Despite all his fulminating about “fake news,” it appears that our President–whose definition of “fake” is any coverage (covfefe??) he doesn’t like–isn’t above generating some fakery of his own.
Remember Trump’s preening over his massive, multi-billion dollar “deal” with Saudi Arabia? Bruce Reidel of The Brookings Institution reports that no such deal exists.
Last month, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and his administration announced that he had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom. Only problem is that there is no deal. It’s fake news.
I’ve spoken to contacts in the defense business and on the Hill, and all of them say the same thing: There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.
In my ethnic group, this is what we call chutzpah. (Chutzpah is sort of like nerve or gall, but on steroids. The standard example is the guy who kills his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.)
It appears that the “Art of the Deal” braggart, the guy who “makes the best deals,” lied through his teeth again, this time about a huge transaction that doesn’t exist–and to the extent it may exist in the future, it was initiated by his “Kenyan” predecessor.
As Reidel also notes,
Moreover, it’s unlikely that the Saudis could pay for a $110 billion deal any longer, due to low oil prices and the two-plus years old war in Yemen. President Obama sold the kingdom $112 billion in weapons over eight years, most of which was a single, huge deal in 2012 negotiated by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. To get that deal through Congressional approval, Gates also negotiated a deal with Israel to compensate the Israelis and preserve their qualitative edge over their Arab neighbors. With the fall in oil prices, the Saudis have struggled to meet their payments since.
Reidel isn’t above snark: he says we’ll know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for money to keep the Israeli Defense Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.
A deal that evidently is coming is a munitions sale to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which will enable the Saudis to continue air bombardment of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.
Finally, just as the arms deal is not what it was advertised, so is the much-hyped united Muslim campaign against terrorism. Instead, the Gulf states have turned on one of their own. Saudi Arabia has orchestrated a campaign to isolate Qatar. This weekend Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt broke relations with Qatar. Saudi allies like the Maldives and Yemen jumped on the bandwagon. Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar.
This is not the first such spat but it may be the most dangerous. The Saudis and their allies are eager to punish Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, for hosting Al-Jazeera, and keeping ties with Iran. Rather than a united front to contain Iran, the Riyadh summit’s outcome is exacerbating sectarian and political tensions in the region.
The Middle East has long been the world’s most dangerously unstable area. Now we have put management of the tensions generated there in the hands of the most dangerously unstable person ever to occupy America’s Oval Office–a man who has no ability to distinguish between reality and ego gratifying bullshit.
What could possibly go wrong?