Lauri: Welcome to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) weekly webinar. This week the webinar covers US-Israel-Saudi Relations. Obviously, given the war on Israel launched by Hamas this past weekend, our discussions will be tied directly to the ongoing and devastating attack. I’m very honored to have Dr. Michael Makovsky with us today. Mike is the president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). JINSA is a leading Washington DC-based policy and educational organization focused on US defense and national security issues in the Middle East. Mike has worked extensively on US-Israel defense ties and on US policy towards Iran, Syria, Iraq, Gaza and the Persian Gulf. Mike’s expertise covers the role of energy in US national security policy and in the Eastern Mediterranean. I urge you all to follow his work at https://jinsa.org/ . Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to get to audience questions today because we have a lot to cover. Mike, thank you so much for joining us.
Michael: Thanks for having me.
Lauri: Today’s topic was supposed to be the trilateral normalization agreement between the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. This was something that could have consolidated major strategic partnerships and transformed the security architecture of the region. This trilateral agreement had the potential to lock out the Chinese which was a very serious strategic consideration. Most of the analysts I have been following agreed that part of the reason Hamas launched this war was to derail this normalization agreement. What impact do you believe this war will have on the completion of such a normalization agreement? I’m hearing some high-profile folks state that the war has definitely upended any ongoing discussions between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It seems to me that if Israel actually does what is necessary, the Saudis would be even more inclined to join with the strong horse in the region. What are your thoughts on this?
Michael: I think it is a good question. My view is that the situation in Israel could slow, postpone or pause efforts on normalization. I think the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia have made this strategic decision to normalize relations and I think they’re going to resume that effort. Obviously, the war will complicate things and it will become tougher for the Saudis to pursue an agreement if Palestinians get killed in Gaza. This is true even though Hamas massacred and wounded many Israelis and took hostages. On the other hand, I think Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has made a clear decision to pursue an agreement and this is what is important. I think he appreciates that antipathy toward the Saudis is stronger among Democrats than Republicans and he has a unique opportunity to normalize relations with a Democratic president, who previously referred to Saudi Arabia as a pariah state.
Up to now, the administration, in my opinion, dealt with the Saudis exactly the opposite as they should have but they recently found religion. Their change in approach may be related to the political calendar or just the desire for a political victory. Signing an agreement with the Saudis would be a big win for the administration. And I think MBS has made it clear he wants an agreement with certain conditions. He was explicit about this when he was on Fox News and also communicated his views directly to us. As such, I think negotiations will be paused but not sidelined yet. That is how I see it as things stand today but the situation is very fluid.
Lauri: I hope you are right. I had heard the agreement was on the two-yard line when Trump was in office. When Biden came in, however, he viewed the Saudis as pariahs and pushed it to the back burner. Now that Biden has returned to negotiations, he has asked the Israelis to make all sorts of concessions to the Palestinians as a condition for normalization. This was not a condition imposed previously by the Trump administration. The Hamas war has obviously changed the calculus of where all of that comes out. I question how the Palestinian inserted themselves into negotiations with new unrealistic demands on Israel given that few were thinking the two-state solution was even feasible. October 7th has certainly changed that calculus. If this agreement does move forward, do you see a role for the Palestinians? How does the war change the need for concessions by the Israelis?
Michael: It is a good question and you are correct. When we were in Saudi Arabia last November, it was clear that it was not in the Saudi’s interest to include the Palestinian question in the agreement. Including the Palestinian issue in the agreement was not one of the conditions the Saudis had shared with us. From their perspective, it was all about US-Saudi relations and was not really so much about Israel. Realistically the agreement may have had to include something about the Palestinians, but that requirement was not specifically mentioned by the Saudis. I think the issue was mostly injected by the Biden administration because the Saudis made it clear it was a separate issue when asked about it. Injection of the Palestinian issue into negotiations with Arab States is based on conventional wisdom in Washington. It is hard for people to break out of bad habits. The success of the Abraham Accords however, should have exploded the myth that peace is not achievable without inclusion of the Palestinian issue. Ron Dermer was a distinguished fellow at JINSA in between serving as ambassador to the US and becoming Minister of Strategic Affair in the new Israeli government. He discussed the potential for peace with the Arab countries both with me and with the Trump administration before they came into office. He tried to communicate the same advice to the Obama administration, but they would not believe it.
