Saudi Arabia Teaches Trump the Real ‘Art of the Deal’ With Arms Sale that Defies Campaign Rhetoric

New U.S.-Saudi Relations Will Allow Saudi Arabia To Do Anything It Wants

Saudi Arabia has managed to clear its path with the U.S. and President Trump’s efforts to strengthen relations, but the U.S. has gained nothing from this. Trump met last month with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, deputy crown prince and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia and since then, he has been working on new deals to rekindle the relation with the Middle Eastern leader. According to a report from Reuters, part of the new friendship includes pushing for a series of military contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly a top regional ally of the U.S.

However, as Josh Rogin from The Washington Post explains, these new relationship sounds good, but only for the Saudis. While statements from both Washington and Riyadh have celebrated a stronger relationship on the political, economic, social, cultural and military fronts, the benefits obtained by the Saudis from getting cozy with the White House are obvious. Relations between both countries were rocky under President Obama as a result of Obama’s pressure on Riyadh to respect human rights, to increase attention towards civilian casualties resulting from the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, to open its diplomacy with Iran, and to rely less on Washington for security matters.

During his campaign for the Presidency, then candidate Trump lambasted Obama for failing to make a strong deal in the US interest with Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that Obama was being harder on Saudi Arabia than his predeccessor in the White House, Republican George W. Bush, who cozied up to Saudia Arabia despite their role in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now, not only has Trump just flipped his position completely in favor of Saudi Arabia, even after he repeatedly railed against it during his campaign, but now it seems none of the problems Obama tried to contain, none of the US  interests Trump was so critical of Obama about, appear to matter anymore. At least not to Trump, who seems as easily flattered as he is offended, and clearly can be bought or flattered into submission.

This is all the more infuriating when you consider that Trump had a good bargaining position with the Saudis, who would be eager for a reprieve from Obama’s hard line with them, and who appreciated much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric. As Andrew Bowen, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote

“Saudis have actually expressed marked optimism about the Trump administration and its ‘America first’ approach to foreign policy. Trump’s disdain for meddling in the internal affairs of foreign nations and his tough, no-nonsense approach to ISIS and Iran are music to their ears.”

So why did the so called master of “the art of the deal” walk away from the bargaining table giving the Saudis everything they wanted, while he came away empty handed for America? Obviously Trump is not interested in either the promotion of human rights or democracy; he has been reluctant to criticize governments like Russia or the Philippines. He also clearly lacks a structured foreign policy other than making business. In this case, Jim Mattis has previously worked with Gulf governments on military issues, and Rex Tillerson has important ties from his time at ExxonMobil. So perhaps other than an opportunity to make so money from selling weapons that will most likely continue killing civilians in Yemen. As Rogin put it

“After publicly bashing the kingdom for years, Trump completely reversed course Tuesday and rolled out the red carpet for the Saudi royals. He gave them a huge publicity boost and a highly sought-after U.S. commitment to improve and elevate bilateral relations. And what did Trump get in return? Not much at all.”

And then again, maybe trump is all hot air. Simply a corrupt, self aggrandizing blowhard. A thin skinned ripoff artist, and a criminal whose illicit fortune is a fraction of what it should have been based on what he inherited, a reknowned pervert, as well as a fan boy of dictators and slavers, whose business record is a littany of failures and cons. Just exactly the kind of guy to fold like a deck of cards when he should be standing firm.