In his first foreign trip abroad as president, Donald Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia this weekend, where he signed an arms deals totaling $110 billion. This comes in addition to more than $115 billion offered in arms deals to Saudi Arabia by President Obama during his time in office.
The arms deal comes as the Pentagon continues to support a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, where years of fighting has decimated the country’s health, water, sewage and sanitation systems. Over 10,000 civilians have died since the Saudi invasion began in 2015. The U.N. says around 19 million of Yemen’s 28 million people need some form of aid, with many of them at risk of famine. Trump mentioned Yemen twice in his speech, but only to first praise the Saudis for their war against the Houthis and then to condemn Iran for its support of militant groups. The arms deal includes tanks, artillery, ships, helicopters, a missile defense system and cybersecurity technology. The deal also includes precision-guided munitions, which the Obama administration had stopped selling Saudi Arabia out of fear they would be used to bomb civilians in Yemen.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy condemned the arms deal, writing in The Huffington Post, quote, “By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more—not fewer—civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the human rights arm of the American Bar Association has informed the Senate the arms deal may be illegal due to the Saudi atrocities in Yemen. Vanderbilt University law professor Michael Newton wrote, “Continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia—and specifically of arms used in airstrikes—should not be presumed to be permissible,”.
Meanwhile, in another deal reached over the weekend, the Saudi kingdom and the United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday they’ll give $100 million to Ivanka Trump’s proposed Women Entrepreneurs Fund.
Medea Benjamin talking:
It’s just appalling to see Trump in Saudi Arabia, Amy, touting this $110 billion arms deal, when you look at the history of how those arms have been used. You talked about their use in devastating Yemen. We also have the example of them crushing the democratic uprising in neighboring Bahrain, using those weapons to fund al-Qaeda groups in Iraq and in Syria, and using those weapons internally to crush dissent, particularly in the Shia areas, which is happening right now with the Saudi siege of the Shia town of Awamiyah, that is getting absolutely no press in the United States. So, Congress does have the right—and, I would say, the obligation—to stop these arms deals. It didn’t do it under Obama. It’s time they do it under Trump. They’ll only do it if we, the people, put pressure on Congress to say no weapons sales to the repressive regime of Saudi Arabia.
– And the fact that these precision-guided weapons that President Obama, under enormous pressure from peace activists and others for selling this to Saudi Arabia, finally stopped
Trump resumed those weapons. Again, Congress could stop it. And he also will probably be giving the green light for the invasion of the port of Hudaydah, which is where the majority of humanitarian aid comes in. The humanitarian community says that will be catastrophic.
So, I think, once again, we have to put the pressure on Congress to say no green light for the invasion of that port. And, in fact, what we do need is an emphasis on going back to the negotiating table, find a political solution to this crisis in Yemen, which is the furthest thing from what President Trump wants to do, because you could see from his trip to Saudi Arabia that this is all about encircling Iran, this is all about inflaming even further sectarian violence, which is what the U.S. has been doing by supporting the Saudi involvement in Yemen.
Because this is where the food comes in. Ninety percent of the food in Yemen is imported. If they cannot get food into Hudaydah, which has already been hampered by the Saudi bombing of the cranes there and by a Saudi blockade of vessels coming in—but if they further destroy the ability to bring humanitarian aid into Hudaydah, it will result in a full-blown famine.
Half of the medical facilities in Yemen have been destroyed, again, in the significant—most of them by the Saudi bombing campaign. You have now an outbreak of cholera that is declared a national catastrophe in Yemen, where they’re saying that now one out of every 10 minutes a Yemeni is dying from the effects of cholera.
think of all the protests that would have broken out in Canada and Mexico with Trump’s appearance. You didn’t see one protester on the streets of Saudi Arabia, because protesters would be arrested, flogged, beaten, tortured and perhaps beheaded. So it was a, quote, “friendly” place for Donald Trump in that respect.
He also wants to tout the weapons sales, and he talks about it in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs back in the United States. And he wants to, between the trip to Saudi Arabia and the trip to Israel, be sending this very clear message to Iran. And let’s be clear: The best foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration was the nuclear deal with Iran. This is something that Trump may well destroy.
It was quite ironic when Rex Tillerson was speaking at a press conference with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia right next to him and said that he hopes the people of Iran get the freedoms of speech and association they deserve. And a reporter said, “What about Saudi Arabia?” He wouldn’t answer that question. So the selectivity is just astounding.
I think going to a country like Saudi Arabia, that has no free speech, no free association, no national elections, no political parties, no trade unions, where people like Raif Badawi, the blogger, is imprisoned for 10 years for blogging, where human rights lawyers are imprisoned for 15 years for defending human rights—it is appalling that Trump would go to Saudi Arabia and not even mention the issue of human rights, much less try to meet with one of the advocates for human rights, while he was visiting Saudi Arabia.
He said a lot of truthful things during the campaign that now he goes back on as soon as he is president. It is quite astounding to see him in Saudi Arabia, the very country that is behind the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers, that is still trying behind the scenes to stop the ability of 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts, in fact has blackmailed the U.S., saying that it would pull out $750 billion of investments. And meanwhile, Donald Trump is trying to get them to invest more in the U.S. economy, so they can continue to blackmail us.
If the Saudis indeed wanted to help women entrepreneurs, they should lift the guardianship system that treats women as minors their entire life. They should allow women to drive. They should stop the gender segregation that exists at every level of Saudi society, from the schools to the business places to places of worship.
And to have Ivanka Trump being—meeting with Saudi women entrepreneurs and touting this new investment is absolutely ridiculous. Ivanka Trump could have met with the women who have been signing petitions asking for lifting of that guardianship system. She could have been meeting with the women who have been punished for trying to drive. Those would be good ways to help women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.
it’s also interesting that they, Ivanka Trump nor Melania, were the only women at the events. You looked out, and you saw just a sea of men. And so, I think there are so many things that Ivanka or Melania could have done, could have said, that would show solidarity with the Saudi women who are fighting and have been fighting for decades for their rights. And yet they didn’t utter a word of support for those women.
Right before Donald Trump’s trip, the son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was meeting with the Saudis to clinch this deal. And, in fact, in what was described as a jaw-dropping moment, he picked up the phone to call the head of Lockheed Martin to negotiate a better deal for the Saudis. You wonder why the representative of the United States is trying to get a better deal for the Saudis instead of the other way around. But he made sure that deal would be ready by the time Donald Trump got there to announce the $110 billion deal.
co-founder of CodePink and author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.
— source democracynow.org