US Gives Preliminary Approval for Sale of Military Equipment to Saudi Arabia Worth $1.15B

The State Department gave its approval of the sale to Congress.

— -- The U.S. Department of State approved a possible sale of tanks, machine guns, ammunition, and other land force military supplies to Saudi Arabia worth $1.15 billion.

The State Department gave its approval of the sale to Congress, which now has 30 days to review it before the sale can proceed.

Saudi Arabia requested more than 100 tanks, 300 machine guns, 100 smoke grenade launchers, and other military equipment and ammunition, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic regional partner which has been and continues to be a leading contributor of political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," the DSCA said in a statement.

"The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region," the DSCA added.

The announcement of the proposed sale of the land force military equipment came the same day that news of an airstrike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen killed 14 civilians working at a food factory, The Associated Press reported.

The airstrikes in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have raised international concern because of the harm they have allegedly inflicted on civilians. Over the weekend, United Nations peace talks over the conflict in Yemen crumbled and took a recess without making any considerable headway, according to The AP.

Earlier this summer, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon included Saudi Arabia on a blacklist of groups that target children in his annual "Children and Armed Conflict" report. After pressure from Saudi Arabia, the U.N. chief removed Saudi Arabia from the list. Amnesty International was quick to slam the U.N. for caving to Saudi pressure and putting children at risk.

"Children are paying the heaviest price of the conflict in Yemen," Julien Harneis, U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) representative in Yemen, said in a statement yesterday. "Since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, UNICEF was able to verify that 1,121 children were killed and another 1,650 were injured. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher."

A State Department spokesman downplayed concerns that the weapons transferred to Saudi Arabia could possibly be used to harm civilians in Yemen.

"This proposed sale is aimed toward strengthening Saudi Arabia’s future defense capabilities. If finalized, this proposed sale will require major refurbishment of some existing tanks, and manufacturing of the rest over the course of several years," said David McKeeby, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which oversees the Foreign Military Sales process.

"Moreover, our understanding is that these types of weapons systems are not currently being used for offensive operations in Yemen," McKeeby added. "As a matter of policy, review and monitoring are an integral component of the process for any U.S.-origin defense articles delivered to any recipient nation. This is to make sure that those articles are used in the manner intended and are consistent with our legal obligations, foreign policy goals, and values."