A lot of the Biden folk are the same people as the Obama folk who keep insisting on inclusion of the Palestinians into negotiations. I don’t think this insistence is because they think the goals are realistic but rather because they are so sympathetic to the Palestinians. There are many more people who think this way in the Democratic party than in Republican party. However, I think even some Republicans believe we need to inject the Palestinian issue into Abraham Accords and into relations with the UAE. So, I think between sympathies and bad habits, it’s hard for people to reorient to the reality exposed by the Abraham Accord. So now you have a strange situation where the US, the third party and moderator, is injecting an issue that neither the Israelis or the Saudis think is important.
To answer your question, you could see the impact of the war playing out two ways. On the one hand, what Hamas was so atrocious, it did not help the Palestinian cause in any way. A lot of people now argue we should no longer care what the Palestinians think. On the other hand, Biden was careful when he spoke, and made it sound like Hamas represents Hamas only, and it’s not about the Palestinian issue.
So I don’t know. On the one hand, there is going to be less sympathy for them. On the other hand, if Israel goes in to Gaza with ground forces or even keeps pounding Gaza by air, there are going to be pictures that are going to bother people. People are going to say you cannot make peace with the Saudis when this is going on with the Palestinians. The short answer is to say I could see it playing out both ways. It could lead to either greater sympathy for the Palestinians and making the Palestinian issue more of a priority or it could result in negotiators not letting the Palestinian issue stand in the way of peace.
Lauri: I think that the usual suspects’ initial reaction is already turning. If you look at headlines in the New York Times, in the Washington Post and in some UK papers, the spin is already anti-Israel. Of course, we have already had calls for de-escalation. I just read that there are attacks on the northern front. Who knows whether sympathy will remain with Israel as it is bombarded from all sides. It is horrible.
Michael: Yeah. When you referred to the initial reaction are you referring to the reaction from the State Department?
Lauri: Yeah. The sentiments are already starting to move against Israel. I think that, as you point out, as soon as Palestinian bodies are paraded across the internet, the narrative will change.
Michael: Could be. I think it’s worth mentioning Biden deserves credit in all this although I am not including his policy on Iran and everything to do with that country.
I think there were State Department tweets, including one from the Office of Palestinian Affairs, about immediate de-escalation. They then deleted that tweet. We all know de-escalation in such a situation is basically surrender. I think institutionally, that the Biden administration certainly feels very strongly about the Palestinians and apparently have not learned too much from the Abraham Accords. If you recall, they did not even want to use the term Abraham Accords at the beginning. I think Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, did not even use that term in her confirmation hearings. It took them time but I think they do now. I see it partly as a bureaucratic issue and that is a problem. That said, I think Biden deserves credit for how he has been standing squarely behind Israel. They are already shipping weapons to Israel. We will address what he messed up but I think he reacted surprisingly well on some fundamental issues.
Lauri: We have found out that there are lots of Americans who have been murdered and others are being held hostage. How does this impact the role of the US? Israel is never going to have US boots on the ground. I know that the carrier striker was sent over there, and that looks great, but we are not going to be attacking Hamas from a carrier striker, or from any assets on that. So how does Biden the administration deal with the Americans that are now tied into this?
Michael: Right. One thing we should say is that we are not going to give Hamas one cent and the days of the $6 billion ransom payments are over. Obviously, the administration has had to make adjustments to its policy even if they are not going to admit it. This is similar to the way in which Israel has now reoriented its policy. I wrote about this in today’s New York Post. With respect to the hostage issue specifically, I think we have to hold the Iranians accountable. There is a question of how much leverage they have with Hamas. That said, I have to think that if we put the Iranian leadership on notice we are going to hold them responsible for this, they will have some influence over Hamas. I am not saying this is what the Biden administration would do because they have avoided any whiff of confrontation with the Iranians over the past two and a half years. I will provide an example to put this in context since we track this information carefully at JINSA.
Under Biden, there have been over 90 attacks against US forces by Iran or its proxies in Syria and Iraq. We have retaliated a total of four times and it is outrageous. They even attacked US forces in retaliation for an Israeli strike because they were afraid of the Israelis. This is unbelievable. The last time I checked, we are the United States of America and we are a superpower. As far as I know we have many military tools that we could deploy. Capability, however, is one thing, but will and determination is another. We have shown zero of the latter even though we have a lot of the former.
