UK approved £3.3bn of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in first year of Yemen war
Exports of smart bombs, combat aircraft parts were approved in face of civilian deaths, international condemnation
UK-manufactured cluster bomblets gathered by activists in northern Yemen earlier this year (Amnesty International)
July 27, 2016
by Jamie Merrill
The UK government licensed arms exports worth £3.3bn ($4.2bn) to Saudi Arabia during the first 12 months of the Saudi-led conflict in Yemen, a campaign group has revealed.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade's analysis of government figures, released this week, shows the total is at least £500m more than previously thought.
From April 2015, the UK approved exports including so-called smart bombs, components for combat aircraft, armoured vehicles and communications equipment.
The government in Riyadh is the UK arms industry's biggest customer and the figures show that the Middle East is the UK's largest overall export market for weapons, including Eurofighter Typhoon jets that have dropped devastating 2,000-lb bombs in urban areas in Yemen.
More than 8,100 people are thought to have been killed in the conflict and earlier this year the UN decried the "carnage" caused by Saudi-led air strikes, saying the alliance was responsible for the vast majority of the civilian deaths in the conflict, although all armed groups have been accused of abuses.
Since the Saudi-led intervention, which has included support from Bahrain and the UAE, the UK government has faced intense criticism over its willingness to approve arms exports.
Andrew Smith, of CAAT, which compiled the figures from official statistics, said: "UK arms have been central to the humanitarian crisis that has been unleashed on Yemen. If the new prime minister [Theresa May] wants to help the people of Yemen [See news article linked below.] then she needs to break with the past, stop the arms sales and end the uncritical support for the Saudi regime."
The new figures also show that the UK licensed £538m of weapons, including military training aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force, in the first quarter of 2016 alone, despite increasingly vocal international condemnation of the country's bombing campaign in Yemen.
A deal for additional Hawk jet trainers came after a UN expert panel accused Saudi Arabia of violating international humanitarian law and a January cross-party appeal in parliament for arms sales to the oil-rich kingdom to be suspended.
The European Parliament has also voted to support an EU-wide embargo against Saudi Arabia, although the vote is not legally binding.
Smith added: "The UN has accused Saudi Arabian forces of violating international humanitarian law, the European Parliament has been calling for an arms embargo, but, as usual when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the UK government has focused on arms sales."
Last month, CAAT won a legal challenge in the High Court in London to allow a judicial review over arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has denied that its operations cause civilian casualties, and in January announced that it was setting up a panel to investigate the allegations. The UK has a long history of exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, dating back to the 1980s, but the government has always insisted it follows strict rules and monitors the use of the weapons.
However, this week Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was left facing growing calls to reverse UK policy after the government issued a correction, saying that it could not prove that international law had not be been violated, in spite of earlier claims that no breaches had taken place.
The correction followed pressure from opposition politicians and rights groups, who challenged then foreign secretary Phillip Hammond's ruling on Yemen and forced him to issue a statement retracting four written answers given to MPs and deleting two speeches by ministers in the Commons from the official record.
The new figures come after Middle East Eye revealed that Canadian and UK arms were used to kill an unarmed man in police raids in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. The UK government has refused to investigate whether UK arms are being used for internal repression.
Human rights campaigners have been quick to point out that the new figures have emerged as a prominent Bahrain activist faces 12 years in prison for tweets that criticized the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen.
The charges against Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, are a serious violation of his right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Bahrain has been taking part in the Saudi-led strikes, which have included unlawful air attacks on markets, homes, hospitals and schools, according to the pressure group.
"Unlawful Saudi-led airstrikes bombed markets and hospitals, killing hundreds of civilians, but the person facing prison time is the one who criticized them," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the group.
"The US and the UK, which have assisted the coalition, have a particular responsibility to insist that Bahrain drop the unlawful charges against Nabeel Rajab and immediately free him."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, that killed more than 900 civilians and hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques. The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen also reported in January that it had "documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations" of the laws of war.
Rights groups, however, have also accused other armed factions on the ground of committing abuses, including torture, against opponents.
Eastern European arms pipeline
The extent of the UK's exports to Saudi Arabia emerged after a year-long investigation by a team of reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found that Eastern European countries have approved the sale of more than £840m in weapons in the past four years to Middle Eastern countries that are known to ship arms to Syria.
The arms includes assault rifles, such as AK-47s, mortar shells, rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons that the Guardian has reported were routed through a new arms pipeline from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula and countries bordering Syria.
