Last month, warplanes belonging to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen repeatedly bombed a wedding party in the northern part of the country, killing more than 20 people, including the bride, and injuring dozens of others. In the days that followed, local media published a photograph of a bomb fragment with a serial number tying it to the U.S.-based weapons manufacturer Raytheon.
Now the State Department is taking preliminary steps toward a massive, multibillion-dollar sale of similar weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three congressional aides, a State Department official, and two other people familiar with the sales told The Intercept.
The State Department has yet to announce the exact details and dollar value of the package, but it is said to include tens of thousands of precision-guided munitions from Raytheon, the same company that was involved in producing the weapons used in last month’s strike.
Reuters reported in November that Saudi Arabia had agreed to buy $7 billion in precision-guided weapons from U.S.-based companies Raytheon and Boeing. Raytheon was “courting lawmakers and the State Department to allow it to sell 60,000 precision-guided munitions to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” according to the New York Times.
The State Department has briefed staff on the House and Senate Foreign Relations committees about the sale, but has yet to release details of the package to members of the committees, according to three aides who were not authorized to speak on the record. Once the chair and ranking member of the committees give the nod, the State Department can formally notify Congress about the sale, which could happen as early as next week.
Under the Arms Export Control Act, the State Department reviews potential arms sales to make sure they align with U.S. foreign policy goals and decides whether to issue export licenses. It then notifies Congress about sufficiently large sales, giving Congress a 30-day window to review and potentially block them.
The sale in question is a direct commercial transaction between Raytheon and the Gulf countries, which does not require the government to publicly announce the sale at the time of congressional notification. That means it will be up to senators to decide how many of the details to make public.
The sale is likely to face stiff opposition in the Senate, where members have grown increasingly frustrated with the U.S. role in the devastating conflict in