US Congress reviewing weapons sales to UAE and Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns
The US administration has asked Congress to review the sale of over 120,000 precision-guided munitions to the UAE and Saudi Arabia amid humanitarian concerns in Yemen, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Since the onset of the Yemeni conflict in 2015, the US has been one of the main suppliers of arms and ammunitions to Saudi-led coalition members engaged in an ongoing offensive against the Houthi rebels: last year alone, the Trump adminstration authorised the sale of $7 billion worth of pecision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia. This has helped fuel a conflict which has so far claimed over 10,000 lives, displaced up to 3 million people and led to an epidemic of cholera in one the region’s poorest countries.
The value of US transactions under review could not immediately be determined, but unnamed government administration and Congress sources confirmed that an informal 40-day review period is now under way.
Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, pressure has grown on arms supplying states in Europe to implement embargoes on coalition members engaged in the conflict. Following protests from rights groups, Norway and Germany (one of the world’s most prominent arms manufacturers) have, in the last year, banned weapon sales to the UAE, with the Finnish government recently announcing their intention to follow. In the UK, activists from Campaigns Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) were recently granted the right to launch a fresh legal challenge against the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia, while rights groups in France are exerting substantial pressure on President Emanuel Macron to scale back military support to the states in question.
It is unlikely that the current US administration will follow suit. Since assuming office in January 2017, Trump has widely advertised weapon sales to Saudi Arabia as a means to boost the US economy, announcing billions worth in arms deals. This has seen him personally push through foreign sales of US arms despite concerns from human rights groups.
Certain members of Congress can, however, informally review weapon export deals. In the past, this has led to deals being blocked or held-up for months at a time. Yet, the President can override the concerns of lawmakers unless Congress passes legislation to halt the sale, though no such action has ever been taken.