US Approves Missiles for Saudi Arabia Despite Criticizing Blockade

Despite rebuking the Saudi blockade on Yemen, the U.S. has announced a contract for the supply of air-to-ground missiles to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced on December 12, 2017, that it had awarded Raytheon Missile Systems a $302.4 million contract for the procurement of 618 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) air-to-ground missiles (AGM-154 Block III C) for Saudi Arabia. The contract includes support equipment, spare parts, and engineering assistance.

The contract is expected to be completed in June 2022.

The contract announcement follows a U.S. rebuke of the Saudi blockade on Yemen.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement, “I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.

“This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately,” President Trump said.

Saudi Arabia began implementing a blockade on Yemeni ports in November, following a missile launch conducted by Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah, which targeted an airport in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Ansar Allah denies that the missile was supplied from abroad, but international investigators have reported that components of the missile likely originated from Iran.

The Saudi blockade aims to prevent shipment of military equipment to Ansar Allah, but has also exacerbated a famine in Yemen, where many people are dependent on humanitarian assistance amid that country’s civil war.

Human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for its military intervention in Yemen, which began in March 2015, and also the U.S. for supporting the Saudi operation.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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