Saudi Arabia has long been one of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East, among the largest recipients of U.S. arms sales globally, and perceived as a crucial partner in the war on terrorism. Nonetheless, there have always been serious questions regarding the costs of the U.S.-Saudi military relationship, which have become more pronounced over the past year. The Saudi military intervention in Yemen has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, and recent executions in the Kingdom, including of nonviolent dissidents, have renewed longstanding concerns about the state of human rights in the Kingdom. In addition, concerns remain about Saudi support for extremist networks in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, as well as the impact of Saudi militarism on divisions throughout the region.
How has Saudi Arabia’s role in the region changed in recent years, and what has driven these changes? What relationships have various factions in Saudi Arabia had with extremist movements throughout the Middle East and North Africa? What impact does U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia have on the Kingdom’s role in the region, as well as on human rights concerns within the country? How have recent events, such as the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Saudi’s role in the Syrian conflict, and mass executions within Saudi Arabia, affected the U.S.-Saudi relationship? And what might we expect for the future of bilateral relations?
Amb. Stephen Seche
Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)