Sunday, 26 February 2012

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Facts & Figures
Sovereign: King Abdullah (2005)
Land area: 829,995 sq mi (2,149,690 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 29,207,277 (growth rate: 1.7%); birth rate: 28.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 11.2/1000; life expectancy: 76.5; density per sq mi: 33
Other large cities: Jeddah, 2,745,000; Makkah (Mecca), 1,614,800
Monetary unit: Riyal
Flag of Saudi Arabia
  1. Saudi Arabia Main Page
  2. The Discovery of Oil and Political Evolution
  3. The Attacks of September 11, 2001, and Their Consequences
  4. King Shakes Up Government


Saudi Arabia occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to the west and the Persian Gulf to the east. Neighboring countries are Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman, Yemen, and Bahrain, connected to the Saudi mainland by a causeway. Saudi Arabia contains the world's largest continuous sand desert, the Rub Al-Khali, or Empty Quarter. Its oil region lies primarily in the eastern province along the Persian Gulf.


Saudi Arabia was an absolute monarchy until 1992, at which time the Saud royal family introduced the country's first constitution. The legal system is based on the sharia (Islamic law).


Saudi Arabia is not only the homeland of the Arab peoples—it is thought that the first Arabs originated on the Arabian Peninsula—but also the homeland of Islam, the world's second-largest religion. Muhammad founded Islam there, and it is the location of the two holy pilgrimage cities of Mecca and Medina. The Islamic calendar begins in 622, the year of the hegira, or Muhammad's flight from Mecca. A succession of invaders attempted to control the peninsula, but by 1517 the Ottoman Empire dominated, and in the middle of the 18th century, it was divided into separate principalities. In 1745 Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab began calling for the purification and reform of Islam, and the Wahhabi movement swept across Arabia. By 1811, Wahhabi leaders had waged a jihad—a holy war—against other forms of Islam on the peninsula and succeeded in uniting much of it. By 1818, however, the Wahhabis had been driven out of power again by the Ottomans and their Egyptian allies.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost entirely the creation of King Ibn Saud (1882–1953). A descendant of Wahhabi leaders, he seized Riyadh in 1901 and set himself up as leader of the Arab nationalist movement. By 1906 he had established Wahhabi dominance in Nejd and conquered Hejaz in 1924–1925. The Hejaz and Nejd regions were merged to form the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, which was an absolute monarchy ruled by sharia. A year later the region of Asir was incorporated into the kingdom.

Flag of Saudi Arabia
  1. Saudi Arabia Main Page
  2. The Discovery of Oil and Political Evolution
  3. The Attacks of September 11, 2001, and Their Consequences
  4. King Shakes Up Government
The Discovery of Oil and Political Evolution
Oil was discovered in 1936, and commercial production began during World War II. This oil-derived wealth allowed the country to provide free health care and education while not collecting any taxes from its people. Saudi Arabia was neutral until nearly the end of the war, but it was permitted to be a charter member of the United Nations. The country joined the Arab League in 1945 and took part in the 1948–1949 war against Israel. Saudi Arabia still does not recognize the state of Israel. On Ibn Saud's death in 1953, his eldest son, Saud, began an 11-year reign marked by an increasing hostility toward the radical Arabism of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. In 1964, the ailing Saud was deposed and replaced by the prime minister, Crown Prince Faisal, who gave vocal support but no military help to Egypt in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Faisal's assassination by a deranged kinsman in 1975 shook the Middle East, but it failed to alter his kingdom's course. His successor was his brother, Prince Khalid. Khalid gave influential support to Egypt during negotiations on Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Desert. King Khalid died of a heart attack in 1982, and he was succeeded by his half-brother, Prince Fahd bin 'Abdulaziz, who had exercised the real power throughout Khalid's reign. King Fahd chose his half-brother Abdullah as crown prince.
Saudi Arabia and the smaller oil-rich Arab states on the Persian Gulf, fearful that they might become Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's next targets if Iran conquered Iraq, made large financial contributions to the Iraqi war effort during the 1980s. At the same time, cheating by other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), competition from nonmember oil producers, and conservation efforts by consuming nations combined to drive down the world price of oil. At the time Saudi Arabia had one-third of all known oil reserves, but falling demand and rising production outside OPEC combined to reduce its oil revenues from $120 billion in 1980 to less than $25 billion in 1985, threatening the country with domestic unrest and undermining its influence in the Gulf area.
At the start of 1996, King Fahd passed authority to Crown Prince Abdullah, after suffering an incapacitating stroke. In 1998 the country's oil income fell by 40% because of a worldwide decline in prices, and it entered its first recession in six years.
In 2000, Saudi Arabia, along with other OPEC nations experiencing a recession, decided to reduce production to raise oil prices. In 2001, OPEC cut oil production three additional times.
Flag of Saudi Arabia

