The Pentagon announced that the United States is selling air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia, in what would be the Biden administration’s first major weapons deal with the Gulf kingdom.
The sale was known to amount to $650 million. The missile sale also follows the US approval of a $500m helicopter maintenance deal for the kingdom in September.
“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political and economic progress in the Middle East,” the Pentagon stated.
The Massachusetts-based firm Raytheon would be the “principal contractor” for the sale of AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and related equipment.
The sale seems inconsistent with the statements President Joe Biden made months before, when he said he would end US support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in Yemen, including “relevant arms sales”.
However, the administration said that the sale of the missiles “is fully consistent with the administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen while also ensuring Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks.”
The State Department’s bureau of political-military affairs also noted in a series of tweets that the missiles are “not used to engage ground targets”.
US officials say the Iranians have supplied the Yemenis with drones and drone technology.
However, several critics denounced the sale of arms.
“This has nothing to do with making the world a better place and everything to do with fueling our defense economy,” Marianne Williamson, an author and former presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter.
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“America’s economy should not be built around merchandising death,” Williamson continued.
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