Saudi Arabia - Tips

Saudi Arabia Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Saudi Arabia

Flag of Saudi Arabia is green, with white Arabic script above a white
horizontal saber whose tip points to the hoist side.


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Area: 1,960,582 sq. km. (784,233 sq. mi.), slightly more than one-fifth the
size of the continental United States.
Cities (2006 est.): Capital--Riyadh (pop. 4.3 million). Other cities--Jeddah
(3.4 million), Makkah, (1.6 million), Dammam/Khobar/Dhahran, (1.6 million).
Terrain: Primarily desert with rugged mountains in the southwest.
Climate: Arid, with great extremes of temperature in the interior; humidity
and temperature are both high along the coast.

Nationality: Noun--Saudi(s). Adjective--Saudi Arabian or Saudi.
Population (2007 est.): 27.6 million (22.0 million Saudis, 5.6 million
foreign nationals).
Annual growth rate: (2007 est.): 2.06%.
Ethnic groups: Arab (90% of native pop.), Afro-Asian (10% of native pop.).
Religion: Islam.
Language: Arabic (official).
Education: Literacy--Total: 78.8% (male 84.7%, female 70.8%).
Health: Infant mortality rate (2007 est.)--12.4/1,000. Life expectancy--male
74 years, female 78 years.
Work force: 6.76 million, about 35% foreign workers (2005 est.);
industry--25%; services (including government)--63%; agriculture--12%.

Type: Monarchy with Council of Ministers and Consultative Council.
Unification: September 23, 1932.
Constitution: The Holy Qur'an (governed according to Islamic law), Shari'a,
and the Basic Law.
Branches: Executive--King (chief of state and head of government).
Legislative--a Consultative Council with advisory powers was formed September
1993. Judicial--Supreme Council of Justice, Islamic Courts of First Instance
and Appeals.
Administrative divisions: 13 provinces.
Political parties: None.

GDP (2006 est.): $374 billion.
Annual growth rate (2006 est.): 5.9%.
Per capita GDP (2006 est.): $13,800.
Natural resources: Hydrocarbons, gold, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron,
phosphate, tungsten, zinc, silver, copper.
Agriculture: Products--dates, grains, livestock, vegetables. Arable
Industry: Types--petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, fertilizer, light
Trade (2006 est.): Exports--$204.5 billion: petroleum and petroleum products.
Imports--$64.16 billion: manufactured goods, transportation equipment,
clothing and textiles, processed food products. Major trading partners--U.S.,
Japan, South Korea, China, Germany, U.K., France, Italy (2005).

Saudi Arabia's 2007 population was estimated to be about 27.6 million,
including about 5.6 million resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, most of the
population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban
growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled. Some cities and oases
have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600 per sq.

Saudi Arabia is known as the birthplace of Islam, which in the century
following Muhammad's death in 632 A.D. spread west to Spain and east to
India. Islam obliges all Muslims to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah,
at least once during their lifetime if they are able to do so. The cultural
environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative; the country adheres to a
strict interpretation of Islamic religious law (Shari'a). Cultural
presentations must conform to narrowly defined standards of ethics. Men and
women are not permitted to attend public events together and are segregated
in the work place.

Most Saudis are ethnically Arab. Some are of mixed ethnic origin and are
descended from Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, Africans, and others,
most of whom immigrated as pilgrims and reside in the Hijaz region along the
Red Sea coast. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom.
There also are significant numbers of Asian expatriates mostly from India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There are less than
100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia.

Except for a few major cities and oases, the harsh climate historically
prevented much settlement of the Arabian Peninsula. People of various
cultures have lived in the peninsula over a span of more than 5,000 years.
The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was contemporaneous with the
Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the ancient world
traded with the states of the peninsula.

