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Kings and Presidents

Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR

By Bruce Riedel
Book cover: Kings and Presidents

An insider’s account of the often-fraught U.S.-Saudi relationship

Saudi Arabia and the United States have been partners since 1943, when President Roosevelt met with two future Saudi monarchs. Subsequent U.S. presidents have had direct relationships with those kings and their successors—setting the tone for a special partnership between an absolute monarchy with a unique Islamic identity and the world’s most powerful democracy.

Although based in large part on economic interests, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has rarely been smooth. Differences over Israel have caused friction since the early days, and ambiguities about Saudi involvement—or lack of it—in the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States continue to haunt the relationship. Now, both countries have new, still-to be-tested leaders in President Trump and King Salman.

Bruce Riedel for decades has followed these kings and presidents during his career at the CIA, the White House, and Brookings. This book offers an insider’s account of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, with unique insights. Using declassified documents, memoirs by both Saudis and Americans, and eyewitness accounts, this book takes the reader inside the royal palaces, the holy cities, and the White House to gain an understanding of this complex partnership.

Praise for Kings and Presidents

Political histories are often a snooze, but Riedel is a lively, opinionated writer whose sympathy with his subjects' viewpoints will enlighten most readers.
Kirkus Reviews

Few if any Americans have the depth of experience of Bruce Riedel in dealing with the volatile neighborhood inhabited by Saudi Arabia. In this excellent new book, Riedel tells the history of US-Saudi ties through the interactions of Saudi kings and American presidents. He leavens the narrative with charming anecdotes, from the movie Ibn Saud saw en route to his meeting with Franklin Roosevelt, to the ‘Dr. No’-style aquarium in the palace of King Abdullah. A must-read for both scholars and the general public, the book raises all the necessary questions about the future of the Kingdom and its complicated alliance with the United States.
—Barbara Slavin , Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council and author, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation

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