Muslim Times(Web Desk) – The United States has formally approved weapons sales to Saudi Arabia totaling more than $1 billion, as the kingdom’s crown prince and de facto ruler continued his tour of the US.
The US State Department confirmed on Thursday it had authorized a $670 million deal for anti-tank missiles, a $106 million contract for helicopter maintenance and $300 million for ground vehicle parts.
A US official said the deals were being planned since President Donald Trump has announced more than $100 billion in potential new arms contracts on a visit to Riyadh last year.
“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country,” the US Defense Department said in a statement.
In theory, the US Congress could still block the latest deal, but on Tuesday the Senate voted down a bill to halt US support for the Saudi-led military coalition against Yemen.
US and European governments are under pressure from rights groups to halt or limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as their forces wage a brutal war in Yemen.
The US, along with the UK, has been the main arms provider to Saudi Arabia during the military campaign, which has killed about 14,000 people in Yemen as it is about to enter its third year on March 25.
The US has also provided intelligence and logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s military intervention.
The new arms deal comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is part-way through a three-week multi-city tour of the United States, which has already taken him to talks with Trump in Washington.
During Tuesday’s visit to the White House, Trump praised the “great friendship” with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.
The US president also displayed charts to show the depth of Saudi purchases of US military hardware and what he said were the number of American jobs they are creating.
Salman, 32, is also expected to meet with leaders of Congress and Cabinet officials such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Mike Pompeo, CIA director and Trump’s new pick to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
Observers say the trip is mainly meant to consolidate his grip on power at home and push for an ambitious nuclear deal.
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 US and EU countries.