The United States has agreed to pay $1.29 billion as part of a massive arms deal to Saudi Arabia. The deal includes nearly 13,000 smart bombs. The huge deal — which is unlikely to be blocked by Congress — was announced on Saturday by the State Department after being hammered out by the Obama administration in a bid to help boost military support for Gulf states. Pentagon officials say the sale will help stockpile the Middle East nation’s military supplies to “sustain strong military-to-military relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
NPR reports the sale will include several advanced precision weapons, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are more sophisticated than the unguided firepower the Saudis currently have. Critics say the payload of sophisticated weapons will instead bolster the Saudis’ continuing air war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. More than 5,700 people, including at least 2,577 civilians — 637 of them children — have been killed in the eight months Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Gulf States in the bombing campaign, according to the United Nations. Another 2.3 million have been displaced.
Washington has backed the campaign and Saudi Arabia – who is a central ally in the air assault against the so-called Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. US-Saudi ties are said to have been strained by Mr Obama’s unwillingness to take military action against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and his support for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Saudis fear will ultimately allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Both Boeing and Raytheon are leading producers of the weapons. However, a competition will determine which contractors will get the deal, according to the Pentagon agency. The sale comes after President Barack Obama promised in May to work with Gulf Arab States on increased security cooperation, particularly “on fast-tracking arms transfers… counter terrorism, maritime security, and cybersecurity and ballistic missile defense.” In October, the US government approved an $11 billion sale to Saudi Arabia for up to four Lockheed Martin Corp.’s warships, along with weapons, training and logistics support. In September, Washington approved a $5.4 billion sale of 600 advanced Patriot missiles to Riyadh.
While Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports the action in Yemen, he has requested “that the committee be notified of future weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia resulting from this proposed sale,” according to an email forwarded to Foxnews.com from the committee. He is joined by ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who has raised alarms about the human rights issue, along with other Democratic members.
Saudi Arabia is also the birthplace of Wahhabism, the radical fundamentalist strain of Islam practiced by global terror groups like ISIS today. While the kingdom has partnered in counterterrorism operations with the U.S. and its Gulf neighbors, it is also accused of turning a blind eye while the country’s elites pour billions into extremist mosques, madrassas, and terror-related organizations across the globe. A breakdown of the munitions being sold to the kingdom can be found on the State Department website.