For several years, the relationship between USA and Saudi Arabia has been difficult due to the 9/11 attacks. However, Saudi Arabia is a key U.S ally due to the volatile security situation in the Middle East. Saudi is a central player in the Israel-Arab peace negotiations, stability in Iraq, and security issues focusing on Iran. USA uses the relationship with Saudi Arabia to promote a peaceful vision of Islam, which is associated with jihadist violence. The Arab revolts of 2011 caused serious disagreements between the two countries, but they did not affect the strategic and economic relationship (Lippman, 2012).
Saudi Arabia aims at creating a constructive relationship between the non-Muslim west and the Muslim world. The kingdom tries to embrace modernization and change in the western countries without surrendering the ideals and values of Islam.
USA views Saudi Arabia as an important player in stabilizing the terrorism in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia uses the relationship to improve the image of the Muslim world in the western countries.
The US economy relies heavily on oil for energy production and the country imports two-thirds of the total oil consumed. Saudi Arabia is an influential OPEC member and about 13 percent of the oil imported by USA comes from Saudi Arabia (Lippman, 2012). The kingdom also forms one of the largest export markets for U.S products in the Middle East. USA provides Saudi Arabia with weapons, military training and ensures the country’s security from attacks by Iran and Iraq. USA is also an important partner in shaping the political scene of Saudi Arabia.
Oil is the major driving force for the long lasting relationship between the two countries. The security of Saudi Arabia is dependent on the relationship with USA; therefore, the kingdom has to develop an oil policy that maintains Saudi as the leading oil supplier for USA. The strategic location of Saudi Arabia provides the U.S with an avenue for influencing the stability of the region.
USA will continue granting security to Saudi Arabia.
The stability of Iraq, an oil producing country occupied by USA, will not affect the oil exports from Saudi Arabia.
USA will remain critical about the nuclear projects in Iran and prevent the development of nuclear weapons.
The bilateral trade agreements between the two countries will not be affected by the Arab spring and terror activities in the Middle East.
The political status of the monarch will not be influenced by radical Muslims.
Strengths: Saudi Arabia has had a ready oil market due to high imports by the U.S. the USA provides Saudi Arabia with weapons, military training, and prevents attacks by unstable neighbors such as Iraq. USA also supports the Saudi form of government and modernization in the country.
Weakness: Saudi Arabia is influenced by USA regarding oil prices. Both countries have different cultures and the Saudi government is forced to embrace the western culture. This involves giving freedom of speech to the media, educating women, and respecting human rights instead of giving absolute power to the monarch.
Opportunities: Saudi Arabia can strengthen its influence in the Arab world by encouraging the U.S-led peace negotiations for Israel and providing support for Iraq and Afghanistan. The Saudi government can utilize this relationship to expand oil exports to USA and other western countries. Saudi Arabia can garner economic and political support from U.S allies such as Britain.
Threats: majority of the attackers of 9/11 were Saudi citizens including the former Al-Qaeda leader. Terror attacks targeting Americans from Saudi Arabian citizens can destroy or weaken the relationship between these countries. America also remains skeptical of the Arab spring in Middle East.
Analysis of Strategic issues
The U.S provided military support during the first Gulf War to protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. The U.S trained Saudi troops and helped build military bases and facilities in the country. The US government has provided weapons to the Saudi government. In 2007, the Saudi governments received arms worth $20 billion from the US. Saudi Arabia exports approximately 100 million oil barrels a day to USA, which forms the largest export by Saudi Arabia to one country.
The Saudi government can help U.S criticize the Iranian nuclear projects and become a key player in stabilizing Iraq. This will attract more support from USA and the country can be given the role of ensuring security in Iraq. However, attacking Iran may increase the tension between the two countries, which may lead to enmity when USA accomplishes its mission in Iran.
Saudi Arabia can encourage heavy investment by US companies to improve the economy and education to eliminate the intellectual backwardness. Majority of the population is young suffering from chronic unemployment, and a flawed education system.
The government can negotiate with the US government for the establishment of industries, organizations, and learning institution by American entrepreneurs. This can be presented as a strategy of combating terrorism in the region by keeping the young generation occupied through employment and education.
Lippman, T. W. 2012. Saudi Arabia on the edge: the uncertain future of an American ally.
Washington, D.C., Potomac Books.