DESPARDES News Monitor — President Donald Trump this week used emergency authority to approve nearly two dozen arms sales to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other countries.
The announcement was made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while briefing the Congress on Friday.
Congressional aides told The Washington Post the deals are worth about $8 billion and include the sale of mortar bombs, missiles, drones, repair and maintenance services, and precision-guided munitions.
Trump’s approval comes amid pushback from lawmakers who feared longterm security interests are not being prioritized. Some of these hardware could take several years to be delivered, said an expert.
A senior Pakistani defense analyst with several years of stint in the Middle East commented on Trump’s latest move, and said it seems “Saudi are being looked at as the cash cows for US Defense Industrial Complex.” “Saudi Navy ordered 4 MMSC for US $ 11.25 Billions. These shops are based on LCS ( Littoral Combat Ships), which the US Navy is hesitant to use for combat duties despite 11 of them are available with them for last couple of years.”
Ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he’s disappointed that Trump “failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors…”
Pompeo notified members of Congress, including the Senate foreign relations committee, about Trump’s decision to invoke the emergency authorization under the Arms Export Control Act, which typically requires congressional review. The administration cited malign behavior by Iran as its reasoning for the arms sales.
Trump’s approval of sale using emergency loophole, same as the Pentagon dispatched 1500 troops to the Gulf.
The deployments announced Friday include a squadron of 12 fighter jets, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, and a number of military engineers to beef up protection for forces.
“We are going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” the president said at the White House, before setting off on a trip to Japan. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens.”
The announcement of additional forces was met with mixed reviews.
The chairman of the House armed services committee, Democrat Adam Smith of Washington, called the build-up “unsettling”.
“Leaders from both sides of the aisle have called for de-escalation. At first blush, this move does not fit the bill,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “Without a clearly articulated strategy, adding more personnel and mission systems seems unwise, and appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.”