  1. Saudi Arabia Main Page
  2. The Discovery of Oil and Political Evolution
  3. The Attacks of September 11, 2001, and Their Consequences
  4. King Shakes Up Government
The Attacks of September 11, 2001, and Their Consequences
Saudi Arabia's relations with the U.S. were strained after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—15 of the 19 suicide bombers involved were Saudis. Despite the monarchy's close ties to the West, much of the extremely influential religious establishment has supported anti-Americanism and Islamic militancy. In Aug. 2003, following the U.S.-led war on Iraq in March and April 2003, the United States withdrew its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. had maintained troops in the country for the past decade, a source of great controversy in the strongly conservative Islamic country. One of the major reasons given for the Sept. 11 attacks by Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden was the presence of U.S. troops in the home of Islam's holiest sites, Medina and Mecca. On May 12, 2003, suicide bombers killed 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh. Al-Qaeda was suspected. Saudi Arabia's commitment to antiterrorist measures was again called into question by the U.S. and other countries. In July, the U.S. Congress bitterly criticized Saudi Arabia's alleged financing of terrorist organizations. While the Saudi government arrested a sizable number of suspected terrorists, little was done to quell Islamic militancy in the kingdom. Several attacks against Westerners took place in 2003 and 2004.
In Feb. 2005, Saudi Arabia held its first elections ever: municipal council elections to choose half of the new council members in Riyadh. The other half continued to be appointed, in keeping with the previous Saudi system. Women were not eligible to vote, and less than a third of eligible voters registered.
In Aug. 2005, King Fahd bin 'Abdulaziz died. His half-brother Abdullah, who had been the de facto ruler of the country for the past decade, assumed the throne.
Saudi Arabia brokered talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders in September 2008. In the talks, the first attempt to end the protracted armed conflict, the Taliban said it is severing ties to al-Qaeda.

Flag of Saudi Arabia
  1. Saudi Arabia Main Page
  2. The Discovery of Oil and Political Evolution
  3. The Attacks of September 11, 2001, and Their Consequences
  4. King Shakes Up Government
King Shakes Up Government
King Abdullah took bold steps to reshuffle his government in February 2009, promoting reformers, firing controversial officials, including the conservative head of the religious police and the country's most senior judge, and appointing his first-ever female minister, for women's education.
Saudi Arabia was largely spared the popular uprisings that spread throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa in early 2011, largely because King Abdullah remains popular among Saudis and the country's oil wealth provides a level stability not seen in countries such as Egypt. Nevertheless, unemployment among young Saudis is high, housing is in short supply, and there has been a push for broader civil liberties, particularly for women. In an attempt to prevent protests on Saudi soil, Abdullah, upon returning to Saudi Arabia after spending three months in Morocco recovering from back surgery, announced a $10 billion aid package that helps Saudis buy homes, start businesses, and marry.
In September 2011, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run for seats on the Shura council, which advises the King on policy issues. The ruling will not go into effect until the next election cycle in 2015. Still, the decision is a significant victory for women in a country where they are not allowed to drive and must have a male chaperone with them in public at all times. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that has not granted women suffrage.

History of Saudi Arabia

History of Saudi Arabia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The modern state of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 with the union of the kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd. Although the territory within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's boundaries is largely arid desert or rocky infertile terrain – home for much of its history to tribal nomadic societies with only rudimentary state structures – it has twice in world history had a global impact. The first was in the 7th century when it became the cradle of Islam. The second was from the mid-20th century when the discovery of vast oil deposits propelled it into a key economic and geo-political role. At other times, the region existed in relative obscurity and isolation, although from the 7th century the cities of Mecca and Medina had the highest spiritual significance for the Islamic world, Mecca being the destination for the Hajj annual pilgrimage.
Present Saudi Arabia



Early history

The Tribes of Arabia at the time of the Rise of Islam (expandable map)
There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian peninsula dates back to about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.[1] However, the harsh climate historically prevented much settlement. In pre-Islamic Arabia, apart from a small number of urban trading settlements, such as Mecca and Medina, located in the Hejaz in the west of the peninsula, most of what was to become Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies or uninhabitable desert. Archaeology, however, revealed some early settled cultures: the Dilmun on the Persian Gulf, and Thamud north of the Hejaz. The earliest known events in Arabian history are migrations from the peninsula into neighbouring areas.[2]

The rise of Islam

The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was born in Mecca in about 570 and first began preaching in the city in 610, but migrated to Medina in 622. From there he and his companions united the tribes of Arabia under the banner of Islam and created a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the Arabian peninsula.
The Islamic World expansion, 622-750
  Expansion 622-632
  Expansion 632-661
  Expansion 661-750
Following Muhammad's death in 632, Abu Bakr became leader of the Muslims as the first Caliph. After putting down a rebellion by the Arab tribes (known as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy"), Abu Bakr attacked the Byzantine Empire. On his death in 634, he was succeeded by Umar as caliph, followed by Uthman ibn al-Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib. The period of these first four caliphs is known as al-khulafā' ar-rāshidūn (R.A): the Rashidun or "rightly guided" Caliphate. Under the Rashidun Caliphs, and, from 661, their Umayyad successors, the Arabs rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim control outside of Arabia. In a matter of decades Muslim armies decisively defeated the Byzantine army and destroyed the Persian Empire, conquering huge swathes of territory from the Iberian peninsula to India. The political focus of the Muslim world then shifted to the newly conquered territories.[3][4]
Nevertheless, Mecca and Medina remained the spiritually most important places in the Muslim world. The Qu'ran requires every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, as one of the five pillars of Islam, to make a pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah at least once in his or her lifetime.[5] The Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Mecca is the location of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, and the Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque) in Medina is the location of Muhammad tomb; as a result, from the 7th century, Mecca and Medina became the pilgrimage destinations for large numbers of Muslims from across the Islamic world.[6]

 The Middle Ages

Despite its spiritual importance, in political terms Arabia soon became a peripheral region of the Islamic world, in which the most important medieval Islamic states were based at various times in such far away cities as Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo. Most of what was to become Saudi Arabia reverted to traditional tribal rule soon after the initial Muslim conquests, and remained a shifting patchwork of tribes and tribal emirates and confederations of varying durability.[7][8]
However, from the 10th century (and, in fact, until the 20th century) the Hashemite Sharifs of Mecca maintained a state in the most developed part of the region, the Hejaz. Their domain originally comprised only the holy cities of Mecca and Medina but in the 13th century it was extended to include the rest of the Hejaz. Although, the Sharifs exercised at most times independent authority in the Hejaz, they were usually subject to the suzerainty of one of the major Islamic empires of the time. In the Middle Ages, these included the Abbasids of Baghdad, and the Fatimids, Ayyubids and Mamluks of Egypt.[7]

 The Ottoman Era

The Ottoman Empire in 1914, including nominal and vassal Ottoman territories – the position in Arabia had largely been the same for the previous 400 years
Beginning with Selim I's acquisition of Medina and Mecca in 1517, the Ottomans, in the 16th century, added to their Empire the Hejaz and Asir regions along the Red Sea and the Al Hasa region on the Persian Gulf coast, these being the most populous parts of what was to become Saudi Arabia. They also laid claim to the interior, although this remained a rather nominal suzerainty. The degree of control over these lands varied over the next four centuries with the fluctuating strength or weakness of the Empire's central authority. In the Hejaz, the Sharifs of Mecca were largely left in control of their territory (although there would often be an Ottoman governor and garrison in Mecca). On the eastern side of the country, the Ottomans lost control of the Al Hasa region to Arab tribes in the 17th century but regained it again in the 19th century. Throughout the period, the interior remained under the rule of a large number of petty tribal rulers in much the same way as it had in previous centuries.[9]

