Saudi Arabia and the United States: Common Interests and Continuing Sources of Tension

The working draft has been revised to reflect a number of Saudi and U.S. comments, and the final draft of this report is available at

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been strategic partners throughout the Postwar era. In broad terms, the United States and Saudi Arabia have cooperated closely in shaping Gulf and regional security during most of the more than 70 years since President Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz aboard the USS Quincy on February 14, 1945. This partnership is even more important today than in the past, given the complex threats posed by Iran, ISIS, civil wars, and political upheavals in the region. At the same time, the relationship faces significant challenges, and both sides need to make significant adjustments to make it more durable…

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Table of Contents

Strong Security Ties, But with Significant Tensions

Building a Stronger Relationship

Improving Mutual Public and Policy Level Understanding of the U.S.-Saudi Strategic Partnership 

  • Making the U.S.-Saudi strategic partnership transparent and developing public understanding
  • Explaining Saudi Arabia and Islam
  • Explaining the joint fight against Islamic extremism and terrorism

Developing a Common Understanding of the Strategic and Economic Impact of Energy Interdependence

Dealing with Iran as a Broad Gulf and Regional Security Threat

  • Iran’s nuclear programs
  • Iran’s missile build-up
  • Conventional and Asymmetric Deterrence and Defense
  • The struggle for regional influence
  • Working towards a common approach

Dealing with the Threat Posed by the Mix of Ethnic, Sectarian, Islamist Extremist Threats; Ongoing Fighting; and Longer-term Instability in Syria

  • The success of efforts to halt the fighting – a “cessation of hostilities”
  • The failure of peace and ceasefire efforts and continued civil war: If the civil war continues – driven by Russian intervention and Iranian and Hezbollah support
  • Offering a peace and recovery plan that will aid all elements in the struggle

Dealing with the Threat Posed by the Mix of Ethnic, Sectarian, and Islamist Extremist Threats; Ongoing Fighting; and Longer-term Instability in Iraq

Dealing with the Threat Posed by the Civil War in Yemen

Improving Coordination in Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency, and Violent Islamic Extremism 

Dealing with Emergence of the Kurds as a Major Element in the Security of Syria and Iraq 

Dealing with the Broader Regional Forces of Instability that Led to the “Arab Winter,” that Already Affect Key Regional Powers like Egypt and Libya, and Now Threaten the Stability of Other States

Better Defining the U.S. and Saudi/Gulf Strategic Partnership and Relationship

Improving Cooperation in Developing and Coordinating Security Forces, Force Plans, Arms Choices, Training, and Contingency Plans – Bilaterally and on a GCC-wide/Arab Alliance Basis


Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy