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Trump Greets Visiting Saudi Prince

Trump Greets Visiting Saudi Prince thumbnail

President Donald Trump welcomed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Oval Office on Tuesday by showcasing photographs of tanks and helicopters that the U.S. has sold the Middle East kingdom to help it build up its military muscle.

Across town, senators debating a contentious proposal meant to curb American military support for Saudi Arabia were shown a sobering image of a Yemeni toddler injured by an airstrike, one victim of Riyadh’s protracted war against Iran-backed militants.

The dissonant images captured the state of relations between Washington and Riyadh as the two countries confront obstacles to their efforts to strengthen ties and agree on new steps to counter Iran.

The White House meeting marked the start of Prince Mohammed’s 2½-week visit to the U.S., where he is looking to win more political, diplomatic, military and economic support from Washington.

The 32-year-old Saudi royal has positioned himself as a reformer who has moved to ease widely criticized restrictions on women, clamp down on religious extremism, and promote a more liberal social agenda.

The Trump administration has strongly backed those moves as it tries to make U.S.-Saudi relations a cornerstone of its Middle East strategy. U.S. officials have said Prince Mohammed’s reform agenda will be key to the country’s efforts to draw more investment as it overhauls its oil-based economy.

“The relationship now is probably as good as it’s really ever been, and I think will probably only get better,” Mr. Trump said before the meeting. “We understand each other. Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world, there’s nobody even close.”

Mr. Trump lauded Saudi Arabia’s decision to buy billions in U.S. military equipment and expressed hope that Riyadh would spend billions more on America’s defense industry.

But the visit is being shadowed by the kingdom’s foreign-policy moves, including its war in Yemen, where the United Nations says thousands of civilians have been killed by Saudi-led airstrikes.

Lawmakers raised concerns about the war with Prince Mohammed before he met with Mr. Trump, said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.).

“We strongly, strongly pushed back on what is happening right now in Yemen and asked them to take strong corrective actions,” Mr. Corker said during the Senate floor debate.

In meetings with U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, Saudi officials defended their campaign in Yemen and framed it as part of the country’s protracted battle with Iran.

Iran is backing Yemen’s Houthi militants, who have fired ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia, creating increasing concerns about the flow of advanced weapons into the country.

The U.S. provides Saudi Arabia with precision-guided weapons being used in Yemen. American planes refuel the jets that carry out the airstrikes. And American military officials advise the Saudis on ways to try to reduce civilian casualties.

Sens. Mike Lee, (R., Utah), Bernie Sanders, (I-Vermont), and Chris Murphy, (D-Conn.), joined forces to push a resolution meant to cut off the U.S. support by arguing that America shouldn’t provide help without explicit support from Congress.

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The Pentagon strongly opposed the proposal, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with Republican lawmakers before the vote to personally urge them to reject the resolution. After hours of debate, the Senate voted to shelve the measure on a procedural move.

While lawmakers argued over the proposal, Mr. Trump said it was a great honor to welcome Prince Mohammed to the White House and praised his father for paving the way for the young prince to take over the country.

“One thing you have been really focused on is the terrorism threat,” Mr. Trump told the crown prince. “We have a zero tolerance for the funding of terrorism. Saudi Arabia has been working very hard on that.”

The president said a series of meetings he held with Middle Eastern leaders in Saudi Arabia last spring was “one of the most incredible two-day meetings that I’ve ever seen.”

This is the crown prince’s first trip to the U.S. since he became heir to the throne in June, an episode that ushered in a period of chaos in the kingdom. In November, he directed a far-reaching corruption crackdown that targeted hundreds of people—among them princes, officials and prominent businessmen—rattling the royal family and spooking global investors.

Many of the accused were released after reaching undisclosed cash settlements with the government.

Reassuring the business community and strengthening economic ties is a key goal of the Saudi royal’s U.S. tour.

The U.S. is hoping to secure up to $35 billion in new business deals with Saudi Arabia as Prince Mohammed travels to New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Seattle and Houston to discuss new ventures. Meetings with executives from Google LLC, Apple Inc. and Lockheed Martin are among those on the agenda.

