Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness (03:19)


Moderator John Donvan introduces Bob Rosenkranz. The men discuss the thinking behind the subject of the debate and the language of the title. Nations do not have friends, they have interests.

Debate "Housekeeping" (06:40)

Donvan frames the debate on the U.S.-Saudi relationship, instructs the audience to vote, and introduces panel members.

For the Motion: Madawi Al-Rasheed (06:50)

Author and visiting Professor, Al-Rasheed states that what happens inside Saudi Arabia has implications for the U.S.; oil and security are the core issues of the relationship between the two countries. Al-Rasheed explains how the relationship developed and why the relationship is now counterproductive.

Against the Motion: Gregory Gause (06:32)

Bush School of Government and Public Service Professor and Head of International Affairs, Gause states that having a relationship with a stable country in the Middle East is useful; counter-terrorism is a major benefit. The Saudis lost control of global Salafism once it left its borders but can make arguments against al-Qaeda and ISIS within their intellectual framework.

For the Motion: Mark Lagon (06:52)

Walsh School of Foreign Service Centennial Fellow and Senior Scholar, Lagon states that the U.S. does not need Saudi Arabia for oil like it once did; the Saudi government needs to find a new source of economic growth. He argues that unconditional backing undercuts U.S. global credibility and makes Americans targets for extremists.

Against the Motion: James Jeffrey (06:33)

Washington Institute Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow and former Iraq and Turkey ambassador, Jeffrey states that a "special relationship" is not unconditional support; the U.S. cannot do what it wants to do in the world without allies. Saudi decisions on oil impact international economy. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have common goals in fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda, and containing Iran.

Is Saudi Arabia Stable? (07:25)

Donvan summarizes the panelists' positions on the debate. Al-Rasheed and Lagon state that Saudi Arabia is a "pressure cooker" and cannot last. Gause and James agree the country is a "pressure cooker" but argue that every regime is in trouble in the long run; Saudi Arabia has a decent track record of stability.

Unconditional Relationship (06:10)

Al-Rasheed cites Yemen as an example of the U.S. supporting Saudi Arabia in destroying an Arab country; opponents challenge the notion that Saudi Arabia would not receive weapons elsewhere. Lagon states that the U.S. should tie arms sales with specific stipulations. Gause questions the reception of outsiders telling them how to conduct domestic affairs.

Saudi Social Justice vs. Relationship Benefits (04:40)

Lagon states that Saudi domestic policies harm U.S. global credibility; the U.S. looks like hypocrites. Al-Rasheed cites sending troops to Afghanistan to liberate women; Jeffrey argues the reason for going to Afghanistan.

Social Injustices (04:16)

Lagon hopes that the change instigated by the new deputy crown prince and young Saudis accelerates; Al-Rasheed believes we exaggerate the kinds of reform we witness in Saudi Arabia. Gause agrees the changes are slow but argues the U.S. should not make domestic change the top of its agenda with Saudi Arabia.

Q/A: Does Pulling Back Embolden Iran? (04:46)

Al-Rasheed states that stopping unconditional support to Saudi Arabia does not mean a shift of focus to Iran. Jeffrey states that the U.S. needs serious foreign policy work around the world. Gause argues that Iran has regional ambitions.

Q/A: Human Rights Advances (02:24)

Jeffrey agrees minor steps toward human rights has occurred but questions whether the purpose of a special relationship is to make countries copy the U.S. Lagon argues the core of the issue is universal values.

Q/A: U.S. and Saudi Relationship Dynamics (04:36)

Lagon questions the validity of overlapping interests. Gause state that a crackdown is part of restricting people's freedom which requires room on human rights questions.

Q/A: Negative Consequences of the U.S.? (03:52)

Jeffrey states that Saudi Arabia has not been on the international community's security threat list; the U.S. encountered fallout for abandoning Mubarak. Lagon argues the world would be more stable and prosperous if the U.S. works to change internal affairs in other countries.

Q/A: Revolutionary War Comparison (03:00)

The proponents are not asking the U.S. to intervene in Saudi domestic affair; the U.S. should place conditions on arms sales. The U.S. could not intervene when the shah of Iran fell in 1979. The U.S. - Saudi relationship will be stronger if the U.S. creates distance from the Saudi regime's excesses.

Q/A: Geopolitical Interests (02:13)

Jeffrey explains why the U.S. chooses to align with Saudi Arabia over Iran.

Q/A: Feasible Concessions in Saudi Arabia (03:25)

The opponents argue that the U.S. should use its leverage with Saudi Arabia to secure America's chief interests in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia and the U.S. may not share priorities.

Concluding Statement For: Lagon (02:27)

Saudi Arabia has a problem with human trafficking. The Saudi regime is unconcerned about dialogue but the special relationship with the U.S. is largely unconditional. The U.S. does not need Saudi Arabia as much as it once did.

Concluding Statement Against: Gause (01:57)

Weak and failed states are the root of the crises in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is stable and has influence in various conflicts; putting Saudi domestic issues to the forefront of the relationship would have a negative impact.

Concluding Statement For: Al-Rasheed (02:54)

Suppressing the Saudi people is counterproductive and the regime will implode. Educated Saudis will seek asylum and create a vacuum in the country. Al-Rasheed begins the story of publishing her book "A History of Saudi Arabia."

Concluding Statement Against: Jeffrey (02:16)

American officials visited Riyadh in 1990 and announced the U.S.' intention to stand by Saudi Arabia. Jeffrey cites success stories as a result of that decision. We need Saudi Arabia and they need us.

Time to Vote (04:24)

Donvan instructs the audience to vote, thanks panelists and questioners, and introduces ways to listen to the debate. Al-Rasheed finishes her story about the threats she received when publishing her book.

Audience Vote Results (01:03)

Pre-Debate - For: 28% - Against: 26% - Undecided: 46% Post-Debate - For: 31% - Against: 58% - Undecided: 11%

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The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness: A Debate

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Since 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz met onboard the USS Quincy, the United States and Saudi Arabia have maintained a special relationship, with oil, military cooperation, and intelligence sharing at its foundation. But the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the revolution in fracking in America, concerns over human rights, and diverging interests in the Middle East have all put strains on this relationship. After 70 years, has the special U.S.-Saudi relationship outlived its usefulness?

Length: 99 minutes

Item#: BVL133132

ISBN: 978-1-64023-689-9

Copyright date: ©2017

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