It looks like President “Art of the Deal” Trump got hornswoggled by the Saudis. He agreed to sell them $110 billion of advanced weapons in return for – wait for it – nothing. What a deal! Or as our President himself might put it in one of his early A.M. Twitter rampages: Sad! Fail!
So what goodies are the Saudis getting? 133 M1A2 tanks, one of the most sophisticated tanks in the world. 48 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters, along with 112 Lycoming T55-GA-714A engines that the Chinooks use, and 58 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems. This is the U.S. Army’s only heavy-lift cargo helicopter supporting combat and other critical operations. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, able to intercept short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles. The deal on this last item was greased when Jared Kushner picked up the phone during a final pre-trip meeting with the Saudis and called Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin (the company that makes the system), and straight-up asked her if she could give the Saudis a discount. What a deal! At least what a deal for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other defense contractors.
We’ve been down this road before. Until the Shah was overthrown the U.S. sold Iran billions and billions of dollars of advanced weaponry. What difference did it make that the Shah’s regime was repressive and autocratic – we had to go all in with Iran for “geopolitical” reasons, to counterbalance our adversary. What could possibly go wrong? Of course we wouldn’t make the same mistake again! Except that Trump in the Middle East is like a goldfish swimming with the sharks. Alliances in the Middle East never change (he seems to think). No way any of our enemies could ever get their hands on some of those fabulous weapons (he seems to think). The Saudis are our permanent really special friends (he seems to think).
Or are they? It’s not difficult to find fault with Iran, but aside from our “permanent” alliance with them are the Saudis that much better? The terrorists responsible for 9/11 did not come from Iran. Osama bin Laden was not an Iranian. ISIS itself hates Iran. The closest thing to an establishment “radical Islam” is Wahhabism, which has been supported and spread throughout the globe as the state policy of Saudi Arabia for over 200 years. A recent article by the British journalist Carlotta Gull details how with Saudi support the moderate brand of Islam in Kosovo is being supplanted by Wahhabism, creating a fertile recruiting ground for ISIS.
Our brilliant deal-making President didn’t even make a peep about the human rights catastrophe unfolding in Yemen, which is facing famine and already has over 50,000 casualties of the conflict between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi backed regime. In fact Trump seemed quite pleased to reverse the U.S. policy of at least paying lip service to human rights, and pointedly omitted any mention of the numerous human rights violations of the Saudi regime including extreme discrimination against women, slavery, anti-Semitism, mistreatment and abuse of foreign workers, and overt repression of religious minorities. Maybe Trump thinks some of this is not so bad…
Good job, Mr President! In return for giving the Saudis exactly what they wanted from us and more, you’ve released them from any obligation to clean up their act and have received precisely nothing in return that commits them to help us in any way. The Saudis must be celebrating “The Art of the Steal”.