Biden moves to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia — drawing warnings of 'more death and suffering' in Yemen

Biden moves to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia — drawing warnings of 'more death and suffering' in Yemen
President Joe Biden talks with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, at the conclusion of a visit to the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Anti-war activists on Thursday accused the Biden administration of throwing fuel on the flames of the Saudi-led war in Yemen after the U.S. State Department notified Congress it approved a new $650 million missile sale to the repressive Middle Eastern monarchy.

Defense News reports the Pentagon said the Saudi government requested to purchase 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and 596 LAU-128 missile rail launchers in a deal that would also include spare parts, support, and logistical services. The missiles would be fitted to Saudi warplanes including Eurofighter Typhoons and McDonnell-Douglas F-15s.

"Meanwhile," tweeted the women-led peace group CodePink, "one Yemeni child continues to die every 10 minutes as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Saudi-led war on Yemen."

The missiles are made by Raytheon, whose board Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin joined upon retiring as head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in 2016.

A State Department spokesperson called the proposed sale "fully consistent with the administration's pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen while also ensuring Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks."

Peace advocates scoffed at the claim that selling more weapons to the Saudis would help bring about peace.

If approved by Congress, the sale would be the first to Saudi Arabia since President Joe Biden's February announcement that the U.S. was ending support for "offensive operations"—including weapons transfers—in the atrocity-laden Saudi-led war that has killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, while displacing hundreds of thousands more and exacerbating famine-like conditions through a crippling economic blockade.

Prior to February's announcement, the Biden administration imposed a temporary freeze on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pending a review of deals inked during the tenure of former President Donald Trump.

Critics say the new sale is at least the third violation of Biden's "offensive operations" promise this fall. In May, Pentagon officials acknowledged the U.S. was still servicing Saudi warplanes via contractors, and in September, peace and human advocates denounced the State Department's approval of a $500 million contract to maintain the kingdom's military helicopters.

In late September, the U.S. House passed an amendment by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that, if approved by the Senate and signed by Biden, would end U.S. logistical support and weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia.

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