Saudi Arabia is a country of the Middle East with immense oil wealth, and a small population with power concentrated in a very large royal family, the House of Saud. The head of state has been King Salman since 23rd January 2015 . The country is of enormous significance to all branches of Islam, as it contains the two most revered places in Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina; one of the King's ceremonial titles is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The country officially follows extremely conservative social policies of the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam; Saudi Arabia follows Islamic law.
The country is in the Middle East, with coasts on both the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and, while many desert areas are sparsely populated to unpopulated, has roughly 20% of the land area of the United States. It borders on Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iraq. The Kuwaiti and Iraqi borders have been areas of great geopolitical concern; Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990, and sent a military force, quickly turned back, to the Saudi town of Khafji. The Gulf War was fought to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
While it has a small population, it has a tremendous effect on the world economy as a major oil producer, and as an important member of OPEC. After the spikes in oil prices of the 1970s, the fall of the Soviet Union and an expected decline in oil exports, and lack of development capital in other members of the During the early 1990s, it was becoming clear that with the expected decline of oil production from the republics of the former Soviet Union, combined with the stagnating output in other debt-ridden and geologically constrained Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC oil producers, Saudi Arabia could dominate the worldwide oil economy. See Oil.
Religion, law, and social custom are inseparable in Saudi Arabia. The Shar'ia, or Muslim law, is the final authority. While the heads of state and government are not themselves clerics, a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Protection against Vice deploys religious police throughout the cities.
The key to power in Saudi Arabia is the religious interpretation of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab who worried that Sunni Islam was deviating from principles established no later than the mid-10th century. changed when he and Muhammad bin Saud, a tribal leader, agreed that this was the correct version of Islam. bin Saud's son, Abdul Aziz, married the cleric's daughter in 1744, binding what became the House of Saud. 
Between 1744 and 1902, the House of Saud struggled against Ottoman power. Eventually, the Saudis took effective control in 1924 and declared the Kingdom in 1932. 
- 1744: Alliance forms, and the House of Saud consolidates
- 1818: The Ottoman Empire overthrows the Sauds
- 1824: Sauds return to power
- 1899: Sauds overthrown
- 1902: New consolidation begins when Saudis capture the capital, Riyadh
- 1914: First World War, in which the Ottomans were the enemy of the West, and the Saudis receive Western help, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"
- 1924: House of Saud takes control of the Holy Places
- 1932: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia formally established by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman AL SAUD (Ibn Saud)
The modern Kingdom
The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by King Ibn Saud. after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, King Salman , is the current ruler. There is a Consultative Council, not a true legislature; the king is head of state and head of government.
Contemporary tribal leadership continued to play a pivotal role in relations between individuals and the central government, particularly among those who were recently settled or still nomadic.
More and more money came into Saudi Arabia, and the royal family walked a delicate line between useful modernization and offending the monarchy's conservative subjects. Dramatic increases in oil prices in 1973 made these opportunities and conflicts more intense. A particular problem was increasing the number of Saudi citizens with skilled occupations. Part of the problem was that Saudi secondary school and university education were not producing the needed skills. Although the Riyadh-based Institute of Public Administration offered training programs to increase the competitiveness of Saudi nationals, the programs had difficulty attracting participants.  There were also some cultural problems, especially among the tribes, that manual work was below them.
In 2008, the population was estimated as 28,161,417, including 5,576,076 non-nationals. There were extreme restrictions on the education of women and their role in the workforce, further reducing the pool of potential citizen-workers. In 1990, they formed 7 percent of the work force; 93 percent of the national work force were men .
Before there were major oil discoveries, in 1933, the Kingdom agreed to having Standard Oil of California (Socal) prospect for oil. To carry out the work, Socal created the subsidiary, California-Arabian Standard Oil Co. (Casoc).
In 1938, oil was discovered in the Kingdom. While it had not been of huge economic significance before the 20th century, major powers were dependent on it; the Royal Navy had begun to convert its warships from coal to oil few, and needed oil to cover the global interests of the United Kingdom.
Casoc's name was changed in 1944 from California-Arabian Standard Oil Company to Arabian American Oil Company (or Aramco). In 1948 Standard Oil of California and the Texas Oil Company were joined as investors by Standard Oil of New Jersey who purchased 30% of the company, and Socony Vacuum who purchased 10% of the company, leaving Standard Oil of California and the Texas Oil Company with equal 30% shares.
In 1944, the main company was renamed Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), with additional oil company investment in 1948. Starting in 1950, the Kingdom threatened nationalization, but then began to invest, buying a quarter-interest in 1983. By 1980, it obtained complete control, and the company became Saudi Arabian Oil Company (or Saudi Aramco). "ARAMCO" is still a well-known name.
While the details are not public, the Kingdom's plan to be the dominant player in the world oil economy appears to have several main elements: 
- Saudi Aramco, the organization that actually drills, increased production
- Saudi Arabian Marketing and Refining Company (Samarec) would improve domestic refineries and meet a growing number of environmental standards
- Purchasing refining capacity closer to demand, especially in the United States and Republic of Korea
Saudi Arabia has a small population, and many trades were considered undignified. There is a huge foreign workforce, which works under tight restrictions. Essentially, no non-Saudi can own a business in the Kingdom.
There are continuing efforts to educate the population in modern skills, probably accelerated hy the Gulf War and the realization that the country's security was dependent on contractors.
The Ministry of Defense and Aviation controls the Kingdom's regular Royal Saudi Army, Royal Saudi Air Force, and Royal Saudi Navy. Separate from this organization is the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), a largely Bedouin organization whose first responsibility is defense of the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina, as well as being a royal guard for the House of Saud.
A General Intelligence Department provides national intelligence.
Insurgency and terrorism
- Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook
- Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. (December 1992), The Economy, Saudi Arabia country study, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
- SAMIRAD, the Saudi Arabian Market Information Resource and Directory, Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab
- CBC News Online (8 June 2006), Wahhabi Islam: Back to the basics
- Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. (December 1992), Population, Saudi Arabia country study, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress