President Donald Trump will announce a massive weapons sale with Saudi Arabia during his visit as he advocates for greater unity in the Muslim world.
The U.S. and the Saudi Arabian ministry of defense “designed and negotiated a package totaling approximate $110 billion,” Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency which manages foreign military sales, told reporters Friday in a call from Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg News reports. “When completed, it will be the largest single arms deal in American history.”
The official announcement from the White House could come as Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia early Saturday for a two-day visit before traveling to Israel, Germany and Italy later in the week.
Saudi Arabia will also announce an unprecedented $40 billion investment in U.S. infrastructure, Bloomberg reports. Saudi officials are hailing Trump’s visit, as well as the visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the White House May 14, as a “historic turning point” for relations between the two nations.
The weapons sale to Saudi Arabia will include better-armed ships, tanks and missile defense systems. The sale would be greater than the entire amount of military equipment approved by former President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama approved $115 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia during his two terms.
Saudi Arabia increased weapons imports by 275 percent between 2011 and 2015, showcasing much of its new hardware in an ongoing conflict in Yemen.
A big part of the new weapons deal includes four of Lockheed Martin’s littoral combat ships worth $6 billion, Bloomberg reported.
Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been instrumental in completing that sale, reportedly telling aides, “Let’s get this done today” in a White House meeting May 1, The New York Times reports.
Kushner also called Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson personally to help secure the deal for the ships and radar equipment, requesting that she drop the price, TheNYT reported. Trump worked personally with Hewson to reduce the cost of the F-35 fighter jet earlier this year.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has criticized selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, arguing that the tanks, planes, ships and ammunition America sells the country will end up in the hands of terrorists.
“As violent jihadists attack the West, the Saudis continue to fund madrassas that preach hatred and violence against the West,” Paul said in September as the Senate voted down a ban on selling tanks to Saudi Arabia. (RELATED: Senate Decides To Sell Tanks To Saudi Arabia While Citizens Sue For 9/11)
Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia means the U.S. is engaging in a proxy war in Yemen, Paul claims, even as Saudi bombing against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels is responsible for around 60 percent of the 3,799 civilian deaths in Yemen in the past 18 months.
“Saudi Arabia is not a perfect ally, but they have chosen to pursue and purchase U.S. equipment versus Russian equipment or Chinese equipment,” Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said during that vote.
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