Doing business in the Middle East often presents numerous minefields. Few likely know this better than John Harris, CEO of defense manufacturing giant Raytheon International.
Amid calls by U.S. lawmakers to reduce weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries involved in offensive warfare in the Middle East, corporates in the defense space are coming under increased scrutiny. But their sales adhere strictly to U.S. policy, Harris told CNBC at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, deflecting policy responsibility away from the company itself.
“We are an element of U.S. policy — our role is not to make policy, our role is to comply with it,” Harris told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we remain relevant, we have the right capabilities, to the extent there are questions that we provide the responses, and that we continue to comply with U.S. laws and regulations.”
Bipartisan support in Congress has been building at an unprecedented pace for cuts to support for Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen, which the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and others, is backed by the U.S. with intelligence, logistics and training support. But since the October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which numerous lawmakers blame squarely on the Saudi government, U.S. support for the kingdom is coming under serious pressure.