The Trump administration is reinforcing its military relationship with Riyadh even as Congress passes resolutions against an arms deal with the Saudis.
By World Israel News Staff
The U.S. is reinforcing its military relationship with Saudi Arabia, CNN reports, by “preparing to send hundreds of troops to the country amid increasing tensions with Iran.”
CNN cited two U.S. defense officials as saying that “500 troops are expected to go to the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh,” adding to a small number of troops and support personnel already there.
Initial preparations are being made for a U.S.-made Patriot missile system as well as runway and airfield improvements, CNN reported.
“The U.S. has wanted to base troops there for some time because security assessments have shown Iranian missiles would have a difficult time targeting the remote area,” says the CNN report.
The decision comes as U.S.-Saudi relations “remain extremely sensitive amid bipartisan congressional anger” over how the Trump administration has handled the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
However, the administration has said that “it is committed to trying to help protect Saudi Arabia against Iranian aggression,” the report notes.
Congress is heading for a showdown with President Trump after the House passed resolutions on Wednesday to block the administration from selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to the Saudis. The Senate cleared the resolutions last month, but like the House, fell well short of a veto-proof majority. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Trump administration of circumventing Congress and the law to move ahead with the arms sale to the Saudis. He called the resolutions “extraordinary but necessary” to stop “a phony emergency to override the authority of Congress.”
The votes came against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Middle East, with much of the focus on Iran.
The arms package, worth an estimated $8 billion, includes thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The White House has declared that stopping the sale would send a signal that the United States doesn’t stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them are increasing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.