The Biden administration on Tuesday approved two massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help them defend against Iran.
The more than $5 billion in missile defense and related sales follow President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East last month, during which he met with numerous regional leaders in Saudi Arabia. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been hit in recent months with rocket attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.
Although Tuesday’s approvals are for defensive weapons, they may be questioned by lawmakers who had supported Biden’s decision last year to cut Saudi Arabia and the UAE off from major purchases of offensive U.S. arms because of their involvement in the war in Yemen.
The new sales include $3 billion for Patriot missiles for Saudi Arabia specifically designed to protect itself from rocket attacks by the Houthis, and $2.2 billion for high-altitude missile defense for the UAE.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have been fighting Iran backed Houthi rebels who have become a serious security threat in recent years. Both nations have now had to deal with more sophisticated rocket and drone attacks from the Houthis, as well as the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran.