Why Did the Saudi Royal Family Agree to Buy $60 Billion of U.S. Weapons It Doesn’t Need?

Monday, September 20, 2010
Barack Obama with Saudi King Abdullah
Saudi Arabia hasn’t fought a war since the 1930s, and already spends about 13% of its GDP on defense—so why would it agree to buy even more weapons as part of the richest arms sales ever by the U.S. government?
One possible explanation, according to the blog Demagogues and Dictators, has to do with the longstanding, but unwritten agreement between Washington and Riyadh involving the exchange of oil for security. Saudi Arabia agrees to always sell oil to the U.S., and the U.S. consistently aids the kingdom in defending itself against any threat, foreign or domestic. A caveat of this understanding is the willingness of the Saudi leaders to increase their American arms purchases when an administration needs to protect defense industry jobs during tough economic times, such as now.
The $60 billion-plus deal negotiated with the U.S. will benefit several major defense contractors, namely Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies.
Another explanation for the historic arms deal stems from the “tough times” endured these days by the Al-Saud family. Allowances aren’t what they used to be for the tens of thousands of family members, causing many to get in the business of facilitating foreign business deals with the Saudi government. Commissions can be as much as 5% on billion-dollar arrangements, giving those in the House of Saud plenty of motivation to lobby their brethren to close lucrative purchases with American companies.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Following the Money in U.S.-Saudi Arms Deals (by Jeremy White, Demagogues and Dictators)
Saudi Arms Deal Advances (by Adam Entous, Wall Street Journal)


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