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The United States sends Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia to respond to urgent requests

The Washington-Biden administration has transferred a significant number of Patriot missile defense interceptors to Saudi Arabia within the past month in response to Riyadh’s urgent supply request in the midst of intense tensions, U.S. officials said. ..

The transfer sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia was adequately supplied with the defensive ammunition needed to fend off Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks on drones and missiles in neighboring Yemen, officials said. Said one of them.

Since the end of last year, the Saudi army has called on the United States to warn the United States that the supply of Patriot interceptors, the missiles used to shoot down aerial weapons, is dangerously low.

Since Mr. Biden took office on issues such as the White House’s decision to remove the Houthi from the list of designated terrorist groups and the deal with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia The de facto leader whose relationship is deteriorating.

Saudi Arabia’s long-standing demand for more interceptors has been controversial between Washington and Riyadh, complaining that Saudi officials claim the lack of US support for intervention in the Yemeni civil war. I was hugging.

U.S. officials said the decision to send an interceptor took several months, not because the White House intentionally delayed supply, but because of the high demand for weapons by other U.S. allies and the need for regular review. rice field.

Interceptors and other ammunition sent to Saudi Arabia were taken from US stockpiles elsewhere in the Middle East, one official said.

The decision to move arms is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild relations with Riyadh, and in particular the United States wants Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to mitigate oil price hikes. Officials said. The interceptor has not resolved all the tensions in the relationship.

Biden also publicly criticized Saudi Arabia for the protracted war in Yemen, blocking the flow of several weapons Riyadh could use to target the Houthi. The president also overturned the move of his predecessor to put the Houthi on the official list of global terrorists in the United States. did.

Recent attacks on Saudi Arabia occurred at the end of Saturday and the beginning of Sunday when Yemeni Houthi troops launched missiles and drones at an energy and desalination facility operated by Saudi Aramco’s state-owned oil company.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, and the spokesman said he had responded to “the continued attacks and unjustified siege of our people.”

Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, accused the Houthi attack in a statement on Sunday.

“The Houthis has launched these terrorist attacks with the support of Iran, which provides missile and UAV components, training and expertise,” he said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

Missile and drone attacks were launched at Al-Shaqeeq’s desalination plant, Jizan’s distribution station, Yanbu’s liquefied natural gas plant, Dhahran al Janub’s power plant, and Khamis Mushait’s gas facility. Aramco said there were no casualties or effects on its supply, but a Saudi-led military coalition supporting the Yemeni government said the strike had damaged civilian vehicles and housing in the area.

In 2019, the Houthi recognized the achievements of a coordinated strike against Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province’s oil facilities. The United States later condemned the attack on Iran, but missile barrages and drone strikes from Yemen have been steadily continuing since then.

Patriotic missile defense batteries are just one of the weapons Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates use to counter the Houthi attack, and many low-speed drones are shot down by fighters.

The rift between Mr. Biden and the Saudi prince dates back to the 2020 presidential election. In this election, Democratic candidates vowed to treat the kingdom as a “Pariah” state after the United States involved Saudi Arabia in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In Istanbul.

After taking office, Biden released a US intelligence report concluding that Prince Mohammed approved plans to capture or kill Khashoggi, a frank critic of the young Saudi ruler.

Prince Mohammed denied knowing anything about the plot. People near the crown prince were convicted by a Saudi court for participating in the murder of a journalist.

The White House failed to arrange a phone call between President Biden and Prince Mohammed in early February to repair the breach, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The White House said the story about the failed phone was inaccurate.

Write to David S. Cloud (david.cloud@wsj.com)

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