On December 29th, the Trump Administration approved $290 million worth of precision-guided bomb sales to Saudi Arabia.
The State Department approved selling Saudi Arabia 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions and related equipment, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.
The administration argued in the notice that the sale would “support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East.”
“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions. The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage,” the notice said.
The notice initiates a 30-day clock during which the US Congress can block the sale if its members choose to do so.
That puts the deadline at the beginning of the Biden administration, which could also halt the sale if it wants. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to review the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The Trump administration has advanced billions of dollars in arms sales in the waning days of Trump’s tenure, including a $23 billion weapons package for the United Arab Emirates.
The two December 29th approved sales come in addition to two sales to Kuwait and Egypt.
For Kuwait, the administration approved selling eight AH-64E Apache helicopters worth $4 billion and $200 million in spare parts to upgrade its Patriot anti-missile system.
Egypt was approved to buy a missile countermeasures system for its presidential aircraft worth $104 million and 20 targeting pods for military aircraft worth $65.6 million.
This sale to Saudi Arabia comes in addition to the license that the Trump Administration approved on December 23rd. The license would allow Raytheon to directly sell Saudi Arabia 7,500 of its Paveway air-to-ground “smart” bombs at an estimated value of $478 million.
Asked for comment, a State Department spokesperson told The Hill that federal law and regulation bars the department from “commenting on or confirming specific direct commercial sales defense trade export licensing cases.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, previously warned about an impending arms sale to the Saudis back in May 2020.
“The administration is currently trying to sell thousands more precision-guided bombs to the president’s ‘friend,’ Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Menendez wrote.
“The administration has refused to answer our fundamental questions to justify this new sale and articulate how it would be consistent with US values and national security objectives,” he added.
Democrats in US Congress are faulting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has the authority to actually push the weapon sales, but he is also not following through on guaranteeing that they aren’t used against civilians, as the Kingdom usually does.
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