Saturday 22nd of February 2020

make that $110 billion worth of armament... and no need to haggle like mother courage...

weaponising one side of the middle

WASHINGTON — On the afternoon of May 1, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, welcomed a high-level delegation of Saudis to a gilded reception room next door to the White House and delivered a brisk pep talk: “Let’s get this done today.”

Mr. Kushner was referring to a $100 billion-plus arms deal that the administration hoped to seal with Saudi Arabia in time to announce it during Mr. Trump’s visit to the kingdom this weekend. The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis’ buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Sensing that the cost might be a problem, several administration officials said, Mr. Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price. As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it, officials said.

Mr. Kushner’s personal intervention in the arms sale is further evidence of the Trump White House’s readiness to dispense with custom in favor of informal, hands-on deal making. It also offers a window into how the administration hopes to change America’s position in the Middle East, emphasizing hard power and haggling over traditional diplomacy.

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today the world, tomorrow the universe...

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A mysterious glowing orb is exerting uncanny power over the world’s social media.

President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt entered a darkened room filled with row after row of computers in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Sunday evening.

They placed their hands atop a radiant whitish sphere, which illuminated their faces like a campfire, and kept them there for nearly two minutes. The first lady, Melania Trump, who also briefly touched the object, looked on.

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It's not a mysterious object... It's a glowing globe of the earth that the Donald is going to conquer on behalf of the Saudis...

not fighting their own...

The Saudis and the Emiratis would never dare put their troops onto a battlefield in Syria or Iraq for fear the troops would mutiny and join ISIS, says Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria and Bahrain.

US President Donald Trump on Sunday addressed leaders of 55 Muslim-majority countries who gathered for the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.

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which pays more: lollipops or cannons?


President Trump’s state visit to Riyadh and his actions there should deeply trouble all Americans. The president not only inked a deal to sell the Kingdom $110 billionin U.S. armaments, but he greatly intensified the overall security relationship. He proposed a Middle East version of NATO—a thinly disguised, Saudi-led alliance against Iran—and indicated that there would be strong U.S. backing for that association. Trump also celebrated the establishment in Riyadh of a global center to combat extremism.

It is difficult to justify those measures on the basis of rational U.S. security calculations. It is impossible to do so on the basis of any decent moral considerations. Unfortunately, President Trump is perpetuating and intensifying an extremely questionable bilateral relationship that has gone on for decades.

Saudi Arabia is an exceptionally duplicitous power that cannot be considered a U.S. ally, much less a friend. Indeed, given the Kingdom’s track record of promoting Islamic radicalism, building a center to combat global extremism in Riyadh is akin to having placed a center to combat fascism in 1930s Rome or Berlin. As Malou Innocent and I document in our book, Dubious Partners, the Saudi regime abets extremism in multiple ways. Riyadh has funded schools (madrassa) in various Muslim countries for decades to promote the Wahhabi religious cult that has intimate ties with the royal family. Wahhabi clerics indoctrinate youth in a most virulent anti-Western perspective.  

Numerous analysts have noted that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 were Saudi nationals, but that was hardly the extent of Riyadh’s culpability. Some Saudi officials had at least a disturbingly tolerant relationship with Al Qaeda for years before those terrorist attacks. And the promotion of armed extremist groups did not begin or end with that association. As early as the 1980s, Riyadh made a concerted effort, in collusion with Pakistan, to make sure that the bulk of the financial and military assistance that Washington was providing Afghan insurgents resisting the Soviet occupation went to the most extreme Islamist factions. More recently,Riyadh backed extremist forces trying to unseat the governments of Iraq and Syria. Some of those groups eventually coalesced to form ISIS.

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Which brings in more cash: selling the lollipops of peace or the cannons of wars? Please revisit Mother Courage and Her Children... and see toon at top...


dubious partners...


likely to backfire...


US President Donald Trump’s strong support for Saudi Arabia on his visit to Riyadh is likely to backfire, creating a backlash against the United States across the Middle East, analysts told Sputnik on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Trump expressed strong support for Saudi Arabia against Iran during his visit and repeatedly criticized Tehran despite the landslide victory of moderate Hassan Rouhani on Friday.


"I suspect that this will backfire," philosopher, noted political commentator and University of Louvain Professor Jean Bricmont said. "The Saudis are intensely hated in the Arab [and] Muslim world and their open subservience to the United States and Israel won’t help."

Saudi Arabia is repressive and never held elections the way Iran did, Bricmont pointed out.



"As for the United States siding as they do with feudal autocrats in a sectarian war against Shia Islam, and in particular Iran and in alliance with Israel, will only make them more unpopular," he said.

Bricmont also observed that Trump was incapable of distinguishing military resistance against an armed occupation from the kind of indiscriminate terrorism such as that the bomb attack in Manchester in the United Kingdom on Monday.

