No longer a ‘pariah’? Biden sends Patriot anti-missile supply to Saudi Arabia
The United States fortifies the Saudis in an attempt to warm ties amid appeals to increase oil production
The United States has transferred a “significant number” of Patriot anti-missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia from stockpiles in other Gulf countries in recent weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A senior administration official confirmed the move on Sunday, telling The Associated Press that the decision was in line with U.S. President Joe Biden’s promise that “America will have the backs of our friends in the region.”
The U.S. moved its own Patriot defense system from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh in September, despite recurring attacks on Saudi soil from Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia urged that interceptors are crucial to their defenses against a chain of Iranian-backed assaults – the last of which took place on Sunday. Saudi state-run TV reported that a barrage of drone and missile strikes targeted a liquified natural gas plant, water desalination plant, an oil facility and power station.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to condemn the attack on Sunday.
“The Houthis launch these terrorist attacks with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and UAV components, training, and expertise,” Sullivan said in a statement.
The top adviser to the president called to bring the war in Yemen to close, noting that could 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.”
“The United States stands fully behind those efforts, and we will continue to fully support our partners in the defense of their territory from Houthi attacks. We call on the international community to do the same,” Sullivan said.
The Biden administration removed the Houthis from the State Department’s list of terrorist groups – reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump. But in recent weeks, the White House has been making overtures towards the Saudi Kingdom in an attempt to amend the relationship that has been strained since the president took office.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a tweet on Monday that the Kingdom is “relinquishing its responsibility for any shortage in oil supplies to global markets in light of the attacks on its oil facilities by the terrorist Houthi militia.”
“The Kingdom stresses the importance of the international community realizing the gravity of Iran’s continued behavior of equipping the terrorist Houthi militias with the technology of the ballistic missiles and advanced UAVs with which they target the Kingdom’s production sites of oil, gas and refined products,” the ministry wrote.
Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have so far resisted appeals from the U.S. to pump more oil and increase supply to offset a spike in global energy prices, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly refused to take calls from the U.S. president, according to the WSJ. However, White House Press Secretary, Jane Psaki, insisted that such reports were “inaccurate.”
Biden vowed to take a hardline approach towards the Saudis throughout the 2020 campaign and ever since assuming office. Candidate-Biden even referred to Saudi Arabia as “pariah” during the 2019 Democratic debate. The president has refused to deal directly with crown prince for many months. Last year, Biden’s administration released a declassified intelligence report that concluded that the crown prince had authorized the plan to kill of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
“The Khashoggi murder was outrageous and Yemen’s plight is desperate,” the WSJ editorial board wrote in its column, “How Biden lost Saudi Arabia,” on Friday. “But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made other moves toward domestic liberalization. More to the point, the U.S. needs every friend it can keep in a difficult part of the world. The high-minded internationalists populating the Biden administration assume, wrongly, that a power such as America has the luxury of cooperating only with the morally pure.”