive judicial restructuring process aimed at
improving some identified deficiencies. Notable recent cases involving human rights
activists or alleged abuses include the arrest and detention of Saudi blogger Fouad
Al Farhan and human rights advocate and university professor Dr. Matrook Al117
Faleh. Saudi Arabia is serving as a member of the United Nations Human Rights
Council through 2009.
Religious Freedom. The Department of State has designated Saudi Arabia
as a “country of particular concern” since 2004 with regard to restrictions on
religious freedom. According to the most recent International Religious Freedom
Report (released September 14, 2007) “religious freedom remains severely restricted
in Saudi Arabia.”118 However, the report notes that U.S. officials observed “positive
May 14, 2008.
114 Reported violations included “no right to peacefully change the government; infliction
of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments; beatings and other abuse;
arbitrary arrest and detention, sometimes incommunicado; denial of fair public trials;
political prisoners; exemption for the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial
independence; restrictions on civil liberties such as the freedoms of speech, including the
Internet, assembly, association, movement, and religion; corruption and lack of government
transparency.” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor,
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2007 - Saudi Arabia, March 11, 2008.
Available at [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100605.htm].
115 Raid Qusti, “NSHR Cites a Plethora of Rights Violations,” Arab News (Jeddah), May
23, 2007. Information from the National Society for Human Rights is available at
116 Christoph Wilcke, “Re-education, Saudi style,” Guardian Unlimited (UK), April 25,
2008. Wilcke is the primary author of a recent Human Rights Watch report, “Precarious
Justice: Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials in the Deficient Criminal Justice System of
Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch, Volume 20, No. 3(E), March 2008. Available at
[http://hrw.org/ reports/2008/saudij ustice0308/].
117 See Faiza Saleh Ambah, “Saudi Activist Blogger Freed After 4 Months in Jail Without
Charge,” Washington Post, April 27, 2008; and, Faiza Saleh Ambah, “Saudi Critic Jailed
After Decrying Justice System,” Washington Post, May 21, 2008.
118 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International
Religious Freedom Report 2007, September 14, 2007. Saudi Arabia country entry available
developments which could lead to important improvements in the future.” These
included Saudi government efforts to limit the spread of divisive ideology in
government mosques, to expand teacher training and curricular reform efforts, and
to institute new procedural controls over the activities of members of the religious
police. Non-Muslims continue to be prohibited from worshiping publicly. The
Administration has waived the imposition of sanctions on Saudi Arabia as a result
of these observed steps. U.S. organizations such as Freedom House have criticized
restrictions on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and questioned the Saudi
government’s commitment to stated reform initiatives, including education reform.
Prior to 2001, Saudi nationals received the highest number of U.S. non-
immigrant entry visas issued to nationals of any Arab country, and were second only
to Israel and Turkey in the Middle East. Saudis in Saudi Arabia were able to utilize
so-called ‘third party’ expedited visa services whereby travel agencies were permitted
to forward visa materials to consular officials at the U.S. Embassy for processing and
the applicants would later receive their entry visas by mail. The revelations that 15
of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals who had legally obtained U.S.
visas and that three of the hijackers reportedly had obtained their U.S. visas using the
expedited “visa express” arrangements led to significant changes in U.S. visa policy
in Saudi Arabia and around the world.119 Following the 2001 attacks, third party visa
issuance in Saudi Arabia was specifically prohibited under Section 428(i) of the
Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L.107-296).120 The Department of State
terminated the expedited visa system in Saudi Arabia in 2002 and significantly
increased the visa interview rates for Saudi nationals.121
As in other countries, new administrative arrangements were made at U.S.
consular facilities in Saudi Arabia to accommodate new security requirements. As
a result, visa issuances to Saudi nationals slowed along with Saudi application rates.
