Donald Trump’s administration plans to authorize the sale of nearly $ 500 million in arms to Saudi Arabia before the US president leaves the White House, US media reported, a decision an expert called it a “moral scandal”.
Citing two anonymous sources familiar with the issue, Bloomberg reported that the State Department notified Congress on Tuesday that it was moving forward to issue a license for the sale of precision-guided air-to-ground munitions in Riyadh, valued at $ 478. mr.
U.S. arms maker Raytheon Technologies Corp will be able to sell the weapons directly to the Saudis when it receives the license, Bloomberg said.
The Washington Post also reported that the weapons would be produced in the Gulf Kingdom under the terms of the deal, which has been ongoing since early 2019. The deal also includes a $ 97 million internal security communications system, the newspaper said.
News of the proposed sale, which Al Jazeera could not independently confirm, came as Trump entered the final weeks of his presidency.
The Republican leader has been a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally of the United States, and the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, building strong relations between the United States and the United States. ‘Saudi Arabia a pillar of its administration’s Middle East policy.
Trump too personally protected Crown Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, after criticizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, among other contentious issues.
War in Yemen
The war in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels took control of large parts of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.
The conflict escalated in 2015 after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates assembled a US-backed military coalition in an effort to restore the government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by Riyadh.
American politicians have criticized Trump’s steadfast support for Riyadh and, in particular, the administration’s continued assistance to Saudi-led forces in the war-torn country facing a terrible humanitarian catastrophe.
Asset veto a bill in Congress last year aimed at ending US support for the Saudi-led war effort.
The United Nations warned Yemen could experience the worst famine in decades last month.
Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said the planned US arms sale to Saudi Arabia was “a moral scandal.”
“This new shipment of arms only deepens American complicity with the crisis in Yemen, widely regarded as the worst humanitarian crisis on our planet,” Hashemi told Al Jazeera in an email Thursday.
“This new shipment of arms must be understood in relation to Trump’s dying office. It is forgive his corrupt friends and allies and absolve the Blackwater guards war crimes in Iraq, for which they were convicted by an American court. “
The Washington Post also reported this week that the United States is weighing a request to grant MBS immunity from U.S. federal prosecution in a case involving alleged threats against a former senior Saudi intelligence official.
“Now is not the time to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia given its role in killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes on targets in Yemen,” said William Hartung, director of the weapons program and security at the Center for International Policy, a non-profit group in Washington, DC, about the arms deal.
Hartung said in an email that the sale in Riyadh, as a recent US $ 23 billion in weapons with the UAE, could allow violations of international humanitarian law.
“The fact that the Trump administration is pushing these deals out is scandalous. Congress and the incoming Biden administration should block these sales as soon as possible, ”Hartung told Al Jazeera.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, has promised to “reassess” US-Saudi relations when he takes office.
“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the Kingdom , end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and make sure America doesn’t check its values at the door to sell weapons or buy oil, ” Biden said in October.