Secretary of State Antony Blinken with the Saudi foreign minister in Washington. October 2021

Biden Administration Approves First Major Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia

11/4/2021

The Biden Administration approved its first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia for 280 air-to-air missiles valued at $650 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

While Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the Middle East, US lawmakers have criticized Riyadh for its involvement in the war in Yemen. They have refused to approve many military sales for the kingdom without assurances US equipment would not be used to kill civilians.

The Pentagon notified Congress of the sale on Thursday. If approved, the deal would be the first sale to Saudi Arabia since the Biden administration adopted a policy of selling only defensive weapons to the Gulf ally.

The State Department had approved the sale on Oct. 26, a spokesperson said, adding that the air-to-air missile sale comes after "an increase in cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia over the past year."

The sale "is fully consistent with the administration's pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen," the State Department spokesperson said in a statement. The air-to-air missiles ensure "Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks," he said.

After the Trump administration's friendly relationship with Riyadh, the Biden administration recalculated its approach to Saudi Arabia, because of human rights concerns, but which is also one of Washington's closest allies in countering the threat posed by Iran.

Reporting by Reuters

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