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‘S. Arabia agrees to buy $7b in munitions from US’

By Reuters - Nov 23,2017 - Last updated at Nov 23,2017

Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy about $7 billion worth of precision guided munitions from US defence contractors, sources familiar with the matter said, a deal that some lawmakers may object to over American weapons having contributed to civilian deaths in the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

Raytheon Co. and Boeing Co. are the companies selected, the sources said, in a deal that was part of a $110 billion weapons agreement that coincided with President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May.

Both companies declined comment on the weapons sale.

Arms sales to the kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council member states have become increasingly contentious in the US Congress, which must approve such sales. 

The US State Department has yet to formally notify Congress of the precision guided munitions deal.

"We do not comment to confirm or deny sales until they are formally notified to Congress," a State Department official said, adding the US government will take into account factors "including regional balance and human rights as well as the impact on the US defence industrial base."

The Yemen civil war pits Iran-allied Houthi rebels against the government backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition. 

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid Bin Salman declined to comment on the specific sale, but said in a statement his country will follow through on the agreements signed during Trump’s visit.

He said that while the kingdom has always chosen the United States for weapons purchases, “... Saudi Arabia’s market selection remains a choice and is committed to defending its security.”

Trump, a Republican who views weapons sales as a way to create jobs in the United States, has announced billions of dollars in arms sales since taking office in January. 

A US government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the agreement is designed to cover a 10-year period and it could be years before actual transfers of weapons take place.

The agreement could be held up in Congress, where Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced in June that he would block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the GCC, over a dispute with Qatar, another US ally in the Gulf.

In November 2016, the administration of president Barack Obama, a Democrat, halted the sale of $1.29 billion worth of precision guided weapons because of concerns about the extent of civilian casualties in Yemen.

 

That sale process started in 2015 and included more than 8,000 Laser Guided Bombs for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The package also included more than 10,000 general purpose bombs, and more than 5,000 tail kits used to inexpensively convert “dumb” bombs into laser or GPS-guided weapons.

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