In weighing the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia's brutal murder or accidental killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump repeatedly brings up the $110 billion in arms sales he claims to have signed with the Saudis as a reason to maintain robust ties. And he doesn't frame that as a victory for U.S. defense contractors but as a job-creation engine — a claim that rose from 450,000 U.S. jobs on Oct. 13 to 600,000 and then, a few minutes later, a million jobs on Oct. 19. "Trump is not very precise with numbers, but this is getting ridiculous," says Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, who gave Trump's jobs claims "Four Pinocchios."
First, those arms sales are mostly "smoke and mirrors," a combination of speculative sales, deals reached under the Obama administration, and a much smaller amount of contracts actually signed, Kessler notes. The details of the prospective arms sales "have been sketchy," The Associated Press adds, since Trump first announced them in May 2017. Second, Saudi Arabia says half of the spending on any signed contracts must take place in Saudi Arabia — in other words on Saudi jobs. After Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017, the State Department described the deals discussed as "potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States," not "creating" jobs.
"Moreover," Kessler writes, "the Aerospace Industries Association says that in 2016 there were 355,500 manufacturing jobs supported by the entire defense and national security industry, generating $146 billion in annual exports. Thus it's hard to imagine that $110 billion in deals with Saudi Arabia, spread over a decade, would significantly add to that total, let alone more than double it." You can read more details at The Washington Post — though for anyone who has decided it's not worth suspending arms sales to a country waging an ugly war in Yemen over the admitted extrajudicial killing of a U.S. resident for criticizing his government, the details may be superfluous. Peter Weber