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US sends Patriot missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia amid Yemen retaliation

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

The United States has sent a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia upon an urgent request from Riyadh, reports say, amid intensified Yemeni retaliatory attacks on the kingdom.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Washington transferred the interceptors to the kingdom within the past month.

The report said the move was aimed to fortify Saudi Arabia’s defense capacity in order to enable the kingdom to fend off drone and missile attacks conducted by the Yemeni army and popular committees in retaliation of the years-long Saudi aggression and siege.

A senior official within the administration of President Joe Biden, who asked not to be named, confirmed the news on Sunday night, telling the Associated Press that the transfer of the interceptors was in line with Biden’s promise that “America will have the backs of our friends in the region.”

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.

Late in 2021, the Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, told a Middle East conference that Washington was “significantly enhancing Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend itself.”

Saudi Arabia launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, leading a military coalition consisting of its regional allies, including the UAE, and supported by major Western powers, especially the United States.

Although the kingdom estimated at the beginning of the war that it would come out victorious within just a few weeks, the war has continued for seven years, leaving hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead and displacing millions more.

Yemeni armed forces and allied Popular Committees, however, have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.

Riyadh’s intimate relationship with Washington has turned sour under the Biden administration, which published an assessment by US intelligence agencies that concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) personally ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The Biden administration, however, has neither punished the prince nor halted its support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody war on Yemen.

The transfers also come as the US and its allies have been seeking help from Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to contain a surge in energy prices following Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.               

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