Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have transferred US weapons to Al-Qaeda linked terrorists and hard-line militias battling in Yemen against Houthi fighters, a CNN investigation has found. The discovery of weapons making their way into the hands of armed groups recognised as terrorist has raised fresh concerns over a key ally and is said to be a violation of agreements between Washington and the Gulf states.
The investigation also found that US weapons also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels who are battling the Gulf coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America’s sensitive military technology to Tehran.
Explaining how weapons could have ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda linked armed groups, the report cited local commanders on the ground and analysts who said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE – its main partner in the war – have used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape.
By handing over this military equipment to third parties, the Saudi-led coalition is accused of breaking the terms of its arms sales with the US according to the Department of Defence. CNN said it presented the findings to the department and received confirmation from an official who said that there was an ongoing investigation into the issue.
Wider concerns have been raised by the revelations. Questions are now being asked about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade. The latest UN report found that more than 6,700 children have been killed since the outbreak of the Yemen war in 2015. The war, supported by the US, has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
With little sign that the war is coming to an end, US officials, having armed the Gulf countries are now asking whether Saudi Arabia is responsible enough to be allowed to continue buying the sophisticated weapons and fighting hardware. Previous CNN investigations established that US-made weapons were used in a series of deadly Saudi coalition attacks that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children.
Recipients of US weaponry are legally obligated to adhere to end-use requirements which prohibit the transferring of any equipment to third parties without prior authorisation from the US government. That CNN investigation said that the authorisation was never obtained and that the Saudi coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A senior UAE official cited in the report denied “in no uncertain terms that we are in violation of end-user agreements in any manner.”