The US State Department has approved a potential $500 million deal to provide maintenance support for Saudi Arabia’s fleet of combat vehicles, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency announced yesterday.
The deal would cover spare parts, components and repair services for vehicles, including Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles operated by the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
Other equipment covered includes TOW missile launchers, radar systems and communications gear, according to the DSCA. The agreement aims to help Saudi Arabia sustain its arsenal of armoured vehicles with spare parts and maintenance.
“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Arrangement (CLSSA) Program, Foreign Military Sales Order (FMSO) II and related equipment for an estimated cost of $500 million,” the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in its press release, adding that it had delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.
“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by supporting a strategic partner’s self-defence and promoting stability in the Middle East,” the Agency added. The goal of the sale is to “maintain Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by allowing the Royal Saudi Land Force (RSLF) to continue to purchase needed spare/repair parts, through their current CLSSA program. The deal will replenish in-country stocks required for general maintenance and sustain the operability of RSLF equipment. The RSLF has participated in the CLSSA program since 1965.
The package signals continued close defence ties between Washington and Riyadh and comes on the back of continued negotiations over a potential normalisation deal between Saudi Arabi and Israel, mediated by the US. One of the three main components of the deal is security guarantees demanded by the Gulf State from the US. The other two is civilian nuclear program and Israel’s concession on Palestine.
Finalisation of the sale awaits Congressional approval but is not thought to be an obstacle. The previous $500 million military support was granted when relations between Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and President Joe Biden were tense. Biden had come into office calling Saudi Arabia a pariah state and saying that he would hold Bin Salman accountable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In the time, since, Biden flew to Riyadh to meet with the Crown Prince in what was widely seen as a humiliating U-turn.
Further embarrassment is likely to follow under the normalisation deal with Israel mediated by Biden if the Saudis can obtain security guarantees from Washington equivalent to NATO’s article 5. Such a deal would mean US soldiers will be required to come to the aid of the Gulf State to protect Saudi and Israeli interest.