Trump Tells King Salman He Supports More Saudi Arms Purchases

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump told Saudi King Salman he would support the purchase of American military equipment to keep Saudi Arabia safe in a phone call Saturday, hours after the Saudi military said it intercepted a ballistic missile launched by Yemeni rebels targeting an airport in Riyadh.

Trump and Salman discussed the “continuing threat of Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen” and the intercepted missile attack, according to a call readout provided by the White House. Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of countries against the militias, which overthrew Yemen’s government in 2015.

Trump Tells King Salman He Supports More Saudi Arms Purchases

Trump thanked the king for prior military purchases, including a $15 billion investment in Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems and billions of dollars in other investments.

The discussion between the two leaders also came hours after an anti-corruption purge that led to the arrest of dozens of high-profile Saudis, including the billionaire founder of Kingdom Holding Co., Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Salman. The call readout issued by the White House did not say if the leaders discussed the arrests, and White House officials have not responded to requests for comment about the arrests.

The two leaders did discuss Trump’s request, first issued in a late-night tweet, that the Saudis list the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. - better known as Aramco - on the New York Stock Exchange.

After speaking to Salman aboard Air Force One, Trump told reporters on the plane that he was motivated to send the tweet because the Aramco initial public offering “will be just about the biggest ever” and the U.S. wants “to have all the big listings.” The Saudis were not currently looking at listing on a U.S. exchange “because of litigation risk, and other risk, which is sad,” he said.

The Aramco IPO could be the world’s largest, with the Saudi government hoping to raise $100 billion selling just 5 percent of the company. It is the centerpiece of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, intended to diversify the kingdom’s economy and invest more heavily in infrastructure.

The arrests of the 11 princes and 38 current or former senior officials were done on the orders of a newly established anti-corruption committee headed by the crown prince.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.