Trump Administration Approves $1 Billion Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

The Trump administration told Congress it planned to approve an arms sale to Saudi Arabia valued at more than $1 billion.

The proposed package included up to 6,700 missiles made by Raytheon Missile Systems as well as spare parts for American-made tanks and helicopters that Saudi Arabia already owns.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis on Thursday met with Salman at the Pentagon.

In theory, the US Congress could still block the latest deals announced Thursday, but on Tuesday the Senate voted down a bill to halt US support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump hosted bin Salman at the White House, and expressed hope the Gulf kingdom will share some of its wealth with the US "hopefully in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world".

Saudi Arabia requested to buy 6,600 TOW missiles and an additional 96 for training for a total of $670 million, the State Department said in a statement.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Mattis did not bring up the mounting civilian casualties in Yemen during his discussion with Prince Mohammed. Critics have condemned Saudi Arabia for airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen.

According to the SIPRI report, which was released last week, Saudi Arabia increased its arms purchases by 225 percent over the past five years, importing 98 percent of its weapons from the United States and European Union countries.

Mattis said the Saudis had "stood by the United Nations-recognized government, and we are going to end this war. That is the bottom line", Mattis said.

Asked if he would raised concerns about civilian casualties in Yemen during his meeting, Mattis told reporters: "We have been working very hard with the new United Nations envoy to end the fight in Yemen".

In prepared remarks, Mattis said the USA has a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia in fighting extremists and deterring malign activities by Iran.

On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched what would become an extensive military campaign on Yemen, sending aircraft and troops to back the government in its fight against the Huthis and recently slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Your significant amounts of humanitarian aid is critical to help the innocent caught up in this conflict (and) we applaud you for that", he told the crown prince.

  • Rogelio Becker