The United States has sealed an arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the White House announced on Saturday, a move that solidifies its decades-long alliance with the world’s largest energy producer just as President Donald Trump begins an official visit to the country.
The agreement, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as “a significant expansion of…[the] security relationship” between the two countries.
The arms package represents an enhancement of Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities as tensions flare in the region, with the U.S. viewing the Saudis as a linchpin in efforts to check the global ambitions of Iran. The country, the hub of Islam’s most revered sites, but is also a target of radical Islamic extremism.
“This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats, while also bolstering the Kingdom’s ability to contribute to counter terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the U.S. military to conduct those operations,” the White House said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia though is known for various human rights abuses. According to Amnesty Internation in 2016 and 2017 Saudi Arabia:
The authorities severely curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, detaining and imprisoning critics, human rights defenders and minority rights activists on vaguely worded charges. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common, particularly during interrogation, and courts continued to accept torture-tainted “confessions” to convict defendants in unfair trials. Women faced discrimination in both law and practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. The authorities continued to arrest, detain and deport irregular migrants. Courts imposed many death sentences, including for non-violent crimes and against juvenile offenders; scores of executions were carried out. Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia committed serious violations of international law, including war crimes, in Yemen.