New figures from the UN and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that since the war in Yemen began, the US has sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, making the Kingdom a cash cow for US weapons makers.
Despite presenting itself as a force for good and peace in the Middle East, the United States sells at least five times as much weaponry to Saudi Arabia than aid it donates to Yemen. The State Department constantly portrays itself as a humanitarian superpower with the welfare of the Yemeni people as its highest priority, yet figures released from the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that since the war in Yemen began, the U.S. government has given $2.56 billion in aid to the country, but sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition prosecuting a relentless onslaught against the country.
Figures like these are always debatable. What constitutes legitimate “aid” is a question everyone would answer differently. Furthermore, the $13 billion figure does not include the enormous weapons deal Saudi Arabia signed with Donald Trump in 2017, which will reportedly see the Kingdom purchase $350 billion over ten years.
SIPRI is skeptical of the size of these numbers, but if they prove to be correct, once the orders begin arriving, they will make the paltry aid donations seem like small change by comparison. Sales include all manner of military equipment, from radar and transport systems to F-15 fighter jets, TOW missiles, Abrams tanks, and Paladin howitzers.
While the Saudis pay in petrodollars, Yemenis pay in blood. Four years ago, the Saudi Air Force bombed a well-attended funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. It was a bright, clear day. The Saudis used a “double tap” airstrike to ensure maximum carnage. 240 people were killed, and like with the 2018 Saudi attack on a school bus that killed 40 children, the bombs that did the damage were 500-pound (227 kilogram) MK 82’s, built and supplied by Lockheed Martin, America’s largest weapons contractor.
“Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent. The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director.
Already the region’s poorest nation, Yemen has been utterly devastated by the six-year conflict. The United Nations estimates that 14 million people — over half the country’s population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. 80% of the population, it calculates, needs some form of humanitarian assistance. The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, has deliberately attacked soft targets like hospitals and water facilities, carrying out the equivalent of one strike against such buildings every ten days since the fighting began.
“The fact that the United Nations, faced with such enormous human, environmental and migration devastation around the world, has said for several years now that Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, that says it all. This war has devastated what was already the poorest country in the Arab world. Not only the direct bombing — of funerals, of weddings — but the blockading and bombing of the ports. Yemen is a country very dependent on imported food, basic medicines, everything. So when the ports are closed down, people move close to starvation very quickly,” Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and an expert on the Middle East, told MintPress.
In addition to supplying the weapons, the U.S. (and many of its European allies) train Saudi forces, have provided critical military infrastructure and logistical support, and even refueled Saudi bombers in the air and provided targeting guidance to help Saudi forces find their marks more efficiently. On top of that, the U.S. has shielded Riyadh from international censure by defending it at bodies like the United Nations. In essence, the U.S. is involved in every area of the Yemen conflict, doing everything up to pulling the trigger itself.
“The U.S. must end its support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and instead prioritize the people across Yemen fighting to survive,” Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead told MintPress in a statement.
The U.S. has paused much of its aid to the most vulnerable Yemenis, while it continues to provide weapons that fuel the deadly conflict. Congress and the American people have made it clear that they do not want any part in this. We continue to call for the U.S., the international community and all parties to the conflict to push for peace, and we will hold the incoming Biden administration to its pledge to do its part.”