Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, May 19, 2017:
The United States and Saudi Arabia have inked a $110 billion arms deal, the largest in American history, according to senior Trump administration officials who described the agreement as part of a major effort to counter Iranian threats in the region.
The arms deal will see the U.S. providing Saudi Arabia with a “full spectrum of capabilities,” including tanks, artillery, helicopters, armored carriers, combat ships, and an assortment of other advanced weapons systems, according to senior Trump administration officials working on the agreement.
The massive arms package is part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to boost U.S. allies in the region amid a growing threat from Iran, which has invested heavily in its own military since the landmark nuclear agreement was inked with the former Obama administration.
A large portion of the cash assets and other financial resources granted to Iran under the deal have been used to purchase advanced weapons and invest in the country’s ballistic missile program, which violates international agreements.
Trump administration officials touted the agreement, which will be officially announced by President Donald Trump on Saturday as he travels across the Middle East on his first foreign trip, as a major step towards countering Iranian intransigence in the region, which has spooked U.S. allies.
The package of arms is specifically meant to address regional threats, officials said.
“This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats while also bolstering the Kingdom’s ability to contribute to counterterrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the U.S. military to conduct those operations,” explained one senior administration official who was only authorized to speak about the agreement on background.
Trump administration officials also maintained that nothing in the mammoth arms package would negate Israel’s military edge in the region, which remains a cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
“I also need to stress that there is nothing in this package of sales, taken individually or as a whole, that will undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge,” one senior official said. “As a matter of law and of longstanding policy, the United States is committed to ensuring Israel maintains a qualitative military edge in the region.”
When completed, the $110 billion agreement with Saudi Arabia will be “the largest single arms deal in American history,” according to officials.
The arms deal runs the gamut of offensive and defensive equipment that can be used by Saudi Arabia in a range of environments, including on the cybersecurity and counterterrorism fronts.
“This package is threat-based and provides full-spectrum capabilities, which fall broadly into five categories: border security and counterterrorism; maritime and coastal security; air force modernization; air and missile defense; and cybersecurity and communications upgrade,” Trump administration officials said. “Combined, it will significantly augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capabilities to help deter regional threats and the Kingdom’s ability to protect its borders and contribute to coalition counterterrorism operations.”
On the counterterror front, the United States will provide aerostats, tanks, artillery, counter-mortar radars, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and an array of training for Saudi forces battling terrorists and other foreign enemies.
The arms package also will focus on modernizing Saudi Arabia’s air force. The U.S. will train Saudi forces to conduct airborne surveillance and hone their precision targeting abilities. As part of the package, the Saudis will receive intelligence-gathering aircraft, officials said.
Missile defense also is a key part of the arms package. The United States will provide the Saudis with Patriot and THAAD missiles in order to help the country protect itself from airborne attacks, particularly those posed by Iran’s increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile program.
“So the purpose of this package is to contribute—number one, contribute to a regional security architecture that advances defense cooperation for both the United States of America and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” according to one senior administration official. “Two, provide our partners will full-spectrum capabilities. And, three, as part of providing full-spectrum capabilities, the use of other security cooperation programs, such as defense institution-building programs that address not only the material and related training, but also education and advising on strategy-planning doctrine and institutional support.”
The arms deal “demonstrates in the clearest terms possible the United States’ commitment to our partnership to Saudi Arabia and our Gulf partners while also expanding opportunities for American companies in the region and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. defense industrial base,” one official said.