2017 United States–Saudi Arabia arms deal

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Saudi–American relations
Map indicating locations of Saudi Arabia and USA

Saudi Arabia

United States

On May 20th, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a US$350 billion arms deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[1][2][3] The arms deal was the largest in American history.[4][1][5] The transaction included tanks, combat ships, missile defence systems, as well as radar, communications and cybersecurity technology. The transfer was widely seen as a counterbalance against the influence of Iran in the region[6][7] and a "significant" and "historic" expansion of United States relations with Saudi Arabia.[8][9][10][11][12] On June 5th, it was reported that the arms deal consists of "a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts."[13]


Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.[14][15] Saudi Arabia’s security forces have relied on U.S. equipment, training, and service support for decades, officially as a counterbalance to Iranian military influence in the region, and to help protect the Kingdom from extremist attacks. Between 2011 and 2015, Saudi Arabia was the destination for nearly 10% of all U.S. arms exports.[16] In 2016, the Obama administration proposed a series of arms deals worth $115 billion, including warships, helicopters, and maintenance.[17] However, some parts of this deal were blocked by the administration in December 2016 after Saudi Arabia's airstrikes and targeting procedures in neighboring Yemen drew controversy.[18]

The 2017 deal was partially created with the help of American investor, Trump's son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner who had cultivated relationships with Saudi royalty during the transition and personally contacted Lockheed Martin during the deal-making process.[19][20]


The signing occurred at the Riyadh Summit, and was part of Trump's 2017 series of visits to the Vatican, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It also was related to a $20 billion investment in mostly American infrastructure. [21]

Saudi Arabia signed billions of dollars of deals with U.S. arms producers and energy companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Honeywell, McDermott International, Jacobs Engineering Group, Rowan Companies, National Oilwell Varco, Nabors Industries, Weatherford International, Schlumberger and Dow Chemical.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

Saudi Arabia joined The Blackstone Group in May 2017 in a $40 billion fund to invest in stateside infrastructure projects.[29]

American and Saudi Arabian government statements

The White House hailed the deal as a "significant expansion" of the two nations "security relationships".[30] The United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described the deal as "historic" and said that it would counter Iran, and urged them to halt support of destabilizing forces in the Middle East,[31][32] although he hinted the United States would be open to discussions.[33]


Domestic response

Tulsi Gabbard — a Democratic Representative from Hawaii — criticized the move, saying that "Saudi Arabia is a country with a devastating record of human rights violations at home and abroad and has a long history of providing support to terrorist organizations that threaten the American people".[34][35] Rand Paul introduced a bill to try to block the plan calling it a "travesty". [36][37][38]

US defense stocks reached all-time highs after the announcement. [39][27][40]

International response

 Iran – Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called Saudi Arabia a "cow" of the United States [41]

 IsraelYuval Steinitz expressed "concern".[42][43]

 Saudi Arabia – The government praised the deal, and stated that it is a turning point in Saudi-American relations.[44]

 Yemen – 10,000+ Yemeni people protested in Sana'a, Yemen to protest the deal. Houthis also fired a ballistic missile toward the Saudi capital Riyadh.[45][46]