The Saudi state began in central Arabia in about 1750. A local ruler,
Muhammad bin Saud, joined forces with an Islamic reformer, Muhammad Abd
Al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. Over the next 150 years, the
fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers
contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for
control on the peninsula. The modern Saudi state was founded by the late King
Abdul Aziz Al Saud (known internationally as Ibn Saud). In 1902, Abdul Aziz
recaptured Riyadh, the Al Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival
Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, the
rest of Nejd, and the Hijaz between 1913 and 1926. In 1932, these regions
were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Boundaries with Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait were established by a series of
treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two "neutral zones"--one with Iraq and
the other with Kuwait--created. The Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone was
administratively partitioned in 1971, with each state continuing to share the
petroleum resources of the former zone equally. Tentative agreement on the
partition of the Saudi-Iraqi neutral zone was reached in 1981, and partition
was finalized by 1983. The country's southern boundary with Yemen was
partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Taif, which ended a brief border war
between the two states. A June 2000 treaty further delineated portions of the
boundary with Yemen. The location and status of Saudi Arabia's boundary with
the United Arab Emirates is not final; a de facto boundary reflects a 1974
agreement. The border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar was resolved in March
2001. The border with Oman also is not demarcated.

King Abdul Aziz died in 1953 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Saud, who
reigned for 11 years. In 1964, Saud abdicated in favor of his half-brother,
Faisal, who had served as Foreign Minister. Because of fiscal difficulties,
King Saud had been persuaded in 1958 to delegate direct conduct of Saudi
Government affairs to Faisal as Prime Minister; Saud briefly regained control
of the government in 1960-62. In October 1962, Faisal outlined a broad reform
program, stressing economic development. Proclaimed King in 1964 by senior
royal family members and religious leaders, Faisal also continued to serve as
Prime Minister. This practice has been followed by subsequent kings.

The mid-1960s saw external pressures generated by Saudi-Egyptian differences
over Yemen. When civil war broke out in 1962 between Yemeni royalists and
republicans, Egyptian forces entered Yemen to support the new republican
government, while Saudi Arabia backed the royalists. Tensions subsided only
after 1967, when Egypt withdrew its troops from Yemen.

Saudi forces did not participate in the Six-Day (Arab-Israeli) War of June
1967, but the government later provided annual subsidies to Egypt, Jordan,
and Syria to support their economies. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi
Arabia participated in the Arab oil boycott of the United States and
Netherlands. A member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC), Saudi Arabia had joined other member countries in moderate oil price
increases beginning in 1971. After the 1973 war, the price of oil rose
substantially, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia's wealth and political

In 1975, King Faisal was assassinated by a nephew, who was executed after an
extensive investigation concluded that he acted alone. Faisal was succeeded
by his half-brother Khalid as King and Prime Minister; their half-brother
Prince Fahd was named Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. King
Khalid empowered Crown Prince Fahd to oversee many aspects of the
government's international and domestic affairs. Economic development
continued rapidly under King Khalid, and the kingdom assumed a more
influential role in regional politics and international economic and
financial matters.

In June 1982, King Khalid died, and Fahd became King and Prime Minister in a
smooth transition. Another half-brother, Prince Abdullah, Commander of the
Saudi National Guard, was named Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister.
King Fahd's brother, Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defense and Aviation,
became Second Deputy Prime Minister. Under King Fahd, the Saudi economy
adjusted to sharply lower oil revenues resulting from declining global oil
prices. Saudi Arabia supported neutral shipping in the Gulf during periods of
the Iran-Iraq war and aided Iraq's war-strained economy. King Fahd played a
major part in bringing about the August 1988 cease-fire between Iraq and Iran
and in organizing and strengthening the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a
group of six Arabian Gulf states dedicated to fostering regional economic
cooperation and peaceful development.

In 1990-91, King Fahd played a key role before and during the Gulf war. King
Fahd's action also consolidated the coalition of forces against Iraq and
helped define the tone of the operation as a multilateral effort to
reestablish the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait. Acting as a
rallying point and personal spokesman for the coalition, King Fahd helped
bring together his nation's GCC allies, Western allies, and Arab allies, as
well as nonaligned nations from Africa and the emerging democracies of
eastern Europe. He used his influence as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to
persuade other Arab and Islamic nations to join the coalition.

King Fahd suffered a stroke in November 1995. From 1997, Crown Prince
Abdullah took on much of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the
government. Upon King Fahd's death on August 1, 2005, Abdullah assumed the
throne as King. Prince Sultan, Minister of Defense and Aviation, became Crown
Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister.

