U.S. Announces $60 Billion Arms Sale To Saudis

On Wednesday, the State Department announced a large arms sale to Saudi Arabia, including 84 F-15 aircraft, 70 Apache helicopters, 72 Black Hawk helicopters and 36 light attack helicopters. Weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia often provoke strong opposition in the U.S. Congress and in Israel, but the State Department has conferred with both and expresses confidence that the sale will be approved.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The U.S. government announced today a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. plans to sell the Saudis up to $60 billion worth of fighter jets and helicopters.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, it's part of a broader effort to bolster allies in the region and counter Iran.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Eighty-Four F-15 fighter jets, 70 Apache attack helicopters, and 72 Black Hawks. Those are just some of the items Saudi Arabia is expected to buy from the U.S. over next 15 to 20 years.

Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro says this should send a strong message that the U.S. is committed to its partners in the region at a time when there are growing concerns about Iran.

Mr. ANDREW SHAPIRO (Assistant Secretary of State, Political Military Affairs): And it will enhance Saudi Arabia's ability to deter and defend against threats to its borders and to its oil infrastructure, which is critical to our economic interests.

KELEMEN: U.S. lawmakers often raise concerns about such deals, but Shapiro doesn't think that will be a problem this time.

Mr. SHAPIRO: We feel comfortable that we have done adequate pre-consultations with members of Congress that there will not be a barrier to completing this sale.

BLOCK: He's not expecting opposition from Israel, either. The U.S., he says, does not think that selling these weapons to Saudi Arabia will diminish Israel's military edge in the region.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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