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U.S. to sell Saudis $30 billion in combat aircraft

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States will sell Saudi Arabia $30 billion in combat aircraft and upgrades.

"This agreement includes production of 84 new aircraft and the modernization of 70 existing aircraft as well as munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics," a statement from the White House said Thursday. "These F-15SA aircraft, manufactured by The Boeing Company, are among the most sophisticated and capable aircraft in the world."

The statement appeared to cast the sale against growing tensions with Iran, an enemy of Saudi Arabia and a threat to U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf.

"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," it said.

The Obama administration notified Congress of the planned sale in 2010.

Nearly 200 Congress members wrote the Obama administration in November, 2010, raising, among other concerns, the potential of the sale to narrow Israel’s qualitative military edge.

In response, according to a Congressional Research Service report, the administration said it was selling Israel F-35s, the Joint Strike Fighter. The CRS report said that when the planes are delivered, they "would maintain Israel’s status as having the most advanced fighter aircraft in the region."

The Obama administration offered Israel additional advanced fighter aircraft last year as part of a bid to get Israel to freeze settlement building and lure the Palestinians back to peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately turned down the offer.

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