US President Donald Trump’s relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince is special. Some see it as embarrassing for both of them, others as a series of 'win-wins’.

‘Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t’, said US President Donald Trump in an official written statement about whether Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, aka MBS, knew of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi 

Saudi Arabia buys weapons, invests in the US and is in harsh opposition to Iran in the region.

The question remains whether bilateral relations between both countries under Trump’s presidency is one of a real political alliance or a business relationship based on maximum profits. 

The Khashoggi case

After the CIA announced that they believe the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Khashoggi, and the US State Department and several US senators echoed the assessment, President Trump was forced to come out with a statement. 

On November 20th, the White House shared a statement where Donald Trump says “...we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran.”

In other words, it is irrelevant whether MBS knew of the killing because, in the end, Saudi Arabia is an ‘ally’ in the ‘fight against Iran’.

After this statement, the Khashoggi case was off the Trump agenda.

Dumping oil prices

The price of crude oil decreased by more than 30 percent from $75 to $51 between October 2 and November 29, 2018. The decrease was the first decline since February 2016, the lowest price of oil in the last decade.

US President Donald Trump reacted by asking Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de-facto leader, this summer to raise oil production to compensate for lower crude exports from Iran after sanctions and to ensure no spike in oil prices before midterm elections in the US. 

Saudi Arabia raised oil production to a record high in November, pumping 11.1 million to 11.3 million barrels per day

And Trump demanded even lower prices from Saudi Arabia.

The chart shows the cost of production of oil and gas per barrel for the countries by using data from Rystad Energy UCube and The Wall Street Journal. (TRTWorld)
The chart shows the cost of production of oil and gas per barrel for the countries by using data from Rystad Energy UCube and The Wall Street Journal. (TRTWorld) (TRTWorld)

Re-building Syria’s infrastructure and the arms deal

President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced on December 19 to withdraw US troops from Syria and declared a victory in the war against Daesh. 

Only a couple of days later, Trump shared on Twitter that Saudi Arabia will pay to rebuild Syria instead of the United States. Remarkably, no official statement has been made by Saudi Arabia, neither a confirmation nor a negation.

Syria is a devastated country after almost eight years of war, and its reconstruction might cost upwards of $338 billion or more according to the UN.

Interestingly it seems as though Trump speaks for Saudi Arabia - and makes the Saudi regime pay for it too by dumping oil prices, rebuilding Syria and a $350 billion arms trade deal for the next ten years, of which $110 billion were for immediate purchase. 

So just what kind of relationship is Trump creating between  Saudi Arabia and the US?