When the White House announced late last week that President Obama would cancel his plans to visit the Taj Mahal during his trip to India and instead fly to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to pay his respects to the late Saudi monarch, it meant only one thing: Washington has very deep ties to Saudi Arabia -- including one that will mark 70 years next month.
Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of the United States, thanks to oil and regional politics, and since the end of World War II, U.S. presidents and Saudi kings have met on several occasions.
From Franklin Roosevelt's first meeting with King Ibn Saud to Obama's current trip to meet new King Salman, we've compiled a list of meetings between American presidents and Saudi kings.
1945: President Franklin D. Roosevelt meets King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud
As my colleague Adam Taylor explains, this was the first time a sitting U.S. president met the king of Saudi Arabia. Following the Yalta Conference in 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud met on board the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake north of the city of Suez on Feb. 14 and visited for several days.
1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower meets King Saud bin Abdulaziz
King Saud bin Abdulziz's trip to Washington was the first visit by a ruling Saudi king to the United States. During the three-day meeting, Eisenhower and the Saudi king discussed the need to settle the problems in the Middle East within the framework provided by the United Nations. But the most important thing to come out of this visit would be the U.S. commitment to strengthening the Saudi armed forces, as well as the Saudi reassurance on allowing the United States to continue to use facilities at the Dhahran Airfield.
1962: President John F. Kennedy meets King Saud bin Abdulaziz
After a surgery in 1962, the Saudi king decided spend his time at his 18-room oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach. President John F. Kennedy flew down to Florida to visit the king and wish him a speedy recovery. Among other things, Kennedy is said to have discussed proposals for reform in Saudi Arabia, including the abolition of slavery.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson meets King Faisal bin Abdulaziz
King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, who issued a decree for the abolition of slavery after discussions with Kennedy, visited Washington in 1966. "We are living in a world of change, but we, like you, favor change by peaceful methods," President Lyndon B. Johnson said as he welcomed the king at the White House.
1971: President Richard Nixon meets King Faisal bin Abdulaziz
King Faisal visited Washington a second time during his reign, this time to meet President Richard Nixon. The meeting took place as tensions were simmering in the Middle East following Israel's decision to fortify its positions in the Suez Canal.
1974: President Nixon meets King Faisal
Perhaps no other U.S. president made the importance of the nation's relationship with Saudi Arabia more blatantly obvious than did Nixon when he visited the kingdom in 1974. King Faisal, unhappy with Western support for Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, had decided to withdraw Saudi oil from the world markets, which raised the price of oil drastically. The king made his views clear as he said during his remarks that a real and lasting peace in the Middle East would never be possible unless Jerusalem is liberated and returned to Arab sovereignty.
Nixon stressed the importance of diplomacy and said that while the United States will most treasure the wisdom it gained during the visit, "We, of course, will need the oil to carry us to our next stop."
1978: President Jimmy Carter meets King Khalid bin Abdulaziz
King Khalid bin Abdulaziz, who had a history of heart attack, visited the United States for bypass surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in 1978. Afterward, President Jimmy Carter invited the king for lunch at the White House. During the visit Carter explained the status and details of the Camp David accords to the king.
1985: President Ronald Reagan meets King Fahd bin Abdulaziz
Four years after meeting Fahd bin Abdulaziz in Mexico while he was still the crown prince, President Ronald Reagan invited King Fahd to Washington. During the visit, Reagan urged the king to use the kingdom's influence to bring about direct negotiation between the Arabs and the Israelis. The king, in addition to discussing politics, talked with Reagan about the rise of soccer in the kingdom and about his princes who were studying in the United States.
1990: President George H.W. Bush meets King Fahd bin Abdulaziz
In August 1990, after seeing the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait as an imminent danger to his kingdom, King Fahd gave the United States the go-ahead to deploy its troops inside Saudi Arabia. By the time President George H.W. Bush met with King Fahd in Jeddah in November, there were 230,000 U.S. troops inside the country. After the brief meeting, the king said that he and Bush had agreed that the American forces would leave immediately once the crisis was resolved or at the request of the Saudi government.
1994: President Bill Clinton meets King Fahd bin Abdulaziz
Months after announcing that Saudi Arabia would spend $6 billion to replace its fleet of commercial jets with American planes, President Bill Clinton traveled to Riyadh to meet with King Fahd. Clinton asked the Saudi king to award a lucrative contract to AT&T, as the kingdom planned to modernize its aging telecommunications system. AT&T was soon awarded the $4 billion contract.
(Note: In 1998, after King Fahd had a stroke, Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who was next in line to the throne and had assumed all duties of the king, visited Washington to meet with Clinton.)
2008: President George W. Bush meets King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
President George W. Bush had met with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz twice while he was still the crown prince and assuming the duties of King Fahd. He had traveled to Texas in 2002 and 2005. Bush's relationship with the Saudi king became the subject of debate and discussion throughout his presidency. During his trip to Riyadh in 2008, Bush launched a rare round of personal diplomacy, all in an effort to garner support for U.S. objectives in the Middle East. Bush also said he would personally ask the king to consider dropping the price of oil.
2009: President Obama meets King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
President Obama visited Saudi Arabia -- calling it "the place where Islam began" -- as he embarked on a tour of the Middle East in 2009, aiming to bridge the gap between America and the Islamic world. The two men met at the king's farm in Jenadriyah, where they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ongoing tensions with Iran surrounding its nuclear program.
2015: President Obama meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz
President Obama arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to meet with the new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, and offer condolences to late King Abdullah's family. The visit also comes as the kingdom itself is grappling with the rise of the Islamic State in neighboring Iraq and the collapse of the government in neighboring Yemen. Obama is also expected to raise the issue of human rights, which has made recent headlines after the sentencing of a blogger in Saudi Arabia to 10 years and 1,000 lashes.
Read our related stories on Saudi Arabia