In retaliation, US considers slow-rolling military aid to Saudi Arabia
The possible decision to draw back on weapon shipments may place American troops and citizens in Saudi Arabia at risk.
Considering the recent OPEC decision to cut oil production, influenced by Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden is contemplating drawing back on shipping military aid to the Kingdom that include advanced weaponry, such as Patriot missiles, as punishment.
According to two US officials and a source familiar with the talks that Biden underwent, some military officials support the idea of rolling back on weapon shipments, however, some also want reassurance that the military relationship between both countries is not affected by it.
"There needs to be a balance between punishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and not making life more difficult or dangerous for the U.S.,” one US official said.
The Kingdom is under a contract for 300 Patriot 104-E guided ballistic missiles (GEM-T) - weapons used against the people of Yemen as Saudi Arabia continues to commit war and human rights crimes against the Yemenis.
There is fear, however, that the cutback on weapons will eventually affect American civilians and troops in the Kingdom while simultaneously putting both regional defense and security relationships at stake. The sources said nothing has been officialized yet and no further announcements are expected to be released anytime soon. But the upcoming OPEC meeting in December is mentioned as an inflection point, adding that if the Kingdom increases production after the meeting, then the US will back off of any possible retaliatory actions.
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Excluding Saudi Arabia from future military exercises, events, and regional meetings are a possibility as well, considering the military cooperation in the region on integrated air and missile defense systems that provide coordinated warning and response. But the sources reiterated that the Kingdom is still expected to participate in an upcoming exercise and regional engagements over the next few weeks.
A National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement, “This is not an accurate list of steps under consideration.”
The idea-in-the-works comes after the 13-nation OPEC+ and its 10 allies infuriated the White House by resolving to cut output by two million barrels per day beginning in November, fueling fears that oil prices may spike.
Officials relayed that changing US troop presence in the Kingdom is currently not on the table, but it is being discussed following the OPEC cut, including considering how many troops are in Saudi Arabia, what they do, and what the cost to have them there is.
The White House consulted with Congress prior to Biden’s July trip to Saudi Arabia, but Congress has not been consulted yet regarding the recent OPEC cut.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken considered on October 20 that Saudi Arabia did not behave like a US ally when it sided with the need to cut the OPEC+ oil production but indicated the two countries still have many common interests.
"In this instance, it's not. But we have a multiplicity of interests with Saudi Arabia," Blinken told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos when asked whether Riyadh's decision to support the oil cuts amounts to "the actions of an ally." According to the top US diplomat, Washington is trying to restore economic growth, which makes it "the wrong time to engage in production cuts."
It is noteworthy that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on October 16 that Biden had "no plans" to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit coming up next month in Indonesia.
In the same context, the head organizer of the Saudi investment conference, Davos in the Desert, pointed out on October 17 that "no invitations will be sent to US government officials to attend the conference, which will be held at the end of October," adding that it is to prevent the gathering from becoming a "political platform".
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