I think they do not want a confrontation with Iran but they should hold Iranian leadership to account like Trump did with Soleimani. I am just throwing out ideas but I think the killing of Soleimani was extremely significant. Maybe you target the guy that replaced Soleimani and you make it clear to the Iranians we are going to get to people like that. I do not know if that would be enough but it is not sufficient to hold just Hamas to account.
I think you have also got to make it clear to the Qataris, who the United States has been too friendly with, that they too will be held to account. The Qataris are smart and they played Afghanistan very well by being very helpful there. Their statement on the Hamas attacks, however, was one of the worst of any government. If I am not mistaken, they held Israel solely responsible for the attacks. Well, that has got to stop. We just designated them as a non-NATO major ally and perhaps we should reconsider that. Maybe we should tell the Qataris we are going to reconsider our entire relationship with them if they do not do everything possible to free the hostages. I think we have to go full-out on this. I think the Egyptians will be helpful, but I think we have to make clear to the Qataris and the Iranians that it is not just about Hamas and we are going to hold their leadership accountable. Since the Iranians were so involved in this atrocity, I think we need to tell them that we’re going to hold their leaders personally responsible for how this plays out.
Lauri: So, Mike, let me ask you something then. In Biden’s speech yesterday, there was not one mention of Iran.
Michael: That’s right.
Lauri: There are many people, including you and I, who are pointing to the $6 billion US has pledged to Iran. Blinken is saying the funds are for humanitarian aid and not a cent of them have been released. We know, of course, the money is fungible but they are ignoring that fact. The Wall Street Journal published a story recently indicating direct ties between Iran and the attacks. Iran provided training and gave the green light for Hamas to proceed. The Biden administration, however, is still saying we have no evidence of Iranian complicity. In fact, the New York Times published a piece today in which the administration says early intelligence shows Iranian leaders were surprised by the Hamas attack. It does not seem to me that Biden has any interest in bringing Iran into this because I think that Biden still wants to pursue a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Michael: It seems like the Biden administration might have already concluded an understanding with the Iranians on their nuclear program as part of the $6 billion deal. It appears that is what happened based on reports over the past few months but we don’t know for sure. I do not know why the United States has felt so spooked by confrontation with Iran. By the way, it is not just this administration that is avoiding confrontation with Iran. Except for assassinating Soleimani, Trump did virtually nothing on the ground against the Iranians. Soleimani’s assassination was huge and I do give Trump a lot of credit for having the courage to assassinate him. Aside from Soleimani, however, he did nothing. The Iranians were hitting ships. In September 2019, they attacked Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. Abqaiq is one of the most important energy facilities in the world and we did not retaliate to this attack. In June 2019, they downed a drone and Trump called off the planned retaliation at the very last minute under the pretext there might be Iranian casualties. This was obviously preposterous. In fairness then, the US approach to Iran is not a partisan thing. I don’t think Bush did very much either, even though Soleimani was killing our soldiers in Iraq. As far as I know, Reagan also did nothing to retaliate against Iran after the marine base bombing that killed 250.
Lauri: Clinton as well.
Michael: Yes. I did not mean to skip over Clinton but was just highlighting some unfortunate and striking examples. For reasons I do not fully understand, I think that the United States has been scared of confrontation with Iran. The reality, however, is the Iranians are afraid of confrontation with the United States. When we made it clear that we mean business, I think they back off. They are not stupid and I do not think they’re irrational people. They are frankly very impressive. I don’t think it’s just a nuclear thing. I think the US does not want confrontation with the Iran. As I mentioned, we endured 90 attacks on our soldiers and retaliated four times. Even when we retaliate, we do our utmost to avoid any Iranian casualties. We issue statements from the Secretary of Defense or the Pentagon that are very carefully worded and include language about a proportionate response. We don’t want escalation. Who are we kidding? We are certainly not scaring the Iranians. I think we just don’t want a confrontation with Iran. Period.
