U.S. President Donald Trump gave a warm welcome to Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, on Tuesday and credited U.S. defense sales to the Saudis with boosting American jobs, even as Riyadh's involvement in Yemen's civil war faced criticism.
In the Oval Office, Trump and the crown prince praised the strength of U.S.-Saudi ties, which had grown strained under the Obama administration in part over differing views toward Riyadh's regional rival, Iran.
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Not so with Trump, who has taken a hardline view against Iran similar to that of the Saudi crown prince who has compared Iran's supreme leader to Adolf Hitler.
Sitting side by side in the Oval Office, Trump held up charts to show the depth of Saudi purchases of U.S. military hardware, ranging from ships to missile defense to planes and fighting vehicles. The PR stunt, according to CNN over the weekend, left MBS feeling humiliated by Trump.
A source with knowledge of the meeting told CNN, that MBS "wasn't expecting to have the huge cards, detailing billions of dollars of business deals dangled under his nose." MBS is in the U.S. as part of a campaign to change his image and to show the Western world that Saudi Arabia is open for visit - when touring London earlier in the month the Kingdom spent $1.4 million on billboards saying, "He [MBS] is opening Saudi Arabia to the world."
"Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they're going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world," Trump told reporters. MBS looked very uncomfortable as Trump listed the amounts of weapons the U.S. has sold to the Saudis, "$880 million ... $645 million ... $6 billion ... that's for frigates."
The talks were part of the first visit by the prince to the United States since he became the heir apparent last year to King Salman.
Trump's red-carpet treatment highlighted his administration's strong backing of the crown prince, who carried out an anti-corruption purge that consolidated his power and whose aggressive foreign policy has caused unease among some Western allies.
At the same time, the kingdom has seen a cautious new climate of social freedoms with the rise of the 32-year-old crown prince after decades of elderly rulers.
Trump and Prince Mohammed discussed an agreement last year for $200 billion worth of Saudi investments with the United States, including large purchases of U.S. military equipment. Trump said the military sales contributed to the creation of 40,000 American jobs.
Reuters contributed to this report