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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