Despite fundamentally disagreeing on a multitude of issues -- from human rights to intervention in Yemen and Syria -- the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long been allies. It is strategic friendship -- Saudi Arabia is, after all, the world's largest oil exporter.
But as President Obama touches down in the Middle East kingdom on April 20, 2016, a bill on the floor of the Senate is creating new tension between the two nations ...
The 28 pages
U.S. officials and the families of numerous 9/11 victims are now calling for 28 top-secret pages of a congressional report on the attacks to be released. The pages contain details about a possible Saudi support network for the hijackers while they were in the U.S. What's more, the Senate is considering a bill, which would make it possible for Saudi interests to be held accountable in U.S. court for any role they may have played.
If that shocks you, these 15 outrageous facts about Saudi Arabia likely will as well ...
15. Gender lines
Public spaces in Saudi Arabia are so segregated by gender that, in February 2016, when a wall to separate men from women was temporarily taken down in the Riyadh Starbucks, women were banned entirely from entering the establishment. Instead, a sign informed them to send their drivers in to order beverages in their place.
14. Driving Miss Saudi
For decades, Saudi women have been prohibited from driving cars, due to the kingdom's strict version of Sunni Islam. However, the ultra-conservative kingdom announced on September 26, 2017 that women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive for the first time in the summer of 2018.
Here, Saudi women get into the back seat of a car in Riyadh on June 14, 2011, three days before a nationwide protest against a driving ban.
13. Young prince in charge
When his father ascended to the Saudi throne in 2015, 30-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman stepped into a position of almost unrivaled power. He is now the youngest Defense Minister in the world, in addition to serving as the chief of the House of Saud royal court and the chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.
Second in line to the throne, many believe the young, outspoken prince is the one really calling the shots ... especially when it comes to oil.
12. The bin Laden family is huge there
The family of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden runs a multinational construction conglomerate, called the Saudi Binladen Group, headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. As such, they are prominent members of the community. In fact, in 2011, the group signed a $1.23 billion contract with a Saudi Prince to build the Jeddah Tower, what will be the tallest building in the world.
11. Saving bin Ladens
Just days after 9/11, two dozen members of Osama bin Laden's family were evacuated out of the U.S. on private charter planes.
King Fahd, the ailing Saudi ruler at the time, sent an urgent message to his embassy in Washington pointing out that there were "bin Laden children all over America" and ordered that they "take measures to protect the innocents."
10. A different kind of justice
Judges in Saudi Arabia have total power over sentencing because there is no legal code and, thus, no clear way for convicted criminals to appeal. Individual judges simply dole out punishments based on their own interpretations of the Islamic scriptures, and for the most part, those punishments stand.
9. The punishment for the crime
In Saudi Arabia, if you are convicted of a crime, your punishment is often extreme. If you are caught committing adultery, for example, you may be sentenced to death by stoning.
If you are caught having premarital sex, you will likely receive prison time and a number of lashings. And for people caught stealing, it is not uncommon for thieves to have their feet and/or hands chopped off.
8. Flogging for blogging
In 2015, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for calling for free speech on his blog.
Here, a cyclist passes as activists demonstrate against the verdict outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin, Germany. The court accused Badawi of insulting Islam in an Internet forum.
Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to travel anywhere in public without a male chaperone, despite the fact that critics all over the world insist that sort of thing is not mandated by Islam.
6. Swimming in royalty
There are more than 7,000 princes in the royal family, all of whom are guaranteed prestigious jobs, essentially blocking other qualified candidates from good positions.
5. No fitting rooms
Saudi women are not allowed to try on clothes while shopping. The thought of them disrobing, even behind a fitting room door, is considered improper.
4. Exporting fundamentalism
When CBSN traveled to Brussels in March 2016 to investigate how terror is so easily bred in that country, numerous experts pointed to the influence of Saudi Arabia.
"When Belgium officially recognized Islam as a religion in 1974, they gave the great mosque in Brussels to Saudi Arabia," explains Michael Privot, Director of the European Network Against Racism. "[They have] been managing it for over 40 years, disseminating books with their version of Islam, Qurans with their own translations; sending young guys from [Brussels] to Medina to the learn the Salafi version of Islam, come back and spread the message here."
Exporting fundamentalism (cont.)
After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, however, Privot says members of Belgium's progressive party have started to demand change.
"The different parties now say, 'Well, actually, no. It is bad for business interests with Saudi Arabia,'" continues Privot. "And now you are like, 'Really? You see the price of those business interests. Do the benefits really outweigh the costs?'"
3. No women among the dead
As part of one of the kingdom's most unusual bans, women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited from entering cemeteries.
2. Coming out could get you killed
Homosexual men and women have been thrown in jail for years, under the guise of crimes like sodomy and dressing like the opposite sex. In March 2016, however, the situation got even scarier for the LGBTQ community in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi newspaper, called Oraz, reported that prosecutors in the city of Jeddah have now proposed the death penalty for people who come out publicly as gay.
A spokesperson for the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told the Washington Blade at the time that the U.S. is "aware of these reports, but cannot verify their accuracy."
1. All testimonies are not equal
According to the U.S. State Department, "A woman's testimony does not carry the same weight as that of a man. In a Shari'a court, the testimony of one man equals that of two women. Under the Hanbali interpretation of Shari'a law, judges may discount the testimony of persons who are not practicing Muslims or who do not adhere to the correct doctrine."
So, if you're a woman, your testimony means half that of a man. And if you're not a Muslim, it's quite possible that your testimony in court means nothing at all.