President Trump in Saudi Arabia on Saturday signed a nearly $110 billion arms deal to help the Persian Gulf ally with its military-defense system. "That was a tremendous day," Trump, a highly successful US businessman said after signing the deal with Saudi leader King Salman. "Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs," declared a beaming US President who seemed determined to be very diplomatic.
The White House says the package includes defense equipment and other support to help the Arab nation and the rest of the Gulf region fight again terrorism and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, according to the White House.
US president hopes to rekindle a strategic relationship grown frosty under Obama as US officials pledging deals of around $350bn as the two allies rekindle a relationship that had grown frosty under the Obama government.
The multi-billion dollar defense deal “in the clearest terms possible” shows the United States’ commitment to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners and expands economic opportunities, the White House said. The deal will also supporting tens-of-thousands of new jobs in the US defense industrial base, the White House also said. The package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cyber security technology.
The agreements included a $110bn arms package that the White House said would help Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states face Iranian threats and contribute to counter terrorism operations, “reducing the burden on the US military,” a White House official said. The value of the deals signal a revived partnership that promises Saudi investment into US infrastructure in return for US arms deals for the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is also looking for US support as Riyadh tries to transform its oil-reliant economy after the sustained drop in crude prices triggered a budgetary crisis and rapid deceleration. The kingdom hopes to cement this renewed commercial partnership with a common vision to check Iranian ambitions in the Arab world.
Trump on Saturday began a number of political and economic meetings with the Saudi leadership. Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia early Saturday as the start to his nine-day, overseas tour that will also take him to Israel and Europe. The international trip is Trump’s first since taking office in January. “Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” Trump (or his aide) tweeted upon landing in Air Force One. “Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”
Trump greeted at the Saudi airport with an elaborate ceremony, punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from the 81-year-old Saudi King Salman. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was "a great honor" to be there. Several jets then flew overhead leaving a red, white and blue trail. The king, walking with the aid of a stick, accompanied Trump up a red carpet at the royal terminal of Riyadh’s airport, with the president’s wife Melania following at the back of the small welcoming committee. First lady Melania Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. In 2015, her husband had, in a tweet, criticized former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf during a visit to the kingdom. After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, then meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.
As the US president landed, dozens of chief executives from Saudi Arabia and the US were convening at a forum where they discussed Saudi financial flows into America, and how the US could help diversify the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy.
Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, signed more than $50bn worth of deals on Saturday, around $22bn of which were new memorandums of understanding, including: ● Investing $7bn with Rowan over 10 years to own and operate drilling rigs, creating 2,800 jobs in Saudi Arabia. ● Extending a joint venture with Nabors for oil well services, seeing $9bn of investment over 10 years, creating up to 5,000 jobs in the kingdom. ● A new joint venture with National Oilwell Varco in Saudi Arabia to manufacture driving rigs and equipment, seeing $6bn of investment over 10 years. Aramco also said it would boost operations at its US refinery unit Motiva, with a planned $12bn investment with a likely additional $18bn by 2023. The deal aims to create 12,000 jobs by 2023. Six firms — including Honeywell, McDermott and Weatherford — signed MOUs to expand Aramco’s use of locally produced goods and services, bringing $19bn of investment to the kingdom. Aramco also signed a deal with GE to deliver $4bn worth of savings via digitization of the oil firm’s operations. This was part of a GE package of valued at $15bn.
When deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington earlier this year, the White House estimated that Saudi investment pledges could rise to around $200bn. In the defence sector, Lockheed Martin signed a $6bn deal to assemble 150 Blackhawk helicopters in the kingdom, supporting 450 jobs. Raytheon and General Dynamics also signed agreements to support the localization of defence contracts. The deals support Prince Mohammed’s plans for the world’s third-largest spender on arms to create a domestic industry led by the newly formed company Saudi Arabia Military Industries. The kingdom wants to source half of defence spending locally by 2030 from 2 per cent now. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund pledged $20bn for a $40bn Blackstone US infrastructure fund, with $20bn to be raised from other parties. Blackstone said it expects, with debt financing, to invest $100bn in infrastructure projects, mainly in the USA.
Saudi Arabia offered Trump the elaborate welcome ahead of his two-day stay. Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king dotted the highways of Riyadh, emblazoned with the motto "Together we prevail." Trump's luxury hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president's face.
Trump and the king met briefly in the airport terminal for a coffee ceremony before the president headed to his hotel before the day's other meetings.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters on Air Force One that Trump spent the flight meeting with staff, working on his upcoming speech to the Muslim world and getting a little sleep.
After spending much of Saturday meeting with King Salman and other members of the royal family, Trump was to end the day at a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace. On Sunday, he'll hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the Islamic State and other extremist groups.
The centerpiece of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia will be a speech Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American summit. White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for US actions in the region.
Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, casting the challenge as a "battle between good and evil" and urging Arab leaders to "drive out the terrorists from your places of worship," according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. The draft notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights — topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing — in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability. It also abandons some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric that defined Trump's presidential campaign and does not contain the words "radical Islamic terror," a phrase Trump repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for not using during last year's campaign.
White House officials hope the trip gives Trump the opportunity to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency. The White House badly bungled the president's stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the federal investigation into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia. On Wednesday, the Justice Department relented to calls from Democrats to name a special counsel, tapping former FBI chief Robert Mueller to lead the probe.
At the close of the Saturday morning forum, about 70 senior Saudi executives and US chief executives boarded buses outside the Four Seasons hotel, bound for lunch with King Salman and Mr Trump at the royal court. The elite business delegation is set to hold postprandial talks with Prince Mohammed, architect of the kingdom’s reform plans. Around 30 US executives were approved to attend the lunch, including names such as Larry Fink of BlackRock, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Roy Harvey of Alcoa, Adena Friedman of Nasdaq and financial adviser Michael Klein.
Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.
Trump during his winning presidential campaign and in the first several months of his presidency has argued the United States can no longer be the world’s police officer and that other nations must become more self-sufficient in efforts to combat terrorism and in protecting themselves against rogue nations like Iran and North Korea.
The US president is expected to pledge his respect and support to Saudi leaders and to the region, after months of harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The Arab-US oil-terror goods business is back to fore to cement the ailing ties between allies. The $110-billion (around 100 billion Euros) deal for Saudi purchases of US defense equipment and services was one of several deals announced during Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. The military sales deal is effective immediately, with another $350 billion set of deals to kick in over the next 10 years. "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," a White House official said when announcing the deal. "We now stand together to thwart our common enemies, to strengthen the bonds between us and to chart a path towards peace and prosperity for all," the leaders said in a joint declaration.
Russia and Iran - allies with Syria against the US-Saudi Arabia axis in the region - this year signed a large arms deal. The US-Saudi deal comes amid talk of a possible reconfiguration of Middle East alliances, and possibly global ties. For Riyadh, the visit is an opportunity to rebuild ties with a key ally, strained under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, who Sunni Arab Gulf states suspected of a tilt towards their Shiite regional rival Iran.