Trump administration approves $290M bomb sale to Saudis

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The Trump administration has approved another $290 million precision-guided bomb sale to Saudi Arabia, according to a notice to Congress released Tuesday.

The State Department approved selling Saudi Arabia 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions and related equipment, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

The sale announced Tuesday is in addition to a license the Trump administration recently moved forward with approving that would allow Raytheon to directly sell Saudi Arabia 7,500 of its Paveway air-to-ground “smart” bombs at an estimated value of $478 million.

The arms deals come even as lawmakers in both parties have been increasingly opposed to selling the Saudis weapons amid thousands of civilian deaths in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Many lawmakers also reached their breaking point with the kingdom when a Saudi hit squad killed and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

But President Trump has made arms sales to the kingdom an integral part of his foreign policy, arguing they are necessary to counter Iran and to boost jobs at U.S. weapons makers.

Last year, the Trump administration pushed through a $8.1 billion “emergency” arms sale to the Saudis that lawmakers had been blocking through an informal process. Congress eventually passed bipartisan resolutions to block those sales, but Trump vetoed them.

Democrats charged that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s invocation of emergency authorities improperly circumvented congressional oversight authorities. The State Department’s inspector general later found Pompeo was within his authority to push through the sales but faulted him for not ensuring American weapons weren’t used against civilian populations.

For the deal announced Tuesday, the administration argued in the notice that the sale would “support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East.”

“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions. The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage,” the notice said.

Tuesday’s notice kicks off a 30-day clock during which lawmakers can block the sale if they choose to.

That puts the deadline at the beginning of the Biden administration, which could also halt the sale if it wants. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to review the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The Trump administration has advanced billions of dollars in arms sales in the waning days of Trump’s tenure, including a $23 billion weapons package for the United Arab Emirates.

In addition to the Saudi arms sale, the Trump administration announced approvals Tuesday for sales to Kuwait and Egypt.

For Kuwait, the administration approved selling eight AH-64E Apache helicopters worth $4 billion and $200 million in spare parts to upgrade its Patriot anti-missile system.

Egypt was approved to buy a missile countermeasures system for its presidential aircraft worth $104 million and 20 targeting pods for military aircraft worth $65.6 million.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Mike Pompeo Saudi Arabia weapons sales

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