Three administrations and five years later, the United States is still fuelling the Saudi-led war on Yemen with weapons that drove the now vulnerable state to become a humanitarian catastrophe.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Thousands of civilians have been killed and maimed in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been launching airstrikes against the Yemeni armed forces. Bombs targeted homes, mosques, schools, and other areas with no regard for fundamental principles of international human rights.
Under the rubble, both US and European designed or manufactured weapons were found. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has been violating basic human rights, arms exports continued leading to what is now known as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, a term used by UNICEF.
Since Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen in 2015, it was listed as the world’s largest arms importer from 2015 through 2019. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, its imports of arms increased by 130% compared to the previous five-year period that accounted for only 12% of arms imports. In numbers, the US exported a total of 73% and the UK a total of 13% of arms to Saudi Arabia.
US arms sales amounted to $3 billion in five years from 2015 till 2020, also agreeing to sell over $64.1 billion worth of weapons to Riyadh, which is around $10.7 billion annually.
November 4, the US State Department approved what it considers the first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia under President Joe Biden’s administration. The sale included 280 air-to-air missiles that valued up to $650 million.
The sale comes in light of Biden’s foreign policy objectives to end “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia, contradicting his proclaimed commitment to “end all support” for a war that had created “a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.”
The Pentagon defended the sale by releasing a statement that read: “This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political and economic progress in the Middle East.”
After the announcement, Ilhan Omar, Democrat congresswoman and lawmaker filed legislation on November 13 to block the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The file was dubbed 'the joint measure of disapproval.'
"We should never be selling human rights abusers weapons, but we certainly should not be doing so in the midst of a humanitarian crisis they are responsible for. Congress has the authority to stop these sales, and we must exercise that power," Omar said in a statement on her website.
[email protected] argues "Rather than selling more weapons, the Biden Administration should compel Saudi Arabia to lift the blockade and end its war on Yemen" https://t.co/9MbQtrD6x7
— ForumArmsTrade (@ForumArmsTrade) November 12, 2021
After a joint resolution of disapproval to block the US precision-guided munitions sales to Saudi Arabia, Biden indicated on February 4 to provide Saudi Arabia with US support, arguing that it is in favor of “defending sovereignty and territorial integrity.” However, President Biden failed to justify the arms sale after a contrary statement to stop. This begs to question how Biden was able to prove the sale would serve rather than harm.
The economic beast
The former administration under Donald Trump shamelessly embraced arms sales to Saudi Arabia that in no doubt helped prolong the war that has killed thousands in what is considered the Arab region’s poorest nation, further destabilizing the already volatile region.
Unlike Biden, Trump was very public about the economic and diplomatic benefits that would follow the sale, with no regard to the thousands being killed and maimed as a result of the US-designed and manufactured weapons.
Real estate strategies in foreign policy
In June 2017, a Republican senator decided to withhold sales, but Trump’s combative trade advisor, Peter Navarro, considered the billions at stake and made it his mission to reverse the senator’s appeal.
Trump’s administration didn't break the line with former administrations, which elevated economic considerations above others; hence, it chose to commit to arms sales in order to feed the economic beast.
The former administration believed that creating jobs collided with the “mistakes of Obama’s administration”, which drove Trump to create jobs by participating in arms sales.
Lawmakers were going to great lengths in order to upend sales because of both humanitarian and security concerns. However, the State Department was successfully pressured to process the most contentious deals.
As some nation officials turned against the war, Raytheon pressured the White House to undo all the efforts made to end the arms sales, which would end the bloodshed in Yemen, according to The New York Times.
Raytheon was a major US defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military equipment. However, it was defunct in 2020.
The company spent millions influencing elections and lobbying to encourage more arms sales – fueling the horrific war for the sake of profits.
That said, investigators found bomb fragments among the dead and rubble that belonged to the company, which needless to mention is to blame for playing a role in creating the death pool made by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Under former US President Obama, a coalition bomb targeted a bus carrying 15 women and children outside the city of Sana’a, a researcher documented his findings that included a shard with Raytheon’s identification number.
The drunk driver
In 2015, after Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, the Obama administration chose to take a hasty decision to back the Saudis by providing them with billions of dollars worth of US military equipment.
In order not to be embroiled in another war, Obama agreed to provide defensive support without clearly defining the terms. Later, the arms industry seized on the ambiguity to sell the kingdom offensive weapons worth billions.
The first bomb the Saudi-led coalition dropped hit a residential site that killed 14 children in cold blood. However, Obama’s administration refrained from reining in the kingdom, which could have ended further bloodshed, referring to the drop as a “miscalculation.”
“We were in Yemen…We shouldn’t have been there,” said a former National Security Council official, Steve Pomper.
Obama had the choice to end the support for the Saudi-led coalition, which imposed a blockade on Yemen, by suspending all military, diplomatic, and intelligence support for the coalition.
Starting from May 27 till September 24, there was a series of arms sales between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
May 27 - Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control were awarded a $12,037,639 contract for post-production support services.
June 11 - Boeing Co. was awarded a $41,146,387 contract for Apache helicopters. June 24, $95,000,000 contract for air operations center training.
July 24 - Raytheon was awarded a contract for 355 AGM-154 Block III C Unitary Joint Stand-Off Weapon missiles.
July 13- Booz Allen & Hamilton was awarded a $12,386,000 contract for support services in the areas of training and education, engineering, technical, and management support services to the Saudi navy.
July 29- the State Department approved the sale of $500M “for ammunition for the Royal Saudi Land Forces and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support.”
