The U.S. State Department’s approval of a resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia that would reverse a decision by President Obama is “a potential sign of reinvigorated U.S. support for the kingdom’s involvement in its neighbor’s ongoing civil war,” the Washington Post reports.
President Trump must approve the reversal, which was ordered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for precision-guided missiles. But the shift by the State Department provides “an early indication of the new administration’s more Saudi-friendly approach to the conflict in Yemen and a sign of its more hawkish stance on Iran.”
The U.S. military has provided support to the Saudi-led air campaign since 2015, but the Obama administration sought to scale back that support last year amid alleged Saudi strikes on civilian targets.
Just three days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. State Department approved the possible sale of 74K Persistent Threat Detection System Aerostats to Saudi Arabia at an estimated cost of $525 million. The deal was in the works during the Obama administration, but President Trump, a frequent critic of Saudi Arabia on the campaign trail, did not halt the deal. Some have noted it is indicative of a “business as usual” strong U.S.-Saudi defense alliance.
Secretary of State Tillerson was formerly CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with deep and long-lasting ties with Saudi Arabia. ExxonMobil’s predecessor, Standard Oil, helped launch the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and co-owned the country’s first major export pipeline. Before ascending to the role of CEO in 2006, Tillerson also served as ExxonMobil’s country manager for Yemen in the early ’90s.
Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of states to restore to power the government of President Hadi, who is being challenged by Houthi rebels backed by Iran. The Hadi government is recognized as the legitimate government of Yemen by the United Nations.
Saudi Arabia has pledged $10 billion to rebuild following nearly two years of civil war.