Trump’s Saudi arms deal: Phony

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump crowed about completing a $110 billion arms deal. But, like so many of Trump’s other big-number brags, this one was not just exaggerated, but also essentially phony.

An article published today on Talking Points Memo cites research that concludes that the “deal” was not really a deal.  Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official who now works at the Brookings Institution, looked into the terms of the deal, and found…nothing:

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.

It’s not a contract, says TPM’s Josh Marshall, it’s a wish list. The “signing ceremony” offers a convenient photo op to make Trump’s visit seem legit, important and serious, when it was not. [See: glowing orb].

Marshall cites the following, from Riedel, as an illustrative example:

An example is a proposal for sale of four frigates (called multi-mission surface combatant vessels) to the Royal Saudi navy. This proposal was first reported by the State Department in 2015. No contract has followed. The type of frigate is a derivative of a vessel that the U.S. Navy uses but the derivative doesn’t actually exist yet. Another piece is the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD) which was recently deployed in South Korea. The Saudis have expressed interest in the system for several years but no contracts have been finalized. Obama approved the sale in principle at a summit at Camp David in 2015. Also on the wish list are 150 Black Hawk helicopters. Again, this is old news repackaged. 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.

So, why is this not-a-deal being universally reported as the real deal by news media? I don’t know. By now, given the vastly overstated — more-often-then-not completely fake — numbers tossed about by Trump, you’d think that some investigative reporter somewhere would have followed up. But, of course, there is so much fakery, distraction and obfuscation going on that no one can keep up.

Just another day in Trumpistan.