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Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

Saudi Arabia


Islam was a third factor that influenced Saudi foreign policy. Solidarity with Muslim countries in Asia and Africa was an important objective. Since the 1970s, countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Somalia have received special consideration in terms of foreign aid because of religious affinity. Many Pakistani military personnel were on secondment to the Saudi armed forces during the 1980s.

Islam was the principal motivation for Saudi Arabia's staunch anticommunist position throughout the Cold War era. Riyadh opposed the atheism that was the official policy of most communist regimes. For example, it closed the Saudi legation in Moscow in 1938 and declined to resume diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, however, Riyadh established relations with most of the fifteen separate republics. As an ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia was a de facto political foe of the Soviet Union and expended large sums over the years in an effort to counteract Soviet influence in the Middle East. In one instance, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia actually became involved in a proxy war with the Soviets. Throughout the 1980s, the Saudis supported the Pakistan-based Afghan resistance groups whose guerrillas routinely crossed into Afghanistan to fight against Soviet forces occupying parts of the country from December 1979 until February 1989 in an effort to protect the Marxist government in Kabul.

From an Islamic perspective, it was permissible to maintain diplomatic relations with non-Muslim states that were not hostile to Islam. Saudi relations with non-Arab and non-Muslim countries consisted primarily of commercial ties to the countries of Western Europe, Japan, and South Asia. All these countries were important customers for Saudi oil. In addition, Saudi Arabia imported a wide range of consumer goods from Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy, and France. Countries such as India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) also supplied thousands of foreign laborers for the kingdom.

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Despite Saudi Arabia's significant strategic importance, few scholars have had an opportunity to undertake research in the country. Nevertheless, there are several studies that provide valuable insights into the kingdom's political processes. Robert Lacey's The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud is essential reading for an understanding of how the extensive Al Saud operates as a political institution. Sandra Mackey's The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom, although written in a less scholarly style, presents useful information about Saudi politics. La péninsule arabique d'aujourd'hui edited by Paul Bonnenfant contains several valuable articles dealing with aspects of Saudi society. Summer Scott Huyette's Political Adaptation in Saudi Arabia: A Study of the Council of Ministers is an informative study of the development of government institutions. (For further information and complete citations see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1992