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Saudi Arabia turns to Persian Gulf allies for resupply of depleted missiles

A member of the US Air Force looks on near a Patriot missile battery at the Prince Sultan air base in al-Kharj, in central Saudi Arabia, on February 20, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Saudi Arabia had pleaded with Persian Gulf countries to help the kingdom get interceptor missiles for its US-made Patriot systems amid increasing rocket and drone strikes by Yemeni forces in retaliation for the Riyadh-led bombing campaign, a report says.

A senior US official said the administration of President Joe Biden supported Saudi Arabia’s moves to source missiles from regional states given concerns that the kingdom’s Patriot stocks could run out in “months” due to the current rate of attacks by the Yemeni army, The Financial Times reported.

“It’s an urgent situation,” the official said. “There are other places in the Persian Gulf they can get them from, and we are trying work on that. It may be the faster alternative [to US arms sales].”

Another official from the Biden administration said Washington was “working closely with the Saudis and other partner countries to ensure there is no gap in coverage.”

A third American official said the Yemenis stepped up their retaliatory attacks last year, launching 375 strikes, many of which targeted Saudi oil infrastructure, airports and cities.

“Responding to those attacks using those kind of interceptors means that they’re going to have a burn rate that is faster than they may have anticipated before,” he added. “That is something that we have to deal with and the answer to that is not only more interceptors, but the answer to that is ultimately a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Yemen.”

Meanwhile, two people briefed on talks between Saudi Arabia and its neighbors confirmed that Riyadh had pleaded for interceptors.

“There is an interceptor shortage. Saudi Arabia has asked its friends for loans, but there are not many to be had,” one of the informed people said.

A second person said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hinted at the issue during a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit in Riyadh in December and subsequently contacted regional countries directly.

In December 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported that Riyadh had fallen drastically short in the face of Yemen’s determined retaliation campaign, beseeching the US for help.

The Saudi government requested to purchase 280 missiles and 596 missile-rail launchers to neutralize the counterstrikes, the daily wrote. Riyadh has also approached its European and regional allies to help it resupply its arsenal.

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war on its southern neighbor in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states.

The aim was to return to power the former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the popular Ansarullah movement which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning entire Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, Yemeni forces have in recent months gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in Yemen.

Throughout the course of the war, the United States has supported and armed Saudi Arabia. Despite his promise to end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” Biden last year approved the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million to Saudi Arabia.

A few months ago, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, told a Middle East conference that Washington was “significantly enhancing Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend itself.”

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