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World

U.S. to Announce $110 Billion Saudi Arms Sale as Trump Visits

In notifying lawmakers, the State Department said the munitions will improve Saudi targeting ability, particularly in Yemen

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) is greeted by Saudi Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff General Abdul Rahman Al Banyan (L) upon his arrival at King Salman Air Base, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, photo: Pool/Jonathan Ernst, via AP
1 week ago

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration plans to announce $110 billion in advanced military equipment sales and training to Saudi Arabia this weekend as President Donald Trump visits the country, officials said Friday.

U.S. officials familiar with the package said it would include Abrams tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar, and communications and cyber security technology. The announcement is expected Saturday in Riyadh, the first leg of Trump’s maiden overseas trip as president. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

Much of the package builds on commitments made before Trump took office, although some elements are new. Some of the weapons are designed to help the Saudis in their current conflict in neighboring Yemen where they are leading a coalition battling Iran-backed rebels, the officials said.

But officials said the equipment and training is mainly designed to address Saudi Arabia’s broader and longer-term threats. Saudi Arabia and other Arab neighbors along the Persian Gulf believe Iran to be their biggest threat.

The package includes $109 billion in equipment such as the tanks, ships, Patriot missile batteries and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system — for taking out incoming missiles. Some $750 million will be in the form of training programs for the Saudi Air Force, which has been criticized for inflicting high numbers of civilian casualties in Yemen. Training will include education on targeting, the laws of war and reducing civilian casualties, officials said.

Ahead of the weekend announcement, the administration separately informed Congress on Friday that it will sell some $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. These include laser-guided Paveway II bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits for converting unguided bombs into “smart bombs.”

In notifying lawmakers, the State Department said the munitions will improve Saudi targeting ability, particularly in Yemen.

The department said it would continue to urge Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners in Yemen to reduce civilian casualties and work toward a truce and peace negotiations.

MATTHEW LEE

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