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The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness

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  • Clip: Is the U.S.-Saudi Relationship Unconditional?

    Debaters discuss the conditions of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

  • Clip: Is Saudi Arabia a Pressure Cooker?

    Debaters discuss whether Saudi Arabia is resilient to upheaval unlike other Middle Eastern countries.

  • Clip: Will There Be Consequences For Our Continuing Relationship with Saudi Arabia?

    Clip: Debaters discuss whether there will be potential blowback on the U.S. for allowing Saudi's human rights abuses to continue.

Debate Details

U.S. Saudi Debate

Over 70 years ago, in 1945, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia met onboard the USS Quincy.  A close relationship between the two countries has been maintained ever since, with oil and military and intelligence cooperation at its foundation.  But the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. shale revolution, human rights concerns, and diverging interests in the Middle East, have all put strains on this relationship.  Has this special relationship outlived its usefulness, or is it too important to walk away from?

The Debaters

For the motion

Madawi Al-Rasheed

Madawi Al-Rasheed

Visiting Professor, London School of Economics

Madawi Al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and former research fellow at the Open Society... Read More

Mark P. Lagon

Mark P. Lagon

Centennial Fellow & Distinguished Senior Scholar, Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service

Mark P. Lagon is a Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and is the former... Read More

Against the motion

F. Gregory Gause

F. Gregory Gause

John H. Lindsey Chair & Head of the International Affairs Department, Texas A&M University

F. Gregory Gause, III is the John H. Lindsey Chair, professor of international affairs and head of the International Affairs Department at the Bush... Read More

James Jeffrey

James Jeffrey

Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute & Former Ambassador to Turkey & Iraq

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute where he focuses on U.S. diplomatic and military... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Our diverging priorities in the Middle East and the Saudi’s continued support and funding of religious extremism highlight the differences in our national security interests.
  • Advances in natural gas and oil production technologies have freed us from our reliance on Saudi oil.
  • The U.S. cannot continue to ignore Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record on their treatment of women, religious minorities, and dissidents.
 
Against The Motion
  • This relationship has been mutually beneficial for over 70 years, and we cannot afford to alienate one of the few states holding an unstable region together.
  • Saudi Arabia has been an important ally in the fight against terrorism, especially through shared intelligence.
  • Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of crude oil in the world, and it is to the global economy’s benefit to secure its accessibility.
 

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The Research

The Research

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

Christopher Blanchard
September 20, 2016

Saudi Arabia has close defense and security ties with the United States anchored by long-standing military training programs and supplemented by ongoing high-value weapons sales and new critical infrastructure security cooperation and counterterrorism initiatives. These ties would be difficult and costly for either side to fully break or replace.

Saudi Arabia: Running Into the Sand

October 12, 2016

Tumbling crude prices have pushed the country to the brink, and now it's losing friends too.

The End of the U.S.-Saudi Special Relationship?

May 18, 2016

There are still a significant number of common interests that unite Washington and Ryadh.

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