The central institution of Saudi Arabian Government is the monarchy. The
Basic Law adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by
the sons and grandsons of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud, and that the Holy Qur'an
is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of Islamic
law (Shari'a). There are no political parties or national elections; however,
the country held its first municipal elections in 2005. The king's powers are
limited because he must observe the Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He
also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders
(ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The leading members
of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent
approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings gradually have developed a central government. Since 1953, the
Council of Ministers, appointed by and responsible to the king, has advised
on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the
growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first and
second deputy prime ministers, 20 ministers (of whom the minister of defense
also is the second deputy prime minister), two ministers of state, and a
small number of advisers and heads of major autonomous organizations.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers and the Shura
Council, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a.
Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious
courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the
Supreme Judicial Council, composed of 12 senior jurists. The independence of
the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of
appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a
majlis, or public audience) and the right to petition them directly are
well-established traditions.

The kingdom is divided into 13 provinces governed by princes or close
relatives of the royal family. All governors are appointed by the King.

In March 1992, King Fahd issued several decrees outlining the basic statutes
of government and codifying for the first time procedures concerning the
royal succession. The King's political reform program also provided for the
establishment of a national Consultative Council, with appointed members
having advisory powers to review and give advice on issues of public
interest. It also outlined a framework for councils at the provincial or
emirate level.

In September 1993, King Fahd issued additional reform decrees, appointing the
members of the national Consultative Council and spelling out procedures for
the new council's operations. He announced reforms regarding the Council of
Ministers, including term limitations of 4 years and regulations to prohibit
conflict of interest for ministers and other high-level officials. The
members of 13 provincial councils and the councils' operating regulations
also were announced in September 1993. In February, March, and April 2005,
Saudis voted in the country's first municipal elections in more than 50
years. Women, and male members of the military, were not permitted to vote.

In July 1997, the membership of the Consultative Council was expanded from 60
to 90 members, and again in May 2001 from 90 to 120 members. In 2005,
membership was expanded to 150 members. Membership has changed significantly
during expansions of the council as many members have not been reappointed.
The role of the council is gradually expanding as it gains experience.

In November 2006, King Abdallah announced the formation of an Allegiance
Committee which, in the future, will select the Crown Prince.

Principal Government Officials
King, Prime Minister, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques--King Abdullah bin
Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Prince Saud Al Faysal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ambassador to the U.S--Adel al-Jubir

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located at 601 New Hampshire
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037; tel. 202-342-3800.

Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia by U.S. geologists in the 1930s, although
large scale production did not begin until after World War II. Oil wealth has
made possible rapid economic development, which began in earnest in the 1960s
and accelerated spectacularly in the 1970s, transforming the kingdom.

Saudi oil reserves are the largest in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the
world's leading oil producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of
the country's exports and nearly 75% of government revenues. Proven reserves
are estimated to be 263 billion barrels, about one-quarter of world oil

More than 95% of all Saudi oil is produced on behalf of the Saudi Government
by the parastatal giant Saudi ARAMCO. In June 1993, Saudi ARAMCO absorbed the
state marketing and refining company (SAMAREC), becoming the world's largest
fully integrated oil company. Most Saudi oil exports move by tanker from Gulf
terminals at Ras Tanura and Ju'aymah. The remaining oil exports are
transported via the east-west pipeline across the kingdom to the Red Sea port
of Yanbu.

Due to a sharp rise in petroleum revenues in 1974 following the 1973
Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia became one of the fastest-growing economies in
the world. It enjoyed a substantial surplus in its overall trade with other
countries; imports increased rapidly; and ample government revenues were
available for development, defense, and aid to other Arab and Islamic

But higher oil prices led to development of more oil fields around the world
and reduced global consumption. The result, beginning in the mid-1980s, was a
worldwide oil glut, which introduced an element of planning uncertainty for
the first time in a decade. Saudi oil production, which had increased to
almost 10 million barrels per day (b/d) during 1980-81, dropped to about 2
million b/d in 1985. Budgetary deficits developed, and the government drew
down its foreign assets. Responding to financial pressures, Saudi Arabia gave
up its role as the "swing producer" within OPEC in the summer of 1985 and
accepted a production quota. Since then, Saudi oil policy has been guided by
a desire to maintain market and quota shares and to support stability in the
international oil market.

Saudi Arabia was a key player in coordinating the successful 1999 campaign of
OPEC and other oil-producing countries to raise the price of oil to its
highest level since the Gulf War by managing production and supply of
petroleum. That same year, Saudi Arabia established the Supreme Economic
Council to formulate and better coordinate economic development policies in
order to accelerate institutional and industrial reform.

