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US to Lift Ban on Offensive Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

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US to Lift Ban on Offensive Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

(CTN News) – According to US authorities, the embargo on the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia may be lifted in the coming weeks.

US President Joe Biden banned the supply of such weapons to the monarchy three years ago, shortly after taking office, citing concerns about the kingdom’s conduct of the war in Yemen and the use of American-made weapons in air attacks that killed civilians.

However, the decision has been reviewed after the UN secured a truce in 2022 that has largely held as Riyadh seeks to exit Yemen’s civil war, which began nine years ago.

Improving US-Saudi Arabia Relations

Lifting the embargo would be the latest indication of improved relations between the Biden administration and Riyadh. According to one source familiar with the situation, Washington has already communicated to Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally been one of the largest buyers of US weapons, that it is willing to withdraw the prohibition.

The White House has declined to respond. Biden campaigned on making Saudi Arabia a “pariah” because he was concerned about the kingdom’s human rights, including the horrific 2018 murder of veteran journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at its Istanbul consulate.

On the campaign trail in 2019, Biden accused the Saudis of “murdering children” in an apparent reference to the Yemen conflict, in which hundreds were murdered.

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However, ties have improved dramatically since then, notably since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinforced Washington’s perception that it required Saudi Arabia’s cooperation on vital matters such as oil and backing for US Middle East policies.

Senior US officials said this week that Washington and Riyadh were close to finalizing many bilateral agreements, including a defense treaty and US cooperation on the kingdom’s fledgling civilian nuclear program.

The agreements would be part of a larger US-brokered arrangement that would lead to Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel, but they are conditional on the Jewish state agreeing to take steps toward the formation of a Palestinian state.

According to US officials, lifting the embargo on offensive weapons shipments is unrelated to these conversations.

Saudi Arabia led an Arab coalition that entered Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to combat Iranian-backed Houthis after the rebels overthrew the government and took control of Sana’a, the capital, as well as the majority of the country’s populous north.

The country, which shares a border with Yemen, received considerable criticism for its actions during the crisis. However, in recent years, Riyadh has engaged in peace discussions with the Houthis.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has focused on his ambitious domestic development goals and de-escalating tensions with regional rivals, especially Iran. Yemen discussions have stagnated following Hamas’ October 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent offensive against the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

The Houthis, who are part of Iran’s so-called “axis of resistance,” have fired missiles toward Israel and assaulted ships in the Red Sea, interrupting trade flows along one of the world’s most important maritime routes.

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Washington labeled the rebels a global terrorist group in January, reversing its decision to delist the movement in 2021.

However, Saudi Arabia has continued participating in a UN-mediated Yemeni peace process. Riyadh declined to join a US-led marine task force formed to confront the Houthis’ attacks on ships, indicating that it did not want to aggravate tensions with them.

In Washington, the regional conflicts sparked by the Israel-Hamas conflict have reinforced the Biden administration’s perception that Saudi Arabia is an essential regional partner.

According to Ali Shihabi, a Saudi pundit close to the royal court, easing the restriction on offensive weapons sales “would be an important step in continuing to rebuild the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.”. “And lifting the ban has become more important given the way the Houthis have behaved since October 7,” he stated.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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