Despite the devastating and murderous war being waged on the people of Yemen by Saudi Arabia, Washington is working to ram through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in weapons for the despotic monarchy ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the kingdom this month, Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia is Trump’s first stop on his maiden international trip, a sign of his intent to reinforce ties with the U.S.-allied al-Saud dynasty. The kingdom’s human rights record, both inside and outside the country, has been dismal, and the country has regularly faced condemnation for its open disdain for international law in its onslaught on Yemeni civilians.
The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Washington also provides maintenance and training to Saudi security forces.
Trump has vowed to stimulate the U.S. military-industrial complex and boost manufacturing jobs by offering Riyadh major weapons deals.
Washington and Riyadh are eager to improve relations strained under President Barack Obama in part because of his championing of a nuclear deal with Iran, an Islamist republican opponent of Gulf Arab monarchies.
The package includes Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD, missile defense system with several batteries, the sources said. The THAAD system, like the one being made operational in South Korea, costs about US$1 billion. Also being negotiated are combat vehicles including the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M109 artillery vehicle and the multi-mission Littoral Combat Ship, are built by Bethesda, Maryland-based weapons maker Lockheed Martin and Australia’s Austal Limited. If a deal goes through, it would be the first sale of a new small surface warship to a foreign power in decades. Any major foreign weapons sale is subject to oversight by Congress. Lawmakers must take into consideration a legal requirement that Israel must maintain its qualitative military edge over its neighbors.
Also, more than US$1 billion worth of munitions including armor-piercing Penetrator Warheads and Paveway laser-guided bombs made by Raytheon are in the package, the sources said. The Obama administration suspended the planned sale in December due to concerns over the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, which has devastated the civilian population.
A representative for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Shares of both Raytheon and Lockheed closed up 0.9 percent. Both stocks hit session highs following the Reuters report.
One of the people with knowledge of the sales said that as planning for Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia intensified in recent weeks, the arms negotiations also accelerated. Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials met with lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, including Senators Bob Corker and Ben Cardin on the foreign relations committee.
The Pentagon declined to comment, as did the weapons manufacturers BAE and Raytheon. White House and State Department officials said it was U.S. policy not to comment on proposed U.S. defense sales until they had been formally notified to Congress.
The Obama administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons. Most of the Obama-era offers, which are reported to Congress, became formal agreements though some were abandoned or amended.
Well over than 10,000 people have been killed since the war was launched by Saudi royals in 2015, while millions of people have been displaced and millions of others lack access to clean water, food, or medical assistance.
In an interview Wednesday, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that “a long war is in our interest,” referring to the Yemen campaign and adding that the Ansarullah movement in the country wishes to “dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith,” revealing the sectarian motives of the Wahhabi al-Saud monarchy.