From The New Yorker:
A look at how the recent US arms deal worth $110 billion with Saudi Arabia is different from Obama’s $60.5 billion deal in 2010 and a Saudi/US relationship dating back to Roosevelt in 1943.
The agreement marks another policy U-turn from Trump. During his election campaign, he described the Saudi government as “people that push gays off buildings,” and said they “kill women and treat women horribly.” Trump also suggested that Saudi Arabia was behind the terrorist attacks on 9/11. “Take at look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” he declared.
The deal is HUGE. Not only the dollar amount, but it covers five categories: air-force modernization, air and missile defense, border security and counterterrorism, maritime and coastal security, and communications and cybersecurity.
This means an increase in support of the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. Over 10 thousand people there have been killed in the war that has lasted over two years. Some of those bombs dropped were made in the US by a country, Saudi Arabia, that has possibly committed war crimes there. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who they say are backed by Iran, as a threat to their security.
Yemen’s civil war is a complicated conflict, rooted partly in tribal rivalries and religious differences: the Hadi government and most of its supporters are Sunni muslims, while the Houthis are Shiites. A couple of things are clear enough, though. The support that Saudi Arabia and Iran have supplied to their respective proxies has only intensified the conflict. And conditions on the ground are getting worse. Because the Saudi coalition has destroyed key bridges, airfields, and ports, many Houthi-controlled areas are running desperately short of food and medical supplies.
Fault can be found with the Obama administration for providing Saudi Arabia with weapons that were used against Yemeni civilians, though they did step-back some support eventually by no longer allowing sales of precision-guided missiles. The Trump administration has reversed that policy recently.
The Saudi-sponsored spread of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist brand of Islam, surely demonstrated that what the House of Saud wants isn’t necessarily good for the United States and other Western countries. In Yemen, the problem isn’t fundamentalist Saudi preachers; it is Saudi pilots dropping American-made bombs. An obvious concern is that, as a result of this deal, terrorist groups will find more recruits eager to strike the West.