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The United States will pull two Patriot missile batteries from guarding Saudi Arabian oil facilities, an American official told the Associated Press on Thursday, citing a disagreement over oil production.
The anonymous source also told the AP that the U.S. would pull out 300 U.S. troops staffing the missile batteries.
U.S. President Donald Trump said, when asked to confirm the reports during a televised coronavirus meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, replied, “Well, I don’t want to talk about it,” adding merely that his administration was “doing some things” and “making a lot of moves in the Middle East and elsewhere. We’re doing a lot of things all over the world militarily. We’ve been taken advantage of all over the world, our military.”
President Trump’s words were vague, and did not mention crude oil, the OPEC production cuts, or the amount of oil the United States is currently cutting by market default. He also didn’t mention the Saudi elephant in the room—the 35 million barrels of Saudi oil in tankers idling off the U.S. coast waiting for their turn to unload into an already saturated oil market.
“Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy country and they’ve agreed to help defray some of the costs, which nobody else would ever ask for,” the President said about the alleged military moves, adding that “if we’re going to defend countries, they should also respect us by making a contribution.”
That Saudi Arabia ramped up production with reckless abandon and sent much of it toward the United States, where it now waits on oil tankers in U.S. waters, has angered some U.S. lawmakers, who last month lobbied the Trump administration to do something about it, be it assessing tariffs or sanctions—or even pulling military support for Saudi Arabia at a time when there remain significant tensions between it and Iran.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
The global oil market is a free and also indivisible market. The United States can’t use free oil market factors as an excuse not to join OPEC-led global production cuts and also let US shale oil producers produce excessively even at a loss to gain market share at the expense of OPEC+ members and at the same prevent 35 million barrels of Saudi oil in tankers idling off the U.S. coast from unloading. The United States can’t have it both ways.
President Trump has a tendency to blackmail countries to achieve financial gains. He blackmailed Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf States by claiming that the United States is protecting them and their oil when in fact it is the source of their troubles. He got away with his blackmail by getting multi-billion dollars of arms deals from Saudi Arabia.
He tried to blackmail China in March 2018 by imposing tariffs on billions of Chinese exports to the United States in what became almost two years of trade war. China retaliated blow for blow and won the trade war.
He is trying now to hold China accountable for allegedly intentionally misleading the world about the fact that human transmission of the coronavirus outbreak was taking place and impeding US efforts to prevent it spreading into the United States. There were even calls for the US Congress to legislate to strip China of its sovereign immunity and allow people who have been unemployed and the businesses that have been devastated to sue China for damages. However, China will ignore such baseless allegations and will retaliate against any action taken to hold it responsible for the pandemic.
Moreover, President Trump is now considering imposing a tax on all foreign crude oil exports to the United States in order to bail out the bankrupt US shale oil industry at the expense of OPEC+ and other oil exporters. This ploy won’t work because major oil exporters will shift their exports to the Asia-Pacific region rather than pay a tax.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London