Global non-immigrant visa issuance rates declined after 2001, and issuance rates
dropped steeply for Saudi Arabian nationals. (See Figure 2 below.) In addition to
complaints about backlogs and perceived discrimination, Saudi officials and
nationals voiced strong concerns about declines in the number of Saudis visiting the
United States for travel, work, and study. People-to-people linkages have supported
U.S.-Saudi relations over time, particularly to the extent that many leading Saudis
have pursued their higher education in the United States since the 1960s. U.S.
officials, who had long sought visa reciprocity for U.S. citizens with regard to
119 Jonathan Peterson, “Express Visa Program May Have Benefitted 3 Hijackers,” Los
Angeles Times, December 17, 2001.
120 Section 428(i) reads as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the
date of the enactment of this Act all third party screening programs in Saudi Arabia shall be
terminated. On-site personnel of the Department of Homeland Security shall review all visa
applications prior to adjudication.”
121 William C. Mann, “Feds End Visa Shortcut for Saudis,” Associated Press, July 20, 2002.
multiple entry and long-term visas for Saudi Arabia, reportedly met resistance from
Saudi authorities in light of the new U.S. policies.
New U.S. consular administrative practices122 and broader Saudi awareness of
new U.S. visa requirements reportedly have contributed to an ease in visa backlogs
and delays in recent months.123 Overall, visa issuance rates for Saudi nationals have
increased annually since 2003. (See Figure 2 below.) The Department of State
recently opened a permanent visa issuance facility at the U.S. consulate in Dhahran,
and in April 2008, U.S. Ambassador Ford Fraker announced that the United States
aims to double the number of student visas issued to Saudi students over the next five
Figure 2. Non-Immigrant U.S. Visas Issued to Saudi Nationals,
Non-Immigrant U.S. Visas Issued to Saudi Nationals
96 97 98 9 99 0 00 0 01 02 03 0 04 0 05 0 06 0 07
19 19 19 1 2 2 20 20 2 2 2 2
Sources: CRS graphic derived from data in U.S. Department of State, Visa Office Report, 2005, Table
XVIII (Part I) “Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Nationality (Including Border Crossing Cards), Fiscal
Year 1996-2005”; and, Department of State, Visa Office Report, 2007, Table XVIII “Nonimmigrant
Visas Issued by Nationality (Including Border Crossing Cards), Fiscal Year 1998-2007.” Available
Under the terms of a consular agreement announced in May 2008, Saudi
students now will be allowed to travel to and from the United States for up to five
122 Saudis nationals have the option of scheduling visa interview appointments at the U.S.
Embassy in Riyadh using an online reservation system, and the Embassy has frequently
advised Saudi students on how best to avoid having their studies in the United States
interrupted by visa renewal requirements.
123 Briefings from U.S. Department of State personnel, Washington, D.C. and Riyadh Saudi
Arabia, February 2008.
years without having to reapply for a visa after two years, as previously required.124
The Department of Homeland Security Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System (SEVIS) provides status and identification information for U.S. government
verification throughout foreign students’ stays in the United States.
Some Members of Congress have expressed concern about U.S. visa issuance
to Saudi nationals, and legislation has been introduced in the 110th Congress seeking
to influence U.S. visa policy toward Saudi Arabia. Some Members of Congress have
expressed concern about restrictions on the importation of non-Islamic religious
materials and symbols into Saudi Arabia and about reported visa restrictions for
Jewish visitors to the kingdom or Israeli passport stamp holders. H.R. 2981
specifically seeks to ban the issuance of visas to Saudi nationals until these concerns
are addressed. H.R. 3217 seeks to prohibit the issuance of student and diversity
immigrant visas to Saudi Arabian nationals on security grounds absent Presidential
124 Saudi student visa holders, like student visa holders from other countries, will be required
to remain “in status” and be enrolled in a full course of study. According to the Department
of State, “This decision to expand visa reciprocity was taken in light of the economic
benefits associated with more business, tourist, and student travelers and heightened
cooperation on security and counterterrorism between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. This
decision also reflects recent measures taken by the U.S. to enhance visa processing and
security, such as online visa applications and enhanced biometrics.” U.S. Department of
State response to CRS inquiry, May 20, 2008.
Further Reading and Historical Resources
Paul Aarts and Gerd Nonneman (eds.), Saudi Arabia in the Balance: Political
Economy, Society, Foreign Affairs, New York University Press, 2006.
