President Trump’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia was already highly controversial because of the number of civilians being killed by the Saudis with US-made and -provided bombs. Yet the controversy may well grow from here.
That’s because the US isn’t just sending billions of dollars worth of arms to the Saudis. The Trump Administration is also allowing armsmaker Raytheon to transfer highly sensitive US weapons technology to Saudi Arabia, to make many of the bomb parts in Saudi Arabia.
The technology transfer will allow the Saudis to produce many of the most important parts, and in time, produce their own version of the Raytheon Paveway smart bombs. This would in the long run remove Congressional oversight from the arms transfer, by making the Saudis self-sufficient in the smart bombs that have been killing thousands of civilians in Yemen.
The arms transfers are to be done through a false “state of emergency” declaration by President Trump, so as to circumvent Congressional oversight. The House is planning hearings on the matter, however, and the Senate has 22 votes of disapproval lined up.
It is expected that the Senate Democrats are uniformly behind these votes against the sale, along with Democrat-leaning independents and at least three Republicans (Sens. Paul, Graham, and Young). Passing the resolutions would require only one more Republican to switch sides, and that could easily happen with mounting concerns about not just arms transfers, but arms technology transfers.
Raytheon is trying to downplay the significance of all of this, insisting that US technology transfers happen all the time, and making parts of arms sales in the purchasing country are not that rare. This is true, but the secretive nature of what the Saudis are buying, and how controversial it was to sell it to them at all, makes this a bigger deal.