Feb. 14 marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the US alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On Feb. 14, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with King Abdul-Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud in Egypt and the two forged a partnership that has endured despite occasional severe strains for the last 70 years. It faces a rocky future ahead.
The meeting was a closely held secret for security reasons. Only a handful on each side knew it was coming. FDR and Ibn Saud met on the USS Quincy, a cruiser, in the Great Bitter Lake along the Suez Canal, as World War II was coming to an end. FDR arrived from the Yalta summit with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Roosevelt’s health was very poor; he had only weeks to live. Ibn Saud had come from Jeddah on an American destroyer, the USS Murphy, with an entourage of bodyguards, cooks, slaves, an astrologer, a fortune-teller and other retainers and some sheep. The king only reluctantly agreed to leave his wives behind in Jeddah. It was his first trip outside the Arabian Peninsula aside from a brief visit to Basra in Iraq. The two agreed to work together to ensure stability in the post-war Middle East. The United States would ensure security for the kingdom, and the Saudis would ensure access to their oil fields. The United States acquired use of Dhahran air base for operations in the Middle East. US oil companies were already operating in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia declared war on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan two weeks later, securing a seat in the United Nations.