Why Trump's Horrifying Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia WILL Lead to a Humanitarian Disaster

Why Trump’s Horrifying Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia WILL Lead to a Humanitarian Disaster

Trump Is About to Become an Accomplice to a Humanitarian Catastrophe

Donald Trump signed a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia worth a whopping $110 billion “immediately” and $350 billion over the next 10 years, it was announced during his trip to the Kingdom, Thursday. The New York Times reports that, on May 1st, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with a Saudi delegation next door to the White House. During the meeting, Kushner personally called an executive of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn A. Hewson, and asked her to give the Saudis a discount, which she did.

In 2015, as his presidential campaign was taking off, Trump registered 8 different companies in Saudi Arabia that appeared to link his business with Saudi interests, the Washington Post reported in November. This weapons transfer is almost certain to enrich Trump’s holdings, as a technical industry supporting the weapons systems grows in the Kingdom.

Related: Is Trump Using The Power Of The Presidency, And His Twitter, To Commit Insider Trading?

ABCNews reported that Trump framed the deal as “investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs,” while the State Department described it as entirely defensive in nature,

“The deal includes tanks and helicopters for border security, ships for coastal security, intelligence-gathering aircraft, a missile-defense radar system and cybersecurity tools…”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the agreement would “bolster Gulf defenses in order to counter Iranian influence in the region,” according to Al Arabiya English.

The phrase “counter Iranian influence” indicates that the shipment is not intended to be defensive in nature. Tanks, helicopters, ships and AWACs are obviously more than “border security.” Even the THAAD missile defense system easily doubles as an offensive capability. Iran’s deterrence strategy relies heavily on ballistic missiles, so if Saudi Arabia develops a stronger ground army, it can act more aggressively when it neutralizes Iran’s missile capabilities.

President Barack Obama sold roughly $115 billion in weapons to the Saudis over 8 years. So Trump is ratcheting up what was already happening. But the Obama administration had begun scaling back its promises to the Kingdom because of serious concerns about how the House of Saud is using the weapons. In October, Saudi Arabia bombed a funeral in Yemen, killing scores of innocent people, and disturbingly, the Saudi government was not particularly apologetic about it. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Saudis were indiscriminately bombing civilian areas and using banned munitions like white phosphorous and cluster bombs against civilian populations. So Obama slammed the brakes on a $400 million weapons package that was about to head out the door and ordered a review of US weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia in light of the Saudis’ use of the weapons.

Trump’s signing of this deal, which he called “a tremendous day,” is a promise of “fuggedaboutit” to King Salman in his war against Yemeni civilians.

The civil war in Yemen is complex, but in a nutshell: the Yemeni government claims sovereignty over all of Yemen, while the Houthi minority claims autonomy in a region that was autonomous for centuries until a revolution in the 1960s. The government has attempted to smash the separatist movement several times, and each time it has had the opposite effect of swelling the numbers of Houthi militias. Fighting has been more or less constant since 2004. In 2011, the Houthis forced the government to flee the country, and it now governs in exile in Saudi Arabia.

As Yemen slouched into full-blown civil war, the conflict took on a larger dimension as a proxy fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two heavyweights of the Middle East have been wrestling for control of the region ever since Saddam Hussein’s fall from power upset the delicate balance of power in the region, creating a huge political vacuum in the heart of the world’s richest oil fields. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia backed the government and Iran is widely suspected of arming and supplying the Houthis.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a full scale invasion of Yemen, deploying 150,000 troops. The Kingdom has managed to yank control of a few sparsely populated provinces, but it has been unable to seize the capital, Sana’a. Stuck in a quagmire, it seems that, under the guise of bombing terrorists, it has resorted to terrorizing civilian populations through indiscriminate massacre in areas that it can’t control.

The human cost of this situation is horrifying. Over 10,000 have died in the fighting, and 40,000 have been injured.

Yemen is a poor, underdeveloped country, and the war has led to almost total societal collapse.

According to Doctors Without Borders, following the collapse of the government, nearly a quarter of the country has not received a paycheck since 2015, leading to rampant desperate poverty. The aid organization also states that all actors in the conflict are attacking indiscriminately, which includes widespread attacks on hospitals. Citing the UN, Doctors Without Borders says that 600 health facilities have stopped functioning in the country due to damage, lack of staff and lack of supplies. This effects healthcare for millions of people.

Yemen is also on the verge of an unprecedented famine, and aid workers are trying to contain the spread of disease. According to Oxfam,

“A shocking 17 million people (60 percent of the population) don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, with seven million on the verge of famine in Yemen. Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than one million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, and food vouchers. In response to an outbreak of cholera, Oxfam is delivering water, sanitation, and hygiene to help prevent the spread of the disease.” 

The innocent people of Yemen caught in the crossfire need a ceasefire, food, water and medicine. Instead, they are getting a promise that Saudi Arabia now has an unlimited supply of the state-of-the-art weapons dropped on their funerals.

If Yemen spirals into chaos and mass starvation, that blood will at least partially be on Trump’s hands. Simply handing weapons over to the Saudis without trying to address the underlying political issues or at least trying to negotiate a temporary ceasefire to allow more aid makes Trump an accomplice to war crimes on a vast scale.

Photo by Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App