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US-Saudi Arabian Relations

In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia paid more than 20 percent of the cost of Hillary Clintons campaign for presidential elections, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying 03 July 2016 in a news report by the Jordanian Petra News Agency. According to the Middle East Eye news website, the report was later deleted from the agencys website. However, a snapshot of the original Arabic version was later republished by the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs.

Saudi Arabia has always sponsored both Republican and Democratic Parties of America and... the kingdom also provides with full enthusiasm 20 percent of the cost of Hillary Clintons campaign in the U.S. presidential elections despite the fact that some influential forces within the country dont have a positive look toward supporting the candidate because she is a woman, the agencys report quoted Prince Mohammed as saying.

During the 2016 election, Saudi Arabia openly supported Hillary Clinton; it is said that Riyadh spent significant sums of money supporting her campaign. However, the desired result was not achieved. Trump exchanged heated words with a Saudi Prince following his call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal called Trump a "disgrace not only to the GOP but to all of America" and recommended that Trump drop out of the race, because he would "never win."

After Clinton's defeat, Saudi Arabia tried to recoup their costs, King Salman calling Trump and confirming Riyadh's commitment to strengthening relations with the US. This was a very important moment for Donald Trump. During the election campaign, he repeatedly said that the US spends huge amounts of money on many countries, which do not provide anything in return, or do not even repay the US in full. Trump insisted that Saudi Arabia, as one of the financial 'scavengers' living off the US, should compensate Washington's spending. In the past the US had entered into multibillion dollar contracts to supply the Kingdom with weapons, including advanced fighter jets, helicopters and other combat aircraft.

Trump's Middle East policy was difficult to predict or assess. In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia are Washington's biggest allies. There may be an actual change in US policy toward Saudi Arabia under President Trump. Such a decision by Trump could be seen as a final refusal to do business with Saudi Arabia, due to the support the Saudis had given to his opponent during the election.

Relations with the Riyadh improved since Trump took office. King Salman dispatched his most powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defense minister, to meet Trump at the White House in March 2017. Saudi Arabia was quick to praise Trump's missile strike on a Syrian military base in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a decree 22 April 2017 naming one of his sons, an air force pilot who has taken part in coalition strikes against the Islamic State group, as the kingdom's new ambassador to the US. The appointment of Prince Khaled bin Salman to Washington signals the kingdom's eagerness to strengthen bilateral ties under President Donald Trump. As the king's son, the prince has a direct line to the Saudi monarch.

Trumps first overseas trip as president was aimed at promoting unity among Muslims, Jews and Christians, with visits also set for Israel and the Vatican as part of a five-nation, nine-day trip. Later, Trump was meeting with European Union officials in Brussels and attending a NATO meeting, before heading back to Italy for a G7 economic summit in Sicily.

Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Donald Trump signed agreements to bolster the military capabilities of Saudi Arabia, said to be worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately. But the value of the deals appeared to be more in the range of $40 billion, and they were for the most deals that were already in the works when Obama left office.

"This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats, while also bolstering the Kingdom's ability to contribute to counter terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the U.S. military to conduct those operations," the White House said in a statement 20 May 2017.

The arms deals with Saudi Arabia was said to be worth $100 billion immediately and another $200 billion over the next decade. Much of the package builds on commitments made before Trump took office, although some elements are new. Obama approved a record-breaking $115 billion in arms sales to the Saudis during his time in office.

Defense News published a list of hardware on 07 June 2017 that was reported to be included in the arms deal. Some of these items could still need letters of offer and acceptance (LOAs), congressional notification and then to be turned into contracts. Also, some of the items could depend on U.S. government acquisition decisions and competitions. According to the Defense News reporting, about $76.5 billion was included in the Trump deal were:

  1. $18 billion for C4I System and integration, with no further details given on what that means, nor with a delivery date offered.
  2. $13.5 billion for seven THAAD batteries, with an estimated delivery time of 2023-2026. Theater High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD] missile defense system. Jared Kushner reportedly helped push the THAAD deal through by asking Lockheed's CEO Marillyn Hewson to lower the price for the Saudis. As of early 2012 discussions were under way for a THAAD sale to Saudi Arabia. Based on the depoloyment to South Korea, a THAAD battery might cost $1 billion.
  3. $6.65 billion for enhancements to Saudis Patriot anti-missile system, with a scope of work from 2018-2027. More Pac-3 Patriot missiles from Lockheed is expected as it has already been approved by Congress. Washington was urging the kingdom to upgrade its 16 Patriot Advanced Capability-2 batteries, which have 96 missiles, to PAC-3 standard.
  4. $6.25 billion for an eight-year sustainment deal for Saudi Arabia's fleet of F-15 fighters, with another $20 million for an F-15 C/D recapitalization program study.
  5. $6 billion for 4 Littoral Combat Ships . An $11.5 billion deal for four ships was approved by the State Department in 2015, but hadn't reached the final contract stage after the Saudis had sticker shock. The final letter of agreement on the littoral combat ships is the highest-profile element of the new deals.
  6. $5.8 billion for three KC-130J and 20 C-130J new aircraft, along with sustainment through 2026. Those planes would start delivery in 2022.
  7. $4.46 billion for 104,000 air-to-ground munitions, divided among five types (GBU 31v3, GBU-10, GBU-12, GBU-31v1, GBU-38). Raytheon smart bombs - Trump was expected to lift the Obama administration's hold on a $1 billion sale of Penetrator Warheads and Paveway laser-guided bombs.
  8. $4 billion for two satellite communications & Space Based Early Warning Systems
  9. $3.7 billion to modify 400 existing Bradley fighting vehicles, including $2.35 billion to modify 400 existing Bradley fighting vehicles, along with another $1.35 billion for 213 new vehicles.
  10. $2 billion for light close air support aircraft, with the aircraft type and delivery dates to be determined. The winner of this contract could be related to the US Air Forces OA-X close-air support study.
  11. $2 billion for four new for TASS & Strategic ISC aircraft. TASS stands for tactical airborne surveillance system. It's possible the replacement could be the same as the JSTARS replacement currently being considered by the Pentagon, tobe delivered in 2024.
  12. $2 billion for an unknown number of MK-VI Patrol Boats, with an unknown delivery date.
  13. $1.5 billion for 180 Howitzers, with an estimated delivery time of 2019-2022.
  14. $800 million fot two Remote Sensing Satellites
  15. $40 million for a SATCOM Definitization meeting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense-Space policy team.

