The secretary of state said the review of the Trump administration’s arms sales aims to ensure they advance U.S. “ strategic goals. ”
The United States is reviewing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorized by former President Donald Trump, a move Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called “typical” of a new administration.
In his first press briefing on Wednesday, Blinken said the review aimed to “ensure that what is envisioned is something that advances our strategic goals and advances our foreign policy.”
“This is what we are doing right now,” he told reporters.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration had imposed a temporary freeze on billions of dollars in arms sales to the two countries, including the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and F-35 fighters in the United Arab Emirates.
The move comes a week after Biden, who promised to “reassess“Washington’s relationship with Riyadh has been inaugurated. Since taking office, he has signed a series of executive actions to review or reverse some of Trump’s key policies.
Trump has overseen a close US relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in line with his steadfast support for Israel and his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
In May 2019, the former US president declared a national emergency in the face of tensions with Iran to avoid congressional objections to the sale of arms worth $ 8 billion to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
The Trump administration too authorized $ 290 million in small ammunition sales to Saudi Arabia at the end of December last year.
The Trump administration notified Congress in November that it had approved the sales of over $ 23 billion in advanced weapon systems, including F-35 fighter jets and armed drones, in the United Arab Emirates.
The announcement came shortly after the UAE government Okay to normalize relations with Israel in a deal brokered by the United States.
“This is in recognition of the deepening of our relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend against heightened threats from Iran,” said US Secretary of State of then, Mike Pompeo, in a statement at the time.
Rights groups denounced sale, saying it could fuel regional conflict, especially in Libya and Yemen, where the UAE and Saudi Arabia have waged a devastating war against the country’s Houthi rebels.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the arms transfer, saying it “would facilitate a dangerous arms race.”
Lawmakers have introduced bipartisan joint resolutions seeking to end the deal, but their efforts failed in the US Senate, where two procedural votes failed to secure a majority in the chamber.
Trump had threat to veto any effort by Congress to stop sales, as well.