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Blockbuster US arms sale to Saudi Arabia: Will it deter Iran?

The Pentagon says the largest sale ever of US arms, worth more than $60 billion, is aimed at bolstering Saudi Arabia on a number of fronts, Yemen included. While the threat from Iran appears to be the main motivation for the sale, its deterrent effect won't be known for some time.

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It is the largest sale of arms that the United States has ever negotiated, and it is aimed squarely at Iran: More than $60 billion worth of American F-15 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and missile defense systems will soon be on their way to bolster the arsenal of Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich country which serves as a major bulwark against Iranian influence in the Middle East.

There is little doubt that the arms sale will win approval in Congress once it is notified by the Obama administration. But whether this shipment, to be delivered over the course of the next several years, will deter Iranian nuclear ambitions – or merely ratchet up tensions in the region – remains an open question.

Pentagon officials are quick to point out the sale is not simply about Iran: The deal will also give Saudi Arabia the capability to confront wider threats posed by terrorists, including the ability to move more quickly to potentially tamp down threats across the border with Yemen, which is sliding ever more deeply into instability.

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