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US Nears $100 Billion Arms Deal With Saudi Arabia

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The United States will soon complete multiple arms deals with Saudi Arabia, totaling more than $100 billion.

A senior White House official told Reuters about the nearly completed deals on May 15. The news comes just before President Donald Trump is scheduled to go to the Middle Eastern country on May 19 as part of his first foreign trip as commander in chief.

The official added that over the next 10 years, the Saudi Arabia arms package could surpass more than $300 billion. It is meant to help the country boost its defensive capabilities.

"We are in the final stages of a series of deals," the official said, noting that the package is being timed to Trump's Saudi Arabia visit.

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Reuters previously reported that contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia were being pushed through Washington prior to Trump's trip. Some of the deals are new, while others were already in the pipeline.

Included in the package are American arms and maintenance, ships, air missile defense, and maritime security, the official said.

"We'll see a very substantial commitment ... In many ways it is intended to build capabilities for the threats they face," the official said, adding that "it's good for the American economy but it will also be good in terms of building a capability that is appropriate for the challenges of the region."

The official confirmed that U.S. ally Israel will still "maintain an edge" with its military over others in the area, including Saudi Arabia.

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In recent years, the United States has been the main supplier for Saudi Arabia's military needs.

While in Saudi Arabia, Trump is expected to attend three major events: meetings with Saudi officials, a separate meeting with leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, and a lunch with 56 Arab and Muslim leaders to discuss combating extremism and stopping illicit financing.

Part of the discussion will include how to counter the threat of Islamic State militants, the war in Yemen, and ballistic missile threats and maritime shipping in the Red Sea, the official said.

Trump said his visit will include a "truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world.”

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” he said.

Trump will also visit Israel and the Vatican in Italy as part of his overseas trip. While at the Vatican, he will meet with the Pope, a senior administration official told Politico.

The president will also attend a NATO meeting in Brussels, Belgium, and the G-7 summit in Sicily, Italy.

Sources: Reuters, Politico / Photo credit: The White House/Flickr

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