Trump pressured Saudi with threat of weapons over oil

Trump threatened Saudi crown prince with ending US military support over oil output
3 min read
30 April, 2020
Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was so shocked by Trump's ultimatum that he sent his aides outside the room before continuing the phone call.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shocked by President Trump's ultimatum [Anadolu/Getty]
US President Donald Trump presented Saudi Arabia with an ultimatum in attempt to influence its oil price war with Russia, according to Reuters.

Trump allegedly threatened Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call on 2 April, saying he wouldn't be able to stop US Congress from pushing through a bill for an American troop withdrawal from the kingdom unless the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countires (OPEC) cut production, Reuters reported.

Ten days later, Saudi Arabia and the world's biggest oil-producing nations agreed to cut output in order to boost plummeting oil prices due to the coronavirus crisis and a Russia-Saudi price war.

Crown Prince Salman was so shocked by Trump's ultimatum that he sent his aides outside the room before continuing the phone call in private, a US source who was briefed on the phone call told the news agency.

It appears Trump's efforts to boost the US oil industry amid the economic crisis brought on by the global coronavirus lockdown put the two countries strategic alliance of 75 years on the line.

Washington told Saudi Arabia that unless there were production cuts "there would be no way to stop the US Congress from imposing restrictions that could lead to a withdrawal of US forces," a senior official told Reuters.

Saudi leaders were effectively told: "We are defending your industry while you’re destroying ours," according to the official.

In the week before the phone call, legislation introduced by Republican senators to remove all US troops and military support from Saudi Arabia unless it cut oil ouput was gaining support.

Reuters asked President Trump whether he issued an ultimatum to Saudi's crown prince in an interview on Wednesday.

"I didn't have to tell him," Trump said, when asked if he issued the ultimatum to withdraw US forces. 

"I thought he and President Putin, Vladimir Putin, were very reasonable. They knew they had a problem, and then this happened."

Oil prices had slumped since the beginning of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Compounding the problem, Russia and Saudi Arabia had both ramped up output in a bid to hold on to market share and undercut US shale producers.

"They were having a hard time making a deal," Trump told Reuters. "And I met telephonically with him, and we were able to reach a deal."

Saudi Arabia's government media office did not provide Reuters with a comment.

"Saudi Arabia, the United States and Russia have played an important role in the OPEC+ oil cut agreement, but without the cooperation of the 23 countries who took part in the agreement, it would not have happened," a Saudi official told the news agency.

Read more: Less than zero: Saudi Arabia's role in crushing the US oil industry

Despite OPEC's decision to cut production, Brent crude - the international oil price benchmark - crashed to a 21-year low last week.

Experts believe the low Brent prices - which are still above US oil levels - could indicate storage problems in the market and might possibly go into the zero dollars mark.

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