July 31- DynCorp International was awarded a $17,313,518 contract for maintenance support to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command aviation program.
September 24- Boeing Co. was awarded a $22,311,055 contract for 13 Harpoon lll-up round tactical missiles and seven Harpoon air launch missile containers to Saudi Arabia.
As a result of the numerous sales, the Saudi-led coalition was able to kill civilians and displace millions. In this regard, President Obama seemed as if he was turning a blind eye to how the weapons are being used in Yemen.
In all cases, the United States gained nothing but blood on its hands from what is a humanitarian catastrophe.
Western arms in a Yemeni blood bath
The world’s largest arms importer did not only make sales with the United States, but also with other western states such as the UK, France, and Canada.
France was one of the first states to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, with an amount of about €1 billion worth of arms. The state engaged in a partial naval blockade of ports controlled by the Yemeni armed forces that made the humanitarian crisis much worse.
Moreover, the United Kingdom signed off on arms exports worth nearly $1.9 billion to Saudi Arabia between July and September 2020 following the lifting of a ban on weapons sales to the Gulf country. “UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis they have created, yet the UK government has done everything it can to keep the arms sales flowing,” said Sarah Waldron, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).
Canada signed off on a weapons transfer to the Gulf kingdom that later on also proved support for the criminal violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the ongoing conflict in Yemen that was contrary to Canada’s legal obligation under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
No security in the Security Council
The UN Security Council released a statement in April that endorses the call made by the UN Security-General, Antonio Guterres, for a ceasefire in Yemen after the Council recognized that the humanitarian crisis made the country exceptionally vulnerable.
The military aggression moved far from conflict resolution and closer towards hindering the humanitarian situation, which affects both the healthcare workers and healthcare facilities.
The conflict fuelled by foreign arms devastated Yemen’s economy, destroyed infrastructure, and pushed the provisions of basic health to the brink of collapse. Bombs rained on hospitals, destroying the country’s health facilities in light of an increase in the spread of COVID-19.
Despite overwhelming evidence of humanitarian law violations, arms exports continued.
The Human Rights Watch documented around 90 unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that included attacks on Yemeni civilian fishing boats, killing dozens.
Since the beginning of the war, the Saudi-led coalition has conducted more than 20,000 airstrikes, bombing hospitals, school buses, farms, factories, and mosques.
The #UN Children's Fund reported that the ongoing #Saudi aggression in #Yemen has resulted in the death or maiming of 10,000 children, at a rate of 4 children per day. pic.twitter.com/q6BRPfs9Tr
— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) October 21, 2021
July of last year, the UN Security-General released his annual “list of shame”, which included several violations against children committed in 2018; at least 729 children were killed or maimed.
However, the Security-General chose to list the Saudi-led coalition as a party that is improving the situation in Yemen, despite the overwhelming evidence that proves otherwise.
In addition, Security Council members called for a ceasefire in Yemen but are instead providing arms to prolong the war, instead of suspending all arms sales.
In other words, the Council has offered nothing but empty statements in regard to the war.
Moreover, the Council’s established Panel of Experts, which tracks all parties violating international human rights, reported that all parties in Yemen should be sanctioned because of human rights violations. However, the Security Council responded by only imposing sanctions and an arms embargo on the Yemeni armed forces, disregarding the evidence found against the Saudi-led coalitions' numerous violations.
Arms Trade Treaty violation
The ongoing war in Yemen is being fuelled with western arms, which violates core norms of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that came into force in 2014.
The ATT was negotiated first in 2012 and 2013, before coming into force in 2014. The objective of the treaty was to establish “the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms” and to “prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion.”
That said, the war on Yemen led by the Saudi coalition violated the treaty’s primary aim to reduce human suffering and to achieve regional peace, security, and stability.
Article 6 of the treaty bans states from transferring any arms or ammunition if the state knows that the arms will be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, attacks on civilian infrastructure, or breach the 1949 Geneva Convention, all of which were violated in the war on Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition bombardment of hospitals or human aid warehouses of international aid organizations contravenes Articles 9 and 11 of the Additional Protocol II, which states that medical and religious personnel should be protected and respected.
Other than the numerous bombardments, the coalition managed to commit both aerial and naval blockades that are in breach of both Articles 14 and 18 of the aforementioned protocol, which bans the use of starvation as a method of warfare.
ATT has proved to impose a double standard when it comes to the war on Yemen because with all the overwhelming evidence of human rights violations, the practice of arms sales is ongoing and the parties are not being held responsible.
Crime against humanity
For five years, multiple treaties and laws were violated, but no international action was taken. Yemen is now known as the world's largest humanitarian crisis, but officials only had empty statements and imposed double standards.
The Saudi-led coalition that has its hands stained with the blood of children, women, and civilians was not held accountable for their numerous shameful, immoral, and atrocious crimes.
Western countries sent their arms, bombs, and munition to the Saudi-led coalition. These countries encouraged the kingdom to create a blood bath in the most vulnerable state in the region. But why were they never held accountable? How can these countries be accountable if they broke their own rules?
Cluster munitions, which are banned internationally, were utilized by the coalition. Despite mounting evidence of their usage in the conflict and the coalition's failure to undertake meaningful inquiries into alleged violations, neither the US nor the UK halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom will not be held accountable because the West feeds on its wealth. Economic benefits and diplomatic ties have become more important than the lives of starving children, the millions being displaced, and the thousands being killed in Saudi Arabia's Yemeni blood bath.