U.S. arms deal with Riyadh irks Israel?

Aug. 16, 2010 at 1:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Plans to upgrade military sales to Saudi Arabia face threats from pro-Israeli U.S. lawmakers who worry about the regional arms balance, an authority said.

Washington is pressing ahead with an arms package to Saudi Arabia that includes attack helicopters and upgrades to Riyadh's combat jet fleet, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The $60 billion deal would be the largest foreign arms sale by the United States if all options are exercised under the 10-year agreement.

Israel is concerned the deal could undermine its military influence in the Middle East. U.S. lawmakers with close ties to Israel, meanwhile, could hold back on parts of the deal when it heads to Congress next month, the Journal adds.

The buildup comes amid concerns that Iran is working on technology that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

John Pike, director of the online security group GlobalSecurity.org, told the Journal that Washington must strike a delicate balance between courting its allies in Riyadh while satisfying the Israelis.

"But if we don't succeed, the Saudis are perfectly capable of taking their business elsewhere," he cautioned.

The deal, the Journal adds, includes Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, which adds to an earlier deal for 84 of the F-15 fighter jets.

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