According to reports, Trump made a phone call to Bin Salman on 2 April and told him that unless Saudi Arabia and Russia came to an agreement with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut oil production and stabilise the market, he would be unable to stop legislation from being passed that would see the withdrawal of US troops from the Gulf country.
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A US source who learned of the details from senior officials reported that during Trump’s call, which took place ten days before an agreement was finally made to cut production, Bin Salman was so shocked by the threat that he ordered his aides to leave the room in order to continue the call in private.
One week prior to the US President’s phone call, the idea was set in motion when Republican Senators Kevin Cramer and Dan Sullivan introduced legislation calling for the withdrawal of forces if Saudi Arabia did not comply with America’s demand to cut oil production.
The oil price crisis has shaken global markets over the past two months since Saudi Arabia sharply increased its oil production following a “shouting match” with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the telephone, which resulted in oil prices dropping to as low as $25 per barrel. Prices then plummeted even further in the global market; the industry was affected significantly when the price of US crude dropped below zero to negative numbers.
In an interview with Trump in the White House on Wednesday, Reuters asked the President if he had presented to Bin Salman the possibility of the troop withdrawal, to which he replied, “I didn’t have to tell him… I thought he and President Putin, Vladimir Putin, were very reasonable. They knew they had a problem, and then this happened.”
Trump did not reveal any details of the threat to the Crown Prince, but said simply: “They were having a hard time making a deal. And I met telephonically with him, and we were able to reach a deal.”
The revelation of Trump’s warning sheds light on the extent to which the 75-year-old strategic alliance between the two states still sways relations, with it used as leverage to force Saudi Arabia’s hand. Struck in 1945, when US President Franklin D Roosevelt met with Saudi King AbdulAziz Ibn Saud on the USS Quincy, the two statesmen agreed that in exchange for access to Saudi oil reserves, the US would provide essential military protection to the young Kingdom.
The effects of that meeting have lasted until today; there are around three thousand US troops in Saudi Arabia while the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet protects its oil exports in surrounding waters and prevents any external military threats such as that from Iran.
Despite the crisis having passed for now, it is predicted that the tension between the US and Saudi Arabia is ongoing. Just yesterday, it was reported that Trump may make the Kingdom pay for any losses suffered by the US oil industry due to the crisis.
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