Biden administration decides to sell more arms to Saudi Arabia and UAE 

The US announced the sale of over USD 5 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the same day that the UN announced the extension of the truce in Yemen for two more months

August 04, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
US arms sale to Saudi and UAE
Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with US President Joe Biden at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (Photo: Saudi Press Agency/handout via Xinhua)

The Joe Biden administration in the US approved and notified weapons sales worth billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Tuesday, August 2, on the same day that the UN announced the extension of the truce in Yemen for two months. 

Saudi Arabia leads the international coalition that has waged a war in Yemen for the last seven years. The Saudi-led coalition also imposed a crippling air, sea and land blockade on Yemen. Its intervention led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and destroyed most of the basic civil infrastructure in the country, creating what the UN calls the “greatest humanitarian crisis of the century.” The UAE is one of the main partners in the Saudi-led coalition. 

According to a press release issued by the US Department of State, the USD 3.5 billion sale includes the delivery of advanced Patriot ballistic missiles and supporting equipment to Saudi Arabia. The State Department also issued notices for the sale of USD 2. 24 billion worth Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to the UAE. Both sales are subject to approval by the US Congress.

The US claims that weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE are “defensive” in nature and will help to defend their borders “against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial systems and ballistic missile attacks.” 

In response to numerous Saudi and Emirati air strikes, in which thousands of Yemeni civilians have died, Houthis carried out drone attacks deep inside these countries before the UN-led truce was announced in April this year. 

The Houthi-backed government in Sana’a has claimed that Saudis have been violating the truce agreement ever since it came into force. According to a report by Saba news agency on August 1, at least 24 Yemenis were killed in Saada when Saudi border guards opened fire from across the border. 

The Biden administration has come under global criticism over its policy on Saudi Arabia in recent times. The US has been one of the main suppliers of weapons and technical support to the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen. According to one estimate, Saudi Arabia alone bought 23% of all weapons sold by the US between 2017 and 2021. 

After facing global criticism and campaigns to end the US involvement in the war in Yemen, Biden had promised during his campaign to do so once in power. After assuming office in February 2021, Biden announced the end of US support to the Saudi-led coalition, as well as a ban on sale of arms. However, the US has continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE on various occasions.

Biden has also been criticized for his recent visit to Saudi Arabia despite his earlier stance on the country’s human rights record. Critics point out that he had promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state once in power.