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Meanwhile on the last dry high ground of the Swamp in Washington:


WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The aide noted Paul will introduce a measure disapproving of the sale later on Tuesday and could force a vote on the measure.


Paul's aide said the senator could bring the United States further into the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen if it goes through on the arms sale.

The rights group Amnesty International USA said the United States is fueling serious human rights violations happening in Yemen by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

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donald continuing the awful US diplomacy...

Charles Krauthammer’s analysis of Trump’s Saudi visit and his foreign policy is as wrong as you would expect it to be:

That progress began with Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the first of his presidency — an unmistakable declaration of a radical reorientation of U.S. policy in the region. Message: The appeasement of Iran is over [bold mine-DL].

Barack Obama’s tilt toward Iran in the great Muslim civil war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia was his reach for Nixon-to-China glory.

Iran hawks have tried to spin Obama’s regional policies as “appeasement of Iran” for years, but this was never true. Mind you, these people think any form of diplomatic engagement is appeasement, since they are satisfied with noting less than total capitulation of the other side. As they see it, if Obama negotiated with Iran he must have also appeased them, but that’s a ridiculous way to think about these things. That doesn’t tell us anything about what actually happened during the Obama years, but it does remind us of the hawks’ knee-jerk rejection of diplomacy.

In order to appease, one party must make a costly concession to another in order to avoid an attack. If anyone was being appeased during the nuclear negotiations, it was the U.S. and the rest of the P5+1. To believe that Iran was the one being appeased requires forgetting that it was the one that had to make the most significant and lasting concessions to gain relief from punishing sanctions. All that the U.S. conceded was that Washington would stop some of the sanctions our government imposed on them. No honest observer could call that appeasement of Iran, but then Iran hawks haven’t been honest about most things during the debate over the nuclear deal.

During the so-called “appeasement of Iran,” the U.S. imposed extensive sanctions on the Iranian economy and persuaded many of its major trading partners to do likewise. The U.S. also armed Iran’s regional rivals to the teeth, and Obama set a record for selling more weapons to the Saudis than any president before him. On top of that, Obama backed the forces opposing the Syrian government for most of his second term, and supported the Saudi-led coalition in their delusion that attacking Yemen had something to do with combating Iranian influence. Everything Trump has done to date has represented a continuation of Obama-era policies. That is not a reorientation, much less a “radical” one, and that’s the problem.

Trump’s regional policies are awful in large part because he is continuing what Obama was doing and compounding Obama’s errors with more of his own. The main and perhaps only meaningful difference is that Obama occasionally offered mild criticisms of the Saudis, and Trump won’t shut up about how great they are. The policies are quite similar and similarly horrible, but for a partisan and ideologue like Krauthammer that is unimaginable. So we are treated to the fantasy that Trump has engineered a “reversal” from Obama policies that he is adopting.

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donald dancing with terrorism supporters...

However, according to the Israeli commentator, it is more than "business as usual."


"We saw how Trump and Tillerson were 'enchanted' with a colorful Arabian dance with swords," Eskin noted. "The former head of the CIA, John Brennan — a passionate admirer and effective lobbyist for Saudi interests in Washington — might have had the 'Lawrence of Arabia' syndrome. Now Donald Trump has embarked on his predecessors' path."

The Israeli commentator recalled that very recently Trump fiercely and uncompromisingly criticized Riyadh.

If Saudi Arabia, which has been making one billion dollars a day from oil, wants our help and protection, they must pay dearly! NO FREEBIES.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 26 марта 2015 г.

​"If Saudi Arabia, which has been making 1 billion dollars a day from oil, wants our help and protection, they must pay dearly! NO FREEBIES," Trump tweeted on March 26, 2015.

Furthermore, he openly lambasted Islamic extremism, saying "anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression, and violence of Radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president."

It is no secret, however, that generous Saudi donors have long been supporting Sunni extremists in the Middle East, Eskin remarked.

Indeed, one of the emails purportedly written by Hillary Clinton to John Podesta on August 17, 2014, and published by WikiLeaks, said: "We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Daesh] and other radical Sunni groups in the region."

Citing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli political analyst Dr. Yaron Friedman, Eskin called attention to Israel's concerns over the US-Saudi weapons deal and the latest Islamic summit.

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see toon at top...

110 billion bizos of fake news?...


The record $110 billion arms deal US President Donald Trump inked on his visit to Saudi Arabia is “fake news,” a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism expert said Monday.

“What the Saudis and the administration did is put together a notional package of the Saudi wish list of possible deals and portray that as a deal. Even then the numbers don’t add up. It’s fake news,” Bruce Riedel wrote in a column for the Brookings Institution, where he is a senior fellow.

