Why is America removing its military assets from Saudi Arabia?

19 May 2020

 

As of early May, the US has begun the removal of its military assets from Saudi Arabia, some of which were introduced last year in response to the rising threats from neighbouring Iran.

 

Whilst the Saudi regime continues its caution towards Tehran, Trump’s actions suggest the US no longer sees the country as an immediate threat. 

 

The US has held ties with Saudi Arabia since 1933 when America began its search for oil in the Gulf Sea. Following this, Saudi Arabia has continued to be the second-biggest supplier of oil to the US, typically providing around 10% of the oil imported into the country. 

 

Throughout February, the Saudi regime supplied America with 455 barrels of oil per day.

 

In his legislative actions over the past year, Trump revealed a desire to develop relations with Saudi Arabia, as he vetoed two bipartisan bills that aimed to reduce the nation's power. 

 

America has also held a significant military presence in the region, with a minimum of 5000 soldiers kept in Saudi Arabia since the first Gulf War in 1990. During the 2003 war with Iran, this figure was doubled to 10,000. 

 

The history of US-Iranian relations is a fraught one, spread over 65 years of complex threat and controversy. These testing ties began in 1953 when US and British intelligence agencies led a coup to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. 

 

This secular leader had planned to nationalise the nation’s oil industry, at the displeasure of Western powers. Since the very earliest US actions in Iran, oil has formed the lucrative crux of many manoeuvres. 

 

Throughout 2019, Iranian relations with America and Saudi Arabia continued to sour, with tensions reaching their peak in the Abqaiq-Khurais attack. In this, drones were used to destroy the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil site at Abqaiq. 

 

Whilst Yemeni Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran was seen as the perpetrator by both Saudi and American officials. Following this attack, daily global oil production fell by 5%.

 

As America moves closer to its November election, Trump has shown an increased awareness of the rising unpopularity of his relationship with Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. 

 

This dissatisfaction with Saudi-American relations grew following the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2nd October 2018. 

 

It was a brutal killing that received huge global criticism, yet one that Trump resisted holding the Saudi regime accountable for. 

 

More recently, Americans with shares in the oil industry have grown angry at the Saudi decision to continue to flood the oil market, despite the demand for oil falling greatly during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

 

This oversupply of oil saw US oil prices turn negative for the first time in history in late April 2020, in the middle of the deepest fall in demand for oil in 25 years. Following great economic instability, the Saudi’s have since stalled their oil production.

 

Whilst the president may have lessened his fears surrounding Iran, in early May 387/435 members of the US House of Representatives called for a continuation of a military and arms embargo against Iran. House members also called to carry on with the UN travel restrictions on “Iranian individuals” deemed as “dangerous.”

 

As President Trump continues with his electioneering amid the pandemic, America once more uses its controversial role in the middle east to send political messages to voters back home. 

 

Whilst many of us look to an uncertain future in a post-Coronavirus world, Trump keeps his gaze firmly set on November, and on winning the election.

 

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