A controversial arms deal for Arab allies approved by the Trump administration will allow U.S. hi-tech bomb parts to be manufactured in Saudi Arabia, giving Riyadh unprecedented access to a sensitive weapons technology.
The production arrangement is part of a larger $8.1 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan announced two weeks ago. The Trump administration pressed ahead with the sale without congressional approval, declaring an “emergency” based on what it said was a heightened threat from Iran.
The deal came as a surprise to lawmakers, who were outraged that the administration chose to bypass Congress. But most members of Congress only learned days after the deal was announced May 24 that it opens the door for Saudi Arabia to host the production of electronic guidance and control systems for Paveway precision-guided bombs, congressional aides said.
The New York Times first reported on the co-production arrangement.
Lawmakers are expected to grill a senior State Department official — R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs — about the arms deal and the bomb production plan at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.
The U.S. government tends to closely guard technology linked to sophisticated weapons, and limits how much of that technology is shared through co-production projects with other countries.
Lawmakers opposed to the deal said the production scheme sent the wrong signal to Saudi Arabia given its human rights record and its air war in Yemen, raised security concerns about sharing so-called “smart bomb” technology with Riyadh and undercut one of President Donald Trump’s arguments for selling weapons to the Saudis — to generate jobs in the United States. Read more