U.S.-Saudi Arabia Continue Strong Defense Ties in Trump Administration’s Early Days

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by phone with Secretary of Defense James Mattis today to discuss mutual cooperation on security issues, according to the SPA and the Saudi Gazette.

The Deputy Crown Prince also serves as minister of defense and chair of the powerful Council on Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA).

The U.S.-Saudi relationship is off to a stable start in the first days of the Donald Trump administration. Just three days after Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. State Department approved the possible sale of 74K Persistent Threat Detection System Aerostats to Saudi Arabia at an estimated cost of $525 million, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The deal was in the works during the Obama administration, but President Trump, a frequent critic of Saudi Arabia on the campaign trail, did not halt the deal. Some have noted it is indicative of a “business as usual” strong U.S.-Saudi defense alliance.

A recently-delivered F-15 SA jet.

A recently-delivered F-15 SA jet.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir have publicly congratulated the new president and expressed their interest in a refreshed bi-lateral relationship. Saudi Arabia said it would back the Trump administration’s desire to get rid of Daesh and pledge to create safe zones within Syria to ameliorate a dire refugee crisis.

“The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” a White House statement said.

The Kingdom also found itself exempt from the Trump administration’s temporary ban on travel from selected nations, drawing some criticism who noted that a vast majority of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both exempt from the ban.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In today’s call with Mattis, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “underscored the US Secretary of Defense’s experience in the region and looked forward to working together to serve the interests of both countries and the fight against terrorism, militias and piracy and that it is necessary to restore stability to the region’s countries and develop relations between the two countries in all fields, based on the directives of the Saudi king.”

The US Secretary of Defense also condemned the terrorist attack against a Saudi frigate west of the port of Yemen’s Hodeida and offered condolences for the death of two Saudi sailors, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Last week, Saudi Arabia received and displayed to the public the first delivery of F-15 SA jets from its $60 billion purchase from the United States in 2010, under President Obama. That was the largest arms deal of its kind in American history.