Thursday, February 18, 2021

Biden administration puts hold on arms sales, including to UAE and Saudi Arabia

In its last months, the Trump White House authorised billions of dollars in new arms sales which the new administration wants to re-examine.

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The Biden administration has put a temporary hold on several major foreign arms sales initiated by former president Donald Trump.

Officials say that among the agreements being paused is a deal to supply precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, and a massive US$23 billion sale of armed drones and stealth F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE would have become the first Arab nation – and only the second country in the Middle East, after Israel – to possess the stealth warplanes.

That sale and several other massive purchases of US weaponry by Gulf Arab countries had been harshly criticised by Democrats in Congress.

In its last months, the Trump administration authorised billions of dollars in new arms sales following the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE, under which the Arab states agreed to normalise relations with Israel.

US arms manufacturers Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin both have lucrative contracts with the two Arab nations now under re-examination.

In December, the US State Department under Trump also gave the go-ahead for the sale of 3,000 precision-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs to Saudi Arabia, in a deal worth US$290 million.

Congressional critics have expressed disapproval with such sales, alleging the weapons could be used to prosecute Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, said the sales “were inexplicably rushed without thorough review of implications for US national security and protection of innocent lives in Yemen”.

On Tuesday, lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling for overhaul of the US-Saudi relationship, and among other requests, urged him to freeze the delivery of all offensive weapons to Riyadh.

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