Wed Feb 8, 2017 07:47AM
US President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis (R) as secretary of defense on January 27, 2016 at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis (R) as secretary of defense on January 27, 2016 at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The administration of US President Donald Trump is poised to approve major weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which were previously blocked over concerns about human rights, according to a report.

A package of precision-guided missile technology for Saudi Arabia, valued around $300 million, and a $4 billion deal to provide F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain are now ready for clearance from the White House, a US official involved in the transfers told The Washington Times.

During his final months in office, former president Barack Obama had blocked the transfer of precision munitions to Riyadh because of the outcry over large-scale civilian casualties resulting from Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.

The first deliveries of F-15SA fighters reached Saudi Arabia late last year just as the US halted a sale of precision-guided weapons over concerns about Saudi airstrikes on Yemen. (File photo by Boeing)

The Obama administration also notified Congress that it would not complete approval for Bahrain to buy as many as 19 F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp. until the kingdom could demonstrate progress on human rights.

The government in Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, has aggressively cracked down on political dissent since 2011.

The arms packages, if approved, would underscore the priorities of the new administration.

“These are significant sales for key allies in the [Persian] Gulf who are facing the threat from Iran and who can contribute to the fight against [Daesh],” the official who spoke with The Times said on condition of anonymity.

“Whereas the Obama administration held back on these, they’re now in the new administration’s court for a decision — and I would anticipate the decision will be to move forward.”

However, the White House will face opposition in Congress where Democrats and a number of Republicans have called for restrictions on sales of weapons to the two monarchies, in particular to Saudi Arabia which has been pounding Yemen since March 2015.

A Yemeni boy looks on as Yemenis search under the rubble of damaged houses following reported Saudi airstrikes on the outskirts of Sana'a on February 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

In August, 64 House members signed a letter calling on Obama to delay the sale of cluster munitions to the kingdom, and in September, a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a resolution to block a multi-billion dollar sale of battle tanks and other military equipment to the Saudi regime.

The Obama administration ultimately approved the deal on tanks transfer. However, the former president did not give the final go-ahead to the now-pending package of precision-guided weapons technology.

However, the US official told The Times that the Trump administration was now poised to embrace the deal. “If they’re going to drop stuff, it should be precision-guided rather than dumb.”

Saudi Arabia has purchased billions of dollars worth of American warplanes and other weaponry that it is using in its military campaign in Yemen.

The military aggression has destroyed much of Yemen's infrastructure. It has also claimed the lives of over 11,400 Yemenis, including women and children, according to the latest tally by a Yemeni monitoring group.