(Photo credit: Getty Images)
The government of US President Biden is reportedly in discussions to lift a ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to officials who spoke with Reuters.
In the lead up to Biden’s visit to the kingdom this week, Saudi officials have pressed their US counterparts to put an end to a policy that only allows the sale of defensive weapons to Riyadh.
Despite this restriction, the kingdom remains the biggest recipient of Washington’s weaponry, accounting for 23 percent of the total US arms exports between 2017 and 2021.
Reuters notes that the decision to lift this ban hinges on Saudi Arabia ending its seven-year war on neighboring Yemen.
According to the UN, the Saudi war in Yemen has killed at least 377,000 people and left nearly half the country’s population on the verge of famine.
The news come just one day after Biden published an editorial in The Washington Post justifying his trip to the kingdom, saying his aim is to “reorient and not rupture” relations with the oil-rich Arab nation.
“We have to counter Russia’s aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world … To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes,” Biden wrote.
The US president is traveling to Saudi Arabia on 13 July at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud along with eight other heads of state for the GCC+3 Summit.
This will also mark the first time the US president meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
Biden will then head to Israel, as one of the main goals of his tour of West Asia is reportedly to finalize a normalization deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
Biden has received widespread criticism for reneging on his earlier promises to make the kingdom a “pariah” and make MbS “pay the price” for his involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last month, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, blasted Biden for “dishonoring” himself and Khashoggi by meeting with MbS.
She also called on Biden to stand by his promise “to bring all the perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice.”
“But as disappointing as this is,” Cengiz said, “if you have to put oil over principles and expedience over values, can you at least ask ‘Where is Jamal’s body?’ Doesn’t he deserve a proper burial? And what happened to his killers?”
Last year, The Guardian revealed that the men convicted of killing Khashoggi were living in a seven-star villa in the Saudi capital.
Biden is also under pressure from a US district court, which last week demanded that the White House clarify its position on the sovereign immunity of MbS regarding ongoing court hearings over the Khashoggi murder.
The civil case against MbS was filed in the US by Cengiz in October 2020. The suit alleges that MbS acted as part of a “conspiracy and with premeditation” to kidnap, torture, and brutally murder Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.