The United states is mulling the lifting of the ban on selling assault weapons to Saudi Arabia, one of its key Middle East allies. Washington’s final decision will be made after assessing Saudi Arabia’s commitment towards winding up the war in Yemen, according to reports.
The development comes a little more than a year after the Biden administration ended the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. The move was aimed at limiting Riyadh’s offensive operations in Yemen, but the policy in fact stemmed from President Joe Biden’s belief that Saudi Arabia had become a ‘pariah’ state by virtue of its pitiful human rights record, especially the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Biden’s Changing Stand
Biden cracked down on Saudi Arabia despite Riyadh being one of the largest buyers of US weapons, a move that surprised geopolitical observers. However, the US president has been softening his stance on Riyadh in recent months. It had been reported earlier that Biden was unwilling to give credence to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman by inviting him to the White House.
That stand has changed in the recent months, in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine war and the impact it has on the oil markets. Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) famously refused to take Biden’s call in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine when the US president called him seeking an increase in oil output.
Biden softened his stand since then, and a high-profile visit to the Saudi Arabian capital has been scheduled. According to Reuters, Saudi officials have sought a rethink on the weapons ban ahead of Biden’s upcoming visit to Riyadh.
Precision Guided Missile
“A person in Washington familiar with the matter said the administration had begun internal discussions about the possibility of removing Saudi weapons restrictions but indicated they had not reached a decision-making stage,” Reuters reported.
After the weapons ban was announced, the US has given Saudi Arabia anti-ballistic defense systems and Patriot missiles, which are defensive weapons.
However, a reset in the weapons policy will mean that Saudi Arabia will be able to lay hands on tactical weapons. According to the report, Riyadh is eyeing precision-guided munitions (PGM), which Saudi Arabia is known to have used extensively in the Yemen war.
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