White House

Trump hails huge Saudi arms deal as a jobs producer

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk with Saudi King Salman to a coffee ceremony and presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court Palace Saturday.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk with Saudi King Salman to a coffee ceremony and presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court Palace Saturday. AP

The United States completed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia totaling $110 billion Saturday as President Donald Trump seeks to strengthen economic and security ties with one of the world’s largest energy producers.

The agreement, which will take effect immediately, is the largest single arms deal in U.S. history and will create tens of thousands of new jobs in the U.S. defense industrial base, according to the White House.

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

But the Saudi government quickly announced that 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters would be assembled in the kingdom, leading to about 450 jobs in Saudi Arabia.

Trump and Saudi King Salman signed the agreement, as well as other commercial ones totaling another $250 billion, in a signing ceremony late Saturday following a series of meetings and lunch on the president’s first day in Riyadh.

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, dressed in a traditional black abaya, watched as the two leaders signed. Lockheed Martin released a statement in which Hewson hailed the agreement as producing “the foundation for job creation and economic prosperity in the U.S. and in the kingdom.”

“This is unprecedented,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said at a news conference. “We have not had an agreement signed by a king of Saudi Arabia and U.S. president to codify this strategic relationship. This was a great accomplishment.”

The arms deal represents a win for Trump, who sold himself as a dealmaker in the presidential campaign but whose domestic achievements have been overshadowed by numerous scandals back at home as investigators try to determine whether his associates colluded with Russia in the election.

This package of defense equipment and services is designed to bolster Saudi Arabia as it counters threats from nearby Iran and fights terrorism while reducing the burden on the U.S. military.

The sales will include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cybersecurity equipment, according to the State Department. Also included are offers of training and support.

“I would give you all a caution, if you haven’t worked these issues before, that first people always give you the figure which is the highest goal,” said Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “Most of the time it isn’t reached.”

Trump arrived in Riyadh on Saturday – the first stop of his first foreign trip as president – armed with pledges to work with Saudi leaders to fight terrorism, boost economic development and counter Iran.

On Sunday, he will meet with leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and speak to more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders largely about combating violent extremism.

At a campaign event last year, Trump repeated his claim that the Saudi regime would have collapsed without U.S. defense support.

“We defend Saudi Arabia. They don’t pay us nearly what they should be paying. So essentially we are subsidizing all of these countries,” he said at a rally. “How stupid are we? A country like Saudi Arabia wouldn’t exist for a week.”

Human Rights Watch urged Trump not to accept the arms deal after a Saudi-led coalition, militarily supported by the United States, in Yemen has led to “serious violations of the laws of war.”

“Coalition aircraft have bombed crowded markets and funerals, maimed countless children, and attacked a boat filled with refugees, often using US-made weapons in unlawful attacks,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “Seven million people face starvation in Yemen. If the Trump administration wants to curtail U.S. support for abuses in the Muslim world, it should immediately end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and demand credible investigations of alleged laws-of-war violations.”

WHO GETS WHAT UNDER SAUDI WEAPONS DEAL

Lockheed Martin – A $6 billion deal that foresees the final assembly in Saudi Arabia of 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters. The program is expected to support approximately 450 jobs in Saudi Arabia and conform to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by developing local capabilities through technology and skills transfer.

Raytheon – U.S. defense and cyber leader Raytheon will form Raytheon Arabia to focus on programs to create Saudi capabilities to provide defense, aerospace, and security capabilities on its own. The program is expected to create jobs in both the kingdom and the United States.

General Dynamics – The U.S. defense contractor has agreed to localize 50 percent of design, engineering, manufacturing, and support of armored combat vehicles in Saudi Arabia.

Source: Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum

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