The Biden administration has discussed slow military aid to Saudi Arabia, including deliveries of advanced Patriot missiles, to punish the kingdom for leading OPEC’s decision to cut oil production, officials said. two US officials and a source familiar with the discussions.
Some military officials support the idea, the sources said, but others want to ensure that military relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are separate from any retribution from the administration.
The Saudis have a contract for 300 Patriot 104-E (GEM-T) guided ballistic missiles which are used in the Patriot air and missile defense systems, a critical capability for the Saudis, who face a persistent threat from missiles and drones fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Saudis have the Patriot launch systems but need missile resupply to intercept incoming threats.
Some military leaders fear that shutting down equipment such as the Patriot missiles could endanger American troops and civilians in Saudi Arabia, as well as regional defense and security relations, and have argued with senior US officials. administration that closing military ties would be consistent with what previous administrations have done amid diplomatic disagreements, current and former military officials said.
While many options are on the table, nothing has been decided and there are not expected to be any decisions or announcements for some time, the two US officials and a source familiar with the talks said. They pointed to the upcoming OPEC meeting in December as an inflection point and said if the Saudis increase production after that meeting, the United States may take no action against Saudi Arabia.
Another option on the table is to exclude the Saudis from all upcoming military exercises and engagements, such as regional meetings or conferences, the officials said. The United States and its allies in the region have been working on an integrated air and missile defense system that would link systems across the area, provide coordinated warning and response, and cut off the Saudis from air defense events or exercises. would send them a clear signal.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said: “This is not a specific list of measures under consideration.
Officials stressed that the Saudis are still expected to participate in an upcoming exercise and some regional engagements over the coming weeks.
The limits of influence
OPEC’s recent decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day was a political embarrassment for President Joe Biden, proving the limits of the White House’s influence even after Biden went to Jeddah in July and met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The OPEC decision sparked a back-and-forth between the United States and Saudi Arabia, with Biden administration officials vowing there would be consequences for the Saudis.
Current and former officials said there was no real talk of changing the US troop presence in Saudi Arabia at this time, but right after OPEC’s announcement, the administration began talking about the number American troops in Saudi Arabia, what they are doing and how much it costs the United States to have them there.
The administration is furious and really wants to punish the Saudis, the officials said, but it’s complicated given that other partners and allies in the region rely on Saudi Arabia. “There must be a balance between punishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and not making life more difficult or dangerous for the United States,” a US official said.
A White House official said while changes to security assistance are being considered, the Biden administration is in no rush to act.
The White House consulted with members of Congress ahead of Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia in July, but so far there has been no similar outreach to Congress about potential steps to punish Riyadh for the decision. October OPEC.