U.S. approves $1.15 billion sale of tanks, equipment to Saudi Arabia

Thursday, 08.11.2016, 08:35 PM

An Abrams main battle tank leaves Riga port March 9, 2015 - Photo by Reuters.

RIYADH — The State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment, worth about $1.15 billion, to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The approval for land force equipment coincides with Saudi Arabia leading a military coalition in support of Yemeni forces loyal to the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who are trying to oust Iran-allied Houthi forces from the capital, Sanaa. Human rights groups have criticized the coalition's air strikes because of the deaths of civilians.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations General Assembly in June to suspend Saudi Arabia from the U.N. Human Rights Council until the military coalition stops killing civilians in Yemen.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has been critical of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, said in a statement that he was concerned about the high civilian casualty rate in Yemen. Murphy said Saudi Arabia had "largely backed away from" the fight against ISIS militants, "and I'd like to see them commit to rejoin that fight as part of major new military sales."