28.11.2016 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Saudi Arabia and Future Plans of Donald Trump

2342342342323Using the opulent Arabic language, one can say, “A dense fog of uncertainty has covered the entire Middle East after the election of Donald Trump as the new President of the United States.” Some time has passed, and this fog has slightly cleared away, with the uncertainty giving way to timid assumptions, reflections, and comments.

The main area of concern is Saudi Arabia, which currently acts as the leader of the Arab world, and is trying all it can to make the world fall in line with its interests. If we recall the recent past, Riyadh was strongly against the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, and, like all the others, made the same elementary mistake of strongly criticizing the billionaire with the surety that he would never head the most powerful country in the world, hoping instead, that the Democratic Party representative – Hillary Clinton would come to power.

The elections took place, and the results shocked the Saudi leadership, who have recently been making a series of mistakes. We can recall the Saudis’ policy on oil prices reductions and their attempt to oust Saudi Arabia’s competitors from the global market, a feat that ended ingloriously and inflicted huge financial and political repercussions on Saudi Arabia itself. The war that they unleashed against their neighbour, Yemen, has not brought any dividends, as the Houthis rebels have inflicted the Saudi “eagles” with one defeat after another. This is without mentioning the active support received from terrorist groups in Syria whose sole purpose is to overthrow the legally elected Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. However, the war is relentlessly moving towards the victory of the Syrian people over terrorists, criminals and other outcasts who have invaded Syria spreading violence and outrage, as well as murdering civilians. One has only to think about what is going on in Aleppo, where the terrorists are hiding behind the human shield of the Syrian civilians and are engaging in a series of armed hostilities.

In light of all these developments, after the US elections, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had no option but send a loyalist message to Donald Trump. The Saudi monarch courteously congratulated him on his election as the US President, while expressing his hopes for stability in the Middle East in the wake of the new American administration. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and his successor, the King’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman instantly expressed the same sentiments.

As for Saudi media, it called D. Trump’s victory a new epoch in the relations between the US and the Gulf States, without specifying the nature of this epoch – whether it will beneficial or detrimental. Given the fact that the new American President has promised to reconsider the US relations with its allies, Saudi concerns that the US will leave it face-to-face with Iran are quite reasonable.

Nonetheless, Saudi journalists and famous bloggers have found out that the new US President is not as bad, and that the relations between Washington and Riyadh may develop as productively before. Bookstores have returned the recently seized books on D. Trump. The media, as if on cue, have started to praise the new US President’s capabilities, as a businessman who has been advertised in such books by D. Trump as “Think Like a Billionaire”, “How to Get Rich”, “Why We Want You To Be Rich” and others.

Saudi journalist Amjad al-Munif has expressed the opinion of many Saudis in the Al Riyadh newspaper by remarking, “I do not want to make any hasty conclusions. We remember how we welcomed Obama’s coming to power. Now, I can surely state that the Americans have been dissatisfied with his presidency and the Democratic Party following the US’s widely unpopular foreign policy. Many Saudi media started to recall Barack Obama’s last visit to Saudi Arabia, when King Salman failed to meet the American President at the airport against tradition.

In addition, it started to exaggerate the idea that the Saudis have always had a great relationship with the US Republican President, given the funds they have invested in the Republican Party. However, some media have reminded the readers that in the current race for the presidency, the Saudis “with all enthusiasm paid 20 percent of the cost of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, despite the fact that some influential forces in Saudi Arabia considered it a negative move.” In other words, Riyadh followed a well-known proverb – “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” by giving money to both the Republicans and the Democrats.

Saudi media have paid special attention the statement that D. Trump made in spring 2016 in his interview with the New York Times in which he openly declared that the US might refuse to buy oil from Riyadh – an old and powerful partner of the US – during his presidency. Taking into consideration the fact that Saudi Arabia’s financial power is based on oil, the kingdom’s leadership negatively perceives this statement. The introduction of a ban on the import of any products, including oil, is not a sound step, as the Financial Times reports in a statement made by Saudi Arabia Minister of Energy, Khalid al-Falih. He expressed hope that the new American President would review his plans after the inauguration. The Minister supposes that part of D. Trump’s statements is based on quite a general approach to the problem, and he needs to learn all its aspects.

As the saying goes, it is a carrot against the Americans. However, a whip has also appeared. The US Federal Reserve financial report shows that the Central Banks of various states are aggressively selling their treasuries (treasuries is a common name for the debt obligations of the US government), and Saudi Arabia is demonstrating great zeal in it. In September 2016, the volume of the US bonds owned by the Saudis was reduced from 93 billion to 89 billion dollars. Since January 2016, they have reduced it by about 125 billion dollars.

Mohamed Al-Hunayzi, a member of the Shura Council (Advisory Council), said in an interview with the Arab News newspaper, “We welcome the results of the US presidential elections, and hope that warm relations between the Kingdom and the US will continue securing stability and security in the region. No matter who the US President is, the cordial bilateral relations will remain between the two friendly countries, although the US President will make a lot of changes on strategic policy in the region”. Apparently, not only this Minister shares this opinion, but the entire Saudi Arabian leadership, which is now experiencing the strongest financial crisis due to falling oil prices and the uncertainty of the US-Saudi relations. Whatever the royal house says and seeks, it is not able to resist the turbulence in global politics alone, chiefly the events that are unfolding in the Persian Gulf. This is precisely where its flattery and worship of the new leadership of the United States comes from.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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