 18th century: the rise of Wahhabism and the first Saudi "state"

First Saudi State (1744–1818)
The emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. In that year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the tribal ruler of the town of Ad-Dir'iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab,[10] the founder of the Wahhabi movement – a radical form of Islam.[11] This alliance formed in the 18th century provided the idealogical impetus to Saudi expansion and remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. 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 of the peninsula.[1][7]
Second Saudi State (1824–1891) at its greatest extent
The first 'Saudi State' was established in 1744 in the area around Riyadh and briefly controlled most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia through conquests made between 1786 and 1816; these included Mecca and Medina.[12] Concerned at the growing power of the Saudis, the Ottoman Sultan, Mustafa IV, instructed his viceroy in Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha, to reconquer the area. Ali sent his sons Tusun Pasha and Ibrahim Pasha who were eventually successful in routing the Saudi forces in 1818 and destroyed the power of the Al Saud.[1][7]
Al-Rashid rule at its greatest extent

 19th century: tribal warfare and Ottoman domination

The Al Saud returned to power in 1824 but their area of control was mainly restricted to the Saudi heartland of the Nejd region, known as the second 'Saudi State'. However, their rule in Nejd was soon contested by new rivals, the Al Rashid of Ha'il. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Al Saud and the Al Rashid fought for control of the interior of what was to become Saudi Arabia. By 1891, the Al Saud were conclusively defeated by the Al Rashid, who drove the Saudis into exile in Kuwait.[1][7][7][13]
Meanwhile, in the Hejaz, following the defeat of the first Saudi State, the Egyptians continued to occupy the area until 1840. After they left, the Sharifs of Mecca reasserted their authority, albeit with the presence of an Ottoman governor and garrison.[7]

 The Arab Revolt (1916–1918)

Soldiers in the Arab Army during the Arab Revolt of 1916–1918, carrying the Flag of the Arab Revolt and pictured in the Arabian Desert.
By the early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers (including the Al Saud who had returned from exile in 1902 – see below) with the Sharif of Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz.[7][9][14]
In 1916, with the encouragement and support of Britain and France[15] (which were fighting the Ottomans in the First World War), the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire with the aim of securing Arab independence and creating a single unified Arab state spanning the Arab territories from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen. The Arab army comprised bedouin and others from across the peninsula, but not the Al Saud and their allied tribes who did not participate in the revolt partly because of a long-standing rivalry with the Sharifs of Mecca and partly because their priority was to defeat the Al Rashid for control of the interior. Nevertheless, the revolt played a part in the Middle-Eastern Front and tied down thousands of Ottoman troops thereby contributing to the Ottomans' First World War defeat in 1918.[7][16]
However, with the subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, the British and French reneged on promises to Hussein to support a pan-Arab state. Although Hussein was acknowledged as King of the Hejaz, Britain later shifted support to the Al Saud, leaving him diplomatically and militarily isolated. The revolt, therefore, failed in its objective to create a pan-Arab state but Arabia was freed from Ottoman suzerainty and
control.[16] Abdul Aziz and the foundation of Saudi Arabia

