Saudi Diplomat Calls Trump a ‘Tweet Monster,’ Worries About Reliability as an Ally

By Patrick Goodenough | October 18, 2019 | 4:39am EDT
Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom Khalid bin Bandar. (Photo: Saudi Embassy, London)

( – Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Great Britain this week called President Trump a “tweet monster” whose recent decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syrian ahead of a Turkish military offensive “doesn’t give one incredible confidence” about the administration’s reliability as an ally.

Khalid bin Bandar was speaking at a think tank in London, three days after the Pentagon announced that the U.S. was sending more forces to Saudi Arabia, bringing to 3,000 the number of troops authorized for deployment in the kingdom over the past month. He did acknowledge that move.

During an event at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Khalid was asked a question contrasting Trump’s combative early response to a missile and drone attack on Saudi oil installations last month blamed on Iran, with – in the questioner’s words – “nothing happening."

(A day after the attack, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production, Trump tweeted that the U.S. was “locked and loaded,” but awaiting word from the Saudis as to whom they held responsible. The administration later responded by imposing new sanctions on Iran, with targets including its central bank.)

Khalid began cautiously, noting he was the ambassador to London, not Washington – where his sister holds that post.

“I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the president, you know I’m here in the U.K. to further relationships with the U.K.”

“But I will say that we, you know, ‘locked and loaded’ came from the – you know, he is a, a tweet monster, if you like. He loves engaging with people on social media, etcetera, and I think, you know, he does so very quickly. And sometimes it’s just his initial reaction.”

Asked how the Saudis view Trump’s recent moves in northern Syria, Khalid replied, “We don’t like it at all.”

“I’ll be a little bit more, uh, undiplomatic in that I think it’s a disaster for the region,” he said.

Khalid went on to say that in “every single disaster in the last ten years in the Middle East” Saudi Arabia has not benefited but has on the contrary borne the cost, even though it has tried to play its part for the wider good, for example by helping to keep oil prices down.

Later, he was asked whether Riyadh still considers the Trump administration to be a “trustworthy, consistent and reliable ally.”

“Luckily I’m not the ambassador to Washington,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be addressing that issue because I’m not in Washington. And politics – a lot happens behind the scenes. As much happens behind the scenes as in front.”

“I’m not privy to all that,” he continued. “Even though it’s my sister who’s ambassador, she doesn’t tell me everything – like much of my life, happy to advise but very difficult to share information.”

“But I think, I’ll be a little vague if you don’t mind. We are concerned, no question. What has happened in Turkey – in Syria with Turkey, and pulling out the troops, it doesn’t give one incredible confidence.”

“But then we saw them sending quite a lot of anti-missile batteries to Saudi and some troops to help us manage the northern defenses,” he acknowledged. “It’s difficult to judge.”

Khalid is a prince whose sister, Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, became ambassador to the United States early this year. Their father, Bandar bin Sultan, was ambassador to Washington from 1983-2005, and the kingdom’s intelligence chief from 2012-2014.

On October 11, three days before the RUSI event, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the deployment to Saudi Arabia of two additional fighter squadrons and support personnel, one Air Expeditionary Wing, as well as two Patriot and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems.

“Taken together with other deployments I have extended or authorized within the last month, this involves about 3,000 United States forces,” he said.

He noted that, since May, the Pentagon has sent an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East, “in response to Iranian provocation.”


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