In response to increasing international demand for oil, Saudi ARAMCO is
engaged in an expansion of its oil production capacity, and plans to raise
its capacity from the current 9.5-10 million barrels/day (mb/d) to 12 mb/d
within the next several years. Saudi ARAMCO is also increasing production of
associated and non-associated natural gas to feed the expanding petrochemical
sector. Notably, Saudi Arabia has awarded contracts to foreign companies to
conduct gas exploration in selected regions of the country--the first such
foreign participation in the petroleum sector upstream since the
nationalization of ARAMCO in the 1970s.

Saudi Arabia continues to pursue rapid industrial expansion, led by the
petrochemical sector. The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), a
parastatal petrochemical company, is now one of the world's leading
petrochemical producers, and the government promotes private sector
involvement in petrochemicals. The government also plans new investments in
the mining sector and in refining,

After Saudi Arabia announced its intention to join the World Trade
Organization (WTO), negotiations focused on increasing market access to
foreign goods and services and the timeframe for becoming fully compliant
with WTO obligations. In April 2000, the government established the Saudi
Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage foreign direct investment
in the country. Saudi Arabia signed a Trade Investment Framework Agreement
with the U.S. in July 2003, and joined the WTO in December 2005.

Through 5-year development plans, the government has sought to allocate its
petroleum income to transform its relatively undeveloped, oil-based economy
into that of a modern industrial state while maintaining the kingdom's
traditional Islamic values and customs. Although economic planners have not
achieved all their goals, the economy has progressed rapidly. Oil wealth has
increased the standard of living of most Saudis. However, significant
population growth has strained the government's ability to finance further
improvements in the country's standard of living. Heavy dependence on
petroleum revenue continues, but industry and agriculture now account for a
larger share of economic activity. The mismatch between the job skills of
Saudi graduates and the needs of the private job market at all levels remains
the principal obstacle to economic diversification and development; about 4.6
million non-Saudis are employed in the economy.

Saudi Arabia's first two development plans, covering the 1970s, emphasized
infrastructure. The results were impressive--the total length of paved
highways tripled, power generation increased by a multiple of 28, and the
capacity of the seaports grew tenfold. For the third plan (1980-85), the
emphasis changed. Spending on infrastructure declined, but it rose markedly
on education, health, and social services. The share for diversifying and
expanding productive sectors of the economy (primarily industry) did not rise
as planned, but the two industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu--built around
the use of the country's oil and gas to produce steel, petrochemicals,
fertilizer, and refined oil products--were largely completed.

In the fourth plan (1985-90), the country's basic infrastructure was viewed
as largely complete, but education and training remained areas of concern.
Private enterprise was encouraged, and foreign investment in the form of
joint ventures with Saudi public and private companies was welcomed. The
private sector became more important, rising to 70% of non-oil GDP by 1987.
While still concentrated in trade and commerce, private investment increased
in industry, agriculture, banking, and construction companies. These private
investments were supported by generous government financing and incentive
programs. The objective was for the private sector to have 70% to 80%
ownership in most joint venture enterprises.

The fifth plan (1990-95) emphasized consolidation of the country's defenses;
improved and more efficient government social services; regional development;
and, most importantly, creating greater private-sector employment
opportunities for Saudis by reducing the number of foreign workers.

The sixth plan (1996-2000) focused on lowering the cost of government
services without cutting them and sought to expand educational training
programs. The plan called for reducing the kingdom's dependence on the
petroleum sector by diversifying economic activity, particularly in the
private sector, with special emphasis on industry and agriculture. It also
continued the effort to "Saudiize" the labor force.

The seventh plan (2000-2004) focused more on economic diversification and a
greater role of the private sector in the Saudi economy. For the period
2000-2004, the Saudi Government aimed at an average GDP growth rate of 3.16%
each year, with projected growths of 5.04% for the private sector and 4.01%
for the non-oil sector. The government also set a target of creating 817,300
new jobs for Saudi nationals.

The eighth plan (2005-2010) again focuses on economic diversification in
addition to education and inclusion of women in society. The plan calls for
establishing new universities and new colleges with technical
specializations. Privatization as well as emphases on a knowledge-based
economy and tourism will help promote the goal of economic diversification.

