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A Hello to Arms
Trump Fast Tracks Saudi Arms Sales

The Trump administration is about to make the Saudis—and the American military-industrial complex—very happy, according to Reuters:

Washington is working to push through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others in the pipeline, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the kingdom this month, people familiar with the talks told Reuters this week.

Saudi Arabia is Trump’s first stop on his maiden international trip, a sign of his intent to reinforce ties with a top regional ally. […]

One of the people with knowledge of the sales said that as planning for Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia intensified in recent weeks, the arms negotiations also accelerated. Two U.S. officials said a U.S.-Saudi working group met at the White House Monday and Tuesday to negotiate the trip, as well as financing for military equipment sales and stopping terrorist financing.

Some of the reported arms packages are new, like a deal to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in Saudi Arabia; others look to be fulfillments of contracts that were stalled or suspended under the Obama administration. But the particulars of the deals are less significant than the symbolism.

Trump’s first foreign trip as president will be to Saudi Arabia, before he heads on to Israel. By expediting these sales ahead of the Saudi summit, the administration is making a clear statement of its priorities in the Middle East—and sending a signal to Iran. After years of estrangement from the Obama administration, Secretary Mattis has been looking for early ways to shore up lost credibility with our Gulf allies. This is a high-profile way to do just that, and the message will not be lost in Tehran.

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  • KremlinKryptonite

    It’s not just Saudi. The entire Arab coalition that has coalesced around Riyadh, and indeed set up a huge command center there, are all determined to blunt Tehran’s efforts and stop Yemen from becoming another Iraq. Trump’s hands are tied on this issue, especially while the government forces are still making slow advances against the Tehran-backed militants.

    • Isaiah601

      Let’s not forget that US already sent to Israel a small squadron of the newest F-35’s. Trump is sending a clear message to Tehran by materially upgrading the hardware of Iran’s opponents. That is a VERY powerful deterrence message in and of itself. Despite what Comrade FriendlyGoat and his ilk might think, Trump really is NOT a bumbling moron who can’t piss and chew bubblegum at the same time. Only time will tell how successful this idea will be.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        More important (and simple) than that, it is in the US’s interests to back the Arab Coalition against Iranian-backed militants. And of course these contracts = thousands of high paying jobs will keep busy.

      • f1b0nacc1

        A very minor point…the Israelis BOUGHT those F-35s, they weren’t ‘sent’ to them…

        Though in all honesty, I am not sure that represents an upgrade (grin)…

  • D4x

    Teheran already got a broader message, that ISIS is Sunni anxiety about Iran: “…the White House described as an effort to rally the world — and the three major faiths symbolized by those locales — together to battle intolerance that has given rise to extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS). …

    The itinerary reflects what White House officials described as a way to translate Trump’s “America First” agenda into confident American
    leadership on the world stage, to reinvigorate old alliances and seek new opportunities for cooperation. …

    The officials outlined four objectives they hope to advance on the trip: 1) uniting the world to fight intolerance and ideological
    extremism over the long term; 2) stopping money flows to terrorists; 3) better burden-sharing; and 4) countering Iran and defeating IS.

    On the last goal, the top Trump advisers seem to have internalized the view, prevalent in the Sunni world, that IS is an outgrowth of
    Sunni anxiety about Iran. …”

    Author Laura Rozen Posted May 4, 2017

    Read more:

  • f1b0nacc1

    While I agree that this is a positive development, lets not get too excited. The Arabs are questionable warriors at best, and if their performance in Yemen thus far is any indication, they are likely to make only the most limited use of the weapons that they have purchased.

    • Ellen

      Exactly. The Saudis usually make loud splashy announcements about how many billions of dollars of American weapons they are buying every time the Iranians utter a public threat against them. Unfortunately, they have almost no capacity to use these weapons effectively, as their bombing campaign in Yemen proves. Their pilots are mostly hitting civilians and hospitals. The Sauds refuse to build a decent army led by competent officers for the obvious reason that the most likely target of their army’s wrath would be the corrupt, baleful Saudi Royal Family itself, not any of the external enemies.

      These weapons purchases are coming at a time when Saudi foreign exchange reserves are declining at a rapid rate and the economic reform plan is being put into reverse. The only explanation for this expenditure of money that they can’t afford to spend on weapons and that they cannot use is…..They want Trump to send the US army into the MidEast to do the dirty work again and prop up the Sauds once more. He should refuse. Let them fall, and then crunch the Iranians.

      • f1b0nacc1

        The real irony to me is that the Saudis are doing almost precisely what the Iranians did during the last decade or so of the Shah’s rule…buy lots of expensive toys that they really have no capacity to use effectively.

        On the positive side, there is little way that whoever inherits that deadly mass will be in any position to make use of it…

        • Ellen

          It’s a jobs program for American workers and helps put tax money into the federal and state budgets. That is the whole rationale. It buys the Saudis lots of votes in Congress from people who would not usually be willing to support the Wahabi outlook on life, to put it mildly.

          • f1b0nacc1

            You should add that the Saudis are also quite free with their own ‘contributions’ (bribes) to various power-players in DC, just in case the actual jobs and tax revenue isn’t enough….

  • ljgude

    While I understand why we are backing the Saudis to counter Tehran given its gains in the last 16 years, both IS and al Qaeda are creatures of Saudi Wahhabism. I think the administration should be looking to repair relations with Egypt, which is the only moderate Sunni regime. They are broke and starving, but that might be fixable with agricultural reform and foreign investment. Certainly Egypt would make a better long term partner than either the Saudis or the Pakistanis.

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