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Friday, May 5, 2017

Trump Administration Prepares Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

The Trump Administration is looking to push an arms sale to Saudi Arabia during a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to the kingdom later this month.

Reuters reported on May 5, 2017 that the U.S. President is looking to discuss arms exports -- including for systems already offered previously -- with Saudi officials during his visit, which will the new president's first trip abroad.

The report, citing unnamed officials familiar with the matter, listed a number of systems that the Trump Administration wants to sell to Riyadh. Among these are the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, C2BMC battle command software system, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, M109 artillery, multi-mission surface combatant vessels, and precision-guided munitions (PGMs).

Some of these items had been previously offered to Saudi Arabia.

Early last month, a group of mostly Democratic lawmakers wrote to the State Department to issue concerns about the sale of PGMs to Saudi Arabia, which had been blocked by the previous Administration under President Barack Obama at the end of last year. Soon after the new Administration began, the ban on the sale of PGMs was lifted.

The United States has previously approved a sale of four multi-mission surface combatant vessels to Saudi Arabia. However, talks encountered a set back early last year when Riyadh turned down the proposed price tag, without completely abandoning the deal.

Saudi Arabia has not yet moved forward another ship purchase instead of the U.S. vessels, but has seemingly considered offers from Spain and Turkey.

The kingdom has also been in talks for years on the THAAD, which has been sold to neighbor United Arab Emirates.

There has been no independent confirmation of the Trump Administration's plans to push the weapons package; Reuters noted no response was received from the Pentagon or the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press reported regarding President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia,
Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expressed optimism about the planned visit. He noted, "[The visit] will lead to, we believe, enhanced cooperation between the U.S. and Arab and Islamic countries in combating terrorism and extremism."

He added that the meeting "will change the conversation with regards to America's relationship with the Arab and Islamic world."

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