The new administration must consider whether the deals "meet strategic objectives"

Biden suspends arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Emirates

Atalayar_Joe Biden presidente Estados Unidos Casa Blanca (2)

"It is typical at the beginning of an administration to review pending sales, to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and our foreign policy", declared Antony Blinken, the new US Secretary of State.

This is how Biden's foreign policy chief explained his administration's decision to suspend several arms sales agreements with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. State Department sources claim that this is a "routine administrative action typical of most transitions". 

The deals involved the sale of 50 F-35 stealth fighters to the UAE for $23 billion, as well as Raytheon's Paveway IV smart bomb, equipped with dual-mode, all-weather GPS and INS laser guidance, and some 3,000 munitions to Saudi Arabia for $478 million. 

The administration says that, for the moment, both agreements remain "under review". However, while the munitions deal with Saudi Arabia is "blocked", the F-35 fighter deal with the United Arab Emirates is "under review".


The UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, played down the issue in a statement: 'As in previous transitions, the UAE anticipated a review of current policies by the new administration'. 

Al-Otaiba said the F-35 package allows them to maintain deterrence of aggression and reassure regional partners. "It also allows the UAE to take on a greater regional burden of collective security, freeing up US assets for other global challenges," he added. 

However, the Emirati ambassador was adamant despite the suspension of the agreement: "We will work closely with the Biden Administration on a comprehensive approach to peace and stability in the Middle East". The Saudi authorities, for their part, have not yet issued a statement on the matter. 

The F-35 fighter agreement was reached last December between the US and the UAE, within the framework of the Abraham Accords. At the time, the aim was to bring the UAE and Israel closer together. The latter was also the only country in the region that owned F-35 fighters, but allowed the sale to the UAE, partly because of the failure of the Democrats in Congress, who were unable to block the transaction. 

Atalayar_Anthony Blinken
Eyes on Yemen

During 2019, the Trump administration approved $8.1 billion worth of arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Congress did not intervene, as the then president declared a "state of emergency" to prevent the transaction.

Several members of Congress were critical of this decision, including some Republicans. Several human rights organisations denounced that the sale of US arms was used by the Saudi military to attack civilian targets in Yemen. 

The war in Yemen has already become the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet. Following the Huthi uprising in March 2015, Saudi Arabia began to besiege the country, killing thousands of civilians. 

The Saudis were supported by the United States, their main arms supplier, and the United Arab Emirates. The aim was to prevent the Huthis, the Iranian-influenced Shia insurgent group, from taking power. 

Secretary of State under the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo, announced days before leaving office the designation of the Huthis as a terrorist organisation. The decision would bring with it a package of sanctions that would prevent humanitarian aid in Yemen. 

His successor, Tony Blinken, announced that his priority now is to reverse the Huthi sanctions, despite "continued aggression against Sana'a, our Saudi allies and human rights abuses and other atrocities, including the promotion of violent radical groups". 

However, Blinken acknowledged the existence of a "Saudi-led campaign" that has also contributed to the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world". And that the Biden administration needs to do "everything in its power" to maintain humanitarian aid in Yemen.