The decades-long relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has faced major challenges since the start of the Middle East upheavals in 2011. The past few months have produced new tactical strains in the bilateral relationship: Ongoing political changes in Egypt, Syria’s civil war and the possibility of new attempts at diplomatic engagement with Iran have all brought to the surface divisions between Washington and Riyadh. The United States and Saudi Arabia continue to share several common strategic interests, including regional security cooperation in dealing with threats from Iran and al-Qaida affiliates, but how the two countries work together to navigate the complicated forces reshaping the Middle East in the coming months will help define their future state of relations.
This November marks 80 years since the United States and Saudi Arabia first established diplomatic relations. Oil was the initial foundation for this relationship, and Saudi Arabia’s importance as the largest oil producer in the world has been an enduring factor in the relationship. For decades, the United States has made considerable investments, in the form of security efforts aimed at stabilizing the region, to ensure the free flow of oil.This article was originally published in World Politics Review.