Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Washington Increases Security, Defense Cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Washington Increases Security, Defense Cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, 23 March, 2022 - 06:00
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks after viewing the "Burma's Path To Genocide" exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Monday, March 21, 2022. (AP)

The United States has pledged to continue providing Saudi Arabia with the necessary means to defend its territories and repel attacks carried out by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

At the same time, it has demanded an immediate end to the war in Yemen and urged against targeting civilians and infrastructure in neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia thwarted over the weekend Houthi attacks against a water desalination plant and an oil facility in Jizan, an Aramco petroleum distribution plant in Jeddah city, a power plant in Dhahran al-Janub, a gas plant in Khamis Mushait and an oil refinery in Yanbu.

An official at the US Defense Department told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US was committed to bolstering Saudi Arabia's security against "dangerous external threats". Speaking on condition of anonymity, he explained that defense cooperation was ongoing with Riyadh, as was the transfer of weapons, defense trade, training and other exchanges.

The official's comments confirm a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that said President Joe Biden's administration had transferred "a significant number of Patriot anti-missile interceptors" to Saudi Arabia in recent months.

The transfers sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia is adequately supplied with the defensive munitions it needs to fend off drone and missile attacks by the Houthis, a senior US official said.

A number of US officials had expressed their disappointment with the lack of sufficient American support to Saudi Arabia, as a strategic partner in the turbulent region, and for failing to do enough to rebel Houthi attacks.

US officials said the decision to send the interceptors had taken months because of the high demand for the weapons by other US allies and the need to go through normal vetting—not because the White House was deliberately delaying the resupply, reported the Journal. The interceptors sent to Saudi Arabia came from stockpiles of several other Gulf countries.

The decision to go ahead with the arms transfer was part of an effort by the Biden administration to rebuild its relationship with Riyadh. The US hopes Saudi Arabia will pump more oil to mitigate soaring crude prices.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted his condemnation of the latest Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia. "We will continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory. Houthi attacks have targeted infrastructure, schools, mosques, and workplaces. These are attacks against civilians, and they must end," he urged.

US National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that the US condemns the Houthi attacks against the Kingdom.

"The Houthis launch these terrorist attacks with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and UAV components, training, and expertise. This is done in violation of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import of weapons into Yemen," he said in a statement.

"Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Government have endorsed multiple UN calls for ceasefires and de-escalation over the last year. The Houthis have rejected these calls, responding instead with new offensives in Yemen and terrorist acts, such as those launched against Saudi Arabia last night," he continued.

"It is time to bring this war to a close, but that can only happen if the Houthis agree to cooperate with the United Nations and its envoy working on a step-by-step a process to de-escalate the conflict," he remarked.

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