U.S. agrees to sell billions of dollars of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, Iraq

The Takeaway

As tensions with Iran continue to fester, the United States is moving forward with plans to sell military hardware to two of the largest countries in the region: Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

On Wednesday, the United States said it would go ahead with plans to sell some $11 billion worth of arms and military training to Iraq, despite growing concerns that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is turning the army into a tool for his Shiite Muslims to dominate the country's minority Sunnis.

The United States has committed to providing Iraq with advanced fighters and tanks to help the country secure its borders and rebuild the military that was disbanded after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"The optics of this are terrible,” Kenneth M. Pollack, an expert on national security issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said to the New York Times.

Iraq is set to receive, or in some cases has already received, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tanks, cannons, armored personnel carriers, body armor, helmets, ammunition trailers and sport utility vehicles, the Times reported.

For Saudi Arabia, on Thursday the Obama administration announced it would sell some $30 billion worth of advanced F-15 fighter jets, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The order will include 84 new jets manufactured at a Boeing facility in St. Louis and upgrades to 70 existing Saudi jets. The Journal, quoting the Obama administration, said the purchase would support 50,000 American jobs.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.

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