President Donald Trump was in Riyadh today meeting with King Salman, other members of the House of Saud and Saudi Arabian government officials. Off topic for the meetings were human-rights violations committed by the Kingdom, but on the schedule was a ceremonial signing of an agreement to sell the Saudis $110 billion in weapons and weapon systems.
What have the Saudis been using the arms they have been purchasing from American defense contractors for and what can be expected going forward? The Saudis have employed U.S. supplied weapons and that of other “allies” in a deadly campaign against their neighbors in Yemen and the attacks have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians.
The Saudi government claims that it needs to wage war in Yemen because it needs to place it’s puppet, exiled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, back in control of the country and it will decimate the entire country if need be to accomplish this end. Hadi’s is a proxy regime intended to position Yemen as a buffer against the Saudis’ enemy Iran.
The United States and the United Kingdom have been supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs with which they have indiscriminately targeted non-combatants in Yemen. The United States, during the Obama administration asked the Saudi military to use our “no-target” or “no strike” lists, which, according to MilitaryFactory are defined as:
A list of geographic areas, complexes, or installations not planned for capture or destruction. Attacking these may violate the law of armed conflict or interfere with friendly relations with indigenous personnel or governments.
The Saudi government has ignored such requests, indicating that there is an agenda to depopulate all areas not controlled by the Hadi regime. Although the Saudis have been purchasing ‘precision-guided munitions’ that would better enable Saudi forces to avoid civilian casualties, indications are that curbing the death of civilians is not in the cards. ArmsControl.org notes that:
During a March 9 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Yemen, Dafna Rand, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in the Obama administration, testified that despite hopes in 2015 that the Saudi-led coalition would use precision-guided munitions for better targeting, “what we’ve seen since is not an improvement in the targeting and the issue itself is the target selection.”
Although the objections to cluster munitions should be obvious, and they are obvious to the 119 countries that have ratified the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions – they are of no interest the the Saudis, the U.S. or the other Gulf-state partners in the Saudi coalition that is bombarding innocents in Yemen with them. The Convention on Cluster Munitions describes the effects of these weapons:
“Cluster munitions are unacceptable for two reasons Firstly, they have wide area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Secondly, the use of cluster munitions leave behind large numbers of dangerous unexploded ordnance. Such remnants kill and injure civilians, obstruct economic and social development, and have other severe consequences that persist for years and decades after use.”
The Yemen Data Project documented in September of last year that over one-third of all Saudi-led bombings are hitting such civilian targets as private residences, shopping centers, schools and hospitals. In one attack in October, the Saudis and their partners bombed a packed funeral in Sana’a, killing at least 140 people.
In Yemen – the poorest country in the Middle East, no less than 4,773 civilians have been killed and 8,272 wounded since this campaign by the Saudis began. Kristine Beckerle, who covers the region for The Hill, observes that:
The war has driven Yemen, already the poorest nation in the Middle East, toward humanitarian catastrophe. Both the coalition and Houthi-Saleh forces have blocked or restricted critical relief supplies from reaching civilians. Seven million people face starvation, and cholera ravages parts of the country.
Next on the Saudi’s “to do list” in what international observers have termed the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” the port city of Hodeida will be fully destroyed and blockaded with U.S. military assistance. This is the central entry point for humanitarian aid and putting it out of commission, will only increase the starvation and lack of medical supplies.
The United States is complicit in this killing and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson represents the White House view that arms sales are of vastly greater importance than humanity, stating: “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt [our] value[s]… it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance, our national security interests, our economic interests.”
On the list of weapons in the deal Trump is agreeing to, are Raytheon bombs, Lockheed Martin missile defense systems and BAE combat vehicles. Tillerson sells the advantages to weaponing up the Saudis, saying “This huge arm sales package reduces the burden on the United States to provide the same equipment to our own military forces. Lowers demand on our own military, but it also lowers the cost to our own people.”
A clue as to the real reason the Saudis are going to be able to obtain more implements of death and destruction is shown below:
Trump, at the signing ceremony, touted the deal as “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs. That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.”
It was not a tremendous day for the inhabitants of Yemen being targeted for death by Saudi Arabia, a country that is on the short list of the most repressive and hate mongering regimes on the planet, and it was certainly not a good day for the values that Americans believe their government should defend and project internationally.
It was a dark day. A sad day.