In its final days in office, the administration of US President Donald Trump has approved arms sales to three Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, amid widespread criticism of their bleak human rights record.
The US State Department authorized selling the Riyadh regime 3,000 Boeing-made GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions and related equipment worth $290 million, according to a notice to Congress released on Tuesday.
It is separate from a license the Trump administration recently announced it was planning to issue, which would allow Raytheon Technologies Corp. to directly sell Saudi Arabia 7,500 of its Paveway air-to-ground “smart” bombs at an estimated value of $478 million.
In its Tuesday’s notice, the State Department claimed that the sale would “support US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East.”
“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions. The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage,” it added.
The notice kicks off a 30-day clock during which American lawmakers can block the deal if they choose to.
It puts the deadline at the beginning of the administration of Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, which could also halt the sale if it wants.
The Democrat President-elect has vowed to review the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, end support for the Yemen war, penalize human rights violations and treat the kingdom like “the pariah that they are.”
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration announced approvals on Tuesday for $4.2 billion and $170 million in arms sales to Kuwait and Egypt, respectively.
The State Department approved selling Kuwait eight AH-64E Apache helicopters worth $4 billion and $200 million in spare parts to upgrade its Patriot missile systems.
Kuwait’s government had asked to buy eight AH-64E Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters and the upgrade of 16 of its current AH-64D Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters to the AH-64E configuration, the Pentagon said in a statement, citing Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, General Electric and Raytheon as the weapons makers associated with the sale.
Separately, the State Department said Egypt was approved to purchase a missile countermeasures system for its presidential aircraft worth $104 million and 20 targeting pods for military aircraft worth $65.6 million.
The arms deals have sparked concerns among human rights groups.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) non-profit organization, said, “The Trump administration is rushing through with parting arms gifts to Saudi Arabia despite its deplorable human rights record.”
“President Trump’s lame duck Middle East arms bonanza continues,” William Hartung, the director of the arms and security program at the Center of International Policy think tank, said. “Selling more bombs to Saudi Arabia given its history of indiscriminate airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen should be a non-starter. If Congress can’t block it, the Biden administration should do so when it takes office.”
“Congress and the new administration should also review the sale of equipment to Egypt in light of its brutal and counterproductive counter-terror campaign in the Sinai,” Hartung added.
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