Donald Trump is the first US president to visit Middle East as his first overseas destination. He chose Saudi Arabia as the first stop of this tour. Although, the average Saudi Arabians are quite proud of Trump’s first visit to their kingdom, the irony of this tour cannot be any bigger. It was only a few months ago that Trump blacklisted KSA and imposed extreme vetting for any citizen of KSA trying to visit the United States. This partial prohibition is still valid, which indicates that USA is no longer afraid of the oil embargo by the kingdom on America. Then what really happened that led to Trump choosing KSA as the first destination of his foreign trips?
If, KSA stops supplying oil barrels to the US petro giants, there are other markets, even outside the Middle East (such as Russia and Venezuela) that Trump can fall upon; bearing no loss for its oil companies. However, if KSA stops buying arms from the United States, the American arms manufacturers can experience the plunging asset levels in their balance sheet. Over the last half a decade or so, KSA has emerged as the leading arms importer from the United States. In 2014, KSA emerged as the biggest importer of arms, dislodging India to the second spot. It has been estimated that between 2013 and 2014, Saudis imported $6.46 billion worth of defense equipment, which is a rise of 54 percent. In 2014, the UAE and KSA imported military equipments worth $8.6 billion that surpassed the combined imports of the entire Western Europe.
The aggressive stand of the crown prince Salman at the behest of the king Salman to square off the Shiite threat emanating the rebels of Yemen as well as the perceived threat from Iran are the primary causes for such escalation of arms sales. Moreover, the Saudis are trying to position themselves as the leader of the Middle East, for which, they require military muscle. The weapons systems such as Typhoon and F-15 fighter jets are bought in 2015 that increases the weapons’ import to $9.8 million.
After the end of cold war, the arms lobbyists of United States have taken aggressive postures to sell their weapons in the foreign countries because of the spending cuts in Pentagon. President Trump, like most other American presidents, is ready to do anything that boost American industries and the economy. In such a scenario, can they allow themselves to leave behind the most lucrative arms market of Saudi Arabia? President Trump’s overemphasis on rebels and terrorism are also catalyses for a boost in the arms trade between the United States and the Islamic nations. On the other hand, this suits Saudis as well as they expect to get full American support on the issues of civil war going on in Yemen and restricting Iran who are allegedly helping the Yemeni rebels. A win-win situation indeed!