Arabia about 1923. Expandable map: Abdul Aziz's domain is in blue with dates of conquest. The Kingdom of the Hejaz, conquered in 1925, is in light green. (The other Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Transjordan are also in shades of green)
In 1902, Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, leader of the Al Saud, returned from exile in Kuwait (see above) to resume the conflict with the Al Rashid, and seized Riyadh – the first of a series of conquests ultimately leading to the creation of the modern state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The main weapon for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan, the Wahhabist-Bedouin tribal army led by Sultan Bin Najad Al Otaibi and Faisal al-Dwaish.[13][17][18]
The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz, converses with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on board a ship returning from the Yalta Conference in 1945.
By 1906, Abdul-Aziz had driven the Al Rashid out of Nejd and the Ottomans recognized him as their client in Nejd. His next major acquisition was Al-Hasa, which he took from the Ottomans in 1913 bringing him control of the Persian Gulf coast and what would become Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves. He avoided involvement in the Arab Revolt, having acknowledged Ottoman suzerainty in 1914, and instead continued his struggle with the Al Rashid in northern Arabia. In 1920, the Ikhwan's attention turned to the south-west, when they seized Asir, the region between the Hejaz and Yemen. In the following year, Abdul-Aziz finally defeated the Al Rashid and annexed all northern Arabia.[8][13]
Prior to 1923, Abdul Aziz had not risked invading the Hejaz because Hussein bin Ali, King of the Hejaz, was supported by Britain. However, in that year, the British withdrew their support and the Ikhwan attacked the Hejaz, completing its conquest by the end of 1925. On January 10, 1926 Abdul-Aziz declared himself King of the Hejaz and, then, on January 27, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul-Aziz's realm (then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd).[8][13]
After the conquest of the Hejaz, the Ikhwan leaders wanted to continue the expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan, Iraq and Kuwait. Abdul-Aziz, however, refused to agree to this, recognizing the danger of a direct conflict with the British. The Ikhwan therefore revolted but were defeated in the Battle of Sabilla in 1930,and the Ikhwan leadership were massacred.[18]
In 1932, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the 'Kingdom of Saudi Arabia'.[13][17]
Boundaries with Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait were established by a series of treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two "neutral zones" created, one with Iraq and the other with Kuwait. The country's southern boundary with Yemen was partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Ta'if, which ended a brief border war between the two states.[19]
Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in 1938 in the Al-Hasa region along the Persian Gulf coast. Development began in 1941 and by 1949 production was in full swing.
Abdul Aziz died in 1953. Only sons of Abdul Aziz have, to date, ascended the Saudi throne. The number of children that he fathered is unknown, but it is believed that he had 22 wives and 37 sons, of whom five have become King.[20] Prior to his death, he chose Saud as his immediate successor.

 Discovery of Oil

Abdul Aziz's military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in 1938 in the Al-Hasa region along the Persian Gulf coast. Prior to the discovery of oil, the main source of income for the government depended on the pilgrimage to Makkah, which was around 100,000 people per year in the late 1920s.
In the 1930s, Abdul Aziz granted an economic concession to the Standard Oil Company of California to drill for oil in his kingdom, after oil was found in nearby Bahrain in 1932. Oil wells were constructed in Dhahran in the late 1930s, and by 1939, the kingdom began to export oil.
During and after World War Two, production of Saudi oil expanded, with much of the oil being sold to the Allies. Aramco (the Arabian American Oil Company) built an underwater pipeline to Bahrain to help increase oil flow in 1945. Between 1939 and 1953, oil revenues from Saudi Arabia increased from $7 million to over $200 million, and the kingdom began to be entirely dependent on oil income.[21]
Abdul Aziz's Successors

The reigns of Saud & Faisal: 1953-1975

King Saud succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1953. Oil provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of political leverage in the international community. The sudden wealth from increased production was a mixed blessing. Cultural life rapidly developed, primarily in the Hejaz, which was the center for newspapers and radio, but the large influx of foreigners increased the pre-existing propensity for xenophobia. At the same time, the government became increasingly wasteful and lavish. Despite the new wealth, extravagant spending led to governmental deficits and foreign borrowing in the 1950s.[8][22][23]
However, by the early 1960s an intense rivalry between the King and his half-brother, Prince Faisal emerged, fueled by doubts in the royal family over Saud's competence. As a consequence, Saud was deposed in favor of Faisal in 1964.[8]
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.[8][24]
Saudi Aramco headquarters complex. The Saudi government took a 25% share in Aramco in 1973, increased it to 60% in 1974, and fully nationalized it in 1980
In 1965 there was an exchange of territories between Saudi Arabia and Jordan in which Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of seashore near Aqaba.The Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone was administratively partitioned in 1971, with each state continuing to share the petroleum resources of the former zone equally.[8]
The Saudi economy and infrastructure was developed with help from abroad, particularly from the United States, creating strong links between the two dissimilar countries, and considerable and problematic American presence in the Kingdom. The Saudi petroleum industry under the company of ARAMCO was built by American petroleum companies, U.S. construction companies such as Bechtel built much of the country's infrastruture, Trans World Airlines, built the Saudi passenger air service; the Ford Foundation modernized Saudi government; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the country's television and broadcast facilities and oversaw the development of its defense industry.[25]
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 influence.[8]
Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa'id.[26]

