Report: US Weighs Resuming ‘Offensive’ Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

Biden said last year that he enacted the ban but has pushed through arms sales for the Saudis since

Reuters reported on Monday that the Biden administration is considering lifting a ban on the sale of “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia as President Biden is preparing to visit the country.

Sources told Reuters that the decision hinges on whether Riyadh makes progress toward ending its war in Yemen, where a ceasefire has been holding relatively well. The report said that the Biden administration wants the ceasefire to stick.

In February 2021, Biden said he was ending support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in Yemen, a policy that included a ban on offensive weapons sales. But it was later revealed that US contractors were still maintaining Saudi warplanes that were bombing Yemen, and the Biden administration approved a sale of air-to-air missiles to the Kingdom in November 2021.

The administration insisted that the air-to-air missiles weren’t offensive arms since they couldn’t be used to bomb Yemen, but critics argued they could be used to enforce the blockade, which includes restrictions on flights in and out of the country. The administration also approved a $500 million arms sale to maintain Saudi helicopters, including Apache and Black Hawk attack helicopters, and moved forward a potential $23.7 million sale to upgrade Riyadh’s missile defense systems.

Biden did freeze a sale of precision-guided bombs to Riyadh that was approved by the Trump administration, which is the type of munitions the Saudis will likely seek if the restriction is lifted. Amnesty International said that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen used a US-made precision-guided munition to bomb a migrant detention center in January. According to the Yemen Data Project, the strike killed at least 91 civilians.

The Reuters report said that the Saudis have been asking the US to lift the restriction on weapons sales. But so far, the discussions about expanding arms sales to the Saudis are in their early stages, and a US official said that there are currently no talks with the Saudis about the issue “at this time.”

The issue is likely to be discussed when Biden visits Saudi Arabia next week. One of his main objectives will be to get Riyadh to increase cooperation with Israel. Although full normalization isn’t expected, Saudi Arabia could take a step in that direction by allowing Israeli flights in its airspace or by quietly increasing military cooperation to counter Iran.

The US has rewarded other Arab nations for normalizing relations with Israel with major arms deals. The Trump administration approved a potential $23 billion weapons sale for the UAE that includes F-35s, drones, and missiles. Biden briefly paused the deal, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken said later that the administration intends to go through with the sale.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.