Seeking to bolster its Persian Gulf allies in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration this week notified Congress that it plans to sell up to $11.25 billion in warships and related equipment to Saudi Arabia.
The State Department approved the sale as part of the Foreign Military Sales program, according to a statement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The lion’s share of the sale will be spent on four of Lockheed Martin’s littoral combat ships, which are designed to fight in shallow waters against submarines and other small vessels. The Saudis will be buying a beefed up version of the ship called the multi-mission combat ship, which can fire missiles.
The littoral combat ship has come under fire from practically every corner of Washington, including the Defense Department, with questions about its survivability and price, among other things.
The sale, which Congress has 30 days to disapprove before it takes effect, is the latest step by President Obama to soothe allies worried about the nuclear deal with Iran. Some Arab governments suspect that Tehran will use funds freed up by reduced economic sanctions to expand its conventional armed forces.
The Gulf Cooperation Council – made up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – views Tehran as a rising power and is worried that proxy wars, sectarian battles and emboldened terrorist networks could tip the region into chaos.
In May, the State Department signed off on the sale of 10 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters to Saudi Arabia in a deal valued at almost $2 billion.
Besides the littoral ships, which the Saudi Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet will use in the Persian Gulf, the new deal includes a variety of systems and support.