Intelligence Squared

Thursday, March 9 at 2:00 pm

The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Over 70 years ago, in 1945, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia met onboard the USS Quincy.  A close relationship between the two countries has been maintained ever since, with oil and military and intelligence cooperation at its foundation.  But the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. shale revolution, human rights concerns, and diverging interests in the Middle East, have all put strains on this relationship.  Has this special relationship outlived its usefulness, or is it too important to walk away from?

Madawi Al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and former research fellow at the Open Society Foundation.  She was a professor of anthropology of Religion at King’s College, London between 1994 and 2013. Previously, she was Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. She also taught at Goldsmith College (University of London) and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Al-Rasheed is the author of A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics and Religion in Saudi Arabia, Kingdom Without Borders: Saudi Arabia’s Political, Religious, and Media Frontiers, and Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation.

Mark P. Lagon is a Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and is the former president of Freedom House. From 2007 to 2009, he served as ambassador-at-large, directing the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State. Lagon also served in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State as deputy assistant secretary. In this capacity, he had lead responsibility for United Nations-related human rights and humanitarian issues, UN reform, and outreach.  Lagon also served as a member of the Secretary of State Colin Powell's policy planning staff, where he focused on the UN, democracy and human rights. Prior to that, was on the senior staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

F. Gregory Gause, III is the John H. Lindsey Chair, professor of international affairs and head of the International Affairs Department at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. He is the author of three books and numerous articles on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. Gause was previously on the faculties of the University of Vermont and Columbia University and was Fellow for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (1993-1994). His articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Middle East Journal, Security Studies, Washington Quarterly, National Interest, and in other journals and edited volumes.

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute where he focuses on U.S. diplomatic and military strategy in the Middle East, with emphasis on Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. One of the nation's most senior diplomats, Ambassador Jeffrey has held a series of highly sensitive posts in Washington D.C. and abroad. In addition to his service as ambassador in Turkey and Iraq, he served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, with a special focus on Iran. He previously served as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State, where his responsibilities included leading the Iran policy team and coordinating public diplomacy.

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