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US authorises new Patriot missile sale to Saudi Arabia

The sale comes at a time when the US has sought to create a defensive alliance in the region capable of containing the Iranian threat
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PHOTO/AP  -   US Patriot missile defence system

The United States has authorised the sale to Saudi Arabia of 300 Patriot air defence systems, valued at more than 2.95 billion euros, weeks after US President Joe Biden travelled to Riyadh as part of his diplomatic tour of the Middle East.

This was made official in a statement issued by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which said that the State Department had authorised the sale in order to "support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States", as well as to strengthen security with a country that has already been described as "a partner nation". 

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AFP/DELIL SOULEIMAN - A US military convoy in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli

In addition to the 300 Patriot air defence systems, the possible sale envisages the delivery of tools and test equipment, training for new equipment, technical assistance from the US government and other logistical elements.

According to the note, "the proposed sale will enhance the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's ability to meet current and future threats by replenishing its dwindling stockpile of Patriot missiles". In this line, the US executive has informed that these missiles would be used to "defend the borders with Saudi Arabia against persistent cross-border Houthi unmanned aerial systems and ballistic missile attacks against civilian sites and critical infrastructure", attacks that, according to the United States, "threaten the well-being of Saudi, international and US citizens residing in Saudi Arabia"

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AFP/ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS  -  A member of the US Air Force looks near a Patriot missile battery at the Prince Sultan airbase in Al-Kharj, central Saudi Arabia, 20 February 2020

This delivery of Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia is not the only one that has taken place. Last March, the Biden administration transferred a "significant number" of Patriot missiles, arguing that the US is the one that "has the back of our friends in the region". This sale came at a time when US-Saudi relations were at their most tense.

By selling this type of weaponry, the US wants to continue to influence the Middle East and Asia region at a time when its reputation has been severely damaged. US interference, coupled with what is seen as US neglect in countries such as Afghanistan, has meant that several states in the region no longer see the US as a reliable partner.

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PHOTO/ Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS  -   Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Arms diplomacy 

With the sale of these air defence systems, the United States aims to support Saudi Arabia in conflicts such as those in Yemen, a country that has been suffering since 2014 from a bloody civil war in which no solution is in sight in the short term.

Likewise, with the recent US tour, Biden wanted to show himself as an allied partner, capable of maintaining and building strong and consolidated relations with the countries of the region. For this reason, the economic aid approved for Palestine and the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are intended to show that the United States' interest in the region continues, especially on issues such as the oil market, even more so after the rise in prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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BANDAR ALGALOUD/ SAUDI ROYAL COURT  -   Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeting US President Joe Biden

On the other hand, during Biden's visit, the US president wanted to strengthen cooperation in the region through arms sales and defence systems. In this context, the United States has reportedly managed to reach an agreement with the different countries in the region to work together on an air defence system to try to reduce Iran's nuclear threat.

In this sense, the United Arab Emirates is already using US defence systems, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), which is intended to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles. In addition to this, the United States has also been trying to get Israel to join the new defence alliance, something that has not yet happened but which would be a major step towards bringing Israel closer to the rest of the Arab countries that are not part of the Abraham Accords.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.