Why $60 billion in US arms to Saudi Arabia isn't causing an outcry
Israel doesn't oppose a US arms deal that would send advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly seen as essential to containing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Nine years after 9/11 sent US-Saudi relations crashing to a low point, bilateral ties have made a complete 180-degree turnaround with the Obama administration's plan to sell up to $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia.Skip to next paragraph
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The package, which would be the US's largest-ever overseas arms sale and has been in negotiations since 2007, underscores how Israel no longer feels threatened by Saudi Arabia and how the US increasingly sees the Gulf state as essential toward containing Iran, says Thomas Lippman at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"It’s a reminder to the Iranians," says Mr. Lippman, that if Tehran continues down a nuclear path "the response will be to so beef up regional rivals and enemies that their overall position will be diminished."
The Wall Street Journal reported that the package would include 84 new Boeing F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to another 70 of them. It would also include three types of helicopters: 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 70 Apaches, and 36 Little Birds. In addition, US officials are discussing a $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s naval forces.
The White House is reportedly set to notify Congress of the deal within the next month, which would set off a 30-day congressional review period. It is expected to be touted as a way to spur new job growth and support at least 75,000 jobs at Boeing and United Technologies, the Journal reported.
Despite the prospect of new jobs, such a proposal would have been politically untenable several years ago, says Lippman, the adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the years after 9/11, he says, "a deal like this would have simply inflamed the foam-at-the-mouth crowd. They must have calculated that it won’t."
To Americans, says Lippman, Saudi Arabia was synonymous with terrorism and Al Qaeda following revelations that many of the 9/11 plane hijackers were Saudis, and anti-American rhetoric ran high in Saudi mosques and madrassas. Riyadh was on rocky terms with the White House at the beginning of the century amid George W. Bush’s pledges to promote democracy and freedom in the Middle East. In 2004, the US for the first time ever included Saudi Arabia alongside Burma and North Korea in the list of eight countries it describes as seriously violating religious freedom.