Rachel Bronson, Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi
Arabia, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin
Laden,from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Penguin Press, 2004.
Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, Penguin
John S. Habib, Ibn Saud’s Warriors of Islam: The Ikhwan of Najd and their Role in
the Creation of the Saudi Kingdom, 1910- 1930, E.J. Brill, 1978.
Thomas Hegghammer, “Terrorist Recruitment and Radicalisation in Saudi Arabia,”
Middle East Policy, Volume 13, Number 4, 2006.
Joseph Kostiner, The Making of Saudi Arabia, 1916-1936, From Chieftaincy to
Monarchical State, Oxford University Press, 1993.
Robert Lacey, The Kingdom: Arabia & The House of Sa’ud, Harcourt Brace
Stéphane Lacroix, Awakening Islam: A History of Islamism in Saudi Arabia, Presses
Universitaires de France, English version forthcoming - Spring 2009.
David E. Long, Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia, Greenwood Press, 2005.
David E. Long, The United States and Saudi Arabia: Ambivalent Allies, Westview
Aaron David Miller, Search for Security: Saudi Arabian Oil and American Foreign
Policy, University of North Carolina Press, 1980.
Madawi Al Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Madawi Al Rasheed, Contesting the Saudi State, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Yaroslav Trofimov, The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest
Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda, Doubleday, 2007.
Alexei Vassiliev, History of Saudi Arabia, New York University Press, 2000.
Robert Vitalis, America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier, Stanford
University Press, 2006.
Mai Yamani, Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity, I.B.
Mai Yamani, Changed Identities: The Challenge of the New Generation in Saudi
Arabia, University of British Columbia Press, 2005.
Appendix A: Recent Proposed Arms Sales
On October 4, 2007, Congress was notified of a possible sale of Light Armored
Vehicles (LAV) and High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV)
and associated equipment. Specifically, 37 Light Armored Vehicles-Assault Gun
(LAV-AG); 26 LAV-25mm; 48 LAV Personnel Carriers; 5 Reconnaissance LAVs;
purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 25 M1165A1 HMMWV with winch; 124
M240 7.62mm Machine Guns; 525 AN/PVS-7D Night Vision Goggles (NVGs);
various M978A2 and M984A2 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, family of
Medium Tactical Vehicles, 120mm Mortar Towed, M242 25mm guns, spare and
repair parts; sets, kits, and outfits; and support services and equipment. The
estimated value of the sale, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $631
million. Transmittal No. 08-03.125
On December 7, 2007, Congress was notified of a possible sale of five sets of
Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command, Control and Communications
(C3) mission equipment/Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Group
B kits for subsequent installation and checkout in five E-3 Airborne Warning
and Control Systems (AWACS). This proposed sale will also include spare and
repair parts, support equipment, documentation, contractor engineering and technical
support, and other program support. The estimated value of the sale, if all options are
exercised, could be as high as $400 million. Transmittal No. 08-28.126
On December 7, 2007, Congress was notified of a possible sale of 40 AN/AAQ-
33 SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pods, aircraft installation and checkout, digital
data recorders/cartridges, pylons, spare and repair parts, support equipment,
publications and technical documentation, contractor engineering and technical
support, and other program support. The estimated value of the sale, if all options
are exercised, could be as high as $220 million. Transmittal No. 08-29.127
On January 14, 2008, Congress was notified of a possible sale of 900 Joint
Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits (which include 550 Guided Bomb Unit
(GBU)-38 kits for MK-82 bombs, 250 GBU-31 kits for MK-84 bombs, and 100
GBU-31 kits for BLU-109 bombs). Also included are bomb components, mission
planning, aircraft integration, publications and technical manuals, spare and repair
parts, support equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other
related support elements. The estimated value of the sale, if all options are exercised,
could be as high as $123 million. Transmittal No. 08-18.
125 Details available at [http://www.dsca.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2007/Saudi_08-03.pdf].
126 Details available at [http://www.dsca.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2007/Saudi_08-28.pdf].
127 Details available at [http://www.dsca.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2007/Saudi_08-29.pdf].