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Kings and Presidents

Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR

Bruce Riedel
Release Date: March 12, 2019

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

“Riedel, a former National Security Council staffer and CIA analyst, relies on unclassified sources to present a lucid account of an often troubled relationship.”
—John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs

Kings and Presidents offers a quick and insightful tour through decades of ups and downs, from the oil embargo in the 1970s to Iran-Contra in the 1980s to the scars of the Arab Spring. Better yet, Riedel, a former CIA officer who advised several presidents, calls on years of U.S. government experience to pepper his story with plenty of firsthand recollections and anecdotes.”
Foreign Policy

“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

Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, part of the Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. In addition, Riedel serves as a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy. He retired in 2006 after 30 years of service at the Central Intelligence Agency, including postings overseas. He was a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents of the United States in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House. He was also deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Near East and South Asia at the Pentagon and a senior advisor at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels.