President Donald Trump said the king of Saudi Arabia may not last two weeks without U.S. support, escalating pressure on one of his closest Arab allies to curb rising oil prices and pay for military protection.
“How about our military deals where we protect rich nations that we don’t get reimbursed?” Trump told a campaign rally in the U.S. state of Mississippi on Tuesday night. “I love the king, King Salman, but I said, ‘King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, you have to pay.’'
As oil prices have risen above $80 a barrel, Trump has heaped more pressure on the world’s top exporter of crude to do more to subdue the market and reimburse the costs of American military presence in the region. While the kingdom’s ties with the U.S. have improved under Trump, Tuesday’s remarks were unusually harsh and appeared to question the stability of a monarchy in power since the 1930s.
Trump did not elaborate further on the conversation but appeared to be referring to a telephone call he had on Saturday with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported that the pair discussed efforts to maintain supplies to ensure the stability of the oil market and the growth of the global economy. The White House said Trump and the king spoke on “issues of regional concern.”
The call grabbed the attention of oil traders and hedge funds, who are watching closely for any signs that the U.S. might take action against Saudi Arabia or other members of OPEC after Trump used his address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25 to hammer home those views.
Since winning the White House, Trump has shaken the foundations of America’s post-World War II alliances, questioning the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pulling out of a nuclear accord with Iran that European powers helped negotiate and saying in the midst of a trade war that the European Union was a “foe”.
Saudi Arabia has long been a major buyer of U.S. weaponry, spending billions of dollars on advanced systems, a point Trump was keen to make when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited the White House in March. Some of those deals have come with significant discounts, however, prompting public scrutiny.
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