“There is no $110 billion deal,” he said. Prior to Brookings, Riedel worked at the CIA for 29 years and counseled four US presidents during his time on the White House National Security Council.

According to the Pentagon's public materials reviewed by Sputnik, there is no pending deal or combination of agreements adding up to $110 billion between the US and Saudi Arabia.

Trump’s proposed sale of the THAAD missile defense system to Riyadh was actually something former President Barack Obama agreed to “in principle” back in 2015. The supposed sale of a fleet of 150 Black Hawk choppers is also “old news repackaged,” Riedal said. The Saudis have communicated interest in these purchases in recent years, but nothing has come of it. That’s still true today, according to Riedel.


Further, the four “multi-mission surface combat vessels” included in the supposed deal to boost Saudi Arabia’s naval capabilities are an international export version of a current US frigate. At this stage, the only thing Washington could export to Riyadh would be the ship’s blueprints, because the actual ships don’t exist yet, Riedel continued.

Lastly, the expert contended that depressed oil prices, in tandem with the financial drain of funding the Yemen war, render it “unlikely” Riyadh has the cash for any such deal.

Citing the White House, however, were Reuters, which described the arrangement as “sealed,” and CNBC, which said the agreement was “worth $350 billion over ten years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately.” Other outlets followed suit, and Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon have publicly claimed that they would stand to benefit from the potentially lucrative deal or series of deals. 

The Pentagon’s arms exporting agency maintains that the $110 billion sale is “intended,” meaning the exchange has yet to go through the many rigors of finalizing the transfer of weapons from the US to foreign nations.

First, Congress must receive notice of the intended sale. Next, lawmakers have 30 days to allow the deal to go through; promises from the State Department, Defense Department and the White House to sell weapons can be halted by Congress. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Congress has to pass a bill “expressing its will on the sale” and be able to secure enough votes to beat a potential presidential veto in order to block arms sales.

In addition, lawmakers remain “free to pass legislation to block or modify an arms sale at any time up to the point of delivery of the items involved.”

On Monday, DSCA delivered notices to Congress of the Trump administration’s intended sales of radar systems. But the deal amounted to a miniscule fraction of the widely publicized $110 billion deal.

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None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.


US killing children...

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike reportedly struck a school bus transporting dozens of children, taking 50 lives and injuring 77 other people, according to a US NGO. The US, which supports the coalition, and the UN, called on Saudi Arabia to conduct an investigation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that the majority of the victims were children, Sputnik News reported. Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that Washington is "certainly concerned about these reports that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians." 

"We call on a Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident," Nauert added.


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No more weapons, munitions, spare parts, etc...

Bruce Riedel offers some ideas for how to change the U.S.-Saudi relationship in the next administration:

The place to start is optics. No more embarrassing and silly embraces. Treat him as he is: the murderer of thousands of innocents. The most despotic prince in the country’s modern history who imprisons everyone from his predecessor as crown prince to the women who demanded the right to drive. Don’t give the crown prince and his entourage visas to visit America.

Then change the arms relationship. No more weapons, munitions, spare parts, upgrades or technical assistance until the war in Yemen stops. The Saudis will have to abide; contrary to Trump you cannot run an American-supplied military with Russian or Chinese support [bold mine-DL]. If the British join in, the Saudi war machine, which is already not very impressive, will be in grave dysfunction. Congress has already taken some steps on arms and the impact in the kingdom is palpable. The royal family does not want to break with America however much they complain about us.

Riedel’s recommendations are very good ones, and it is unfortunate that they are going to have to wait almost two years before there could be anyone in the White House willing to follow them. The horrifying thing about Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is that the governments responsible for creating it, including ours, have it within our power to stop it at any time, but for more than four years all of these governments have chosen instead to destroy and starve an entire country for years on end. Congress already has majorities in both houses in favor of ending our government’s involvement in this atrocious war, but as long as Trump remains in office the Saudis and Emiratis know that they can get away with anything.

I would add a couple other suggestions for what the next administration should do when handling relations with the Saudis. The first one may seem superficial, but it is very important: stop referring to them as an ally. Call them a partner if you must, but stop pretending that the U.S. owes them any allegiance or support. The relationship is at most a purely transactional one that has been rapidly losing its value, and our political leaders shouldn’t talk about a despotic authoritarian client state as if it were a respected and trusted ally when it is nothing of the kind. Another suggestion would be that the U.S. should provide no cooperation to the kingdom’s nuclear program. If a government can’t be trusted to use advanced weapons responsibly, the U.S. shouldn’t be helping them to acquire nuclear technology. Finally, in light of the repeated violations of their end-use agreements with the U.S., the U.S. should sell no more weapons to the kingdom until our government can be certain that they won’t hand those weapons off to militias in Yemen or anywhere else.


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