US sells $29 billion weapons package to ally Saudi Arabia

The United States has reached an agreement to sell a $29.4 billion weapons package to Saudi Arabia.

The Obama administration announced the arms sale Thursday amid tensions in the region over Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil passageway.

The sale includes 84 F-15 fighter jets from Boeing and the modernization of 70 Saudi planes. The package is part of a broader, $60 billion sale to Saudi Arabia that the United States announced last year.

The first new planes are expected to be delivered to Saudi Arabia in 2014, according to the Pentagon.

Saudi Arabia is a key American ally in the Middle East, where the United States is trying to temper Iran’s influence and stop its nuclear ambitions. Saudi Arabia and Iran are considered rivals, as both are seeking to become the dominant player in the region.

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“The agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security,” White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said in a statement Thursday.

The White House said that the sale would produce 50,000 jobs and provide a $3.5 billion economic boost to the United States across 44 states.

Tensions between the United States and Iran erupted again this week when Iran threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz if further economic sanctions from the West were issued — a response to a bill passed by the House earlier this month that could allow for further sanctions against its central bank. Iran’s navy chief said it would be “very easy” to close down the strait.

The latest dust-up also comes on the heels of Iran capturing a U.S. stealth drone earlier this month, which President Obama has asked the Iranians to return.

—Updated at 1:46 p.m.