In This Review

Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States Since FDR
Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States Since FDR
By Bruce Riedel
Brookings Institution Press, 2017, 272 pp

The U.S.-Saudi alliance is peculiar. It began with a 1945 meeting between U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud and has always rested, as Riedel states, “on shared interests, but no shared values.” The terms of the arrangement have not changed: Washington offers Riyadh security protection in exchange for affordable oil for the world economy. Riedel, a former National Security Council staffer and CIA analyst, relies on unclassified sources to present a lucid account of an often troubled relationship. He makes clear that Saudi leaders have shared a sincere commitment to the Palestinian cause and a consistent desire to see Washington involved in seeking Arab-Israeli peace. Riedel echoes others who have depicted the Saudi monarchy as shocked by U.S. President Barack Obama’s abandonment of Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak during the uprising that rocked Egypt in 2011. But it is hard to believe that successive Saudi leaders had not closely followed the fates of a parade of fallen autocrats who had enjoyed American support—the shah of Iran, Suharto of Indonesia, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, and others—and drawn the logical conclusion.