On June 12th, 2017, the US senate after some internal political posturing, endorsed US President Trump’s $460 billion deal with Saudi Arabia. Despite some voices in the US attempting to play down the deal as more of an intent than actual substance, the reality is that the deal as with other former deals will follow through as it constitutes the monarchy’s insurance premium for the protection of its institution and power. This article will argue that Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia was predicated on resuscitating a faltering US economy, a key component of his presidential campaign. Regional security issues remained periphery to this objective.
US President Trump arrived in Riyadh on 20th May 2017, amidst large scale media promotion, amongst both the American and Arabic-speaking channels. The visit war portrayed as being conciliatory with the Muslim world, and Trump’s meetings with the Saudis bore a great warmth that was absent from his predecessor Barack Obama. Words of admiration and praise of Saudi Arabia, its king and leaders was rarely heard from any former American president. Trump began his visit with a summit with the King Salman, followed the next day with another summit with the kings and Emirs of the six Gulf States. On the same day, he held a summit with leaders of 55 Islamic countries, which was more like a lecture, in addition to holding some bilateral meetings. From these meetings, it was agreed that a global centre to counter extremist thought would be established in Riyadh in close partnership with the United States which according to the final communiqué of the Summit termed the “Riyadh Declaration” was to confront (extremism and terrorism). The Riyadh Declaration also included a declaration of intent to establish the Strategic Middle East Alliance in Riyadh according to which: ‘… a number of States will participate in it to contribute to the achievement of peace and security in the region and the world’, with its establishment being completed in 2018.
Despite these meetings, and the importance of this centre and the alliance, the real aim for Trump was the economic deal with Saudi Arabia, because at stake is the US economy after a series of crises and shocks. Hence, despite its global position, treatment of its astronomical debts and the necessity to push economic growth became a vital issue, especially with the continued rise of the Chinese economy. Economic issues have become a top priority for successive American presidents, and a motivation to seek growth more rapidly than ever, particularly in their foreign economic policies. Trump won the presidential election in late 2016 with most of the slogans based on the economy, providing jobs for Americans and reviving the American economy by encouraging American companies to return to America, and by making the world pay “royalties” for US protection. What encouraged the Republican Party to accept his candidacy for the presidency was his successful business background, he is the man of commercial deals. For instance, during Merkel’s visit to Washington on the 17th March 2017, he demanded Germany pay billions of dollars retroactively for the American protection of Germany after World War II, and on the 28th April 2017, demanded South Korea pay one billion dollars for the installation of the American anti-missile system, Thaad, which the US military set up after North Korea’s missile tests and the ensuing tension. Germany vehemently refused to be financially indebted to America for her US military presence, and South Korea refused to bear the price of setting up the Thad. The American approach to international financial “royalties” has failed in many parts of the world, but it has been very successful in Saudi Arabia, followed by the Gulf states, demonstrable in the astronomical deals signed by Trump with Saudi Arabia.
The success of America’s policy towards “royalties” has emerged in Saudi Arabia by signing the largest arms deals in history. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and US President Donald Trump signed several co-operation agreements. The White House announced the signing of the military co-operation agreements with Riyadh amounting to $460 billion dollars The Saudi minister of trade Majid Al-Qasabi said that his country had granted licenses to invest in Saudi Arabia to 23 of the largest American companies. Al-Jazeera’s reporter in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia and the United States signed defence agreements worth $ 460 billion, of which $ 110 billion were previous military deals, under which Washington will hand over weapons immediately to the Saudi side, plus defence cooperation deals worth $ 350 billion over a decade. Because of the deals, major US stock market indexes Dow Jones, Standard & Poor’s and Nasdaq have rocketed, fulfilling Trump’s key election pledges of delivering American jobs and providing funds for the US economy. In view of these deals Saudi Arabia will now thrust into the American arms factories a large proportion state revenue annually over a ten-year period (actual revenues of Saudi Arabia in 2016 were 528 billion -140 billion dollars) (Al-Arabiya.net 22/12/2016). Consequently, through the Saudi monarchy, Trump’s administration found the answer to the US financial problem.
As for the Gulf rulers, America wants to contain them, despite its knowledge of their loyalty to Britain. This is through linking them to American arms deals, and more US intervention in these countries under the pretext of an Iranian threat. Trump mentioned in his speech: “Qatar, which hosts the US Central Command, is a strategic crucial partner. Our continued long-term partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain will enhance security in the region … the United Arab Emirates participated in the battle for hearts and minds, and launched with the US a centre to counter the spread of hate on the Internet. Bahrain also works to undermine recruitment and extremism.” (CNN/Arabic 21/05/2017)
Trump said that the United States and Qatar discussed a new US arms deal. According to the Associated Press, “The US president said he and the Emir of Qatar have discussed buying “a lot of beautiful military equipment”. Trump and Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, met in Riyadh in bilateral talks on the side-lines of the American Islamic Summit with the US President stating that “no one makes better weapons than America” and pointed out that the deal “will provide jobs for the United States and increase Qatar’s security force…” (Dot Masr 21/5/2017).
America’s policy in reducing the Iranian threat to the countries of the region is by uttering comforting words against Iran and trapping them in America’s vice through arms deals, military bases and facilities, all with Gulf funding, without her having to take any significant step against Iran. This because America still relies on Iran to crush the revolution in Syria, and continues to rely on it as in the era of Obama to arm the Houthis in Yemen, and not to undermine its influence in Iraq and Lebanon. In his speech in Riyadh, President Trump mentioned the Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and then praised the Lebanese army, which provides the full cover to Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, and fights with it against the Syrian revolutionaries.
Copyright © LCIR 2017