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Saudi Arabia, UAE seek US defence pact after attacks by Yemen's Houthis: Report

Gulf countries are seeking a formal treaty amid concerns over a US return to the Iran nuclear deal, Bloomberg reports
Fire fighters extinguish the last hearths of fire at a Saudi Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, on 26 March 2022.
Fire fighters extinguish a fire at a Saudi Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, on 26 March 2022 (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

After a series of attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pursuing a formal written agreement with the US that could provide defence support, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The two countries are ideally seeking a formal treaty, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg, as they attempt to redraw a decades-old relationship at a time of broad geopolitical tensions in the shadow of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

One person said bilateral defence agreements, expanded and revised over time, could be one option.

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The UAE has also been asking Israel to help push their case, according to people familiar with the discussions on both sides. 

Neither the UAE nor Saudi embassies in Washington responded to Middle East Eye's request for comment.

Establishing a new treaty with the US would require support from two-thirds of the Senate, which would be a difficult task with the 100-person legislative body split evenly between the two major American political parties.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have carried out a string of attacks on oil facilities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Riyadh warned earlier this month that it could not be held responsible if oil exports were disrupted, as it urged its Western allies to do more to help.

The latest push follows several requests over recent years.

US relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been strained lately, with the two Gulf countries urging the Biden administration to relist the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO).

Washington has moved to sanction individual Houthi leaders, but stopped short of listing the entire group, a move that humanitarian agencies warn would be disastrous for aid supplies to areas under Houthi control.

Iran nuclear deal concerns

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed on Tuesday during a visit to the region.

The two discussed and "reviewed ways to broaden and deepen wide-ranging cooperation", according to a US readout of the meeting.

"The Secretary underscored that we remain committed to helping the UAE defend itself against threats stemming from Yemen and elsewhere in the region," the readout said.

The visit comes amid efforts by the Biden administration to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Gulf Arab countries and Israel have staunchly opposed a return to the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which curbed Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.  

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the UAE and Israel had lobbied the US to formulate a security strategy for the Middle East should the nuclear agreement be revived.

They argue the deal fails to address worries over Iran's ballistic missile capabilities. Earlier on Wednesday, the US announced sanctions on suppliers to Iran's missile programme.

The nuclear deal should not come at the expense of Gulf security, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf told a forum in Dubai on Tuesday. 

"The Iran nuclear deal should not neglect Iran's disturbing actions in the region," Hajraf said. 

The State Department declined Middle East Eye's request to comment for this report.

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