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Trump, the Incomparable Arms Salesman

Right after Iran’s Soleimani was killed, the Saudis arrived at the White House.

Credit: Gage Skidmore www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • The US is the largest arms supplier and Trump is the top salesman.
  • President Trump loves to sell US arms and his favorite customer is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • With Trump stressing that a new Iran-related national emergency has erupted, the salesmen of US arms manufacturers will be engaged in negotiations in the region.
  • Total Saudi military spending in 2018 was $67 billion, accounting for the third-biggest level of arms spending in the world.

President Trump loves to sell U.S. arms and his favorite customer is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

After the U.S. military killed Iraqi general Qassem Soleimani on January 3, Trump went into full arms sales mode. To him, that was obviously more important than conferring with NATO allies, or members of the Congress.

No sooner had international security tensions soared, than a visit was swiftly arranged for MBS’s brother, Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman Khalid, to visit Washington on January 6 and 7. He met with the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense as well as with Trump at the White House.

The Saudis’ off-the-books meetings

Stunningly, the meetings were first publicly disclosed by the Saudis, and were not — and have not — been recorded on the official White House website.

When Trump did acknowledge that he met with the Saudi Vice Defense Minister, he announced in his usual upbeat fashion in such situations — no doubt with the cash register in his mind ringing loudly — on Twitter: “Had a very good meeting with @kbsalsaud of Saudi Arabia. We discussed Trade, Military, Oil Prices, Security, and Stability in the Middle East!” (2.05p.m., January 7, 2020).

Adding more (military) fuel to the fire

The Middle Eastern powder keg is about to become still more explosive. No region of the world imports such a large volume of weapons and the Saudis are huge buyers.

Total Saudi military spending in 2018 was $67 billion, accounting for the third-biggest level of arms spending in the world, behind the U.S. and China, but slightly ahead of Russia.

The new security tensions following the Soleimani assassination will likely ratchet up the stockpiles of arms in the region. The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not only boosting their arms imports but are also accelerating their plans to build their own large arms-manufacturing factories.

U.S.-Saudi deals

The United States is the largest arms supplier and Trump is the top salesman. “President Trump and King Salman Sign Arms Deal,” ran the headline on the White House official website in May 2017 as Trump made his first overseas trip as president.

The statement highlighted the fact that “President Trump and King Salman participated in the signing ceremony for almost $110 billion worth of defense capabilities.”

Sidestepping Congressional restrictions

In May 2019, Donald Trump sidestepped Congressional restrictions on some arms sales. He did so by declaring a national emergency regarding Iran as the means for approving $8 billion in sales of U.S. precision-guided munitions and other weapons.

Now, unquestionably, Trump will be stressing that a new Iran-related national emergency has erupted and shipments of U.S. arms to U.S. allies in the Gulf are a vital priority.

No doubt, the salesmen for Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and other U.S. arms manufacturers are engaged in new negotiations in the region.

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About Frank Vogl

Frank Vogl is co-founder of Transparency International and author of Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power. [Washington D.C., United States]

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