It has become routine for President Donald Trump to use the populist atmosphere that surrounds Republican Party rallies ahead of the midterm congressional elections to brag about the achievements of his administration, claiming that economic growth, poverty reduction and job creation are unprecedented in U.S. history. Similarly, it has become familiar for President Trump to boast about the enormous sums of money his policies have brought into the U.S. Treasury, whether through imposing customs duties, decreasing American contributions to international organizations or forcing certain “allies” to repay America for guaranteeing their security.
In this respect, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become a favorite target of Trump in terms of financial obligations, which are not only fueling the American military industry by way of arms contracts worth tens of billions of dollars, but also by providing direct support for the White House’s political projects in the region, such as funding the “deal of the century.”* In this context, the American president is no longer concerned with even a minimum of tact in international communication. He has started using a language which blends insult, ridicule, blackmail and threat in public.
In May 2017, during his trip to Riyadh, Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud signed arms contracts valued at $110 billion. However, Trump was not satisfied. Instead, he had to exploit the agreement politically and in the media while hosting Deputy Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman in March 2018. During a scene worthy of the theatre of the absurd, Trump presented charts explaining the contract details. He placed one chart showing $525 million, in front of bin Salman, saying “That’s peanuts for you.”
Recently, during an election rally in the state of Virginia, Trump directed a new batch of insults toward Saudi Arabia when he announced to throngs of his supporters, “I love Saudi Arabia. They are great, King Salman, I spoke with him this morning. I said, king, you have got trillions of dollars. Without us, who knows what’s going to happen. With us they are totally safe.” Thus, it is necessary to pay not only through military procurements or by funding policies, but also by way of oil. That means forcing the kingdom to break up OPEC and pacify the markets by lowering crude oil prices through the production of 500,000 additional barrels of oil per day. That was the implicit threat that Trump made days earlier during his speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly.
During his presidential campaign, candidate Trump chose to describe the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a “milk cow” that will be led to slaughter when its milk runs out. After his election, Trump has not stopped calling for more “milk” from this cow, as if he intends to drain Saudi Arabia before his first term ends. To be fair, Trump is not the first American president to rely on this approach. His predecessor, Barack Obama, pushed Riyadh to sign contracts valued at $115 billion between 2011 and 2015, which meant the kingdom accounted for 10 percent of the total sales of American weapons. The kingdom has brought this upon itself: He who humiliates himself accepts humiliation.
*Editor’s note: The “deal of the century” is a reference to Donald Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan.