November 06, 2012
Credit: Credit: US Army
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have requested the sale of up to $7.6 billion in Lockheed Martin Corp missile-defense systems to counter perceived threats and lower their dependence on U.S. forces, the Pentagon announced on Monday.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees foreign arms sales, formally notified lawmakers on Friday that it had approved the possible sales, which come against the backdrop of heightened tensions with Iran. The notifications were posted to the agency’s website late on Monday.
Lawmakers now have 30 days to block the potential sales although such action is rare since deals are carefully vetted with lawmakers weeks before the notifications are posted.
The sale is part of Washington’s ongoing effort to deepen its cooperation with Gulf nations on missile defense and increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
Lockheed told reporters in August that Saudi Arabia and its closest regional partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council had shown interest in the company’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon systems.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met GCC officials in September and U.S. officials said initial missile-defense sales could be announced soon.
The GCC is a political and economic alliance linking Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Washington has been working with Gulf states on a bilateral basis, not as a group, to boost the range of radar coverage and related capabilities across the Gulf for the earliest possible defense against any missiles fired by Iran.
The United States and its allies say Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability under the cover of a civil program. Iran denies this, but has been hit with a series of international sanctions over its nuclear work.