US to sell 20 billion dollars of arms to Saudis, Gulf states
WASHINGTON, Saturday (AFP) - The United States plans a series of arms deals worth at least 20 billion dollars (14.6 billion euros) with Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Persian Gulf states, The Washington Post reported today.
The plan also includes new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt, said the Post, citing unnamed US officials.
The deals are aimed at shoring up US allies in the Middle East and countering “a more aggressive Iran”, as one administration official put it.
The arms deals, which include the sales of a variety of sophisticated weaponry, would be the largest negotiated by this administration, according to the Post.
The military assistance agreements would provide 30 billion dollars in new US aid to Israel and 13 billion to Egypt over 10 years, the paper said.
Officials said the arms sales to Saudi Arabia were expected to include air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into “smart” precision-guided bombs, the report said.
They said the common goal of the military aid packages and arms sales is to strengthen pro-Western countries against Iran at a time when the hard-line regime seeks to extend its power in the region, the paper noted.“This is a big development, because it's part of a larger regional strategy and the maintenance of a strong US presence in the region,” the Post quoted a senior administration official as saying.
“We're paying attention to the needs of our allies and what everyone in the region believes is a flexing of muscles by a more aggressive Iran,” the official said. “One way to deal with that is to make our allies and friends strong.”
The arms deals have quietly been under discussion for months despite US disappointment over Saudi Arabia's failure to support the Iraqi government and to bring Iraq's Sunni Muslims into the reconciliation process, the report said.
The administration's plans will be announced Monday in advance of trips next week to the Middle East by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Post reported.