Jared Kushner sought to inflate Saudi arms deal: report

Jared Kushner sought to inflate Saudi arms deal: report
3 min read
27 November, 2018
US president Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is a close ally of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, sought to inflate the value of Saudi arms purchases
Trump's first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia in May 2017 [Getty]
US President Donald Trump Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner - a close ally of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman - allegedly sought to inflate the value of Saudi arms purchases, an ABC News report has said.

Kushner, who also serves as Trump's senior adviser, pressured US officials to inflate arms sale figures to Saudi Arabia in order to strengthen Washington's relationship with the kingdom.

Citing officials and former White House aides, ABC News said on Monday that Kushner "pushed State and Defence officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges that were aspirational at best", the officials told the US network.

The intent was to "symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia".

In May 2017, Washington and Riyadh inked an arms deal estimated at $110 billion, but critics have since questioned the accuracy of this figure.

Since the deal was signed by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, the report said, "there has been minimal activity toward purchasing the defence equipment". 

The deal, the report said, was actually only a memorandum of intent with "very little legal weight".

"This document does not create any authority to perform any work, award and contract, 'issue articles from stock', transfer funds, or otherwise obligate or create a binding commitment in any way either for the United States or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the document, which ABC obtained of a copy of, states.

Before the summit, Kushner was quoted by a White House source as telling colleagues at a National Security council meeting that "we need to sell them (Saudi Arabia) as much as possible".

Trump last week declared he will not further punish Riyadh for the killing of the US-based columnist Khashoggi, arguing that the benefits of good relations with the kingdom outweigh the possibility its crown prince ordered the killing.


US arms manufacturers have previously quashed Donald Trump's ever-increasing figure of American jobs created by the $110 billion Saudi arms deal last year, putting the current figure at around 500 new jobs, just one percent of the president's go-to statistic for defending the controversial deal.

According to a report by Reuters, weapons contractor Lockheed Martin, who could potentially deliver $28bn worth of goods towards the deal, predict that it will create fewer than a thousand US jobs.

In an internal document seen by Reuters, the firm estimates the deal - which is also highly unlikely to meet the $110 billion figure - will sustain 18,000 pre-existing jobs, and create 10,000 new roles in Saudi Arabia.

The mega deal, and the jobs purported to come with it, have become Trump's go-to defence for continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite their devastating war in Yemen and the premeditated killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The jobs figure, which Trump has rapidly inflated over the past eight months from 40,000 to a skyrocketing 500,000 this month, had already drawn wide-scale scepticism due to the fact that the five largest US arms companies employ a total of 383,000 people.

Trump last week declared he will not further punish Riyadh for the killing of the US-based columnist Khashoggi, arguing that the benefits of good relations with the kingdom outweigh the possibility its crown prince ordered the killing.

He also dismissed reports from US intelligence agencies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind such an audacious and intricate plot.

The US has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the October 2 killing, but members of Congress have called for harsher actions, including cancelling arms sales.

US intelligence officials have reportedly concluded that the crown prince, the kingdom's de facto leader, ordered the killing.

Riyadh has repeatedly denied that Prince Mohammad was aware of the operation.