State Dept. announces $1B in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia
The State Department has approved nearly $1 billion in new arms sales for Saudi Arabia, notifying Congress of the sale the same week the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington.
The proposed deals to the country include a $670 million sale for more than 6,600 TOW 2B missiles, and a $300 million sale for spare vehicle parts for the Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps.
This possible missile sale will “support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” according to a Thursday announcement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees foreign military sales.
The notice adds that the missile would “assist Saudi Arabia to sustain itself in its efforts to maintain stability.”
The spare vehicle parts, meanwhile, will “allow the Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps to continue to purchase needed spare/repair parts to maintain Saudi Arabia’s fleet of M1A2 Abrams Tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs), M198 Towed Howitzers,” among other vehicles, according to a separate notice from DSCA released the same day.
Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of American-made weapons, and the United States sees the country as an ally in the fight against al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. There have been controversies over the past year, however, in providing the country with weapons.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) vowed in June to stop arms sales to Persian Gulf states after Saudi Arabia led a group of nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council in cutting diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar.
The countries cited Qatar’s relations with Iran and what they call its support for extremist groups as the reason for the blockade, which is ongoing.
But Corker in February lifted his hold on weapons sales to the countries, and said at the time that “unfortunately, there still isn’t a clear path to resolving the rift.”
There is also criticism over providing the Saudis with weapons and logistics support in Yemen’s three-year civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday met with the Saudi crown prince at the Pentagon. Prior to the meeting, he said Saudi Arabia was “part of the solution” in Yemen, in the midst of a civil war that critics say has killed thousands of civilians due in part to airstrikes led by Riyadh.
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