Greece will lend a US-made Patriot missile air defense system to Saudi Arabia to help protect energy infrastructure, according to an agreement signed by the two countries in Riyadh this week.
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos inked the deal with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in the kingdom’s capital on Tuesday, calling it a “big step forward for our country regarding cooperation with the Gulf countries” and “a contribution to the wider security of the energy sources for the West.”
Saudi Arabia has suffered repeated missile and drone attacks from Iran-linked groups in the region over Riyadh’s support for the Yemeni government against Houthi rebels in the country’s civil war.
The Houthis targeted Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura storage yard and an Aramco residential facility last month, though minimal damage was reported. The attacks briefly sent the price of Brent crude above $70 per barrel.
A major strike by more than a dozen cruise missiles and drones knocked out the kingdom’s Aqbaiq and Khurays oil production facilities in 2019. The previous US administration blamed Iran for the strike and sent additional Patriot missile batteries to the kingdom to shore up its defenses.
The United States recently pulled at least three of its Patriot systems out of the region under orders from the administration of President Joe Biden.
The Greek transfer will help fill that gap for now as the United States looks to shift military assets to East Asia and the Pacific region to counter China.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been engaging with both Iran and the Houthis in bids to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and end Yemen’s civil war, which has devolved into a stalemated proxy fight between Tehran and Riyadh.
Shortly after coming into office, the Biden administration ended US support for the Saudi-led Gulf coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen, citing the war’s humanitarian toll. The Pentagon has said it continues to provide support for the kingdom’s defensive capabilities.
Timothy Lenderking, the special envoy appointed to negotiate an end to Yemen’s conflict, deflected on Wednesday when asked by lawmakers what military support the United States still provides to Riyadh.