After welcoming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the White House for a series of meetings earlier this week (which provoked a mini-scandal when the New York Times reported that there were no women in the room) the Associated Press and Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration has officially approved a $1 billion arms sale to the Kingdom - complete with 6,700 Raytheon anti-tank missiles worth $670 million.
The approval came just hours after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered his farewell remarks.
Today's deal should not come as a surprise: during his trip to the Kingdom last year, President Trump touted business deals that he claimed to help facilitate - including the largest US arms-sale agreement ever, worth some $350 billion. Furthermore, over the past year Trump has repeatedly voiced his desire to consummate major arms deals with any willing buyer of US equipment, even Ukraine recently, a move which is sure to provoke escalation in hostilities between Ukraine and Russia.
And since the missiles in today's arms sale will almost certainly be used by the Saudi government to support the government of Yemen, which is embroiled in a brutal years-long civil war with Houthi rebels aligned with Iran, the surest trade for the foreseeable future will be going short the lifespan of Yemen residents. Again.
Someone has to arm terrorists. Might as well be us.— Sleve McDichael (@sweatpantsfun) March 22, 2018
Ironically, the latest US arms sale to Riyadh happens a day after the Senate voted to kill a bipartisan bill intended to limit the scope of US support for the Saudi proxy war in Yemen as the situation there has snowballed into a devastating humanitarian crisis. Here's Al-Monitor with more:
By a vote of 55-44, the Senate voted to kill a bipartisan effort to end US support for an aerial campaign that has killed thousands of civilians over the past three years. While proponents of the measure decried the humanitarian toll and lack of congressional oversight, the specter of Iran loomed over the debate.
"The Trump administration has tried to justify our involvement in the Yemen war as necessary to push back on Iran," bill sponsor Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said ahead of the vote. "While Iran’s support for Houthi insurgents is of serious concern for all of us, the truth is that this war has increased, not decreased, the opportunities for Iranian interference."
Others sharply disagreed.
"As it has done in political vacuums throughout the region, Iran will continue to expand its proxy power," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Through its Revolutionary Guard, Iran will continue shipping weapons to the Houthis."
It's worth noting that the US isn't alone among its "democratic, humanitarian" allies in supporting the Saudi war effort. Yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the previous administration's decision to sell more than 900 armored vehicles to the Saudis, per the Guardian. Trudeau, one of the world's most prominent progressive leaders, defended the deal, saying his government had little choice but to honor it - to the consternation of some of his fellow liberal lawmakers.
"So I am asking the prime minister, what does he think about Canada potentially being complicit in international human rights violations?" Laverdière asked. "How can we say Canada’s foreign policy is progressive and feminist when we continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia?"
Trudeau responded by arguing that his government had little choice but to respect the contract signed by the previous government. "Permits are only approved if the exports are consistent with our foreign and defence policies, including human rights,” said Trudeau. “Our approach fully meets our national obligations and Canadian laws.”
Cesar Jaramillo of Project Ploughshares, a Canadian disarmament group, described Trudeau’s response as "flawed logic", as it is up to his government to set out the parameters of Canada’s foreign and defence policy.
"We also think it flies in the face of this feminist agenda of the Canadian government, which is now being sold as the centrepiece of Canadian foreign policy. Yet at exactly the same time we are arming one of the most repressive regimes on the planet for women," said Jaramillo. "So I think there’s a clear gap between the rhetoric and the action of the Canadian government."
Just minutes after news of the arms sale broke, reporters spotted John Bolton, the infamous Iran hawk and rumored to be a contender to succeed HR McMaster as Trump's National Security Advisor, entering the White House.
John Bolton spotted entering the West Wing pic.twitter.com/KBJCPgYOak— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) March 22, 2018
The very lucrative US support for Saudi Arabia over the past three years has come at a staggering human cost, with over 10,000 civilians dead during the Yemeni civil war, while more than 3 million have been replaced. Earlier today, the Houthis fired a missile at an Aramco facility near the border, however it appears to have missed: Aramco told Bloomberg that all oil, natural gas and refining facilities were safe and operating normally following the attack.
According to the AP, the State Department says the administration told Congress on Thursday that it plans to approve the sale. Lawmakers will have 30 days to act if they want to try to stop it.
Finally, for those who claim that this is a partisan issue, don't: we pulled a random headline from the recent past - Obama To Sell $10 Billion In Weapons To Israel, Saudi Arabia And The UAE - to demonstrate that when it comes to collecting Saudi blood money, Democrats and Republicans will do so with identical enthusiasm.