Origins of Saudi-American Relations

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The Origins of Saudi-American Relations

My father just finished his book. It’s published by the Arab Scientific Publishers and this is what it’s about:

It’s a real labour of love. As he had spent extensive time at the Public British Records in London, The National Archives in Washington D.C. and King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives in Riyadh. He brings a unique perspective to the table, with an American PhD degree in Political Science, his Saudi military experience as a retired Major General and a son of a man who fought in the Saudi army to establish the borders of Saudi Arabia.

As you can see from the above synopsis the book’s focus is the basis of the ‘special relationship’ between Saudi Arabia and the United States. However what I found most intriguing was the secondary topics (but essential to the main); on how Saudi Arabia came to be, the dynamics between the Royal family and the muttawas and how both compromised to achieve our current situation and how the Palestinian-Israel conflict influenced the British-Saudi relations. Here are some interesting extracts to illustrate:

On German-Saudi relation:

“From the German side, the main motive behind their change of position towards Saudi Arabia in 1939 appeared to be the need to find an ally in this region. They needed to promote their diplomatic position, especially because they could not depend on Iraq in the event of war and that their minister in Baghdad had been ousted.17 The Germans hoped to use Saudi Arabia as a base for spreading their propaganda against the British position in the Middle East in the event of war. The Germans, in view of the country’s potential for development, also thought it would be advisable to establish and develop their economic ties with Saudi Arabia.18 The Ministry of Economics expressed the desire for Germany’s Minister to Baghdad to be accredited to Ibn Saud because it would then be easier to obtain precise information about the economic and commercial possibilities for Germany. The German appetite for Saudi economic potential was not new. When Amir Faisal, then Viceroy of the Hijaz, visited Germany from 20-24 May 1932, the Berlin press, in general, pleasantly reported his visit, the DEUTSCHE DIPLOMATISCHE POLITISCHE KORRESPONDENZ commented editorially, saying:

Germany greets Viceroy Faisal as the representative of a country with which it has been bound by a treaty of Friendship since 1929. The Kingdom of Ibn Saud is of great importance as regards both politics and culture. It comprises vast territories which await their development. And it can well be considered that the wish of King Ibn Saud for stronger friendly relations between the two States, in which Germany is especially interested, will undoubtedly be instrumental in advancing Germany’s commercial relations with Hijaz.19

On the Ikhwan (muttawa):

“The mid‑1930s marked the beginning of serious attempts toward the modernization in Arabia. Telephone and telegraphic communications were set up, and automobiles and other western technological innovations were imported in increasing numbers. These developments seemed to widen the gap between the Ikhwan and the King. The former resisted change by cutting communications wires and even attacking the users of foreign equipment. Such inventions, from their perspective, could only be the work of the devil. For a time the moderate King tolerated such activities, hoping to exercise persuasion over the Ikhwan in the long run.61 This proved to be a vain hope. By 1927, the Ikhwan were on the verge of open revolt. They opposed many aspects of the King’s policy. They were critical of him for sending his sons into the lands of the infidels, e.g., England and Egypt. They attacked him for employing motor vehicles, telegraphs and telephones. They criticized him for levying taxes and for following other policies they considered un‑Islamic.62

On Yemen:

“In fact, reading the Taif Treaty of 1934, one can realize why King Ibn Saud did not absorb Yemen and welcomed the mediation. In a ‘Green Book’ issued in 1934 by the Saudi government explaining the nature of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, Ibn Saud stated that he had never intended to occupy Yemen, that his only desire was to conclude a frontier agreement between the two countries in order to avoid problems which might be exploited by foreign powers to penetrate the region. He never thought of setting up an empire or of expanding his dominion to other Arab countries. He knew well that winning the military campaign was not sufficient for an effective expansion. Ibn Saud realized the nature of the people of Yemen, their history, their religious sects and the difficult geographic nature of their country. He knew that all those who had invaded Yemen throughout history had suffered heavily because the people of Yemen had never abandoned their beliefs in the face of a conqueror.33

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