Patriot missile defense systems (Reuters/File Photo)
The US senate voted against a measure on 7 December that would have blocked a US arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal was a $650 million package to Saudi Arabia, comprising mainly US-made Patriot air-to-air missiles.
The anti-arms sale proposal, introduced by Republican US senators Rand Paul (R-Ky), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Democrat Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), would have blocked the sale on grounds of Saudi Arabia’s violations of human rights in its country and in its bloody campaign against Yemen.
Seth Binder, representing the Project on Middle East Democracy, criticized Biden’s sales of arms to Saudi Arabia as the continuation of “support for a repressive regime that’s committing abuses in Saudi and in Yemen.”
Binder also said that the United States has “laws that prohibit assistance such as this, and the administration is ignoring that.”
Despite the outcry, 30 to 67 senators sided with Biden on the arms sales, rejecting the legislation that was critical of US support to Saudi Arabia.
Voicing his opposition to the arms sales, Sanders said in a recent speech that “exporting more missiles to Saudi Arabia does nothing but further this conflict and pour more gasoline on an already raging fire.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia was using the $1 million US-purchased patriot missiles to intercept Yemeni drones worth only $10,000.
Saudi Arabia sought US assistance in refueling its air-to-air missile defense supply. On 7 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Riyadh appealed to its allies in Europe, elsewhere in the Gulf as well as the United States for assistance in resupplying its stockpiles as the Yemeni resistance continues to successfully strike key locations in Saudi Arabia, such as Aramco production facilities, and inch closer towards its liberation of Marib.
The Biden administration defended its sale in a White House statement that explicitly rejected the resolution by Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Bernie Sanders, saying that “this proposed FMS [Foreign Military Sale] case would replenish Saudi Arabia’s existing inventory of air-to-air missiles.” The statement also said that these missiles would not be used “to engage ground targets” and that Saudi Arabia “uses these munitions to defend against aerial cross-border attacks, such as Houthi explosive-laden drones.”