The New York Times quoted US officials as saying that the administration of President Joe Biden intends to suspend the sale of several offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia approved by the administration of former President Donald Trump, but will allow the sale of equipment with a defense purpose, while it may approve arms sales to the United Arab Emirates.
This plan, which was briefed by Congress last week, is part of the current administration’s review of multibillion –dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the White House announced following President Biden’s inauguration, the newspaper said in a report.
Arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year were met with strong opposition from Democrats in Congress, due to their involvement in the Yemen war, and concern over the transfer of advanced military technology to Middle Eastern countries deemed to have ties to China.
President Biden had said he wanted to reset Washington’s relationship with Riyadh and announced in February that he would end “all U.S. support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including related arms sales,” but the White House did not provide more details.
Since then, U.S. officials have discussed weapons sold under the Trump administration that could reasonably be used for Saudi self-defense, including Houthi missile and drone attacks.
The Biden administration plans after the review to suspend the sale of air-to-ground assault weapons used by fixed – wing aircraft-especially fighter jets and drones-to Saudi Arabia, including systems that can turn regular bombs into precision-guided munitions, U.S. officials said.
According to the New York Times, the suspension does not include sales of any other types of weapons to Saudi Arabia, and the use of helicopter weapons, ground-to – ground munitions and small arms, and electronic equipment, including jamming technology, will still be allowed, officials said.
But the review does not recommend suspending any arms sales to the UAE, and this was confirmed after the Ministry of Justice last Monday formally informed lawyers of the decision.
The Biden administration will approve 23 billion in arms sales to the United Arab Emirates, according to a US State Department spokesman, including F-35 fighter jets and armed Reaper drones, the newspaper reported.
According to Biden administration officials, those weapons sold to the UAE shortly after the normalization agreement with Israel was signed by the Trump administration are likely to be approved.
“Me and many other House members remain concerned about the proposed 23 billion arms sale to the UAE,”said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He added that he has “many questions about any decision the Biden administration makes to move forward with the Trump administration’s proposed transfer” of fighter jets, drones and ammunition to the UAE.
U.S. officials are wary of the UAE’s use of U.S.-made weapons, including Reaper drones, in Libya.
But the State Department official, who requested anonymity, explained that it would take years to complete the UAE arms deal and that during that period the administration would ensure that the country fulfils its obligations, such as protecting US technology and ensuring that US weapons are not used in contexts that violate human rights and the laws of conflict.