By Michael SchumacherPublished 8:04 PM, November 11, 202017:10 Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are expected to meet in Washington on Tuesday, November 10, in what could be the first face-to-face meeting between the US president and his Saudi counterpart since Trump took office.
The meeting is expected to highlight the challenges Saudi Arabia faces as the world’s biggest oil exporter, and the Saudi leadership’s determination to keep the kingdom in the US.
According to a senior US official who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject, the Saudi-US talks are expected as a way to “reaffirm that the relationship remains strong.”
The US is pressing for Saudi Arabia to cut back its oil subsidies as well as its involvement in the Iran nuclear deal and other US-Saudi issues.
“This is really important,” the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The US wants to be clear that this is a continuation of the Trump administration, and not a continuation and a new administration.”
The US, which is the biggest supplier of Saudi oil to the world, has been increasingly frustrated with Riyadh’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, a US ally in the Middle East.
Washington has warned Riyadh to pull back on its support for Tehran’s proxies in Syria.
Saudi Arabia has also been trying to pressure Iran into limiting its involvement on the Syrian front.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington will continue to push for Iran to curb its support to Assad.
On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that Riyadh’s top priority is to achieve peace in Syria through a political transition in Syria and its participation in the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
Al-Jubbouri said the US and its allies are working with Iran to “address the threat posed by the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist group, which poses a serious threat to the region and the world.”
The official spoke on condition that the identity of the official be kept secret.
The Saudi-Iran talks will also likely be seen as a step to ease tensions between the two countries, with US Secretary Ryan Crocker recently saying that the Saudi government is working on a deal with Iran that could see Riyadh sell oil to Tehran at $50 a barrel and the US buying oil from Saudi Arabia at $60 a barrel.
But the official said the Saudi view is that Washington needs to be sure that the deal it is looking for is the one they want, as the kingdom is looking to make sure it does not go wrong.US-Saudi tensions have been high since Trump’s election, with Trump questioning the wisdom of Saudi Arabia backing Israel during the war in Yemen.
He has also criticized Saudi Arabia for backing rebels in Yemen against Saudi-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Hadi, a staunch critic of the Saudi kingdom, was elected in 2017 on a platform of reform and the rule of law.
Houthi is also considered a moderate.
The Houthi movement is backed by the Saudi military, which launched a military campaign against the Houthis in 2014, and which has waged a war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in southern Yemen since 2015.
The Trump administration has long argued that Saudi Arabia is not a good partner and has warned that the US would not sell arms to Riyadh unless it reduced its support of Iran.
In the past year, the US has continued to provide Saudi Arabia with weapons and diplomatic support.
The US has also offered a $110 billion aid package to Riyadh in exchange for a reduction in its support.