The Scandal of U.S.-Saudi Relations

Excessive deference toward Saudi Arabia undermines U.S. national interests, and the basic reason for it is none too pretty.

Issue: Winter 2002-2003

When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the White House should be called the 'White Tent.' - Mohammed Al-Khilewi, a Saudi diplomat who defected to the United States1

Consider two symbolic moments in the U.S.-Saudi relationship involving a visit by one leader to the other's country. In November 1990, President George H.W. Bush went to the Persian Gulf region with his wife and top congressional leaders at Thanksgiving time to visit the 400,000 troops gathered in Saudi Arabia, whom he sent there to protect that country from an Iraqi invasion. When the Saudi authorities learned that the President intended to say grace before a festive Thanksgiving dinner, they remonstrated; Saudi Arabia knows only one religion, they said, and that is Islam. Bush acceded, and he and his entourage instead celebrated the holiday on the U.S.S. Durham, an amphibious cargo ship sitting in international waters.

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