Just Weeks After Saudi Trip, Biden Administration Greenlights $5B in Arms for Gulf Nations

By Marcus Weisgerber Global Business Editor August 2, 2022

The Biden administration has approved more than $5 billion in arms deals that would send missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement comes weeks after President Joe Biden's high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Gulf leaders.

"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Gulf region," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon arm that oversees foreign arms sales, said in a statement about the Saudi deal.

The State Department said the up to 300 Patriot interceptors manufactured by Raytheon Technologies would be used to replenish those used to shoot down missiles and drones fired into the kingdom by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The deal could be worth more than $3 billion.

"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," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. "These missiles are used to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's borders against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial system and ballistic missile attacks on civilian sites and critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia."

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The UAE deal includes up to 96 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile rounds, two launch control stations, and two tactical operations stations. In all, the deal could be worth more than $2.2 billion.

"The proposed sale will improve the UAE's ability to meet current and future ballistic missile threats in the region, and reduce dependence on U.S. forces," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

The announcement of both deals comes the same day that a U.N.-brokered truce in war torn Yemen was extended two months.

The deal appears to show a thawing in tensions between Washington and the two Gulf nations. Shortly after taking office, the Biden administration froze offensive arms sales to Saudi for its roles in civilian deaths during from airstrikes in Yemen and its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But the administration began to back off that stance in 2021.

Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for high-profile attacks in Saudi Arabia and UAE. Earlier this year, a drone killed three at Abu Dhabi International Airport, a major hub for global travels. U.S. troops that support military operations in the MIddle East and Africa are based in UAE. About 70,000 U.S. citizens live in Saudi Arabia.

"These two sales reinforce the president's message from his trip: the U.S. is serious about ensuring the security of its partners in the region," Josh Kirshner, a former State Department official who is now senior vice president at Beacon Global Strategies. "These two sales are about the president taking action to prove that he meant what he said: the U.S. is committed to helping protect partners from terrorist attacks."

The Biden administration has yet to finalize a deal, approved under Donald Trump, to sell F-35 stealth fighters to UAE.