On Wednesday the Biden administration issued a freeze of all US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a moment Congressional scrutiny of America's support to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen grows. US involvement in the war goes all the way back to the Obama administration, with Trump also in the last months of his presidency approving billions in new arms sales to the kingdom.
In particular Lockheed Martin produced F-35 stealth fighters that were set to be transferred to the UAE the have been "temporarily" blocked along with munitions to the Saudis, among other sales. Prior reports suggested the prior Trump deal was to send as many as 50 advanced F-35 fighters to the UAE.
The AP cited officials who identified "that among the deals being paused is a massive $23 billion transfer of stealth F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates."
"That sale and several other massive purchases of U.S. weaponry by Gulf Arab countries had been harshly criticized by Democrats in Congress," the report added.
The State Department said of the "temporary pause" that it is "temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review."
And Axios further details that "The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review." It added that it "signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries."
If this move stays real and permanent, it will be a good and potentially important decision by the new administration.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 27, 2021
But time will tell: https://t.co/SB7De8f3YJ
In response the UAE appealed to the need for "interoperability" with US forces in the Gulf while underscoring the close military cooperation as a reliable partner force:
“With the same equipment and training, US and UAE forces are more effective together when and where it matters.” (7/7)— UAE Embassy US (@UAEEmbassyUS) January 27, 2021
So far the Saudis have had no comment after the somewhat expected move, which also follows Biden previously on the campaign trail vowing to get tougher on the "pariah" state, as he called the kingdom during a debate.
Months ago an attempt in the Senate led by New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez to block Trump arms sales to the Saudis was narrowly defeated.