Debunking the Claims in Trump’s Nov. 20 Saudi Arabia/Khashoggi Statement
CLAIM: “The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen. … Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave.”
FACT: Saudi Arabia launched a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen shortly after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government in Sana’a. Iran advised the Houthis not to take over Sana’a, but they did anyway and were able to, not because of Iranian backing, but because of their alliance with forces aligned with the late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. While the Houthis were and have been only loosely aligned with Iran, having received some weapons and training, Iran’s involvement in the conflict is self-perpetuating — a low cost, high reward venture in which, by spending just pennies on the dollar, it can bog down Saudi Arabia in a drawn-out and expensive conflict without itself taking on much risk.
Iran, for its part, stated its willingness to help find a resolution to the conflict in Yemen six months ago – long before the coalition signaled it was willing to engage in peace talks this fall. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition launched a costly offensive at Yemen’s vital port of Hodeidah, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in an attempt to improve its military position before engaging in talks. Despite a short ceasefire, the coalition resumed bombing Hodeidah this week.
CLAIM: “After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. … It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development. … Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors.”
FACT: None of these claims are true. Most of the $110 billion in arms deals “were defined as memorandums of intent, non-binding commitments to buy,” according to Reuters. Trump himself has only inked $4 billion worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
What’s more, any future arms sales are more likely to create jobs in foreign countries and not in the U.S. and canceling any arms agreements, real or otherwise, with Saudi Arabia is unlikely to cut U.S. jobs.
And of this claim that Saudi will invest $450 billion in the U.S.? It’s completely made up.
CLAIM: “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries.”
FACT: Saudi Arabia’s military equipment is too wedded to U.S.- and British-made supplies that it would be foolish for them to turn to China or Russia as an alternative, and also economically infeasible. “It would take decades to transition from U.S. and U.K. aircraft, for example, to Russian or Chinese aircraft,” one expert has said. “Same is true for tanks, communications equipment and other hi-tech equipment. And the Saudis don’t have time given they are bogged down in Yemen.”
CLAIM: “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
FACT: The CIA has actually concluded that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudis have lied through their teeth about their airstrikes not targeting civilians in Yemen, so it is no wonder they are denying any role in the murder of Khashoggi.
CLAIM: Saudi Arabia has been “a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
FACT: Saudi Arabia has repeatedly tried to push American leaders to launch “a full scale military assault” on Iran. War with Iran would be more costly and deadly than the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would likely spark an “all-out regional war” lasting several years. None of this is in the U.S. national interests. Rather it would only fulfil Saudi Arabia’s desire to fight Iran to the last American.