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US-Saudi Arabian Relations - Beginnings

The close alliance of the US and Saudi Arabia dates to the end of the second world war, when an ailing Franklin Roosevelt met Saudi Arabia’s founding king, Abdul Aziz, aboard the cruiser Quincy in the Suez Canal. Then, and for decades after, the equation was simple: America would provide security, the Saudis oil.

In 1933 the first concessions by the new regime, formed through an alliance of the Wahhabi leaders with British colonialism, were made to Standard Oil of California, and later to Texaco - this was to be the beginning of the Arabian-American Oil Company. The US consulate general in Dhahran opened in 1944 in response to the growing oil-related US presence in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the US embassy opened in Jeddah in 1944.

Saudi Arabia's unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States. Diplomatic relations were established in 1933; the US embassy in Jeddah moved to Riyadh in 1984. The Jeddah embassy became a US consulate general.

Official military relations with Saudi Arabia began in 1943 when the United States declared Saudi Arabia eligible for Lend-Lease aid. Interesting to note is a phrase used in the letter from Secretary of State Hull to the Lend-Lease administrator justifying the aid: "Furthermore, the Army may at any time wish to obtain extensive air facilities in Saudi Arabia." For the next two decades the air base at Dhahran and United States basing rights there would be the foundation for US-Saudi relations.

The silver taler was the currency of the Empire and of the Austrian hereditary lands. The silver taler was very important for trade with the Levant (parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria) and the Maria Theresa Taler became the best known and most popular silver coin in the Arabian world. After the death of the Empress, Joseph II permitted the mint at Günzburg (today in Bavaria, but at that time Austrian territory) to continue striking with the 1780 dies in order to meet the demand from the Middle East. The 1780 taler was the only silver coin that the Arabs trusted and would accept. Thus began the long minting history of the “Levantine Taler” of the Empress Maria Theresa. Since then the Günzburg taler has been restruck for trade purposes at Vienna, as well as at mints in Prague, Milan and Venice from time to time. The taler became the unofficial currency of some of the lands in North Africa, and it can still be found today in many Arabian bazaars. This version of the taler became so important that it was restruck even in London, Bombay, Paris and Rome.

The thaler was a silver coin that appeared in the German areas in the XVI century. Unlike the other coins of the time, made from silver and very small, only around 1-2-3 g, the Thaler was designed as a heavy coin, with a weight of around 27 g, with a huge market value ( similar to 100$ bill today) and it was meant to be used in large scale transaction. Medieval Europe didn’t need precious money. In the XIII century, this changed. The need for a high value coin was the natural consequence of the trade that flourished. The coin, with around 26-28 gr, was named by the population the coin from St. Joachim’s Vallery and later simplified as Joachimsthaler or simply thaler.

In the Japanese occupied territory’s people preferred the Maria Theresa Thaler (also known as MTT) more than the paper script issued by Japan. The resistance forces in Java and Sumatra used the MTTs to acquire goods and issue bribes. During World War II, the US American Office of Strategic Services created counterfeit (or illegally struck) silver Maria Theresa Thaler.

Jeddah had no paper currency, business being conducted in gold and silver coins – the gold sovereign and the Saudi silver riyal. Maria Theresa thalers were common. The kingdom's monetary system was splinted, with no common currency in use. the Maria Theresa Thaler, a large silver coin hearing the profile of the Holy Roman Empress and Austrian imperial seal dominated the southern parts of the Hejaz and the Asir which was seized from Yemen in 1934-1935.



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Page last modified: 05-10-2018 18:41:53 ZULU