Not included in the Defense news reporting but reliably reported previously from other sources were $11.8 billion for :

  1. a $3.4 billion shipment of AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters, a deal already negotiated.
  2. about $500 million in what could become a $3.5 billion deal for as many as 48 CH-47 Chinook helicopters and related equipment built by Boeing. That sale was approved by the State Department and Congress in December 2016.
  3. a $6-billion pledge to assemble 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia, which was expected to result in the creation of 450 jobs in Saudi Arabia.
  4. A total of 115 M1A2 General Dynamics (GD) tanks and some number of HERCULES Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARV). The estimated cost was $1.15 billion, and this seems to be the deal notified to Congress in August 2016, though the details are not entirely consistent.
  5. $750 million fo training programs for the Saudi Air Force

Other previously announced deals not otherwise listed include three deals worth $1.3 billion:

  1. $500 million in ammunition, dating to July 2015;
  2. $525 million for surveillance aerostats, dating to Jan. 2017;
  3. $250 million for broad training for the Saudi navy.

According to US media reports, in addition to immediate effect of the $110 billion arms sales agreement, the two countries will reach a $350 billion arms sales agreement in the next ten years. However, Chinese experts said that this may only be a showcase of attitude by Saudi Arabia. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabias military expenditure reached $63.7 billion in 2016. Due to Saudi Arabia's high military personnel maintaining fee, the purchase spending is less than one third of the total military spending. The $20 billion worth of purchase spending is too far away from the $35 billion average spending if the total $350 contract is carried out in ten years.

According to the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), Saudi Arabias imported arms totaled $32.272 billion from 2012 to 2015. This is already a great amount. Based on this ratio, it takes 40 years to complete the $350 billion deal.

"The $110 billion is definitely inflated, but it's not zero," said William Hartung, an arms trade analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. "It's very hard to evaluate. They haven't been very specific about some of the categories they are talking about," Hartung told Al Jazeera 08 June 2017. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon both announced major sales in connection with Trump's trip. But "this seems more in the nature of a promise than a finished deal", Hartung said.

Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow and foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, published a blog post earlier this week saying Trump's announced weapons deal with Saudi Arabia was "fake news". Riedel said "There is no $110bn deal. Instead there are a bunch of letters of intent, but not contracts."

"That $110 billion is a mix of old sales and future prospective sales that have not been announced or signed," Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, told Al Jazeera.

The Saudi Kingdom will collapse in two weeks in absence of American protection, US President Donald Trump said 02 October 2018, pressuring one of its closest allies over rising oil prices that are putting huge drain on economies like India. Trumps reference to Saudi Arabia, which had the potential to strain the bilateral relationship, came in the context of the US providing security protection to rich nations and getting nothing in return.

How about our military deals, where we protect rich nations and we dont get reimbursed? How about that stuff? Thats changing, too, folks, he said. We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say theyre rich? And I love the king, King Salman. But I said, King, were protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, Trump said amidst applause from the audience.

You have to pay, Trump said in an apparent reference to US friends and allies that they need to reimburse for the security cover America is providing them. This has been a massive drain on American economy, said Trump, without disclosing when did he speak with the Saudi King.

As crude oil prices reach a four-year high, Trump repeatedly has demanded OPEC and Saudi Arabia, the worlds biggest oil exporter, push prices down. Japan is going to also contribute. Japan we protect Japan. They pay us a small percentage. We protect South Korea. They pay usand by the way, were doing great on North Korea, but South Korea. They got to reimburse us, Trump said.

On 03 October 2018, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Secretary thanked the Crown Prince for his continued, strong partnership, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said. Pompeo and the Crown Prince discussed a broad range of regional and bilateral issues, including Yemen and countering the Iranian regimes malign activities in the region, she said. The two leaders also discussed areas for expanding US-Saudi collaboration, she added.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom has met its promise to Washington to make up for Iranian crude oil supplies lost through U.S. sanctions. The request that America made to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries is to be sure that if there is any loss of supply from Iran, that we will supply that. And that happened, Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg 05 October 2018. Iran reduced their exports by 700,000 barrels a day, if Im not mistaken. And Saudi Arabia and OPEC and non-OPEC countries, theyve produced 1.5 million barrels a day. So we export as much as two barrels for any barrel that disappeared from Iran recently. So we did our job and more.

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