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With that knowledge, the administration hatched an unprecedented do-or-die plan that would come to influence just about every aspect of US-Saudi relations over the next four decades (Mr Simon died in 2000 at the age of 72). The US would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment.
In return, the Saudis would plough billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.
But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.” Yet back in 1974, forging that relationship (and the secrecy that it required) was a no-brainer, according to Mr Parsky, who is now chairman of Aurora Capital Group, a private equity firm in Los Angeles.
Many of America’s allies, including the UK and Japan, were also deeply dependent on Saudi oil and quietly vying to get the kingdom to reinvest money back into their own economies.
The US shale boom has also made America far less reliant on Saudi oil.
“Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the US,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.
was trying to get their fingers in the Saudis’ pockets,” said Gordon S.
Brown, an economic officer with the State Department at the US embassy in Riyadh from 1976 to 1978.
The bill, which passed the Senate on 17 May, is now in the House of Representatives. The goal: neutralise crude oil as an economic weapon and find a way to persuade a hostile kingdom to finance America’s widening deficit with its newfound petrodollar wealth. A steady predawn drizzle had given way to overcast skies when William Simon, newly appointed US Treasury secretary, and his deputy, Gerry Parsky, stepped onto an 8am flight from Andrews Air Force Base. But the real mission, kept in strict confidence within President Richard Nixon’s inner circle, would take place during a four-day layover in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.With a handful of Treasury and Federal Reserve officials, the secret was kept for more than four decades In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Bloomberg News, the Treasury broke out Saudi Arabia’s holdings for the first time this month after “concluding that it was consistent with transparency and the law to disclose the data,” according to spokeswoman Whitney Smith.
The 7bn (£81m) trove makes the kingdom one of America’s largest foreign creditors.
In the past year alone, the monetary authority has burned through 1 billion of reserves to plug its biggest budget deficit in a quarter-century, pay for costly wars to defeat the Islamic State, and wage proxy campaigns against Iran.