 Khalid's reign: 1975-1982

The surviving insurgents of the seizure of the Grand Mosque,1979 under custody of Saudi authorities. c. 1980.
Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother King Khalid during whose reign economic and social development continued at an extremely rapid rate, revolutionizing the infrastructure and educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with the US were developed. In 1979, two events occurred which the Al Saud perceived as threatening the regime, and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic revolution. It was feared that the country's Shi'ite minority in the Eastern Province (which is also the location of the oil fields) – might rebel under the influence of their Iranian co-religionists. In fact there were several anti-government riots in the region in 1979 and 1980. The second event, was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi regime.[8][22][23][27]
Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of Islamic and traditional Saudi norms in the country (for example, the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government. Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength.[8][22][23][27] 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.[8]
During the 1970s and 1980s, more than 45,000 Saudi students per year went to the United States, while more than 200,000 Americans have lived and worked in the Kingdom since the discovery of oil.[25]
A tentative agreement on the partition of the Saudi-Iraqi neutral zone was reached in 1981. The governments finalized the partition in 1983.[8]
King Khalid died in June 1982.[8]

Fahd's reign: 1982-2005

A column of Saudi M-113 armored personnel carriers taking part in Operation Desert Storm, 1991
Khalid was succeeded by his brother King Fahd in 1982, who maintained Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy of close cooperation with the United States and increased purchases of sophisticated military equipment from the United States and Britain. In the 1970s and ’80s, the country had become the largest oil producer in the world. Oil revenues were crucial to Saudi society as its economy was changed by the extraordinary wealth it generated and which was channeled through the government. Urbanization, mass public education, the presence of numerous foreign workers, and access to new media all affected Saudi values. While society changed profoundly, political processes did not. Real power continued to be held almost exclusively by the royal family, leading to disaffection with many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government.[8]
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 Saudi Arabia joined the anti-Iraq Coalition and King Fahd, fearing an attack from Iraq, invited American and Coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. Saudi troops and aircraft took part in the subsequent military operations. However, allowing Coalition forces to be based in the country proved to be one of the issues that has led to an increase in Islamic terrorism in Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamic terrorist attacks in Western countries by Saudi nationals – the 9/11 attacks in New York being the most prominent example.[8][28]
Islamism was not the only source of hostility to the regime. Although now extremely wealthy, the country's economy was near stagnant, which, combined with a growth in unemployment, contributed to disquiet in the country, and was reflected in a subsequent rise in civil unrest, and discontent with the royal family. In response, a number of limited 'reforms' were initiated (such as the Basic Law). However, the royal family's dilemma was to respond to dissent while making as few actual changes in the status quo as possible. Fahd made it clear that he did not have democracy in mind: “A system based on elections is not consistent with our Islamic creed, which [approves of] government by consultation [shūrā].”[8]
In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke and the Crown Prince, Prince Abdullah assumed day-to-day responsibility for the government, albeit his authority was hindered by conflict with Fahd's full brothers, the Sudairi 'clan'. Abdullah continued the policy of mild reform and greater openness, but in addition, adopted a foreign policy distancing the kingdom from the US. In 2003, Saudi Arabia refused to support the US and its allies in the invasion of Iraq.[8] However, terrorist activity increased dramatically in 2003, with the Riyadh compound bombings and other attacks, which prompted the government to take much more stringent action against terrorism.[27]
Building #131 after the Khobar Towers bombing, which was the second major terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, 1996

Abdullah's reign: 2005 to the present

In 2005, King Fahd died and his half-brother, Abdullah ascended to the throne. The king subsequently introduced a new program of moderate reform. The country’s continued reliance on oil revenue was of particular concern, and among the economic reforms he introduced were limited deregulation, foreign investment, and privatization.
He has taken much more vigorous action to deal with the origins of Islamic terrorism, and has ordered the use of force for the first time by the security services against some extremists. In February 2009, Abdullah introduced a series of governmental changes to the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries to modernize these institutions. Notable among his decisions were the replacement of senior individuals within the judiciary and the Mutaween (religious police) with more moderate candidates and the appointment of the country’s first female deputy minister