The United States alliance with Saudi Arabia dates back to 1943, making the U.S. relationship with the Kingdom one of America’s longest-standing in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is a key counterterrorism and diplomatic partner within the region, yet the alliance has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, especially in the period following the 9/11 attacks, when questions about Saudi support for extremist causes emerged. Saudi Arabia’s prosecution of the war in Yemen has added to the criticism, with many observers blaming the Kingdom for the unfolding humanitarian crisis within the Arab world’s poorest state. In recent comments, President Barack Obama has been critical of Saudi policies, despite U.S. logistical and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia’s war effort in Yemen.
On April 21, the Intelligence Project and Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut to discuss the U.S.-Saudi alliance with Senior Fellows Bruce Riedel and Tamara Cofman Wittes. Senator Murphy has urged a more rigorous approach to cooperation with Riyadh that balances U.S. counterterrorism interests, strategic imperatives, and human rights concerns, and has led efforts on Capitol Hill to debate the war in Yemen. Cofman Wittes, director of the Center for Middle East Policy, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
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