The United States has transferred a “significant number” of Patriot interception missiles to Saudi Arabia this month in line with an urgent request by Riyadh amid “sharp tensions in the relationship,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
“The transfers sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia is adequately supplied with the defensive munitions it needs to fend off drone and missile attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen,” the report stated, quoting a U.S. official.
The interceptors were stored elsewhere in the Middle East, according to the report.
A U.S. State Department spokesman told The Hill that the Biden administration has “been working with Saudi Arabia and its neighbors to help them strengthen their air defenses in response to a rising number of aerial attacks from Yemen.”
One official told the Journal that Patriot interceptors were moved from U.S. stockpiles elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Hill noted that Washington’s relationship with Riyadh has been “rocky for more than a year” after U.S. President Joe Biden took office due to divisions over the Yemen civil war.
“Biden will not communicate directly with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and last year released an intelligence report implicating him in the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” said the report. “And the United States in September withdrew some of its own Patriot defense systems from Saudi Arabia amid ongoing Houthi attacks.”
On Sunday, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired multiple suicide drones and missiles at targets in southern Saudi Arabia, targeting a water desalination plant, oil and gas facilities, and a power station.
“The U.S. has supplied more than $100 billion worth of weapons to the kingdom in the past decade and has used the country to keep a U.S. force presence in the region amid ongoing tensions with Iran and counterterrorism missions against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” said The Hill.
Earlier this month, international media reports noted that Saudi Arabia declined to accept a call from Biden, who intended to ask it to increase oil exports to stabilize global oil prices that have risen due to the Russian war on Ukraine and its effects on Russian oil exports.