The State Department on Tuesday approved two arms deals to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — deals that could be worth over $5 billion combined.
According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the weapons are meant to “defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s borders against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial system and ballistic missile attacks.” Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have faced recent attacks from the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.
The sales include $3 billion for Patriot missiles for Saudi Arabia, designed to protect the country from rocket attacks by the Houthis, and $2.2 billion for high-altitude missile defense for the UAE, the AP reports.
In its notice informing Congress of the sale, the State Department maintained that “the proposed sale will improve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by replenishing its dwindling stock of PATRIOT GEM-T missiles.”
Regarding the UAE, the State Department claimed the sale would “support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important regional partner.”
The sales come on the heels of President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East last month, during which he met with multiple leaders in Saudi Arabia. Biden had previously vowed to “end U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen.” While this approval is for defensive weapons, critics and opposing lawmakers are likely to question the United States’ continued role in the Yemeni War.
The situation in Yemen remains tenuous, with the warring sides recently agreeing to renew a two-month truce. The U.N. estimated that by the end of 2021, the conflict in Yemen would have caused over 377,000 deaths, with 60% of them the result of hunger, lack of health care, and unsafe water. The U.N. Development Program estimates that more than 370,000 people have died due to the war.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the Biden administration was discussing the possibility of lifting of its ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. The country has long been a major recipient of American-made weapons. According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia accounted for 23% of all U.S. weapon sales between 2017 and 2021.