Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, May 20th, 2017.


Today’s Trump News: Selling Out Human Rights and Coal Miners

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Trump Maladministration

The news from the tRumpus foreign tour, first stop, Saudi Arabia:

President Trump made a splashy debut on the world stage here Saturday, ushering in a new era in U.S.-Saudi Arabian relations by signing a joint “strategic vision” that includes $110 billion in American arms sales and other new investments that the administration said would bring hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs? That’s a lot of arms sales. But there’s more …

In addition to the security agreements, Jubeir said, U.S. business leaders here at an economic forum designed to coincide with Trump’s visit signed deals potentially worth more than $200 billion over the next 10 years.

Executives from a number of major U.S. companies unveiled investment partnerships with the Saudis, including Blackstone, a private-equity giant that announced a $40 billion infrastructure fund. Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chairman and chief executive, is close to Trump and leads the White House’s economic advisory council of CEO’s.

Jubeir also praised ExxonMobil, the energy behemoth that Tillerson ran until retiring to join the administration, as “the largest investor” in Saudi Arabia.

So this is really about oil? This is from Arab News:

Energy — one of Saudi Arabia’s strongest sectors — witnessed a number of announcements with a combined $22 billion worth of new deals signed during the forum by Saudi and American executives in the oil and gas industry.

A major funding boost for the largest oil refinery in the US was among a number of announcements in refining and petrochemicals signed on Saturday at the forum.

Saudi Aramco-owned Motiva Enterprises announced a landmark investment in the US totaling $12 billion with a likely additional investment of $18 billion by 2023.

It is estimated the deal will create approximately 2,500 additional jobs in the short term and a further 12,000 by 2023.

Announcing the deal at the Saudi-US CEO Forum, Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said: “Today we are investing in long-term job creation and the future of the refining industry in the United States, and we are delivering on Vision 2030 to expand the US-Saudi partnership,” he said. “The message is clear: the longstanding bonds between our two countries are reinforced by both the value and scale of today’s agreement.”

First off, somebody should tell the coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia that Trump just sold them down the river. In the short term, anyway, this investment promises to be the final nail in the coffin of the coal industry, seems to me. Coal technology won’t be able to compete.

But in the long term — I guess this means we’re not trying to phase out fossil fuels, huh? Wrong move.

I’m not happy about the arms part of the deal, either. Brian Schatz writes at Mother Jones:

As Donald Trump heads to Riyadh today on his first international trip as president, he brings with him a gift: a massive arms deal reportedly worth more than $100 billion for Saudi Arabia. According to Reuters, the deal is specifically being developed to coincide with the visit, where he will meet with Saudi leaders and discuss the war in Yemen. And its success seems to be crucial to the president, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has personally intervened in the deal’s development. According to the New York Times, earlier this month, in the middle of a meeting with high-level Saudi delegates, Kushner greased the gears by calling Lockheed Martin chief Marilyn A. Hewson and asking her to cut the price on a sophisticated missile defense system.

Yep; Jared Kushner personally intervened to be sure the Arabs could get a better deal. Such a guy.

Other details of the package, though, have been somewhat shrouded in mystery—Congress, which will have to approve any new arms deal, has to yet to be notified of specific offerings—but it is said to include planes, armored vehicles, warships, and, perhaps most notably, precision-guided bombs.

It’s that last detail in particular that is making many in Washington sweat. The Obama administration inked arms deals with the kingdom worth more than $100 billion over two terms, but it changed course in its last months. As Mother Jones has regularly reported, the Saudi-led war against the Houthi armed group in Yemen has been fueled in part by American weapons, intelligence, and aerial refueling, and it has repeatedly hit civilian targets, including schools, marketplaces, weddings, hospitals, and places of worship. Civilian deaths are estimated to have reached 10,000, with 40,000 injured. In response, the Obama White House suspended a sale of precision-guided bombs to the country in December.

In lifting the suspension, Trump essentially is signalling the world that we’re okay with whatever Saudi Arabia does. Trump’s deal is going to face a big fight in the Senate, Brian Schatz writes. Even a number of Republicans have been appalled at what the Saudis have done in Yemen. Some are saying the sale would violate both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, although of course no one in the Trump Administration would care about those things.

See also Trump may be helping to create a famine in Yemen. Congress could stop him.

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