US senators propose punishment for major ally
US weapons should be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia as punishment for oil output cuts, announced last week by the de-facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Democratic lawmakers have said.
“For several years, the US military has deployed Patriot missile defense batteries to Saudi Arabia to help defend oil infrastructure against missile and drone attacks. These advanced air and missile defense systems should be re-deployed to bolster the defenses of eastern flank NATO allies like Poland and Romania — or transferred to our Ukrainian partners,” Democratic Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy said in a statement on Thursday.
Murphy, who is a member of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, also supported calls to “freeze new military aid to Saudi Arabia,” and called for the suspension of the planned sale of Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) to Riyadh. The US government had cleared the Saudis to purchase 180 AMRAAM missiles for $650 million last year.
“Policy decisions have consequences, and these steps would right-size [the] relationship with Saudi Arabia and help Ukraine,” the senator argued.
Washington has been urging Riyadh to increase oil production for months, arguing that lower prices would hurt Russia and make it harder for Moscow to finance its military operation in Ukraine. However, the OPEC+ group, which includes Russia, outraged the US last Wednesday by announcing an oil output cut of two million barrels a day starting in November.
The move led by Riyadh, which has been America’s main ally in the Gulf region for decades, was “a real slap in his face,” Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, told the Guardian newspaper.
“I believe it is a total miscalculation by the Saudis,” he said, adding that there was still time for the country to come to its senses and reverse the OPEC+ decision.
“At the very least, the Patriot missiles will be suspended,” Khanna, who has been a long-time critic of Riyadh, suggested. The deal, under which the kingdom would have received 300 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical Ballistic Missiles (GEM-T) for $3 billion, was greenlit by Washington in August.
The lawmaker rejected explanations by the Saudi Foreign Ministry, which said earlier this week that oil production cuts were a unanimous decision of OPEC+ members, made purely for economic reasons.
“The reality is that there is no economic case for what they are doing. This was punitive for Americans and it is aiding [Russia's President Vladimir] Putin,” Khanna insisted.