President Donald Trump complained yesterday that Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a "tremendous amount of money" defending the kingdom.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump confirmed his administration was in talks about possible visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the second half of May. He is due to make his first trip abroad as president for a 25 May NATO summit in Brussels and could add other stops.
Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia
Trump's criticism of Riyadh, the world's top oil exporter, was a return to his 2016 election campaign rhetoric when he accused the kingdom of not pulling its weight in paying for the US security umbrella.
"Nobody's going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we're watching them," Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. "They're not paying us a fair price. We're losing our shirt."
Saudi Arabia's powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met with Trump last month in a meeting that was hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a "historical turning point" in relations. The talks appeared to signal a meeting of the minds on many issues, including their shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat.
Riyadh and other Gulf allies see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington's role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh's adversary Iran in a region central to US security and energy interests, regional analysts said.