Bodil Valero, the European Parliament's rapporteur on arms, told the Guardian that at least some of the transfers probably breached EU, international and national laws on arms exports.
He told The Guardian: "The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations. If this is the case, the transfers are illegal under… international law and should cease immediately."
Media Silent as US-Backed Coalition Purposely Starves 14 MILLION Yemeni Civilians
November 1, 2016
By Darius Shahtahmasebi at theantimedia.org
As reports repeatedly surface regarding Saudi Arabia's deadly actions in Yemen, the media continues to largely ignore the blatantly horrific aggression being launched on Yemeni civilians by a U.S. ally. Instead, it perpetually hypes up Russia's actions in Syria.
But as recently as October 30, 2016, the Guardian reported the U.S.- and U.K.-backed Saudi coalition delivered an air strike on a prison complex in western Yemen, killing at least 58 people. The victims were mostly prisoners who were serving sentences for low-level offenses. Attacking prisoners with sophisticated weaponry is one of the lowest forms of barbarism possible given the fact prisoners are trapped inside with no means of escape.
This event follows a recent Saudi attack on a Yemeni funeral that killed over 140 civilians and injured well over 500 others in what was aptly dubbed a "lake of blood."
The United States and its so-called allies are playing a dangerous game of torture with the Yemeni people. Where high-level bombs (including British-made banned munitions) that have directly targeted civilians are unable to do the job, the coalition has launched a widespread attack on the basic needs of Yemeni civilians, which has now resulted in widespread famine.
According to Martha Mundy, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, the Saudi coalition has been hitting agricultural land. Noting just 2.8 percent of Yemen's land is cultivated, she argued that "[t]o hit that small amount of agricultural land, you have to target it."
Further, she pointed out that the Saudi coalition "was and is targeting intentionally food production, not simply agriculture in the fields." The coalition has been striking the transport routes aid groups have been using to transport food, as well as targeting markets, stores, factories, and food trucks.
This direct attack on civilian infrastructure comes in tandem with a blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia that has created a humanitarian catastrophe. The U.N. has warned that at least 14 million Yemeni civilians – more than half of its population – are starving.
So what has the U.S. done in response? It has attacked Yemen directly. Supposedly, Obama is deeply troubled by the human rights situation in Syria, and he is currently able to criticize the Assad government with impunity because responsibility for the war in Yemen has fallen largely on the Saudi-led coalition. However, the United States is not a passive player in the Yemeni conflict. Many Yemenis deem the U.S. to be behind the current conflict, and the American government has been providing all manner of support to the Saudi-led coalition to carry out their assault on the country. None of this even takes into account the fact Obama has been drone bombing Yemen for years, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths.
The U.S. is well aware that the Saudis' current procedures, even with American and British assistance, are woefully inadequate at avoiding hospitals. Rather, they are adept at causing mass civilian death — and these Western powers continue to support the onslaught. The lack of compassion towards the Yemeni people was captured brilliantly by newly-appointed U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — Britain's version of Donald Trump — when he stated someone else will "happily supply arms" to the Saudis if the U.K. stops doing so.
Further, the fact the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition is striking a country that is home to both ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula but have not attempted to hit these two groups at all within a 19 month period, tells one all they need to know about the phony war on terror.
Saudi Arabia's Great Game in Yemen
November 6, 2016
In March, 2015 Yemen's de jure President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is recognized by the United States and its allies, settled in Aden (South Yemen) and proclaimed it the country's provisional capital. The opposing Huthi forces focused their efforts on taking this major port city.
During the Huthi attack, Saudi Arabia began to build up its military forces along its border with Yemen. The Huthis' leader Muhammad Ali al-Houthi said his troops would respond forcefully to any aggressive move on the part of the Saudis and not stop until they would capture Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
On March 25th, 2015 the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadi Riyad Yassin, appointed by President Hadi, addressed the Arabian monarchies, officially requesting military assistance from the Gulf Cooperation Council (a regional alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) via their military wing - the Peninsula Shield Force, amid reports that Hadi had fled Aden.
Ten countries agreed to participate in the intervention directed against the Huthis. Saudi Arabia committed 100 fighter jets and 150,000 soldiers to the Yemen conflict. Other countries expressed their readiness to provide military aircraft, including the United Arab Emirates (30 fighters), Kuwait (15), Bahrain (15), Qatar (10) and Jordan (6). In addition, Egypt and Pakistan are participating in the campaign, and have sent naval and air force units to Yemen. Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Sudan have expressed their willingness to allocate ground troops to the fight against the Huthi contingents.
