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(IBN SAUD, WAHHABIS and OIL, to 1945 – continued)

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Oil and Geologists from the United States

In 1932 the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was austere and in debt. Its main income was its tax on pilgrims to Mecca, and this was in decline because of the Great Depression. In 1933, Saudi Arabia and the United States established diplomatic relations, and that year the kingdom granted a concession to Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) to explore and to produce oil. A commercially significant amount of oil had been discovered in Iran around twenty-five years earlier and in Iraq four years earlier. The Saudis were not very hopeful but they went ahead with their agreement with a US company – which had the advantage of not being British. King Saud by now did not much like the British, and he had been impressed by a handful of Americans he had met in his kingdom and especially a missionary doctor from the United States who had tended people in the area including the king.

In 1938 it was water that American geologists in Saudi Arabia were searching for. Instead, they found oil – much of it. Needing people who knew how to develop and operate oil fields, ibn Saud invited U.S. oil companies to his kingdom. The king's government was criticized by some who believed that inviting foreigners to the kingdom was un-Islamic. Many in Saudi Arabia remained hostile to foreigners, but the monarchy stayed with practicality and set up a joint enterprise with a number of US oil companies. In 1939 King Saud opened the valve for the first flow of Saudi oil to a naval oil-tanker, and in 1944 the joint enterprise was renamed the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).

Sources

Ibn Saud: Founder of a Kingdom, by Leslie McLouglin, St. Martin's Press, 1993

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by David E. Long, University of Florida Press, 1997

Copyright © 2001-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.