When did the alliance start?
The relationship goes back to the late 1930s, just after Abdul Aziz ibn Saud consolidated squabbling Arab tribes into a kingdom. U.S. energy companies had discovered oil in the Arabian Peninsula, and they asked their government to promote their interests with the new monarch. In 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz aboard a U.S. ship in the Suez Canal, and the two got along famously. FDR gave the ailing king one of his own wheelchairs, which the king later called his “most precious possession.” FDR succeeded in ensuring that the U.S., and not the British, would control Saudi oil. In return, the U.S. would provide security for the kingdom: Within a few years, a U.S. military base was set up near the oil fields. Over the decades, the oil-for-security arrangement has become vital to both countries. Saudi Arabia is now the U.S. defense industry’s largest foreign customer, buying some $112 billion worth of weapons during the Obama administration alone.
Fast friends: King Abdul Aziz and FDR in 1945