As Houthi rebel attacks escalate, Riyadh is in an “urgent situation” as it no longer has missiles for its air defense system, the Financial Times reported.
Saudi Arabia could run out of interceptor missiles for its US-made Patriot air defense system within “months”, according to a senior US official quoted by the Financial Times (FT) newspaper as urging Riyadh to to appeal to regional allies for help replenishing the stock.
“This is an urgent situation,” the U.S. official said, adding that Washington supports the move to obtain missiles from Gulf states as Yemeni Houthi rebels intensify their cross-border attacks on the kingdom.
“There are other places in the Gulf where they can get it, and we are trying to work on that. This may be the faster alternative [to US arms sales], ”The official was quoted as saying.
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 its friends for loans, but there is not much to get,” one of the people told the publication.
A second person told FT that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had hinted at the issue during a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh in December and the kingdom had directly contacted nations in the region thereafter.
It is not clear whether Saudi Arabia’s neighbors could still supply it with ammunition, the report said.
A third U.S. official said the Houthi rebels, who are in line with Iran and control northern Yemen, had stepped up their attacks on the kingdom last year and launched 375 cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia, many of them on oil infrastructure. airports and cities.
“Responding to those attacks using those kind of interceptors means they are going to have a fire rate that is faster than they might have previously expected,” the official told FT.
“This is something we have to deal with and the answer to that is not just more interceptors, but the answer to that 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 sought to reform in light of the October 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operators 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 a few months later, his administration approved a $ 650m sale of air-to-air missiles to the kingdom.