U.S. and Saudi officials are expected to follow up on the status of possible business deals worth hundreds of billions—including $100 billion in arms sales alone—that were touted by both countries during Mr. Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year.

The U.S. also sees Prince Mohammed as a key ally in its bid to bridge differences between Israel and the Palestinians. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser whom the president has charged with restarting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, views Prince Mohammed as an ally who can influence the Palestinians and bring them to the table.

U.S. officials also are also trying to forge a deal to end a regional crisis pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia and its allies in hopes of reuniting the Gulf nations in an important regional alliance. But Saudi officials have indicated this isn’t a priority for them, rejecting Washington’s mediation.

On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir dismissed critics who say his country is killing civilians and stoking a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

A big focus of Prince Mohammed’s trip will be to try to fix Saudi Arabia’s image problem that never fully recovered from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which were carried out mostly by Saudi citizens.

Another topic on the agenda is Saudi Arabia’s desire to purchase nuclear reactors. The Trump administration has been eager to secure the sale, which would be worth billions of dollars.

But Congress must review any accord that transfers U.S. nuclear technology. To block such an agreement, both the Senate and House must vote against it.

Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, and Brad Sherman, D-Ca, warned Tuesday in a letter to the Energy and State Departments that they may introduce a resolution of disapproval unless the Saudis are precluded from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium, two essential steps in developing nuclear weapons.

Saudi officials have indicated they will not agree to such tough measures, citing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium under the 2015 Iran agreement.


7 Comments on "Trump Greets Visiting Saudi Prince"

  1. JuanP on Wed, 21st Mar 2018 6:38 pm 

    I believe MbS will be the ruin of his kingdom. He is like an arab male Hillary. An antisocial delusional narcissistic psychopath. We all know KSA’s future is grim. Few places in the world are as overpopulated as it is. They will end up with nothing but sand, concrete, salt water and millions of people. Not a good combo.

  2. GregT on Wed, 21st Mar 2018 11:45 pm 

    No doubt, Netanyahu made a special guest appearance via uber encrypted satellite link. It’s only a matter of time before Iran becomes the next target for destabilization, err, sorry, liberation, freedom, peace, and demokracy.

  3. GregT on Wed, 21st Mar 2018 11:52 pm 

    Forgot Justice. With a capital ‘J’.

  4. deadly on Thu, 22nd Mar 2018 4:11 am 

    Trump should have had him arrested,placed under house arrest, taken his billions and forced him to abdicate the Saudi throne.

    A taste of the medicine.

  5. BobInget on Thu, 22nd Mar 2018 11:14 am 

    US has been held hostage to KSA oil for the last
    four presidents. W/O Saudi oil US economy crashes… period. Trump buys the shale myth, we shouldn’t.

    Off topic:
    The Times reported that Dowd had thought about resigning multiple times in the past, as he felt Trump was not listening to his advice.
    Trump tweeted earlier this month that he was very happy with his lawyers, including Dowd.

    Oh, Dowd quit. “Trump won’t listen”
    In reality, Trump CAN’T listen.

    “The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job,” Trump said in the tweet.

  6. BobInget on Thu, 22nd Mar 2018 12:46 pm 

    Were it not for Trump’s and Netanyahu’s ‘legal difficulties’ we would already be at war with Iran.

    For the present US needs to be content with a Yemen genocide. At almost no US risk we get to
    kill off tens of thousands of Iranian allies. (just to keep that Saudi Oil coming).

  7. BobInget on Thu, 22nd Mar 2018 1:14 pm

    Those ‘cuts’ will be automatic. I need to repeat,
    Venezuela will be trading on the Chinese Exchanges, in yuan.
    If USD keeps losing value, Ecuador, Panama, may switch to yuan as well.

    Mike Santoli

    “Remember a tariff is an extremely inelegant tax. It’s like trying to kill a fly on your desk with an anvil. You might kill the fly but you usually end up totaling the desk and damaging the floor.

    China is starting CNY/Oil contract this Sunday night. The ultimate goal could be damaging the USD hegemony”.

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