The US State Department announced, Tuesday, that it has approved the potential sale of arms to two of its key Middle East partners in separate deals with a total value of more than $5 billion, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Under the terms of the first agreement, Saudi Arabia would purchase $3.05 billion worth of Patriot missiles.
The United Arab Emirates would buy $2.25 billion worth of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system missiles.
According to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the proposed deal with Saudi Arabia will help replenish its “dwindling” stocks of Patriot missiles, arming the Saudis with 300 new weapons.
“These missiles are used to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s borders against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial system and ballistic missile attacks on civilian sites and critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” the DSCA said in a statement.
“These attacks threaten the well-being of Saudi, international and US citizens (approximately 70,000) residing in the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces.”
The UAE would receive two THAAD launch control stations, two THAAD tactical operations stations and 96 missile rounds under the proposed deal.
The timing of these arms deals comes at a crucial juncture, however, as the US is currently in the process of returning to the table with Iran over its 2015 nuclear deal.
The US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, but current President Joe Biden’s administration is in the process of possibly re-entering the agreement with Iran over nuclear regulations.
Biden himself made a four-day trip to Saudi Arabia in July to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, saying at the time that “the only thing worse than Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”
The fact that any missile defence capabilities are heading to the region is notable, especially in the wake of a new agreement in June between Israel and a number of Arab nations to form a US-led joint air defence network known as the Middle East Air Defence Alliance (MEAD).
Under MEAD, Israel will tie in its air defence capabilities with other Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The countries’ defence systems will be linked together to counter any tactical moves by Iran. This will allow the new alliance to jointly protect their nations from any attempt by Iran to attack the region using rockets, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The proposed US arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not yet been finalised, although an announcement by the DSCA likely means they have already been approved by the executive branch.
The next step in the negotiations with the US Congress – which must weigh in on whether to accept or object to the deals – includes the quantities of weapons and overall amount of the sale.