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Few international relationships are more susceptible to criticism than that between the United States and Saudi Arabia. One is the leader of the free world. The other is antithetical to even the most basic human rights, let alone religious freedom or gender equality. Saudi Arabia is the most influential Sharia state in existence, a mantle recently challenged by its Shia semblable, Iran.
The Saudi regime has successfully played a highly cynical game since at least the beginnings of the Cold War. After decades of conquest, Ibn Saud unified the modern (the word goes down hard) nation-state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. As stewards of the hijaz and rulers of one of the most conservative populaces in the world, it was incumbent on the Saudis to show their bona fides as good Wahabists. In the ensuing decades, they entrenched a medieval legal system and permeated all aspects of civil society with fundamentalist apparatchiks of the state.