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US lawmakers seek to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia

March 20, 2018 at 1:02 pm

A Yemeni boy looks at the destruction of his home caused by an air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition [Mohamed A. Al-Moayed‏/Twitter]

A number of US Senators are pushing for a resolution to halt American military support to Saudi Arabia amidst concerns over human rights abuses in Yemen. Lawmakers leading the bipartisan effort have accused the Pentagon of being complicit in errant bombings in the Saudi campaign in Yemen, which has been described by the UN as the “worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years”.

Members of the Trump administration reacted to the efforts by claiming that a resolution blocking US arms sale to Saudi Arabia would be disastrous for Washington’s relations with the Kingdom. Representatives from the State Department and Pentagon insisted that US support is non-lethal as it only provides intelligence and air-to-air refuelling facilities.

Lawmakers campaigning against selling arms to Saudi Arabia were sceptical about the Pentagon’s claim. Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican and co-sponsor of the resolution, was reported by the New York Times as saying on the Senate floor last week, “It stretches the imagination, and it stretches the English language beyond its breaking point, to suggest the US military is not engaged in hostilities in Yemen.”

Read: UAE commits torture in Yemen

Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts backed the resolution, saying that it would “ensure that the United States is not giving the Saudis a blank cheque to bomb Yemen and worsen the humanitarian crisis.”

Others accused the US of being complicit in the crisis during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week. “We are enabling the Saudis to continue their battle there,” said Senator Mazie K Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii.

Saudi Arabia has become one of the largest importers of US weapons. During Donald Trump’s trip to Riyadh last year, his first overseas visit as President, he offered the Kingdom a $110 billion arms package. The deal has ensured that the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force has been sufficiently stockpiled with missiles to carry out as many as 200 sorties a day.


One of the companies reaping the rewards of the conflict has sprung to Trump’s aid. Michael F Doble, a spokesman for Raytheon, said that the company values the “50-year partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and looks forward to continuing to help meet their security needs.”

According to a Human Rights Watch report, munitions supplied by Raytheon have been traced back to Saudi-led air strikes against innocent civilians. It was reported that, in one such attack, 31 civilians were killed and another 42 were wounded. The rights monitor recovered a portion of one of the bombs used in the strike that had Raytheon production markings and a manufacture date of October 2015.