On August 2, the Biden administration approved major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, and its ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Saudi Arabia requested 300 Patriot missiles and related equipment, training and services worth a total of $3 billion. The UAE requested 96 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles and related stations and equipment worth $2.2 billion.
“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the State Department said in statements on each sale. The defensive weapons were intended to bolster defenses against rocket, missile and drone attacks, primarily from the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran has reportedly supplied the Houthis with advanced weaponry.
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Saudi Arabia and the UAE have long been concerned about Iran’s arsenals of ballistic missiles and drones. But Saudi Arabia has outpaced Iran in annual military spending since the early 1990s, according to data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In 2020, Saudi Arabia spent some $57.5 billion on its military, the sixth highest expenditure in the world. The kingdom has historically purchased advanced U.S. and British military goods. In contrast, Iran spent $15.8 billion in 2020. Tehran has had to develop its own military industrial complex while relying on Chinese and Russian goods.
Concurrently, U.S. Central Command announced the start of planning for an annual military exercise with GCC countries, “Eagle Resolve,” scheduled for May-June 2023 in Saudi Arabia. “The overarching objective is to protect populations and infrastructures,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven J. deMilliano said. “This exercise is designed to enhance regional, civil, and military interoperability along with process development, honing the skills necessary to implement crisis management and defend the skies from inbound threats.”
The moves came after Biden visited Saudi Arabia on July 15-16. In Jeddah, Biden met with senior leaders from nine countries, including the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. They committed to bolstering cooperation to deter and defend against Iran and its proxies. The following are excerpted statements from the State Department and U.S. Central Command on the arms sales and exercise.
State Department Statement on Saudi Arabia Sale
The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of PATRIOT MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical Ballistic Missiles (GEM-T) and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.05 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested to buy three hundred (300) PATRIOT MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical Ballistic missiles (GEM-T). Also included are tools and test equipment; range and test programs; support equipment to include associated publications and technical documentation; training equipment; spare and repair parts; New Equipment Training; Transportation; Quality Assurance Team support; U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance; engineering, and logistics support services; Systems Integration and Checkout (SICO); field office support; International Engineering Services Program Field Surveillance Program; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $3.05 billion.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Gulf region.
The proposed sale will improve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by replenishing its dwindling stock of PATRIOT GEM-T missiles. These missiles are used to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s borders against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial system and ballistic missile attacks on civilian sites and critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. These attacks threaten the well-being of Saudi, International, and U.S. citizens (approximately 70,000) residing in the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces.
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State Department Statement on UAE Sale
The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the United Arab Emirates of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) System Missiles, THAAD Fire Control and Communication Stations, and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.245 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has requested to buy ninety-six (96) Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile rounds; two (2) THAAD Launch Control Stations (LCS); and two (2) THAAD Tactical Operations Stations (TOS). Also included are repair and return, system integration and checkout, and spare and repair parts; support and testing equipment; publications and technical documentation; construction activities; encryption devices; secure communication equipment; other required COMSEC equipment; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The total estimated program cost is $2.245 billion. This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important regional partner. The UAE is a vital U.S. partner for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.
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U.S. Central Command Statement
U.S. Central Command, along with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, initiated the Concept Development Conference for the planning of Exercise EAGLE RESOLVE 23 - a scenario-driven command post exercise (CPX) linked with field training exercises (FTX) scheduled for May-June 2023 in Saudi Arabia.
The annual exercise, in its 16th iteration, is designed to develop and employ a Combined Joint Task Force capable of responding to the complexity of the current and emerging regional threats in the United States Central Command area of responsibility.
"The overarching objective is to protect populations and infrastructures,"
said Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven J. deMilliano, Director of Exercises and Training Directorate, United States Central Command. "This exercise is designed to enhance regional, civil, and military interoperability along with process development, honing the skills necessary to implement crisis management and defend the skies from inbound threats."
The exercise, which first occurred in 1999, consists of scenarios such as air defense concepts, counter unmanned aircraft systems, border security operations, inter-ministerial coordination and procedures to address consequence management objectives. The concept development conference establishes groundwork that the planning teams will continue to build upon as they move forward toward the exercise's execution.