House of Saud

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History Documentary hosted by Will Lyman, published by PBS in 2005 - English narration

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Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' most important allies for more than sixty years is home to vast oil fields and a wealthy, often extravagant, monarchy.

Until 9/11, most Americans paid little attention to how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was run. But in the aftermath of the attacks, America awoke to some difficult truths about its longtime ally: for decades, Saudi wealth and charities supported individuals and organizations dedicated to doing America harm, and its universities and religious schools known as madrassas?prepared countless young men for jihad against the West.

Today, Saudi television broadcasts programs where children read poems against Jews and in praise of Islamic martyrs. Recently twenty-six Saudi clerics, among them, Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, issued a fatwa, or edict, encouraging Muslims to fight the Americans in Iraq. And in December 2004, gunmen attacked the American consulate in Jeddah.

"Investigating the history of U.S.-Saudi relations, it quickly becomes clear that this is an alliance built on quicksand," says co-producer Martin Smith, who has reported from the region for previous FRONTLINE films including "Saudi Time Bomb?" and "In Search of Al Qaeda."

It was Franklin Roosevelt, seen in rare archival footage conducting a top-secret World War II meeting with Saudi King Abd al-Aziz on board the USS Quincy, who established the basic principles behind the U.S.-Saudi alliance.

"America struck a pact with Saudi Arabia, and the deal was very simple," says Youssef Ibrahim, former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. "You give us oil at cheap prices, and we will give you protection. This protection eventually evolved into an American hegemony over the entire Gulf region, that this was an American area of influence, and in return for this it shall be protected from all enemies."

As history shows, this agreement between Saudi Arabia's royal family and the U.S government has been challenged time and again by Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist Islamic population, who distrust American influence and intention and oppose America's alliance with Israel.

[edit] The Most Pivotal Issue

A look at the force of religion in Saudi Arabia, its dominant faith, Wahhabism, and the power of the religious establishment, the ulama. Drawn from FRONTLINE's interviews with former U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia Hermann Eilts and Robert Jordan; Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Saleh al-Asheikh; journalist Robert Lacey; and Dr. Khalil al-Khalil, from the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University. These excerpts are from their extended interviews.

[edit] Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?

A July 2004 report by International Crisis Group that summarizes the challenges facing the Saudi ruling family and assesses the regime's openness to change. Outlining the cautious steps the regime has taken so far, the report advises the U.S. and the West to avoid, for now, emphasizing sensitive social and cultural reforms such as in education and the role of women and religion. The report also points out that while Islamist Saudis are making some in the ruling family disinclined to change, the new extremism is also helping reformers' cause.

[edit] What is Saudi Arabia's Future?

In a dangerously shifting society, can the House of Saud adjust to change without jeopardizing its own survival? Here are views from journalist Robert Lacey, former U.S. Ambassador Robert Jordan, attorney and reform activist Bassim Alim, and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. These excerpts are from their extended interviews.

[edit] The U.S.-Saudi Relationship

The 9/11 terror attack (15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis), the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Iraq war, the U.S.'s call for greater reform in the kingdom -- all have strained the sixty-year-old U.S.-Saudi alliance. Here discussing the tensions, and offering some larger thoughts on how the two countries can go forward, are former U.S. ambassador Robert Jordan, journalist Robert Lacey, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Saudi attorney and reform activist Bassim Alim. These excerpts are from their extended interviews.

[edit] What Are The Prospects for Reform?

Reformers in Saudi Arabia are pressing for civil rights, political freedoms and transparency in government expenditures. But a divided monarchy is cautious about what to undertake, and how fast. Here discussing whether economic and political change will come and the risks such change could bring, are Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal; historian Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi; attorney and activist Bassim Alim; journalist Robert Lacey; and liberal columnist Dr. Sulaiman al-Hattlan. These excerpts are from their extended interviews.

[edit] Who are Islamists?

A Sept. 2004 briefing by International Crisis Group that examines the genealogy of Saudi Arabia's various Islamist groupings, the "new Islamists" pressing for change, and the growing rift between violent and non-violent activists. This report includes a chronology of the most recent violence and a summary of Al Qaeda's organizational structure on the Arabian Peninsula. The authors point out that "…victory over Al Qaeda would not mean the defeat of violent Islamism, which feeds on political, social and economic dissatisfaction that preceded the rise of that group and will undoubtedly outlive it," and they recommend steps that the government must take to guarantee against violence and for long-term stability.

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[edit] Technical Specs

Video Codec: DX50/DIVX
Video Bitrate: 718 kb/s
Video Resolution: 640x480 (1.33:1)
Video Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Audio Codec: 0x0055(MP3) ID'd as MPEG-2 Layer 3
Audio BitRate: 48 kb/s (24/ch, stereo) CBR
Audio Streams: 2.0
Audio Languages: English
RunTime Per Part: 01:56:23 (209,295 fr)
Number Of Parts: 1
Part Size: 643 MB (or 659,155 KB or 674,974,728 bytes)
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