After its failure to change the accounts of the major players, an important American shift towards Saudi Arabia and its position in the war with the Houthis (special translation)

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A British newspaper said that the US administration’s approval of a $500 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia represents an important shift on the part of the White House, after President Joe Biden pledged not to sell offensive weapons.

The Guardian newspaper, in a joint report prepared by Stephanie Kirchgasner and Bethan McKernan, translated by “The Yemeni Scene”, stated that the arms deal will enable Saudi Arabia to continue raids with attack helicopters against the Houthis in Yemen.

The administration’s decision to stop granting all “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia was the first of the new administration’s foreign policy goals, and what the president described as a commitment to “cease all support” for a war that created a “humanitarian and strategic disaster.”

Saudi Arabia granted a license from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enter into the contract to support the Royal Land Forces Command’s fleet of Apache and Blackhawk helicopters; The future fleet consists of Chinook helicopters.

And the Biden administration had earlier agreed to stop granting all “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is the first decision in his foreign policy goals.

The contract includes training and services for 350 US contractors in the next two years, in addition to US government employees. The deal was first announced in September.

“As I see it, this is a direct contradiction to administration policy,” said Steve Bender, director of the Middle East Democracy Program. “This equipment can be used in offensive operations, which is why I find this troubling.”

The newspaper comments that the decision to pass the military maintenance deal comes at a time when the administration has softened its approach towards the kingdom and held a series of high-level meetings between American officials and their Saudi counterparts.

Experts who study the war in Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s use of weapons say that Apache helicopters are used most often on the Saudi-Yemeni border.

The body that investigates incidents of the Saudi-led coalition known as the “Joint Incidents Assessment Team” has absolved government members of any legal responsibility in most of the incidents. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are the only countries in the coalition that have Apache helicopters.

It’s hard to see that the helicopter maintenance agreement won’t support Saudi military operations in Yemen, says Tony Wilson, founder and director of the Security Forces Monitor project at Columbia University. Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, expressed his belief in the use of Apache helicopters in missions he described as “defensive” on the border with Yemen. Accordingly, the maintenance contract does not contradict the declared position of the White House.

The researcher believes that the US move reflects an admission by the Biden administration that the defeat of Saudi Arabia at the hands of the Iranian-backed Houthis will send a “negative message.”

In response to a question about reviewing Saudi Arabia’s use of helicopters before passing the Apache maintenance contract, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the ministry “reviewed in detail all accusations of human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law,” including those related to the Saudi-led coalition.

The State Department spokesman said that the Biden administration has confirmed since its early days that it will work with the Saudis and help them strengthen their defenses against repeated attacks by the Houthis on its soil. Accordingly, “continuing to maintain the proposed support services will help the Saudis to maintain their self-defense capabilities and confront current and future threats.”

These policies intersect with President Biden’s goals of reviving US diplomacy and supporting the UN-led process for a political settlement and ending the war in Yemen. But other experts see the $500 million contract as an important shift on the part of the White House.

“A lot of experts tell you there is no difference between defensive and offensive weapons,” said Yasmine Farouk, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “And I think talking about the difference from the start was an attempt to create a gap that would allow military cooperation to continue,” and “when they first got to the White House they stuck.” Talking about the necessity of reviewing arms deals, until the sale process was completed.”

Although the United States participated in the negotiations to resolve the Yemeni crisis, its efforts were not successful, according to Bender, and “were not able to change the dynamics on the ground, nor the calculations of the major players in it.”



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