On the topic of sending American troops to Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”
It is no secret that anytime there is a chance for war, the stocks of the top defense contractors respond accordingly. And that is exactly what we have seen over the latest tensions with Iran.
In the days after General Soleimani was killed, we saw that stocks from Northrop Grumman up 8 percent, Lockheed Martin up 4 percent, and Raytheon up 2 percent.
In the same way that Trump filled his cabinet with individuals who had ties to Wall Street, he has done the same with defense contractors.
If you look at Trump’s top officials, both past and present, you see that former Defense Secretary James Mattis was on the board of General Dynamics. He was followed by current Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was previously a top lobbyist for Raytheon. Current Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is also the former vice president for Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense contract that has been criticized for blurring the line between the government’s intelligence work and private enterprises.
It becomes a major conflict of interest when the president’s top advisers who are briefing him on the state of the Middle East, also have ties to defense contractors, and they stand to profit from an increase in conflict.
We have seen an increase in troops sent to the Middle East in recent months with an additional 3,000 troops deployed last week. We have also seen US troops deployed to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2003 in recent months, and while the US has previously claimed it was justified in sending around 3,000 troops to the kingdom to deter threats from Iran, President Trump told Fox News the real reason is a lot less patriotic.
“We’re sending more to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it. We’re doing something that nobody’s ever done. I said to Saudi Arabia—we have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia—I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank,” Tump said.
This is quite the claim from Trump, and the idea that troops are for sale is raising a lot of questions about exactly how that is allowed under the Constitution.
We saw Congress attempt to stand up to Trump over his close relationship with Saudi Arabia last year, but they have yet to stop arms sales from taking place. However, Trump’s latest comments, while also claiming to want to “end the endless wars” received a rebuke from Independent Congressman Justin Amash who said, “He’s moving troops back into Iraq, he’s moving other troops into Saudi Arabia and using our forces almost as mercenaries, paid mercenaries who are going to come in, as long as Saudi Arabia pays us some money, it’s good to go.”
Under the Trump Administration, the US signed the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia back in 2017, but Trump’s latest comments raise questions about just how the negotiation of US troop have actually taken place.