1. A few weeks after Stalin's armies liberated Auschwitz and exposed its horrors to the world, FDR and Saudi Arabia's founder Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a heroic warrior, held a clandestine, fateful first meeting, aboard a US Navy Destroyer in the Suez Canal, on Valentine's Day, 1945.
2. The principal reason for the meeting, which lasted several hours had to do with the prospect of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East, with Roosevelt trying to persuade the king, widely regarded as a key leader of the Arab world, to accept 10,000 Jews in Palestine.
3. Their meeting was secret because the war was still going on and FDR had pledged to England’s Winston Churchill that the United States would not intervene in territory controlled by the British (who had the Mandate over Palestine). FDR had another item on the agenda: Oil.
4. In the late 1930s, U.S. oil companies had discovered enormous volumes of oil in the eastern part of the Saudi kingdom. Geologic analyses showed that the entire center of gravity in world oil production/supply would soon shift to the Persian Gulf, to Saudi Arabia in particular.
5. FDR's Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, saw Saudi oil and the national security/welfare of the U.S. as umbilically linked and even proposed that the federal government establish direct control over all oil resources owned by American companies in Saudi Arabia.
6. To keep the British from taking control of Saudi oil, Roosevelt charmed the Saudi king, presenting him with a wheelchair and a DC-3 plane to ensure that Saudi oil would serve U.S. national interests long-term, particularly U.S. plans to build out the interstate highway system.
7. The king, in turn, gave the president gifts, including a diamond-encrusted dagger, perfumes, pearl jewelry, belts of woven gold thread and embroidered traditional costumes. FDR would pass away just eight weeks after that fateful meeting.
8. The king famously said that he and FDR were ‘twins’ of a sort—roughly the same age, both heads of state with grave responsibilities, both farmers at heart, stricken with physical infirmities, as FDR was in a wheelchair and the king walked with much pain due to war wounds.
9. Despite the personal good will, however, FDR failed in persuading Abdulaziz that Palestine should be a Jewish homeland. The king’s position was that Germans should be made to give up territory. They were the aggressors and had committed the crimes against the Jews.”
10. But FDR scored a major win on the oil front: Britain would not gain control over the gigantic and cheaply extracted oil reserves under the Saudi desert.
When Abdulaziz gave tours of his palace to friends, he would point out FDR's wheelchair as his most favorite possession.
On Aug. 10, 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt went to bed an athletic 39-year-old preparing to run for president in three years’ time. He woke up paralyzed. 11 years and a governorship under his belt later, he won the White House.
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