Trump concludes major arms deal with Saudis in first trip to Riyadh

In his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, President Trump concluded a multi-billion dollar arms pact with Saudi officials, a deal potentially worth up to $350 billion, $110 billion of which will go into effect immediately.

Touted by Trump as another job-creating deal for American workers, the White House announced the agreement as “a significant expansion of the U.S.-Saudi security relationship.”

“This package of defense equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats. Additionally, it bolsters the Kingdom’s ability to provide for its own security and continue contributing to counterterrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on US military forces,” read a White House statement.

Although the specific weapons included in the contract were not revealed, it is widely believed to provide Riyadh with light and heavy armored vehicles, light close air support aircraft, artillery, attack helicopters, signals intelligence operational platforms, and both Patriot and THAAD missile systems.

Training in the use of the weapons is also included in the agreement.

The deal comes at a time in which Trump faces an uproar over his dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and intensive scrutiny related to conversations the president held with the now-dismissed Bureau chief in connection with the FBI’s probe of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Similarly, the deal is likely to raise eyebrows among rights groups, many of which have assailed the Saudi government for its role in a devastating air campaign in neighboring Yemen.

Riyadh entered the civil war in Yemen in 2015, in support of the government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.  Rights groups have blasted the Saudis for what they describe as an indiscriminate bombing campaign which has created a humanitarian crisis by targeting civilian population with American-made weapons.

Often at odds with Iran and Syria, the Saudi kingdom is increasingly seen as a linchpin to blunt Islamic terrorism and the Iranian expansion of influence in the region.

Mr. Trump will visit Israel and then travel to Europe to give an address to NATO before returning home.

 

[Reuters] [RT News] [Photo courtesy AFP/Getty Images via The Independent]