Lauri: You brought up a couple of things. We’re talking about the nuclear issue. One of the demands or requests on the table with the Saudis is that they want a civilian nuclear program supported by the US with permission to domestically enrich uranium. If that plan proceeds, does the US risk setting off a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East? Would Israel actually even agree to that? It seems to me that MBS told Bret Baier in his interview with him that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, so will they. What are your thoughts on this?
Michael: MBS told us exactly the same thing last November and so it was not a surprise to us. He says, if Iran gets a bomb, he is getting one too. That is what he said and I don’t blame him. If I were him, I would want one too. I hope he does not get one but am just saying I can understand why he wants one. The Saudis have three or four main conditions before signing an agreement and you brought up one of the biggest ones.
MBS communicated to us that he wants some security. He wants a security arrangement with the United States with a mutual defense pact of some kind. Secondly, he wants a steady supply of weapons and does not want diplomatic spats to interrupt this supply of weapons from the United States. These two conditions require agreement from the US. The third condition relates to domestic nuclear enrichment that you mentioned. The fourth issue is the Palestinian issue which I think came from the US and not the Saudis. As such, I think the Palestinian issue could be dealt with effectively although will see how the war impacts this condition.
I think you highlighted why nuclear enrichment issue is a such a challenge. If Saudi Arabia gets a nuclear program, others such as the Turks and Egyptians will insist on obtaining similar programs. Is it really in our interest for this to happen? Could there be compromises?
I am not an expert on what compromises could be made in this respect. I know that many people are discussing provision of civilian nuclear energy to the Saudis under US control similar to a nuclear Aramco. We should remember however that the Saudis ultimately took over Aramco and we don’t want that happening in the nuclear arena. On the other hand, the Saudis could always negotiate domestic nuclear capabilities with France or China. MBS plays the China card very well and there is no reason he should not work with France or China in this regard. I think the Israelis would prefer that the Saudis do not acquire civilian nuclear capabilities but they are well aware that the Saudis could approach countries like China or France to assist them in meeting their goal in this arena. Dermer has spoken publicly about this. Obviously, an agreement with another country would diminish US control and place their normalization efforts in jeopardy. This would not be a good situation.
Last November, we were in Saudi Arabia, after the OPEC + meeting. At the time, I was sympathetic to the Saudis and thought the administration was completely wrong. I think Biden needs to clearly convey to MBS he is willing to enter into a mutual defense pact. He should convince MBS the pact is sufficient because a nuclear agreement will be a real problem for the US.
Assuming a treaty with nuclear capabilities for Saudi Arabia it is not good enough for MBS, there might be other compromises that could be achieved. As an example, some of the enrichment could be done in the US with the facilities in Saudi Arabia. I do think however, they may be able to purchase enrichment elsewhere and it would be very bizarre if they did so from Russia. I think nuclear experts have been playing with this and there is a possibility it could be resolved. I would strongly prefer that we do not agree to a nuclear program with enrichment in Saudi Arabia. It not just about the Saudis and what happens if MBS gets knocked off, but has proliferation implications as well.
Lauri: You mentioned the mutual defense pact and I want to touch on what that would mean. Are the Saudis looking for an Article Five, NATO type of defense agreement? If such a defense agreement were in place in 2019, would it have deterred the Iranian attack on the Saudi Aramco facility?
Michael: That is an excellent question. The challenge with them is they don’t have a motto of defending themselves by themselves. When we were in Saudi Arabia, they confirmed the US didn’t help them at all when Iran attacked their major energy facility. This surprised me especially when I understood the United States did not even seriously consider retaliating. However, Iran attacked their country. Why didn’t they do anything? Because they were afraid to get their clock cleaned by the Iranians. They are very risk-averse. They have a lot of expensive military toys but they have not known how to use them well. To MBS’s credit, I think they now realize they have to have serious readiness militarily and can no longer just have expensive planes.
I think you asked a very good question relating to what the impact of a signed treaty with Saudi Arabia would have been on Iran’s attack on their Aramco facility. I do not have an answer to this. I doubt the United States would have wanted to be in a position of getting involved with the Houthis in Yemen. I think that the language for Article Five with NATO and all the treaties we have with 52 different countries covers attacks or major attacks. You could argue the 2019 attack of the Aramco facility qualifies as an attack but I have to think that we would want to raise that threshold. I do not think we would want to get involved every time the Saudis get hit. We have to figure out a threshold strong enough to act as a deterrent to Iran, but not low enough to involve us in things we should not be involved in. I do think it would be understandable for something like the Aramco attack, an attack on a very strategic Saudi target, to trigger such a treaty. You could say, perhaps, that lower-level drones would not trigger the treaty. I think they have to distinguish between major strategic targets and threats and lower-level ones.
