Administration officials are attempting to get tens of billions of dollars in arms deals to Saudi Arabia approved ahead of President Trump’s visit to the country later this month, Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia will be the initial stop on Trump’s first official trip overseas as president, where he hopes to also sell his counter-terrorism strategy to foreign heads of state he is scheduled to meet. Other destinations of the trip include Brussels, Israel, and the Vatican.
The United States is Saudi Arabia’s main arms dealer, especially in recent years. From a $29.4 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets in 2011, to another $1.1 billion deal for tanks and other military equipment last year, Saudi Arabia has amassed quite an arsenal of hi-tech American weaponry. The Saudis, in fact, were the top recipient of U.S. Arms from 2011-2015, and likely remain high on that list.
In its most recent report on U.S. weapons sales, the Congressional Research Service concluded that,
“In worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2015—to both developed and developing nations—the United States was predominant, ranking first with $40.2 billion in such agreements or 50.29% of all such agreements.”
The Trump administration hopes to mend ties with Saudi Arabia after former president Obama drew Saudi ire for his negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Though Obama, in attempt to placate the Saudis for the Iran deal, heavily assisted the Gulf monarchy in its war on Yemen—offering midair refueling, logistics and intelligence assistance, vehicle maintenance and, of course, all manner of arms transfers, including the sale of internationally-banned cluster munitions—that apparently was not enough to heal relations between the two countries.
Major U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin also has its eyes on Saudi Arabia, as it looks to secure sales of its $1 billion THAAD missile defense system, as well as its Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications program (C2BMC), software designed to integrate various ballistic missile defense systems. Lockheed is the largest arms firm in the United States.
Among the contracts Washington looks to push through, some are new, while others have been in the pipeline for some time, such as an $11.5 billion sale of four surface combatant naval vessels. Some details were hammered out for that deal, but a contract was never finalized.
If the deal goes through, it would be the first time the United States has sold new surface warships to a foreign state in decades.