Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Keck Center Best Senior Thesis - International Security

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Second Department


Reader 1

Hicham Bou Nassif

Rights Information

2021 Caroline E Jenkins


In the first several years following the attacks on September 11, 2001, many in both the American political elite and general public questioned the merits of the US’s strong alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as fifteen of the nineteen hijackers, as well as Osama bin Laden, were Saudi citizens. The Kingdom was known for its lax regulations surrounding terrorist financing, which played a role in al Qaeda’s ability to carry out the 9/11 attacks. Due to this, many called for the US to end its historic partnership with the Saudis.

However, under further examination, it becomes clear that both the US and the Saudis need the strong alliance to survive. Despite divisions and criticism, more unites America and the Saudis than divides them. This paper seeks to understand why the US-Saudi alliance has endured in the years since 9/11. The Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations will be examined as case studies. This paper will then identify three fundamental pillars---economic interdependence, geopolitical threats, and security concerns---that can be considered driving factors in the relationship between the two states. These driving factors will be examined under each leader as well as how each impacted the alliance. In addition, using a variety of theories from leading international scholars, this paper will argue that the US-Saudi alliance is asymmetrical as the Saudis rely on the US much more than the US relies on the Kingdom. Meaning, the US can and should renegotiate the alliance on better terms to pursue American interests.