Rabat – According to a White House official, the United States and Saudi Arabia just announced they have reached arms deals worth $100 billion.
Living up to the rumours swirling ahead of US President Donald Trump’s official touch down in Riyadh Saturday, the arms deals represent a “significant expansion” of the relationship the two countries have enjoyed for more than 70 years.
Though no details have yet been released regarding the deals, the US official did say that “This package of defence equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats.”
He added that they would enhance Saudi Arabia’s “ability to contribute to counter-terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the US military to conduct those operations.”
Earlier in May a different US official, under guarantee of anonymity, speculated that the deal could possibly surpass the $300 billion mark over the next ten years.
American defence contractors are Saudi Arabia’s largest suppliers of arms. The deal will surely cement the Kingdom’s place as one of the largest buyers of arms in the world. According to figures released in April by the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia spent $63.7 billion in arms procurements in 2016 alone.
The anonymous US official, however, made it clear that traditional ally, Israel, will maintain a strategic advantage. “It’s good for the American economy but it will also be good in terms of building a capability that is appropriate for the challenges of the region. Israel would still maintain an edge.”
The deals come amid mounting pressure back home for the Trump administration to back off on arms deals to the Kingdom. Rights groups are citing the growing list of collateral civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of Saudi air strikes against rebel forces.
On Thursday, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of state-owned arms manufacturing company, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, or SAMI.
The creation of SAMI is part of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, the kingdom’s strategy for reducing its economic dependence on oil and creating a more diverse economy all around. In their statement PIF pledged that the company “aims to become one of the world’s top 25 defense companies by 2030.”