the Saudi government is indeed behind the murder of journalist Jamal
Khashoggi there should be consequences—political, military,
economic, and reputational.
President Trump begs to differ. His reaction to questions about
whether the United States would cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia if
Riyadh is proven to be behind the killing of Khashoggi has been to
say that he does not want to jeopardize
the alleged $110 billion in arms deals his administration has struck
with the Saudi regime, and the U.S. jobs that come with them.
his recent interview
with CBS 60 Minutes, Trump specifically cites the needs of U.S.
weapons manufacturers as reasons to keep U.S. arms flowing to the
Saudi regime, even if it ends up being responsible for the murder of
are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that
order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it…I tell
you what I don’t wanna do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all
these [companies]…I don’t wanna hurt jobs. I don’t
wanna lose an order like that.
tells CBS’s Leslie Stahl that “there are other ways of
punishing” Saudi Arabia without cutting of U.S. arms sales, but
he fails to specify what those might be.
of what ultimately happened to Khashoggi, continuing U.S. arms sales
and military support to Saudi Arabia under current circumstances is
immoral. Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that
not only may be behind the assassination of a U.S. resident and
respected commentator but is responsible for thousands
of civilian casualties
in its three-and-one-half-year military intervention in Yemen—the
majority killed with U.S-supplied bombs and combat aircraft and U.S.
refueling and targeting assistance.
Khashoggi case merely underscores the approach of Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne in Riyadh who is the
most ruthless and reckless leader in Saudi history. Rep. Ted Lieu
(D-CA), one of a growing list of congressional critics of the regime,
that the actions of the Saudi/UAE coalition in Yemen “look like
war crimes.” And the impacts go well beyond the indiscriminate
air strikes that have targeted hospitals, civilian market places,
funerals, a wedding, and most recently a school
carrying 40 children. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also spearheading
a partial blockade that has made it extremely difficult to get
urgently need humanitarian assistance to Yemenis who desperately need
it, putting millions
on the brink of starvation. And their bombings of water treatment
plants and other civilian infrastructure are responsible for the most
of cholera in recent memory, a totally preventable consequence of the
if it were acceptable to favor jobs over human rights in this case,
the economic benefits are in fact marginal. Trump strongly implies
that if the United States were to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia,
the $110 billion arms “deal” he has made with Riyadh
would be in jeopardy. But as the fact checker for The
the idea that there ever was a $110 billion arms deal is “fake
news.” It is a public relations figure cooked up by the Trump
administration that combines offers made under the Obama
administration, a few new deals, and a long wish list of sales that
may never materialize.
reality, since Trump took office, Saudi Arabia has signed commitments
for about $14.5
in U.S. weaponry, only slightly more than 10% of the $110 billion
figure Trump boasts about at every opportunity.
cite one pertinent example, the precision-guided bomb sale to Saudi
Arabia that the Trump administration green-lighted last year will
support at most a few thousand jobs in an economy that employs
over 125 million people.
procurement generates fewer
than virtually any other form of economic activity, and many of the
jobs associated with U.S. arms sales are created overseas in the
purchasing nation as a condition of the sale. For example, as part of
Mohammed bin Salman’s much-touted economic plan, the goal is to
have a full 50%
of the work generated by Saudi arms imports done in the kingdom by
2030. U.S. firms are already jumping to comply with this mandate by
setting up subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia and signing off on the
assembly of U.S.-supplied weapons there.
claim that Russia or China will quickly swoop in to grab any arms
deal the United States declines to conclude with the Saudi regime is
also suspect. The Saudi arsenal is heavily dependent on U.S.- and
UK-supplied weaponry. It would take many years and tens of billions
of dollars to change course in any meaningful way—money that
Riyadh can ill afford as it hemorrhages money for its brutal war in
Yemen and tries to cope with unstable oil prices. It’s always
possible that the Saudi military would make a token purchase from
Russia or China to send a signal, but the idea that the United States
would lose out on a huge volume of arms sales as a result is unlikely
in the extreme.
are other ways to promote jobs in the United States that do not
involve accepting blood money from the Saudi regime. Congress should
not be dissuaded from doing the right thing due to false claims about
the economic benefits of the U.S.-Saudi arms trade.
ball is now in the congressional court, where bipartisan opposition
to the Trump administration’s cozy relationship with Saudi
Arabia is growing. Most recently the House is seeking
to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen under the War
Powers Resolution, an effort led by Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ro Khanna
(D-CA), and Adam Smith (D-WA) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group
of dozens of their colleagues. There will also be strong opposition
to a long-discussed sale of precision-guided U.S. bombs to Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates once it comes up for formal
case of Jamal Khashoggi is just one of many reasons for the United
States to distance itself from the Saudi regime. The time to act is
This commentary was originally published by LobeLog.com