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From the end of the 19th century until the Second World War, the United Kingdom was the dominant European power in the Arabian Peninsula. During this period Abdul Aziz bin Saud, an Arab warlord from the central province of Najd, invaded the western part of present-day Saudi Arabia, the Hijaz. In 1924 he ousted Sharif Hussein who, with British support, had proclaimed himself King of Hijaz after the First World War. Abdul Aziz bin Saud succeeded in uniting all the tribes of today's Saudi Arabia and gaining their loyalty. His success was partly military, partly religious. The House of Saud allied itself with the ideas of the Wahabi clergy.

In 1927 Abdulaziz bin Saud concluded the Treaty of Jeddah with the United Kingdom, recognising his rule and Britain's special relationship with the coastal areas of the Arabian Peninsula. The first oil was tapped in 1938, but it was not until after the Second World War that oil production in Saudi Arabia really took off.

The oil embargo imposed by the OPEC countries in 1973 was led by Saudi Arabia and marked the beginning of the country's growing political power.

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, a multinational force was stationed in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm. The United States supplied the majority of the troops. US troops remained in Saudi Arabia until spring 2003, when the remaining US troops (5,000) were withdrawn at the request of the Saudis.

On 1 August 2005, King Fahd died and was succeeded by the former Crown Prince Abdullah.

In the years 2005 to 2009, there were attacks from time to time by Islamic militants affiliated with al-Qaeda. In July 2009, a major trial against al-Qaeda militants begins. In November 2009, Saudi Arabian troops moved to Yemen's border to form a buffer against Yemeni rebels. In early 2011, there were protests against women being banned from driving. In September, a woman is sentenced to ten lashes for failing to comply. King Abdullah overruled this verdict and announced that women must be given more rights. In February 2013, the King appointed 30 women to the hitherto all-male parliament. In October, Saudi Arabia turns down a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in protest at the UN's inaction on the Syria issue. In March 2014, declares the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. In September 2014, Saudi Arabia participates with four other Arab states in bombing of Islamic State positions in Syria.

In January 2015, King Abdullah dies and is succeeded by King Salman. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia takes the lead in a coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthis in Yemen. In September 2015, hundreds of people die of oppression during the annual Hadj in Mecca. During municipal elections in November 2015, women can be elected for the first time; 20 are elected. In June 2016, a UN report accuses Saudi Arabia of killing and injuring hundreds of Houthi children during the bombing. In 2017, hostilities against the Houthis in Yemen continue. In June 2017, a diplomatic crisis erupts when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies impose a land, sea and air blockade against Qatar in an attempt to get Qatar to reduce its alleged links to terrorism and distance itself from Iran. King Salman makes his son Mohammed bin Salman first in line of succession to the throne.

The murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul causes international outrage. Two major oil refineries are damaged in airstrikes in September 2019, claimed by the Yemeni Houthi movement. Saudi Arabia, the US, Britain, France and Germany accuse Iran of responsibility. In December 2019, five people are sentenced to death and three others imprisoned for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, in a trial condemned by the UN special rapporteur as a cover-up.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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