U.S. lawmaker questions arms sales to Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen

Clay Curtis
February 9, 2019

A US Department of State official told CNN that an investigation is underway to determine whether Saudi Arabia transferred the weapons to fighters.

As with many other wars in the region, US-made military vehicles have been lost from coalition custody, and US-made arms are readily available on the black market.

Corroborating an earlier report by Al Jazeera, CNN reported on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and its coalition partner in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), were using 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". Engel, who hold the right of foreign weapons sales, asked: "Should Congress pursue greater restrictions on offensive weapons to the Saudi coalition?"

Investigations by the Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism and CNN showed that the arms had fallen into the hands of extremist groups like al-Qaida. After Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, the country -along with eight other countries backed by the USA, the United Kingdom and France - entered the conflict with the aim of reinstating Hadi as Yemen's leader.

The Department of Defense asserts that Saudi is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the United States by handing off military equipment to third parties. Other weapons used by UAE-allied militias in Hodeidah include Serbian-made Zastava MO2 Coyote machine guns and the Agrab armored-truck-mounted Singaporean 120mm mortar system - the UAE is the only country known to purchase this combined weapon system.

Trump has thrown his support behind the monarchy and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who reportedly ordered the assassination of former Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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President Donald Trump's administration opposed numerous bills, calling the Saudis important regional partners and praising weapons sales as an important source of U.S.jobs.

Late last month, members of Congress announced they would re-introduce a bill requiring the Trump administration to stop providing logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition's war efforts in Yemen.

None of those bills became law, but Engel said the committee would continue to press for a response to casualties in Yemen, Khashoggi's killing and the imprisonment of women's rights activities. He said, "It can no longer be business as usual. We need to push for a real change in Saudi behavior", he said.

"They've killed more civilians this year than any year prior in the Yemen war", Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said after a November Senate vote advancing a measure to end American military support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Republicans in the House initially blocked a vote.

On Monday, the US Senate approved by a large majority an amendment critical of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, in a sign of the deep discontent caused by the policies within his own Republican ranks.

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