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U.S. signs multi-billion trade deal with Saudi Arabia during Trump visit

US President Donald Trump was greeted by King Salman of Saudi Arabia at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, on May 20th. Above them, and their extensive entourages, flew several Boeing F-15 Eagle fighter jets, having been sold to the Saudis by the US.

Riyadh is Trump’s first stopover during his tour of the Middle East, and his first international junket as President of the United States. An honor guard escorted the two heads of state to the Royal Court, where Trump was presented with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor awarded to non-Muslim heads of state.

President Trump being presented with Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud by King Abdulaziz, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017

This visit to Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East at large, is not just about introducing Trump to the world stage. A key factor as to why visit Riyadh first, is the signing of a crucial trade agreement worth over $380 billion US Dollars. A mighty $110 billion of that agreement is the sale of arms and military technologies by the US, including the sale of the sophisticated THAAD missile defense system. Arguably a controversial sale by the Trump administration, the previous administration had refused sales of such technologies to Saudi Arabia citing broad humanitarian concerns.

Other items on the defense trade deal are naval ships, tanks, and armored vehicles, along with new explosive devices. It is not at the present clear if the sale includes renewed shipments of American made cluster munitions. US shipments of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia were halted during the latter part of the Obama administration due to their apparent use against non-military targets in Yemen. The use of cluster munitions is banned under international rules of war, but the weaponry are still being produced, primarily for exports, by Russia, the US, and China.