US vows to stand by Saudi Arabia after ‘heinous’ Houthi attacks

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The United States on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s defense in the face of increased drone and missile attacks by Iran-backed Houthi separatists in Yemen, underscoring American commitment to its Gulf ally despite human rights concerns.

The U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted in Arabic that its commitment to defending the Kingdom’s security is “unwavering,” following a rising number of back and forth attacks between Riyadh and the Houthis, the latest targeting Saudi oil facilities.  

“The US Embassy condemns the recent Houthi attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The heinous Houthi attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure demonstrate their lack of respect for human life and their interest in the pursuit of peace,” the embassy tweeted in Arabic.  


Houthi rebels, who control Yemen’s north after six years of civil war, reportedly claimed responsibility on Sunday for a drone and ballistic missile attack that targeted Ras Tanura, a refinery site and the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility, as well as a residential compound in Dhahran used by Saudi state-controlled oil company Saudi Aramco. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said the Biden administration is “alarmed by the frequency of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia” and said the administration is looking for ways to support Riyadh’s ability to defend itself. 

“As a part of our interagency process, we’ll look for ways to improve support for Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend its territory against threats,” she said. 

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby further condemned the Houthi attack, which also targeted the southwest Saudi city of Khamis Mushait and the coastal city of Jeddah. 

“These attacks are unacceptable and dangerous, they put the lives of civilians at risk including U.S. citizens,” Kirby said. “We remain deeply concerned by the frequency of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia. Attacks like these are not the actions of a group that is serious about peace. We continue to maintain there’s no military solution to end the conflict in Yemen. We want the Houthis to demonstrate their willingness to engage in the political process, stop attacking, start negotiating.”

The Biden administration is walking a tight rope in its relations with Saudi Arabia, committing to Riyadh’s defensive needs while also instituting a range of measures on the Kingdom as a whole and individuals there over human rights abuses. 

This includes ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive in Yemen, terminating relevant arms sales and some intelligence sharing, and making a renewed push for a diplomatic solution to the civil war with the appointment of Timothy Lenderking as U.S. special envoy to Yemen.  

The administration has also imposed sanctions on dozens of individuals and the private security detail for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the brutal killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. 

The administration announced the punitive measures following the release of an intelligence report last month that concluded the crown approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, who was attacked and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. 

But the administration stopped short of sanctioning the crown prince — who has enormous responsibility and influence in the Kingdom and is the heir apparent to his 85-year-old father King Salman — in its effort to maintain relations with the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Foreign Ministry rejected the report’s findings at the time of its release but affirmed commitment to the U.S. and Saudi relationship as “a robust and enduring partnership.”

Ellen Mitchell contributed. 

Tags Iran Jen Psaki Saudi Arabia Yemen

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