News Analysis |
The US formally approved an arms deal worth $1 billion with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 22, 2018 during the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s first visit to the States. The detail of their bilateral defense contracts revealed that the State Department confirmed it had green-lighted a $670 million deal for anti-tank missiles, a $106 million contract for helicopter maintenance and $300 million for ground vehicle parts. The deals had been in the pipeline since President Donald Trump announced more than $100 billion in possible new contracts on a visit to Riyadh last year.
Significance of the deal
The US-Saudi alliance is strengthening especially since the Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) won a concession to explore in eastern Saudi Arabia, discovering oil in 1938. U.S. companies were preferred by to European drillers operating in Iraq and Iran by the KSA because Saudi Arabia’s was wary of colonial powers (UK) that controlled much of the Middle Eastern region at that time. With the passage of time the areas of cooperation have been expanded including defense cooperation since the US support to Gulf war 1991.
Subsequently, Saudi Arabia is a good purchaser of U.S arms, with a purchase of 9.7 percent of U.S. exports from 2011 to 2015. Saudi Arabia’s total arm imports increased by 275 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the research organization SIPRI, the United States also helps Saudi Arabia secure its oil assets by providing training to Saudi security forces.
Aspirations of U.S and KSA behind this deal
Both the countries are chasing their own interests. On one hand, it is the US Military Industrial Complex which is committed to sell its arms. On the other hand, KSA is in its aspiration to be sustaining its status as of a regional giant in the Middle East. The KSA-US bilateral defense deal may be used in the conflict in Middle East, a wan torn area where human rights violations are on the rampant. Perhaps U.S plays oblivion to human right violation when it is selling arms.
US State Department approves the arms sale, despite concerns raised by rights groups that it might be used in Yemen.
The infrastructure has been significantly destroyed in Yemen, Syria and Libya.. The people have been deprived from the basic amenities of life. One of the explanations behind this defense deal is that military equipment may be used in Yemen, where Saudi-led military coalition forces are fighting against the Houthi rebels.
Amnesty International, in a recent statement, said there “was extensive evidence that irresponsible arms flows to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have resulted in enormous harm to Yemeni civilians”.
Simultaneously, in KSA-US bilateral cooperation, there are several business opportunities for the US as KSA is seeking to diversify its economy in order to decrease its dependence on oil reserves. It seems here that there is no possible possibilities of an “end state” to the U.S. presence in the Gulf nor an end to the need for the strongest possible U.S. security ties to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
THAAD and HERCULES
HERCULES is an armored recovery vehicle (ARV) designed to evacuate, recover, repair tanks on the battlefield. They are equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun, with 1,300 rounds.
Perhaps the most controversial missile defense system in the world, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, will be sold to Saudi Arabia. It is designed to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their “terminal” phase of flight when they are falling towards the target.
The largest of the three contracts is for 6,600 TOW 2B anti-tank missiles, made by US giant Raytheon.
Another deal covers spare parts and maintenance for the Saudi ground forces’ pool of US-built Abram tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, LAV armored vehicles, howitzers and Humvees.