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Pressing the Reset Button for U.S. Saudi Arabia Relations

A Special Panel Discussion at the University of Arizona

Diplomatic relations were established between Saudi Arabia and the United States in 1932. The ultraconservative Islamic absolute monarchy and the US, a democratic republic, have been allies for their mutual benefit for the past 84 years.

Inevitably, this relationship has been under the microscope due to the ongoing political upheaval after the US Congress recently passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) (2016), allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue other governments, including Saudi Arabia, for possible damages.

Although President Obama vetoed the bill (the Senate vote was 97 to 1 and the House tally was 348 to 77) and US administration officials argued that the legislation posed a national security threat by exposing US officials to similar lawsuits abroad, the bill was passed into law.

In light of this a special panel discussion was held at the University of Arizona on 9 November 2016 highlighting the issues besetting US and Saudi Arabia relations.

The title of the discussion was “Pressing the Reset Button for U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relations: Establishing Cooperation Beyond Oil and the Military into Agriculture, Food, Education and Society”.

The moderator was Dr. Kevin Fitzsimmons, of the University of Arizona, and the panelists were: Dr Leila Hudson, Dr Brinton Milward and Dr Joel Cuello, all from the University of Arizona, and Dr Turki Faisal Al Rasheed, CEO of Golden Grass Inc.

The panel discussed the fact that JASTA threatens to limit US-Saudi Arabia cooperation on key national security issues, including counter-terrorism initiatives. The economic, social, environmental and political issues of the two countries were also discussed together with the best ways to strengthen the countries’ cordial relations.

Additionally, the panel discussed the results of the recent US election, and the issues that a new administration under The president-elect’s perceptions of the Muslim world, documented and undocumented immigrants, citizens of color and perception of the Muslim world, documented and undocumented immigrants, citizens of color and nationals have created polarization and hate, which will take time to heal if, in fact, they are not continued and expanded during his presidency

The panel affirmed that the U.S.-Saudi relationship has survived many serious difficulties in the past and that it is vital for global stability. It is crucial that this relationship is not taken for granted; it must be nurtured otherwise it will drift away, which could have serious economic and political consequences, as well as endangering the countries’ cooperation in fighting terrorism.


Click video link below for

Part 1: The Tangled History of U.S. Saudi Relations by: Dr. Leila Hudson

Part 2: Combating Terrorist Networks: Should the U.S. and Saudi Governments Use Joint or Separate Approaches? by Dr. H. Brinton Milward

Part 3: Resetting U.S. Saudi Relations: Social Agriculture, Education and Society by Dr. Turki Faisal Al Rasheed

Part 4:  Resetting U.S. Saudi Relations: Strategic Agriculture for Development and Soft-Power Diplomacy by Dr. Joel Cuello


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