Saudi foreign policy objectives are to maintain its security and its
paramount position on the Arabian Peninsula, defend general Arab and Islamic
interests, promote solidarity among Islamic governments, and maintain
cooperative relations with other oil-producing and major oil-consuming

Saudi Arabia signed the UN Charter in 1945. The country plays a prominent and
constructive role in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and
Arab and Islamic financial and development assistance institutions. One of
the largest aid donors in the world, it still gives some aid to a number of
Arab, African, and Asian countries. Jeddah is the headquarters of the
Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and its subsidiary
organization, the Islamic Development Bank, founded in 1969.

Membership in the 11-member OPEC and in the technically and economically
oriented Arab producer group--the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting
Countries--facilitates coordination of Saudi oil policies with other
oil-exporting governments. As the world's leading exporter of petroleum,
Saudi Arabia has a special interest in preserving a stable and long-term
market for its vast oil resources by allying itself with healthy Western
economies which can protect the value of Saudi financial assets. It generally
has acted to stabilize the world oil market and tried to moderate sharp price

The Saudi Government frequently helps mediate regional crises and support the
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. A charter member of the Arab League,
Saudi Arabia supports the position that Israel must withdraw from the
territories which it occupied in June 1967, as according to United Nations
Resolution 242. Saudi Arabia supports a peaceful resolution of the
Arab-Israeli conflict but rejected the Camp David accords, claiming that they
would be unable to achieve a comprehensive political solution that would
ensure Palestinian rights and adequately address the status of Jerusalem.
Although Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with and suspended aid to
Egypt in the wake of Camp David, the two countries renewed formal ties in
1987. In March 2002, Crown Prince Abdallah offered a Middle East peace plan,
now known as the Arab Peace Initiative, at the annual summit of the Arab
League in which Arab governments would offer "normal relations and the
security of Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from all
occupied Arab lands, recognition of an independent Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees." In March
2007 the Arab League reiterated its support for the Arab Peace Initiative by
endorsing it as the foundation for a broad Arab-Israeli peace.

In 1990-91, Saudi Arabia played an important role in the Gulf War, developing
new allies and improving existing relationships between Saudi Arabia and some
other countries. Saudi Arabia provided water, food, shelter, and fuel for
coalition forces in the region. Saudi Arabia's combined costs in payments,
foregone revenues, and donated supplies were $55 billion. More than $15
billion went toward reimbursing the United States alone. However, there also
were diplomatic and financial costs. Relations between Saudi Arabia and
Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya deteriorated. Each country had remained silent
following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait but called for an end to violence once
the deployment of coalition troops began. Relations between these countries
and Saudi Arabia have returned to their pre-war status. Saudi Arabia's
relations with those countries which expressed support for Saddam Hussein's
invasion of Kuwait--Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan--were severely strained during
and immediately after the war. For example, several hundred thousand Yemenis
were expelled from Saudi Arabia after the Government of Yemen announced its
position, thus exacerbating an existing border dispute. Saudi-Yemeni
relations, especially in the wake of the 1994 Yemen civil war, remained
fragile and of significant concern to the Saudi Government. Relations have
slowly warmed over time and the Yemeni-Saudi border was finally demarcated in
2000. The Palestine Liberation Organization's support for Iraq cost it
financial aid as well as good relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
states. Recently, though, Saudi Arabia's relations with Jordan and the
Palestinian Authority have improved, with the Saudi Government providing
assistance for the Palestinian Authority.

As it had during the 1990-91 Gulf War, Saudi Arabia provided important
support to Coalition efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2006, Saudi
Arabia hosted a conference to promote sectarian reconciliation within Iraq,
and has pledged substantial debt relief to aid the elected government. Saudi
Arabia is an important player in promoting stability and security in the Gulf
region, and provided critical reconstruction support to Lebanon following the
2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. Saudi Arabia has also taken a
more prominent leadership role within the Organization of the Islamic
Conference. In addition to promoting its Arab Peace initiative in 2007, in
February it brokered an agreement between Palestinian factions known as the
"Mecca Agreement," and in May 2007 King Abdullah brokered a reconciliation
agreement between Chad and Sudan.