Anti-war activists protest senators supporting Saudi arms deal, December 2017

On June 5th, it was reported that the arms deal consists of "a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts."[47] In June 13, 2017, the United States Senate narrowly rejected an effort to block part of deal and approved the sale of $500 million worth of American weapons. The approval of the deal was opposed by various lawmakers, including GOP Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Todd Young and Dean Heller along with most Democrat Senators who voted to advance the measure in order to block the sale, citing the human rights violations by Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni Civil War and human rights violations at home.[48][49] Among the senators who voted against moving the measure to block the sale were Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, Bill Nelson, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner along with top Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker and John McCain.[50]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Trump signs largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia". 2017-05-20. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  2. ^ "Fanfare And Deals Dominate Trump's First Day In Saudi Arabia". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  3. ^ Linge, Mary Kay (2017-05-20). "Trump signs off on $110B arms deal in Saudi Arabia". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  4. ^ "Trump hails huge Saudi arms deal as a jobs producer". mcclatchydc. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  5. ^ "Donald Trump to announce $380bn arms deal to Saudi Arabia – one of the largest in history". The Independent. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  6. ^ "What's the goal of America's arms deal with Saudi Arabia?". ABC News. 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  7. ^ Lee, Carol E.; Stancati, Margherita (2017-05-20). "Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia Sign Agreements in Move to Counterbalance Iran". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  8. ^ "Trump signs $110bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia". The Independent. 2017-05-20. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  9. ^ "What America's new arms deal with Saudi Arabia says about the Trump administration". Vox. 2017-05-20. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  10. ^ "Tillerson hails 'historic moment' in U.S.-Saudi relations". POLITICO. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  11. ^ David, Javier E. (2017-05-20). "US-Saudi Arabia ink historic 10-year weapons deal worth $350 billion as Trump begins visit". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  12. ^ "Trump signs $110B defense deal, receives warm welcome in Saudi Arabia". UPI. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  13. ^ https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2017/06/05/the-110-billion-arms-deal-to-saudi-arabia-is-fake-news/
  14. ^ "How strained are US-Saudi relations?". BBC News. 20 April 2016. 
  15. ^ "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "U.S.-Saudi Relations". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  17. ^ Bayoumy, Yara (2016-09-07). "Obama administration arms sales offers to Saudi top $115 billion:..." U.S. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  18. ^ Stewart, Phil (2016-12-13). "U.S. to halt some arms sales to Saudi, citing civilian deaths in..." U.S. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  19. ^ CNN, Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen. "Trump signs Kushner-negotiated $100B Saudi arms deal". CNN. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  20. ^ Schmitt, Mark Landler, Eric; Apuzzo, Matt (2017-05-18). "$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner's Personal Touch". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  21. ^ Alesci, Cristina (2017-05-21). "Saudi Arabia pledges $20 billion to Blackstone for American infrastructure". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  22. ^ "Factbox: Deals signed by U.S. companies in Saudi Arabia". Reuters. May 20, 2017.
  23. ^ "Saudi Arabia Welcomes Trump With Billions of Dollars of Deals". Bloomberg. May 20, 2017.
  24. ^ "Guide to $400 Billion in Saudi-U.S. Deals: Black Hawks to Oil". Bloomberg. May 22, 2017.
  25. ^ "Aramco signs $50-billion in deals with US companies". Oil & Gas Journal. May 22, 2017.
  26. ^ "4 Defense Giants In Buy Zone As Saudis Near $100 Billion Arms Package". Investor's Business Daily. May 19, 2017.
  27. ^ a b Thomas, Lauren (2017-05-22). "Defense stocks soar to all-time highs on $110 billion US-Saudi Arabia weapons deal". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  28. ^ "5 Top Deals Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon May Get From Saudis — If They Pay Up ". Investor's Business Daily. June 9, 2017.
  29. ^ Gara, Antoine (May 20, 2017). "Blackstone Unveils $40 Billion Infrastructure Mega Fund With Saudi Arabia As President Trump Visits". Forbes. 
  30. ^ "U.S.-Saudi Arabia sign immediate $110B arms deal". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  31. ^ "In Saudi Arabia, Tillerson argues Iran is Trump's top Gulf region concern". Fox News. 2017-05-20. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  32. ^ "US calls on Iran to halt support for 'destabilising forces'". Financial Review. 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  33. ^ IANS (2017-05-21). "US diplomat hints at possible talks with Iranian counterpart". Business Standard India. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  34. ^ "Gabbard condemns arms sale to Saudi Arabia | Asian American Press". aapress.com. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  35. ^ Beavers, Olivia (2017-05-20). "Dem senator: Trump's arms deal with Saudis a 'terrible idea'". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  36. ^ Hensch, Mark (2017-05-23). "Paul plans to force vote on $110B Saudi defense deal". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-05-26. 
  37. ^ "Senators Target Trump's Proposed $110B Weapons Deal With Saudi Arabia". 25 May 2017. 
  38. ^ Hensch, Mark (2017-05-24). "Paul: $110B Saudi arms deal 'a travesty'". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  39. ^ "U.S. defense stocks jump on Saudi arms deal". Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  40. ^ CNBC (2017-05-22). "After Saudi arms deal, defense shares fly". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  41. ^ "Iran's Supreme Leader Says Saudi Arabia Is a 'Cow Being Milked' by U.S." Time. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  42. ^ "Israeli minister expresses concern over U.S.-Saudi arms deal". Reuters. 2017-05-22. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  43. ^ "Ministers concerned Saudi arms deal might blunt Israel's military edge". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  44. ^ Birnbaum, Chelsea Mosery. "$380 billion over ten years: The Trump- Saudi Arabia deal". JerusalemOnline. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  45. ^ "Yemen's Houthis say fire ballistic missile towards Saudi capital". The Hindu. 20 May 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  46. ^ "Protests erupt in Yemen as Trump visits Saudi Arabia". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2017-05-21. 
  47. ^ https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2017/06/05/the-110-billion-arms-deal-to-saudi-arabia-is-fake-news/
  48. ^ Liautaud, Alexa (June 13, 2017). "The Senate-approved Saudi Arms deal is a disaster for Yemen". Vice News. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  49. ^ Cooper, Helene (13 June 2017). "Senate Narrowly Backs Trump Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  50. ^ Carney, Jordain (13 June 2017). "Senate rejects effort to block Saudi arms sale". The Hill. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
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