Mutiny Over the Bounty as Trump Receives 83 Gifts From Saudi Rulers
AP Photo/ Evan VucciUS18:04 06.09.2017(updated 18:16 06.09.2017) Get short URL
The secret of good gift giving, they say, is knowing your recipient well. In the case of the Saudi government, the answer is clearly not very, if at all, especially when it comes to lavishing presents on President Donald Trump.
The overly-generous Gulf state gave the United States leader no fewer than 83 gifts during his state visit to the kingdom in May — his first foray on foreign soil in an official capacity.
Among the items handed over by the Saudi rulers was a picture of the president, a number of swords, a leather-bound ammunition holder, copious numbers of headscarves, perfume bottles, nine pairs of leather sandals and a silver dagger in a mother-of-pearl sheath.
AP Photo/ Saudi Press Agency via AP, FileIn this May 21, 2017 file photo, released by the Saudi Press Agency, from left to right, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Saudi King Salman, U.S. First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump, visit a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Perhaps the most surprising choice of items of booty presented, however, were garments of clothing including several traditional shirts “with floral embroidery” in black, orange and green.
President Trump also received robes lined with white tiger trim as well as cheetah fur.
Details surrounding the catalogue of gifts have only now emerged after the Daily Beast filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department.
Under American law, gifts worth more than US$390 must be handed over to the National Archives, although occasionally presidents can buy them back at market value. It is not known if this is the case with the present incumbent in the White House.
‘Historic’ Arms Deal
The trip itself sparked much controversy after the US President failed to address Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights in his keynote speech.
Instead he said, “We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”
REUTERS/ Jonathan ErnstUS President Donald Trump bids farewell before he and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One to depart for Israel from King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2017.
Ironically, President Trump later announced a “historic” US$110 billlion arms deal with the country, a figure that is expected to rise to US$350 billion in the coming 10 years.
‘America’s Most Profitable Relationship’
News surrounding the gifts bonanza has also prompted a bitter reaction from worldwide human rights campaigners
“Trump’s decision to visit Saudi first clearly signaled his top prioritization of America’s most profitable relationship with its number one weapons client in the world,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“The Trump administration has gone well beyond any prior US administration in its embrace of Saudi Arabia not only with its vastly expanded, unrestricted arms sales to Saudi, but in a deliberate refusal to criticize the country’s atrocious domestic rights record and reckless, catastrophic, military campaigns in Yemen,” she added.
REUTERS/ Jonathan ErnstSaudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) presents U.S. President Donald Trump (C) with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. Picture taken May 20, 2017
“Since Trump has become president, you see this real escalation in terms of what the US is doing in Yemen,” said Kristine Beckerle, a researcher specializing in gulf countries at HRW.
Ms. Beckerle cited the dramatic rise in drone strikes and US ground operations as evidence of the administration’s increased involvement in the conflict.
During his presidential campaign, Trump attacked his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton for accepting money from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, complaining during one of the debates, “These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money.”