US Expected to Approve Some Arms Sales to UAE, Saudis
By Staff, Agencies
The US administration of Joe Biden is planning to suspend the sale of many offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia approved under the Trump administration, but it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose, US officials said on Wednesday.
The plan, which was briefed to Congress last week, is part of an administration review of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that the White House announced soon after President Biden’s inauguration.
The original sales were met with strong opposition last year from Democrats in Congress, who are angry over the countries’ involvement in the war in Yemen and wary of the transfer of advanced military technology to authoritarian Middle Eastern states with ties to China.
The Biden administration will approve $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, according to a State Department spokesman, including F-35 fighter jets and armed Reaper drones. Biden administration officials signaled at the time of the review that those arms, sold to the Emirates soon after it had signed a diplomatic agreement with ‘Israel’ brokered by the Trump administration, were likely to be approved.
The fate of ex-President Donald J. Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia had been less clear. Biden, who has said that he wants to reset Washington’s relationship with Riyadh, announced in February that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” but the White House did not provide further details.
Since then, US officials have debated which weapons sold under the Trump administration might plausibly be used by Saudi Arabia’s, including ones against missile and drone operations by the Ansarullah revolutionaries, who are defending Yemen against the brutal Saudi war on their country. The Biden administration officials have criticized Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
After the review, the Biden administration plans to suspend the sale of air-to-ground offensive weapons used by fixed-wing aircraft — mainly fighter jets and drones — to Saudi Arabia, US officials said. This includes systems that can turn regular bombs into precision-guided munitions. The suspension is aimed at addressing one of the main concerns in the Yemen war: the killings of civilians, including many children, because of the use of such bombs by the Saudi-led coalition.
Raytheon Company, the biggest supplier of the bombs, lobbied the Trump administration to continue the sales, despite a growing outcry from humanitarian groups, members of Congress and some in the State Department.
The suspension does not cover sales of any other kinds of weapons to Saudi Arabia, US officials said. Weapons used by helicopters would still be permitted, as well as ground-to-ground munitions and small arms. Electronics equipment, including jamming technology, would also be permitted. The Saudi military receives almost all its weapons from the United States.
The review does not recommend suspending any weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates. That fact emerged on Monday, after the Justice Department formally notified lawyers about the decision, which officials say was made this year as part of a lawsuit opposing the agreement brought by the nonprofit New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs.
The Emirates played a big role in the Yemen war but stepped back recently. As part of negotiations last year to try to persuade the Emirates to normalize relations with the Zionist entity, the Trump administration told Emirati officials that it would accelerate approval of sales of F-35 fighter jets and drones.