The Biden administration has imposed a temporary freeze on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it reviews billions of dollars in weapons transactions approved by former President
according to U.S. officials.
The review, the officials said, includes the sale of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh as well as top-line F-35 fighters to Abu Dhabi, a deal that Washington approved as part of the Abraham Accords, in which the Emirates established diplomatic relations with Israel.
U.S. officials said it isn’t unusual for a new administration to review arms sales approved by a predecessor, and that despite the pause, many of the transactions are likely to ultimately go forward.
But in line with campaign pledges made by President
Washington is seeking to ensure that American weapons aren’t used to further the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, where its conflict with the Iranian-aligned Houthis has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and widespread hunger.
Mr. Biden “has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and I think we will work on that in very short order,” Secretary of State
said at his confirmation hearing last week. Washington will continue to help defend the Saudis against Houthi attacks, Mr. Blinken said.
Officials at the Saudi and Emirati embassies in Washington didn’t immediately comment on the developments.
Congress and the U.S. defense industry were informed of the review in recent days, one U.S. official said. It is unclear how long the review will last.
Officials couldn’t offer a precise dollar figure for the weapons sales under review. But the review, they said, includes a $23 billion deal between Washington and the Emirates for the F-35 jet fighters, Reaper drones and various munitions that was finalized on Mr. Trump’s last full day in office, according to a statement on the website of the UAE’s Washington embassy.
It also includes billions in contracts with Riyadh, including a deal for $290 million in precision-guided munitions that the U.S. government approved in late December.
“The (State) Department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review,” a department spokesman said.
Calling it “a routine administrative action,” the spokesman said the review “demonstrates the administration’s commitment to transparency and good governance, as well as ensuring U.S. arms sales meet…