US President Donald Trump has called on Saudi Arabia to increase its military spending, with an eye on more weapons sales to the “rich” kingdom.
Speaking at a campaign rally in West Virginia on Saturday, Trump said he had complained that Washington was not getting what it should from Saudi Arabia during a phone conversation with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Trump said he had told King Salman that Riyadh has “trillions of dollars” and could pay its military bills.
“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. But we don’t get what we should be getting,” he said.
Trump further threatened to end what he claimed to be subsidies for the Saudi military.
“We are subsidizing their military. I said let me ask you a question. Why are we subsidizing the military — it’s one thing if a country is in deep trouble and in danger,” he noted. “I said ‘Saudi Arabia, you are rich, you have got to pay for your military. You have got to pay for your military, sorry’.”
Last year, the US president signed the largest arms deal in history with Saudi Arabia despite warnings that he could be accused of being complicit in the regime’s war crimes in Yemen.
During Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May 2017, Saudi Arabia agreed to buy $110 billion worth of US weapons and signed “investment” deals worth billions more.
The kingdom has one of the highest rates of spending on its military in the world, which stood at 10.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017, according to World Bank data.
Analysts say Trump is milking wealthy Persian Gulf Arab countries and exploiting conflicts in the Middle East to boost US arms sales to the oil-rich states.
Before his presidency, Trump described Saudi Arabia as “a milk cow” which would be slaughtered when its milk runs out.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-allied regime and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The Western-backed imposed war, however, has so far failed to achieve its stated goals, thanks to stiff resistance from Yemeni troops and allied Houthi fighters.