The U.S. has agreed to sell Saudi Arabia more than 10,000 advanced air-to-ground munitions, Defense News reported Monday. The sale, which still needs to be cleared by Congress, could amount to some $1.29 billion.
The reports come a week after U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf raised concern at the Dubai Airshow over a shortage of military supplies at a time the region faces threats on all fronts. Saudi Arabia has led a protracted campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, and has also been considered a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. The potential items being sold to Saudi Arabia include "smart bombs" for the air force.
"One of the key areas that our partners have brought to my attention, and to the attention of [U.S. Air Force Central Command head Lt. Gen. Charles Brown] and the rest of us, is the importance of replenishing our stocks of ammunition and precision-guided munitions," U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Nov. 10, according to Defense News. "So that's a key message that I'm going to be taking back to Washington, and it's one that we're working pretty hard."
Opponents of Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen have taken to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the deal. Human rights groups have accused ths Saudis of war crimes, as thousands of people in Yemen have been killed in a conflict that has drawn little notice in world media.
— Carmen Renieri (@RenieriArts) November 16, 2015
US rewards Saudi Arabia for its war on Yemen by selling it $1.29bn worth of bombs so it can continue bombing Yemen. https://t.co/9peMfHvyk9
— Serge (@Zinvor) November 16, 2015
Saudi Arabia has been boosting its military defenses in recent years, and is now one of the biggest importers of military equipment in the world. Aside from a growing number of regional and domestic terrorist threats, the kingdom has also sought to build up its defenses as the world prepares to ease sanctions against Iran, its longtime adversary. Saudi Arabia spent some $6 billion in the months leading up to the Iran nuclear deal, which would require a commitment from Iran to end its alleged nuclear weapons program.