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A brief history of Saudi Arabia

Abdul Aziz ibn Saud

Robert Lacey wrote a book about Saudi Arabia called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud in the '80's. Since then there have been some changes in the modernization of culture, but the strict practice of Islam as interpreted by Abdul Wahab is still very much in effect. King Abdul Aziz bin Saud won over the rule from the Ottoman Empire, and his descendants have ruled ever since. In 2010, Lacey published a book called "Inside the Kingdom," which outlines the intimate connection between Al_Qaeda, terrorism and the kingdom.

Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud became the premier ruler of Saudi Arabia in the early 20th century. The effort he put forth to acquire the vast land and to form the conservative religious culture based on Abdul Wahab was a battle with Egypt and a battle with the Hashimites, whose primary leader was Sharif Hussein ibn Ali, the descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

As Saudi Arabia evolved in the international community, Ibn Saud Abdul Aziz met with and made treaties with world leaders during World War II. The British complimented Ibn Saud for his loyalty to Britain, but gained the title as “all things to all men,” during World War II because one of his minister's was in support of Germany’s axis powers. Ibn Saud tried to remain neutral on all front’s because of his interest in Socal, the California oil company. He met with FDR to construct an understanding with the United States that Winston Churchill had diplomatically set the stage for.

In 1931 Charles R. Crane helped finance the first explorations for oil in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He was instrumental in gaining the American oil concession there.

Little could he foresee the events that would occur 30 years in advance, even though it was clear to all that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United States died when FDR died. Subsequently Harry Truman, like Woodrow Wilson, FDR’s successor, was an avid Zionist supporter and the policies in favor of Arabs in the region took a back seat to the establishment of Israel, even though the world’s oil reserves sat in the Arabian peninsula and the U.S. was reluctant, if not adverse to the idea that the Arab states should have a large diplomatic role internationally.

The present King of Saudi Arabia is King Abdullah. He succeeds King Fahd who was king until 2005. Both are sons of Abdul Aziz, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia. Recently John Kerry went to the Middle East to proctor and reinforce the long time alliance with the kingdom, which has been strained due to the U.S. response to recent events in Syria, i.e. chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians.

The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia goes back nearly 100 years. The British were first to engage the Middle East in diplomacy. That diplomacy did not always render smooth policies and treaties, but King Abdullah’s father, Abdul Aziz bin Saud, met with both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II to negotiate oil export deals that were the outcome from Casol, a California company that helped build the first refinery and oil well in Saudi Arabia in the 1930’s.

The UN Security Council will not have Saudi Arabia as a member because of the slight taken with regard to Syria. According to Robert Lacey, the Royal biographer to Queen Elizabeth in the U.K., it is not the first time a Saudi royal was unhappy with U.S. foreign policy. There are distinctly two other times: one right before 911 when one of Saudi's prince's was outraged by the support the U.S. gave the Israelis during the second Intifada, and the other was during the oil embargo in 1973 as a response to the 1973 war between the Israelis and Arabs.

A concrete example of an incident that paved the way for Abdul Aziz's decision to keep the conservative thread throughout the kingdom is when in 1911, one of the family's son's who had been exposed to life in the United States and who had been a pious Muslim before that experience, had a party with alcohol and someone got shot. A western person who was a diplomat was shot and killed. He was buried in Jeddah in cemetery dedicated for non-Muslims. After that, which was the second of an alcohol related incident, Abdul Aziz strictly forbade any alcohol consumption in the kingdom.

Abdul Aziz bin Saud is also remembered for his famous battles to win over territory in Egypt, his treaties with the British, his relationships to form the oil industry, and his family life, including many wives and children.

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