Middle East: Saudi Arabia Country Report
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country in the Middle East with a population of 26,417,599 including expatriates covering an area of 756,785 sq. miles. The country is well known, because it is a giant in oil production. The origin of Saudi Arabia dates back to the 18th century.
The Wahhabi Movement
Wahhabism was created by a religious scholar named Abd al-Wahhab who promised Ibn Saud Allah’s blessings; in return, Ibn promised to teach his doctrines. Wahhabism is a strict form of Sunni Islam that is followed, although relaxed, in Saudi Arabia. Some of its doctrines include forced marriages and a ban on women drivers.
Saudi Arabia’s independence was recognized first by Britain in 1927. Other countries soon followed suit, and in 1932, the country took the name Saudi Arabia as the union of three provinces, namely al-Hasa, Nejd, and Hejaz with abd al-Aziz al-Rahman Al Sa’ud (simply Ibn Saud) as its president. Ibn established monarchic form of government in the country and developed its political system according to Islamic guiding principles with no need for a written constitution. Ibn died in 1953; his son Crown Prince Saud succeeded him. Since then, Saudi has been a monarch.
One of the most memorable events in Saudi happened in 1979 when Mecca was under siege from a group of fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who occupied it for two weeks before they were overpowered.
The economy of Saudi Arabia depends majorly on oil which was discovered in 1938. The Saudi government controls the oil industry although Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco) manages its marketing and distribution services. Due to a stagnating economy that led to unemployment rates of 14%, the Saudi government sought foreign capital investments with some foreign ownership being 100%. As a result, foreign investment doubled to $9 billion in 2001.
There was a major shift in foreign policy due to the Iraq invasion and the occupation of Kuwait by American forces. Saudi Arabia was in favor of the American troops in Iraq, and thus ties with Iraq and other countries like Yemeni and Jordan were severed. To black al-Qaida sympathizers, Saudi Arabia closed its border with Yemen in 2004. However, relations with its neighbors have improved in the recent past including that of Yemeni, Iraq, and other Gulf States.
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