THE LATEST ON SAUDI ARMS DEAL,
The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi diplomatic mission in Turkey has fueled lawmakers’ calls for the United States to reconsider arms sales to the kingdom that have been championed by President Trump.
The administration says the proposed $110 billion deal would bolster the U.S. economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs. But with Khashoggi feared dead, some want that transaction revisited.
A look at the arms deal: Details of the $110 billion arms package, agreed upon in May 2017, have been sketchy. At the time the administration provided only a broad description of the defense equipment that would be sold. There was no public breakdown of exactly what was being offered for sale and for how much.
The Congressional Research Service described the package as a combination of sales that President Barack Obama had proposed and discussed with Congress and new sales that are still being developed.
The Pentagon on Thursday said Saudi Arabia has signed “letters of offer and acceptance” for only $14.5 billion in sales, including helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons and training. Those letters, issued after the U.S. government has approved a proposed sale, specify its terms.
Trump’s repeated claims that he’s signed $110 billion worth of new arms sales to Riyadh are “just not true,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former CIA and Defense Department official. “Very little has changed hands.”
According to CRS, there are letters of offer and acceptance for sales of four combat ships for coastal waters, 115 M1A2S tanks made by General Dynamics Corp., PAC-3 Patriot missiles, UH-60 helicopters and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Among the big-ticket sales yet to be finalized are an $18 billion upgrade of Saudi Arabia’s military commandand-control and defense communications infrastructure and a THAAD AntiMissile System.
Saudi Arabia’s armed forces have relied on U.S. arms sales, training, and service support for decades, and successive U.S. administrations have viewed that nation as a strategic partner for seven decades. Although elements in Saudi Arabia have historically supported the spread of fundamentalist ideology, Washington and Riyadh share concerns about terrorism by Islamic extremists and the influence of a common adversary: Iran.
Those strategic ties have deepened under Trump.
DISAPPEARANCE IN SPOTLIGHT: President Trump listens to a reporter’s question about missing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi after landing in Cincinnatti Friday. The disappearance has spurred calls for Trump to reconsider arms sales to the Saudis.