As Houthi rebel attacks escalate, Riyadh is in “an urgent situation” as it lacks missiles for its air defense system, the Financial Times newspaper reports.
Saudi Arabia could run out of interceptor missiles for its US-made Patriot air defense system in “months”, according to a senior US official quoted by the Financial Times (FT) newspaper, prompting Riyadh to call in his regional allies to help it rebuild. the stock.
“This is an urgent situation,” the US official said, adding that Washington supports initiatives to procure missiles in Gulf countries as Houthi rebels in Yemen step up their cross-border attacks on the kingdom.
“There are other places in the Gulf where they can get them, and we’re trying to work on that. It may be the fastest alternative [to US arms sales]”, said the official.
Two people briefed on talks between Saudi Arabia and its neighbors confirmed to FT that Riyadh had made such requests.
“There is a shortage of interceptors. Saudi Arabia has asked friends for loans, but there aren’t many, ”one of the people told the publication.
A second person told FT that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman alluded to the issue at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh in December and that the kingdom subsequently contacted the nations of the region.
It is not yet known whether Saudi Arabia’s neighbors have been able to provide it with ammunition, according to the report.
A third US official said the Houthi rebels, who are aligned with Iran and control northern Yemen, stepped up their assaults on the kingdom last year, launching 375 cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia, many of which were aimed at oil infrastructure, airports and cities.
“Responding to these attacks using this type of interceptor means they are going to have a faster burn rate than they previously expected,” the official told FT.
“This is something we have to deal with and the response to it is not just more interceptors, but the response to it is ultimately a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Yemen.”
The situation represents the latest test for US-Saudi relations, which President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to reshape in light of the October 2018 murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.
In February last year, Biden said he would end US support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in Yemen, including “relevant arms sales”.
But several months later, his administration approved a $ 650 million sale of air-to-air missiles to the kingdom.