Generally speaking, contemporary Yemen is atypical for the area, perhaps because it is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula not to have significant oil and gas deposits on its territory. While the wealth of its Arab neighbors has come to rival that of European countries, the residents of Yemen struggle with an average per capita income of $1,473 USD annually, according to 2013 World Bank data.
For more than a century, the country was divided into northern and southern parts, which only reunited in 1990. During the Cold War it was assumed that the division of Yemen had followed the classic format of Soviet and US spheres of influence: those in power in South Yemen were allies of Moscow, and the North was allied with Washington. However, now it is clear that the existence of two states can be explained by much more fundamental geopolitical and religious reasons.
Northwest Yemen is inhabited mainly by Shiites – practitioners of one of the two main branches of Islam. Non-Arab Iran is considered the hub of this denomination. The south and east of the country, however, is inhabited by Sunni Muslims, who have more in common in terms of their religious beliefs with the other Arab countries and with Egypt. Immediately after Yemeni reunification it seemed that these contradictions could be resolved – many predicted that the united country's economy would boom as economies had elsewhere in the peninsula. During the first Gulf War, Kuwaiti and Iraqi oil had disappeared from the market, and even the limited resources of Yemen were in demand. However, this fragile glimmer of hope didn't last; irreconcilable differences led to civil war in the country in 1994.
Riyadh clearly did not like the prospect of a Shiite state on its border (it is already situated across the Persian Gulf from Shiite Iran - the only country in the region that could oppose it militarily). In addition, Iran's revolution, in which a pro-American monarch was deposed and replaced with a theocratic Islamic republic, represented a clear threat to the Saudi leadership.
As a result, the Huthis, who lack warplanes, were pushed back from Aden by the pan-Arab force, and the conflict has gripped the region, which fears a full-fledged war. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have never been close; the two largest countries in the region are constantly competing with each other. If a few years ago it seemed that Iran was losing ground, recently things have changed.
If the emergence of the Islamic State in Syria led to the weakening of Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad, in Iraq the opposite was true: there ISIL militants managed to take and control most of the territory north of Baghdad, the part of the country which is inhabited by Sunnis. Now the Iraqi government controls only Baghdad and the southern areas of the country. These are inhabited mainly by Shiites - that is, if Iraq hasn't yet become a satellite of Iran, is on its way to achieving this status. In particular, this explains why Iraq, which until recently was occupied by the United States, readily agreed to cooperate with Russia when Moscow decided to launch a military campaign in Syria.
Thus, Iran has built along the northern border of Saudi Arabia an almost unbroken chain of allied regimes, from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. The war in Yemen has given Iran a chance to increase its influence south of Saudi Arabia. It is not known whether Riyadh is assessing the matter in terms of geopolitics, but it is unlikely that the ruling dynasty likes the situation.
One thing is clear: if Riyadh and Tehran don't decide to put an end to the crisis in Yemen, it will serve as a great excuse for a full-scale war to erupt between the two regional powers. Such a war in the Persian Gulf is likely to disrupt the supply of oil to the world market, add to growing instability in the world, and result in tens of thousands of additional deaths.
Given this background, the news that the Saudis are ready for negotiations looks promising. It is possible that this is caused by the recent failures of the coalition forces in Yemen. On September 28, coalition aircraft bombed a large tent where people had gathered to celebrate a wedding, leaving 131 dead. This weekend, the Saudi air force mistakenly attacked the troops of President Hadi, killing 30 people and leaving another 40 injured.
Of course, since the beginning of the conflict in the country of 25 million people, 5,400 people have been killed, but more importantly for the House of Saud, the reputation of the Royal Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia is suffering due to the civilian death toll. Why invest in the development of the army at a cost of billions of dollars and purchase the latest arms from the United States if the pilots aren’t able to distinguish between enemy combatants and wedding guests?
Intelligence agencies are running al-Qaeda camps in North Africa — UN consultant (EXCLUSIVE)
War in Yemen: Saudi crimes confirmed
Why the hell is the US helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen? A brief guide
YEMEN: A Genocidal War Against Children and Civilians Sanctioned by the UN, US, UK & NATO
Twenty-Four Hours in Yemen: UN, US, UK Devastation, Complicity and Double Standards
Death in Yemen - UK Arms Sales to Saudi and the "Proper Use" of Illegal Weapons
The UK's Theresa May defends arms sales to Saudi Arabia on the false pretense the UK (home of the private law merchants and private law guilds) will be protected from "terrorism™":
Theresa May claims selling arms to Saudi Arabia helps 'keep people on the streets of Britain safe'