U.S. to Start Delivering Smart Bombs to Saudi Arabia Soon, Officials Say

  • Obama-era sale is separate from $110 billion Trump package
  • Munitions not held up by U.S. over Saudi war in Yemen

The U.S. will start delivering smart bombs to Saudi Arabia as part of a $1.3 billion arms package approved in 2015, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans.

The State Department notified Congress last week of its intention to start deliveries within a month, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn’t been made public. The package includes tail kits built by Boeing Co. that convert unguided bombs into munitions directed by the Global Positioning System, as well as laser-guided bombs built by Raytheon Co.

The sale, which was approved by Congress in 2015, is separate from a $110 billion arms package touted by President Donald Trump during his trip to the Middle East last month. It is, however, another signal of the Trump administration’s pivot toward Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. sees as a critical ally in the fight against terrorism.

The smart bomb sale is also not part of a contentious $500 million package of munitions that some lawmakers are seeking to stall. A group of senators led by Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Chris Murphy of Connecticut are seeking a vote of disapproval on the sale Tuesday in Congress.

They are among a number of lawmakers and human-rights groups that has criticized Riyadh’s persecution of the war against militants in Yemen over the number of civilian casualties.

“The Administration’s notice to us that they are about to start delivering precision-guided munitions in 30 days from a previous sale shows that the Saudis won’t be running out of these weapons anytime soon,” Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement provided by a spokesman.

“We need to send a message to both the Trump Administration and the Saudis to work much harder to avoid civilian casualties, expedite humanitarian relief, and push for a peaceful end to the war through a negotiated political settlement,” Cardin added.

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