In Yemen, there is still a bloody proxy war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels. Its consequences are catastrophic. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), more than 112,000 people have been killed in the war since 2015, including over 12,600 civilians killed in attacks. “In 2019, more than 25,000 deaths were reported, making it the second deadliest year of the war,” writes the ACLED.
The United Nations Children’s fund UNICEF reports: “Yemen is the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 24 million people – around 80 percent of the population – need humanitarian aid, including more than 12 million children.“The country has become a” living hell " for children since the war began in 2015. According to the UN refugee agency, 3.6 million people were displaced by the war.
In addition to the already devastating war, there are also diseases. As early as June 2020, UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke of 110,000 people suffering from Cholera, in addition to other diseases such as Malaria and dengue fever. Due to the lack of donations, the most important UN aid programmes are threatened. With the spread of the Coronavirus, the situation has worsened further. According to the development organization Handicap International, 7 million people in Yemen are now threatened by Hunger. The World Food Programme of the United Nations warns that there could be “biblical famines” in Yemen and other countries in the coming year.
USA is largest arms exporter
Western governments, above all the US Administration, have also contributed significantly to the humanitarian catastrophe. The Saudi coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan, is essentially supported by weapons from the West. This is illustrated by data from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
“Despite widespread concern in the United States and the United Kingdom about Saudi Arabia’s military Intervention in Yemen, both the United States and the United Kingdom continued to export weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2015-19,” SIPRI writes. A total of 73 percent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports came from the United States and 13 percent from the United Kingdom. The aid organisation Oxfam estimates that since 2015, the G-20 countries have exported weapons worth more than 17 billion US dollars to Saudi Arabia. According to Oxfam’s own calculations, this is three times what the G-20 provides for humanitarian aid in Yemen.
Trump’s closeness to the monarchy
The US government’s support for Saudi Arabia began under the Obama administration, but intensified under President Donald Trump. The US president, who was still in office, did everything he could to accommodate the Sunni monarchy. A few months after the start of his term, Trump entered into a nearly $ 110 billion arms deal with the ultraconservative kingdom. In total, the deal included arms purchases worth about $ 350 billion over a ten-year period. Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz then awarded the US president the kingdom’s highest medal as “an award for his attempts to further deepen relations between the two countries.”
Three of Trump’s eight vetoes, which the US president has vetoed in Congress in his previous term, concerned Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Trump twice blocked bans on arms sales to the desert state, once he vetoed a Resolution that wanted to order the withdrawal of US forces from Yemen. The latter provide logistical support to the saudi Arabian armed forces in determining targets from the air as well as in coordinating military and intelligence activities.
Powerful gun lobby, weak laws
Arms sales in the United States are governed by the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). For the gun lobby, however, both laws are not a real hindrance. The reason for this is that the arms transfers are in compliance with the law as long as Congress does not prohibit them. And even then, as has often happened, the president can veto restrictions.
Also, Section 36 of the AECA allows the president to bypass Congress. For example, when there is an “emergency” that necessitates a sale of arms “in the interest of the national security of the United States.” In May 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo forced this to happen, making twenty-two separate $ 8.1 billion arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Despite resistance in Congress, the arms deals could not be stopped.
Arms exports are legal
Fernando C. Saldivar, who works for the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA), draws attention to the fact that the USA also has no legal consequences internationally. “For countries like Saudi Arabia, one of the advantages of working with the US arms industry is that America is not legally obliged to take into account the humanitarian impact of arms transfers to a foreign state.”
To date, the US government has not ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (att). This requires states to refrain from arms exports if there is evidence that they are used to commit war crimes. As a non - member of the ATT, the US arms industry can sell weapons abroad with impunity. President Obama submitted the ATT to the Senate for ratification before leaving office in 2016, but President Trump withdrew it from consideration in April 2019. All member states of the European Union have signed the treaty. Even China, which had held back, signed the treaty last July.