Saudi Arabia Is Largest Buyer of US Weapons: Arms Dealers Say the Murder of a Journalist Isn’t Worth the Loss of $100 Billion in Sales

October 12th, 2018 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & Irina Ivanova / CBS MoneyWatch & Reuters – 2018-10-12 23:47:22

Saudi Arabia Is Largest Buyer of US Arms

The US remains the world’s largest weapons exporter.
Our biggest customer? Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia Is Largest Buyer of US Arms
US Arms Makers Fear Losing Saudi Deals
Over Journalist’s Disappearance

Jason Ditz /

WASHINGTON (October 12, 2018) — US officials report that major US arms makers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are expressing concern that the backlash against Saudi Arabia, the largest purchaser of such arms, over the disappearance and apparent death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will end up costing them some very lucrative arms deals.

Saudi war crimes in Yemen had already led to repeated pushes in Congress to limit US arms sales, and at times, some sales were delayed by this. The addition of the Khashoggi affair has raised the possibility of the US cutting arms sales to them outright.

President Trump has argued against this course of action, saying it isn’t worth losing $110 billion in sales over one journalist who isn’t even a US citizen. Congress, however, may have other ideas.

Congress has the power to block any foreign military sales, and there is bipartisan support for that idea. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) even cautioned contractors not to push for any new deals with the Saudis right now, saying no approval votes could happen for awhile.

Saudi Arabia Is America’s No. 1 Weapons Customer
Irina Ivanova / CBS MoneyWatch

(October 12, 2018) — The US remains the world’s largest weapons exporter, a position it has held since the late 1990s. Our biggest customer? Saudi Arabia.

That business reality came to the forefront this week in President Donald Trump’s refusal to crack down on the kingdom whose royal rulers have been accused of murdering a Saudi-born, US-based dissident journalist who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The US sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. In 2017, the US cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals.

Mr. Trump has dismissed the idea of suspending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to punish its crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, for any involvement in the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,” Mr. Trump said this week.

Last year in May, President Trump used his first foreign trip as an occasion to visit the kingdom and sign an arms deal advertised as $110 billion — a figure experts have since disputed as inflated, since it was not based on actual, signed contracts and included at least $23 billion previously approved by the Obama administration, according to Defense One. But even before that announcement, Saudi Arabia was by far the US’ largest arms client, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Over the five years ending in 2017, nearly one-fifth of American weapons exports went to Saudi Arabia, SIPRI reports. Overall, half went to the Middle East and North Africa. In the 2017 calendar year alone, some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals were cleared by the US

Bombs Away
The current White House has shifted the type of weapons exports the US favors. Prior to this year, aircraft was the largest component of US arms sales, according to the Security Assistance Monitor. Under the first year of the Trump administration, sales of bombs and missiles dominated.

That year, the US sold Saudi Arabia $298 million worth of Paveway laser-guided missiles, $98 million in ammunition for various types of firearms and $95 million worth of programmable bomb systems. A recent attack on a school bus in Yemen that killed dozens of children was carried out with a bomb the US sold to Saudi Arabia, CNN has reported.

Just this year, the State Department has approved sales to Saudi Arabia of $670 million worth of BGM-71 TOWs, a type of anti-tank missile, $1.3 billion worth of medium self-propelled Howitzers and at least $600 million in “maintenance support services.”

Arms Sales as Economic Development
The Trump administration has taken steps this year to further boost arms sales abroad. This spring, the National Security Council put forth a policy that cuts regulations and diminishes the long wait times usually associated with weapons sales — all in the name of economic growth.

The policy, called an “Arms Transfer Initiative,” is explicitly meant to “expand opportunities for American industry [and] create American jobs,” Tina Kaidanow, a longtime State Department diplomat who recently moved to the Pentagon, said at a conference in August.

Some economists question the effectiveness of the military jobs approach, however, noting that federal spending on education, health care or infrastructure creates many more jobs than defense spending does.

Meanwhile, the US remains the world’s No. 1 arms seller, with one-third of the globe’s international arms exports originating here, according to a report by SIPRI. Russia, the next-largest exporter, is responsible for just over one-fifth of the global market.

As for where the dollars from those transactions are flowing, here are the US corporations that contract with the Department of Defense, along with the money committed to them last year.

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US Weapons Makers Rattled over Saudi Arabia Deals
Matt Spetalnick, Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle / Reuters

WASHINGTON (October 12, 2018) — Major US defense contractors have expressed concern to the Trump administration that lawmakers angered by the disappearance of a Saudi journalist in Turkey will block further arms deals with Saudi Arabia, a senior US official told Reuters on Friday.

Turkish reports that journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of Riyadh, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and removed have hardened resistance in the US Congress to selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, already a sore point for many lawmakers concerned about the Saudi role in Yemen’s civil war.

Saudi Arabia rejects the allegations in Turkey as baseless.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was wary of halting arms sales to Riyadh because of Khashoggi as it would just shift its weapons purchases to Russia and China.

Saudi Arabia, where Trump last year announced a $110 billion arms package, has been a centerpiece of his overhaul of weapons export policy in which he has gone further than any of his predecessors in acting as a weapons salesman. However, critics say the new approach gives too much weight to business interests versus human rights concerns.

The senior US official declined to identify the companies that had contacted the administration over their Saudi arms deals. Defense contractors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Co (RTN.N) have been the most active US defense companies with potential sales to Saudi Arabia since Trump announced the package as part of his “Buy American” agenda to create jobs at home.

In Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike are alarmed by the disappearance of Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post. He entered the consulate on Oct. 2 to collect documents for his planned marriage. Saudi officials say Khashoggi left the building shortly afterwards, but his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said he never re-appeared.

Even before Khashoggi’s unexplained disappearance, Democratic lawmakers had “holds” for months on at least four military equipment deals, largely because of Saudi attacks that killed Yemeni civilians.

“This makes it more likely they’ll expand holds to include systems that aren’t necessarily controversial by themselves. It’s a major concern,” the senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

About $19 billion in deals have been officially notified to Congress, according to government records, making it unlikely that they can be halted. These include training packages for Saudi troops and pilots and the THAAD anti-missile system that could cost as much as $15 billion.

One lobbyist for a defense company who spoke on condition of anonymity said worries about a potential across-the-board blockage of Saudi sales by Congress had surfaced in recent days, a development that would hurt a range of contractors.

A second US official said there were also current holds in place on training sales for the Saudi government.

Under US law, major foreign military sales can be blocked by Congress. An informal US review process lets key lawmakers use a practice known as a “hold” to stall deals if they have concerns such as whether the weapons being supplied would be used to kill civilians.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia, threatened on Thursday to introduce a resolution of disapproval for any Saudi military deal that came up.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on Thursday he recently told a defense contractor not to push for a deal with the Saudis, even before the Khashoggi case.

“With this, I can assure it won’t happen for a while,” Corker said.

While details of all the previously blocked Saudi deals were not immediately available, one was the planned sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of high-tech munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Since 2015, Gulf Arab states have fought to restore a government in Yemen driven out by the Houthis, Shi’ite Muslim fighters Yemen’s neighbors view as agents of Iran. The war has killed more than 10,000 people and created the world’s most urgent humanitarian emergency.

Senator Robert Menendez, the top Foreign Relations Committee Democrat, said the Trump administration had not satisfied concerns he first raised in June about the sale to members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen of Raytheon’s precision-guided munitions.

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