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US approves potential $500m in military support to Saudi Arabia 

September 17, 2021 at 1:24 pm

CH-47 Chinook Helicopters perform a flyby prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on 11 September 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. [Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images]

In news that is likely to be met in Riyadh with a sense of relief, a potential $500 million military support service for Saudi Arabia has been approved by the US State Department, the Pentagon said yesterday. The agreement has been sent to Congress for review.

The package would provide continued maintenance support services for a wide range of helicopters, including a future fleet of CH-47D Chinook helicopters. The announcement said the vendor was not yet known.

“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said in a statement.

The decision comes as relations between Washington and Riyadh appeared as though they had hit a speed bump with the arrival of President Joe Biden. The 78-year-old pledged to end US support for the war in Yemen and cancel US arms sales to Riyadh.

READ: Is it a Saudi, US divorce, or are they rebuilding their relationship? 

Over recent weeks Washington withdrew its Patriot anti-missile defence system from Saudi Arabia forcing Riyadh to find an alternative source to defend against Houthi rockets from Yemen.

There has been discontent over issues including the disclosure of classified 9/11 files, which could potentially implicate Saudi officials and concerns over Riyadh’s poor human rights record.

Though this news is likely to be cheered in Riyadh, the approval of $500 million, which is small in terms of arms sales, does not include the purchase of any new weapons and is merely related to servicing Riyadh’s existing fleet. For the US this has the added bonus of ensuring job security for its professionals and engineers that service US made fleets in the Middle East.