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US to sell $60b in arms to Saudis

Associated Press / October 21, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration notified Congress yesterday that it plans to sell up to $60 billion in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia in one of the largest-ever single US arms sales, a deal intended to counter the rising influence of Iran.

State Department and Pentagon officials said the sales will include 84 F-15 jets, upgrades to 70 existing Saudi F-15s, 190 helicopters, and an array of missiles, bombs, and delivery systems, as well as accessories such as night-vision goggles.

The sale, first revealed last month, is designed to strengthen the defense forces of Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally.

The sale “will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East,’’ said Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs.

Congress has 30 days to block the deal, but officials do not expect significant opposition.

Shapiro and Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the sales would not affect Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Iran is now seen by Israel, the Gulf Arab states, and the West as a significant and unpredictable threat that has changed the old calculus of the region’s balance of power. The United States is realigning its defense policies in the Persian Gulf as Iran improves the range and accuracy of missiles and other weapons that could threaten Israel or Europe.

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