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Senator alarmed that Saudis could share US defense technology with Russia | Saudi Arabia

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A senior Democratic lawmaker has raised the alarm over the possibility that sensitive US defense technology could be shared by Saudi Arabia with Russia, following the kingdom’s decision to side with Moscow on US interests.

Senate armed services committee member Richard Blumenthal, who recommended a one-year freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia after OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production, said in talks with the Pentagon that “the risk will go deeper”.

“I want some reassurance that they’re above it, and if there are risks, I want to determine what can be done immediately to mitigate those risks,” Blumenthal told the Guardian in an interview. Said.

The comments show the depth of the rift between the Saudi monarchy and Washington’s Democrats, who are reacting angrily to the OPEC oil cartel’s decision to begin cutting oil production by 2 million barrels a day next month.

The decision was seen in the US capital as a sign that Riyadh sided with Russia in its war with Ukraine, and an attempt to hurt Joe Biden and the Democrats ahead of the critical midterm elections next month by increasing the price of gasoline at the pump.

Both Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress expressed disappointment with the move and called for a realignment of Saudi relations, with the US president’s warning that Saudi would face “consequences” for the move.

On Sunday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said President Biden would act “methodically” in reassessing the relationship, but options include changes to security assistance to the major oil producer.

While Republicans on Capitol Hill were much less vocal about the OPEC+ move, Blumenthal said his talks with his colleagues showed there would be bipartisan support for arms sales curbs, an issue likely to be formally addressed next month.

Blumenthal further suggested that one of his main areas of concern is to ensure that Russia does not take advantage of sensitive technology shared with US partners in Riyadh.

“We will consult with the Pentagon and talk very openly with them about risk assessments in technology transfer in advanced weapons systems that have already been made,” he said. “I’m not drawing any conclusions, but this should be something to consider.”

The senator also said he supports proposals to shift weapons currently in Saudi Arabia and en route to allies in Ukraine.

Some analysts noted that the transfer of weapons to Ukraine would be complicated by requiring US personnel to operate the systems, which would represent an untenable escalation. Blumenthal stressed that he did not suggest that any US personnel would train Ukrainian forces in Ukraine, but that it was possible to do so outside the country.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale School of Management who studies arms sales to Saudi Arabia and shares his research with Senate Democrats, said the United States has seen “unparalleled outsourcing” of its most precision weapons over the past five years. kingdom.

“We have no allies, including Canada, Britain, Israel and Australia, who have a unique security partnership like the Saudis, giving them the ownership and local production capability of our most sensitive strategic weapons.” under the Trump administration.

“There has been no public discussion about the impact of this alarming arms transfer to the Saudis for self-sufficiency without US control in the near future,” he said.

Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association, said Saudi Arabia has been a major purchaser of US military equipment, including some of the most advanced weapon systems, in decades.

“The fact is that the United States supplies weapons to many undemocratic regimes around the world, and there are many concerns that these relations may harm rather than help national and global peace and security,” he said. with only one, the potential sharing of defense information.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fights US President Joe Biden in July 2022. Photo: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/Getty Images

It’s unclear whether the Democrats’ rhetoric will take action. Biden entered the White House after promising to treat the Saudi crown prince like a “pariah”, but then went to Jeddah and punched the Saudi heir.

You know the old saying, “The straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Blumenthal when asked about the Democrats’ intentions?

“The emotions have reached a different point. The Saudis brought the president to Saudi Arabia to talk about the whole relationship, and we need to rebalance the whole diplomatic and military relationship because it’s so one-sided. This action – to side with the Russians in this way – is very dramatic. “I think that requires an answer,” he said.

“Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, fueling the civil war in Yemen, disrespect to 9/11 families seeking justice, there is a parade of insults and wounds here. [and] Now, somehow, Saudi Arabia has crossed a line,” he said.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said on Twitter that OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production was unanimously “purely” for economic reasons.

The statement reiterated a position last week in which the Saudi foreign ministry rejected criticism of the OPEC+ decision and insisted that the cartel was acting unanimously and in its own economic interests. He also dismissed the assumption that he could be forced into a U-turn policy.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.