Lauri: Let us turn to your JINSA report US and Israel Display Combat Capabilities, but Deterrence against Iran still Deficient, issued in late July. The report concluded that while the United States appeared to be trying to increase its deterrent signaling towards Iran, such activities were not enough to convince Iran that America has a willingness to act itself or support Israel in acting against Iran’s nuclear program or regional aggression. Presumably, JINSA drafted its mutual defense pact between US and Israel as a response to the report’s conclusion. Hamas’ war against Israel supports JINSA’s conclusion that America has not sent a clear and unambiguous message to Iran and its proxies that the US stands unconditionally by Israel. I do not believe the Hamas attack would have happened if we had something in place or spoken a little differently before now. I want to quote John Hannah, your JINSA colleague, who stated on a webinar recently, “The United States needs to think big and go big as part of this major geopolitical transformation that we are now engaged in trying to negotiate”. Can you explain to our audience the motivation behind JINSA advancing such a historic and game changing mutual defense pact with Israel. Do you think that US is ready to go big at this stage?
Michael: I think they could go big actually.
The July report you mentioned was our “no daylight” paper. We focused on how the US should respond if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. We argued that the more daylight there is between the US and Israel, the greater the chance Iran would retaliate extensively and intensely to an Israeli attack. We asserted that the more the Iranians see that the US is behind Israel, the more muted would be their response to an Israeli attack. We published this argument in 2018 and again in 2019. It came from a task force of retired US generals and admirals chaired by Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Commander. The idea was there should be a mutual defense pact between the two countries in exceptional circumstances only. In September 2019, we put out a draft treaty about which Bibi and Trump tweeted. It was sidelined because of election related issues Netanyahu was dealing with and because of COVID. Once we knew that Netanyahu was coming back to power and Dermer was to be part of the government, we started working on documenting an updated treaty. We knew Dermer was very supportive of this treaty. We think the Ukraine War shows that a treaty aligning with the United States still has a lot of importance even though American credibility is relatively low today.
The value of such a treaty is illustrated by how much Sweden and Finland wanted to get into NATO after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Russia has not touched any NATO countries. We believe treaty alliances contribute majorly to stability from a US perspective as well. As I said, we have treaty alliances with 52 other countries. None of these countries are in the Middle East, probably the most volatile region in the world. Israel wants so defend itself by itself. This treaty alliance would trigger only in exceptional circumstances when Israel’s very existence is threatened. We think the US has a very important obligation to supply Israel with weapons and allow them to defend themselves by themselves. The treaty would never have to be triggered. However, the treaty would be activated if Israel is threatened by weapons of mass destruction or if its existence is threatened. We believe the treaty would act as a deterrence to Iran. Maybe that is what you were referring to. Certainly, on the nuclear side, this treaty might prevent them from actually crossing the nuclear threshold. We think the Iranians are very keen on ascertaining whether there is daylight between Israel and the United States. Again, the more daylight they perceive, the more aggressive they’re going to be. In a worst-case scenario, if Iran threatens Israel’s existence, we think such a treaty could be an extra layer of deterrence.
We think a treaty would elevate the bilateral US-Israel security relationship for decades. We included it a 25-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as part of the treaty. The current MOU, an MOU for defense assistance between the two countries, expires in five years. We have language in the proposed treaty that would guarantee the US provides weapons to Israel together with a US stockpile. We have been arguing for this stockpile for years and it would have been nice if there already. The stockpile has been depleted and we have been arguing for replenishment for a long time.
I would like to go back to your mention about my colleague John Hannah’s idea about going big. If the US was going sign a treaty alliance with Saudi, we think they would then have a second pillar and that would be a treaty alliance with Israel. We think that could help create a security architecture very favorable to the United States. This administration has been very receptive to this idea but have not said yes yet. It was reported this was discussed by Biden and Netanyahu when they met in New York during UN week. Biden was openminded and I believe it was moving forward as still is. I think the US saw this treaty it as part of a Saudi normalization. Senate confirmation would be required for both treaties. We think if the Saudi and Israeli treaties were presented as a package bringing peace to the region, more Republicans and Democrats would support both treaties.
