- President Donald Trump thanked Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low a day after he refused to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of the Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
- Maintaining low oil prices has become a key issue for Trump as he reimposes sanctions on Iran’s oil sector after withdrawing from the multinational nuclear pact.
- Saudi Arabia has crucially raised oil output to help keep prices down while Trump hits Iran with sanctions.
- But Trump’s near exoneration of Saudi Arabia’s monarchs in the killing has met bipartisan disgust.
President Donald Trump thanked Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low a day after he refused to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of the Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.
“Oil prices getting lower,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $US54, was just $US82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”
Maintaining low oil prices has become a key issue for Trump as he reimposes sanctions on Iran’s oil sector after withdrawing from the multinational nuclear pact.
The sanctions could have caused a spike in oil prices, which US consumers would have felt at the pump, but Saudi Arabia, a US ally and Iran’s bitter regional foe, has picked up oil output and successfully counteracted any price surge.
Trump’s thank-you note to Saudi Arabia came a day after he issued a bizarre statement on whether Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler ordered the brutal execution of a US resident.
In an exclamation-point-ridden written statement, Trump said it “could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
A Washington Post report last week said the CIA concluded with “high confidence” that the crown prince directly ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
Trump’s statement opened with a condemnation of Iran’s regional activity, including its role in the bloody seven-year-long war in Syria.
In it, Trump also made dubious claims about the impact on the US economy from arms sales to Saudi Arabia and repeatedly gave the kingdom the benefit of the doubt and ascribed to it the best of intentions in the conflict in Yemen.
The statement drew nearly universal bipartisan condemnation as being indelicate and an abdication of the US’s mandate to promote human rights worldwide.
Relying on Saudi Arabia to avoid oil price spikes may have tied Trump’s hands
But on managing the reimposition of Iran sanctions, Trump has greatly succeeded. He managed to avoid a spike in oil prices by coordinating with Saudi Arabia and granting waivers to some of Iran’s biggest oil clients.
The waivers allowed countries to purchase oil from Iran and leave the money in an escrow account.
But according to Tony Badran, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, the reliance on Saudi Arabia in easing a potential oil spike may have tied Trump’s hands in dealing with Khashoggi’s death.
“If you are trying to impose oil sanctions while giving waivers and trying to do it in a way that doesn’t destabilize markets, the last thing you’d want to do is create a massive crisis in Saudi Arabia,” Badran told Business Insider.
Turkish media and intelligence leaks have fanned the flames of the Khashoggi saga for over a month, which Sanam Vakil, a senior consulting research fellow in Chatham House’s Middle East North Africa Programme, told Business Insider may have served as a warning for Trump not to overly rely on the kingdom.
For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vakil said “this is an opportunity to remind Washington that all is not well in the house of Saud and they shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket.”