Saudi Arabia's unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of
the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its
friendship important to the United States. Diplomatic relations were
established in 1933; the U.S. embassy opened in Jeddah in 1944 and moved to
Riyadh in 1984. The Jeddah embassy became a U.S. consulate. Meanwhile, a U.S.
consulate opened in Dhahran in 1944.

The United States and Saudi Arabia share a common concern about regional
security, oil exports and imports, and sustainable development. Close
consultations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have developed on
international, economic, and development issues such as the Middle East peace
process and shared interests in the Gulf. The continued availability of
reliable sources of oil, particularly from Saudi Arabia, remains important to
the prosperity of the United States as well as to Europe and Japan. Saudi
Arabia is one of the leading sources of imported oil for the United States,
providing more than one million barrels/day of oil to the U.S. The U.S. is
Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S.
export market in the Middle East.

In addition to economic ties, a longstanding security relationship continues
to be important in U.S.-Saudi relations. A U.S. military training mission
established at Dhahran in 1953 provides training and support in the use of
weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. The
United States has sold Saudi Arabia military aircraft (F-15s, AWACS, and
UH-60 Blackhawks), air defense weaponry (Patriot and Hawk missiles), armored
vehicles (M1A2 Abrams tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles), and
other equipment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had a long-term role in
military and civilian construction activities in the Kingdom.

The Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated U.S.-Saudi cooperation
in the areas of cultural accommodation, as well as in military operations.
For example, the U.S. military issued general orders prohibiting the
consumption of alcohol and setting guidelines for off-duty behavior and
attire. Saudi Arabia accommodated U.S. culture and its military procedures by
allowing U.S. servicewomen to serve in their varied roles throughout the
kingdom--a major step for a highly patriarchal society. In August 2003,
following the U.S.-led war in Iraq in March and April 2003, the United States
withdrew its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's relations with the United States were strained after the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which 15 of the suicide bombers were
Saudi citizens. On May 12, 2003 suicide bombers killed 35 people, including
nine Americans, in attacks at three housing compounds for Westerners in
Riyadh. On November 8, 2003 terrorists attacked another compound housing
foreign workers from mainly Arab countries. At least 18 people, including 5
children died in this attack, and more than 100 were injured.

On May 1, 2004 terrorists killed two Americans in the Yanbu oil facility in
the western part of the country. On May 29, 2004 terrorists killed one
American and wounded several others in attacks on an official building and
housing compound in al-Khobar in the Eastern Province. On June 6, terrorists
shot and killed a BBC journalist. On June 9 and June 12, 2004 terrorists
killed Americans Robert Jacobs and Kenneth Scroggs. On June 18, 2004
terrorists kidnapped and beheaded American Paul Johnson. On December 6, 2004
terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, killing five consulate
employees. Terrorists also targeted and killed other foreign nationalities
during this time. In February 2007, four French nationals were killed in
western Saudi Arabia in a suspected terrorist attack.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the campaign against
terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial
arenas. Counterterrorism cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United
States increased significantly after the May 12, 2003 bombings in Riyadh and
continues today. In February 2005, the Saudi government sponsored the first
ever Counter-Terrorism International Conference in Riyadh.

Human Rights
Despite close cooperation on security issues, the United States remains
concerned about human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia. Principal human
rights problems include abuse of prisoners and incommunicado detention;
prohibitions or severe restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press,
peaceful assembly and association, and religion; denial of the right of
citizens to change their government; systematic discrimination against women
and ethnic and religious minorities; and suppression of workers' rights.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Ford Fraker
Deputy Chief of Mission--Michael Gfoeller
Counselor for Consular Affairs--Kathleen Riley
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Robert Murphy
Counselor for Political Affair--David Rundell
Counselor for Political-Military Affairs--Clarence Hudson
Counselor for Public Affairs--Walter Douglas
Consul General, Dhahran--John Kincannon
Consul General, Jeddah--Tatiana Gfoeller

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia is located in the Diplomatic Quarter of
Riyadh (tel. 966-1-488-3800). The Consulate General in Jeddah is located on
Palestine Road, Ruwais, Jeddah (tel. 966-2-667-0080); and the Consulate
General in Dhahran is located between ARAMCO Headquarters and the King Abdul
Aziz Airbase (tel. 966-3-330-3200). The embassy and consulates are open for
business Saturday through Wednesday, in accordance with the official workweek
of Saudi Arabia.

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abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See for all Background notes
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