Because of the number of votes needed in the Senate to confirm each treaty (67), you need support from both parties. It is likely more Republicans than Democrats would support a treaty with Israel although more Democrats would probably support a treaty with Israel than they would with the Saudis. The treaties are also likely to secure more support from Democrats since they would be presented by a Democratic president. I felt there was a great moment for these treaties before the war started and I still think it is possible even if it gets delayed.
Lauri: Do you think that this war maybe would make the Biden administration more inclined to support something like this? I believe wholeheartedly that you have to cut the serpent’s head off, which means go after Iran. I am assuming Israel is able to defeat Hamas, but do they have to turn to Iran and cut the serpent’s head off thereafter. Given the atrocities we have seen, would the US support such an action with or without this treaty?
Michael: The resistance to a treaty has been the military leadership. The current Israeli prime minister has wanted such a treaty with the United States since early in the existence of Israel. My understanding is that Israeli military leadership has resisted the idea of a treaty because it could tie their hands. On the US side, the resistance stems from the concern it will give Israel a blank check to attack Iran. We don’t think it will tie Israel’s hands nor do we think it would be a blank check but it could require more consulting between the two countries. First of all, in our view, a war with Hamas would not trigger the treaty at all. I do not even think a war with Hezbollah would.
Your question relating to hitting the head of the snake, is a good one. The Israeli government has two major considerations now. The first is to consider whether they really want a ground war in Gaza when they have been averse to such a thing historically. The second is to determine what they should do about Iran. How could they not do something with Iran appears so involved in this. Even though we do not know exactly how much involvement Iran had, we know it appears significant. There’s another option. Israel could go after Hezbollah. This option would also hurt the Iranians. I think they have to do something against the Iranians at some point, be it now or later. Let us say, for the sake of argument, they go in to Gaza with ground forces as expected and thereafter pivot to the north so as to avoid a war on two fronts. The fear, in this case, is that a ground war in Gaza could bog them down for a while and cause a lot of IDF casualties. Actually, one could argue, this is that what the Iranians really want. Don’t they want Israel to go in like that?
I don’t know. I think they have to deal, as you say, with the head of the snake. I believe they are going to have no choice but to attack Iran nuclear facilities at some point. I think their biggest challenge today is restoring deterrence. They have been humiliated. This has been a disaster. It is inconceivable to any Israeli, to anyone in the region, to any of us. How could a multitude of Hamas terrorists come in and kill Jews and non-Jews in cold-blood. We all know the extent of the atrocities so I won’t go into it but it is just awful. The IDF has to restore deterrence, I think what they do must be guided by that and I think they know it. If restoring deterrence in their view, requires them to go in with ground troops to destroy Hamas, that is what they’re going to do. I am worried about them getting bogged down there because I agree with you, they are going to have to turn North at some point to Hezbollah and Iran. I don’t think they could allow the Iranians to keep doing this. The question is what the appropriate timing is. They are going to have to do something against the Iranians and I think they’re going to have to do something to their nuclear program as well.
Lauri: Michael, I can’t thank you enough. I know you’re quite busy in the midst of all of the horrific stuff going on right now. I thank you all for your support of EMET. Please continue your support. We could not do this work without you. Please share the word about the work that both EMET and JINSA do. Everybody say a prayer for the peace and safety of all the people in Israel under attack in an horrific way right now. Thank you. I wish everybody a good afternoon.
Michael: Thank you for having me. Thank you. Bye.
 Aramco is the Saudi state-owned petroleum and gas company. The origins of Aramco began when Standard Oil of California set up a new overseas exploration unit after signing a concession agreement with Saudi Arabia in 1933. By the 1950s, Aramco was owned by four shareholder companies and based in New York. In addition to Standard Oil of California, the shareholders were Texaco, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and Socony Vacuum (now Mobil). In 1952, Aramco’s headquarters moved from New York to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Later, the government began a gradual buyout of Aramco’s assets that was completed in 1980
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