The Secretary of State on Friday issued an emergency notice to move forward with $8.1 billion in arm sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, citing an increasing threat from Iran to the partner nations.
Secretary Mike Pompeo invoked a provision in the Arms Export Control Act, which allows the administration to bypass congressional approval to complete weapons transfers to the three countries, which includes 22 deals for aircraft support, surveillance drones and missiles.
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo wrote in the emergency notification.
The State Department said the decision was made “to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity,” and arrives after the administration’s announcement to deploy 900 troops to the Middle East and extend the tour of another 600 following reports of increased tension with Iran.
“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” Pompeo said. “These national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit.”
The decision has faced pushback from lawmakers over the administration’s decision to work around Congress, which otherwise would have 30 days to review a foreign military sale.
“It has been longstanding practice that Congress has a role in approving or blocking arms sales to foreign militaries. President Trump’s decision to ignore congressional review and order sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to proceed is a blatant violation of our system of checks and balances,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader, said in a statement. “The relevant committees have expressed concerns about these sales because Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. continue to wage a war in Yemen that, coupled with the nefarious activities of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, has caused a humanitarian disaster.”
Officials announced $2.6 billion in aircraft logistics and support deals with Saudi Arabia, which will cover platforms such as the F-5, F-15, C-130, E-3 and others.
Saudi Arabia also received approval for a $136 million deal to purchase parts for the Tactical Air Surveillance System Aircraft. L3 [LLL] will serve as the prime contractor for the deal.
For the UAE, the State Department approved a $900 million deal for 20,000 of BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II rockets, $102 million for 331 of Raytheon’s [RTN] Javelin guided missiles and $80 million for 20 RQ-21A Blackjack ISR drones, built by Boeing [BA] subsidiary Insitu.
The State Department also announced a $100 million with the UAE to continue the Marine Corps’ training of the United Emirates Presidential Guard Command.
No specific details of the deals with Jordan were announced at the time of Pompeo’s notification, but the State Department added further sales will be published in the Federal Register.