On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that the U.S. Department of State approved a potential sale of 3,000 precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in a $290 million deal.
The sale of the munitions comes as the Trump presidency draws to a close, and the President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest buyer of American weapons. The shift in policy is an effort by the incoming administration to pressurize KSA to end the humanitarian crisis caused by the Yemen war.
The package would include 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions, containers, support equipment, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said.
“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions,” the Pentagon said in a statement. It added that “the size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage.”
The Congress was informed of the possible sale by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The bicameral legislature unsuccessfully tried earlier this year to block the sale of F-35 warplanes to Riyadh.
Members of Congress have been angered by steep civilian casualties in Yemen and If Congress cannot block the munition sale, the Biden administration should do so when it takes office, William Hartung, the Director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, said in a statement. Adding, “it is particularly concerning that the Trump administration is trying to ram through these controversial deals when it has less than a month left in office.”