WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said Thursday it planned to sell Washington’s Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion worth of missiles and munitions, including “bunker-buster” bombs.
The move follows a series of U.S. weapons deals in recent years that have bolstered the air power and missile arsenals of Gulf states, which view Iran as a menacing rival with nuclear ambitions.
The pending sale comes as the United States and five other major powers pursue high-stakes diplomacy on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, with talks this week portrayed as positive by both sides.
Officials said the Defense Department notified Congress this week of the planned deal that will provide a thousand bunker-buster GBU-39 bombs to the Saudis and 5,000 to the UAE.
The sale will also include sophisticated air-launched cruise missiles that can hit targets from a long distance.
The weapons are designed for use with U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets previously purchased by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to a statement made by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
In 2010, Israel bought the same bunker-buster “precision-guided glide bombs,” fueling speculation that it was preparing for potential pre-emptive airstrikes against underground nuclear sites in Iran.
The proposed sales “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States” by improving the security of friendly countries that remain forces for “stability,” the DSCA said.
Under the arms package, the Saudis were due to receive approximately $6.8 billion in weapons, parts, training and logistical support.
The Saudis and the UAE will purchase hundreds of Standoff Land Attack missiles, or SLAM-ERs, and Joint Standoff Weapons.
These advanced missiles will enable their warplanes to hit radar installations and other targets from beyond the range of air defense systems.
The Saudis will purchase 650 of the Boeing-manufactured SLAM-ERs and 973 Joint Standoff Weapons, made by Raytheon, in addition to other missiles.
The United Arab Emirates is due to purchase $4 billion worth of weaponry, including the bunker-buster bombs, 300 SLAM-ERs and 1,200 JSOW missiles.
“The UAE continues host-nation support of vital U.S. forces stationed at Al-Dhafra Air Base and plays a vital role in supporting U.S. regional interests,” the DSCA said.
“This proposed sale will improve the UAE’s military readiness and capabilities to meet current and future regional threats, reduce the dependence on U.S.
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from page 1forces in the region, and enhance any coalition operations the U.S. may undertake.” Saudi Arabia Thursday won a U.N. Security Council seat for the first time in a new show of determination to make its voice heard, joining Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria in taking places on the key body.
Saudi Arabia, despite its oil power and standing in the Arab world, has never competed for a place on the United Nations’ most powerful body, which has a key role pronouncing on conflicts such as that in Syria.
Congress has 30 days to block the sale but most lawmakers have endorsed previous weapons deals with the Gulf countries.