US Senate Fails to Block $1.15 billion Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

22 September 2016 – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) expresses serious concern regarding the United States Senate’s decision yesterday to table a bipartisan resolution halting a $1.15 billion arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Senate’s failure to block this arms sale threatens to deepen US complicity in Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations in the war in Yemen.

On 8 September, Republican Senators Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT) and Democratic Senators Chris Murphy (CT) and Al Franken (MN) introduced the resolution, calling for a halt to US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia due to the kingdom’s intervention in Yemen. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) introduced a bipartisan companion bill to the House of Representatives 12 days later on September 20. The senators pointed to the high number of civilian casualties caused by Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the conflict, noting that instead of bringing stability and security, the intervention has only empowered groups like al-Qaeda. The representatives noted that funding Saudi Arabia’s participation in the conflict is damaging to the United States’ moral standing around the world.

“Throughout its intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has shown a complete disregard for civilian life, and the US has been supplying it every bit of the way,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “The Senate’s failure to take action to prevent arms sales harms US standing within the international community and undermines its ability to promote human rights. With this decision, the US continues to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Yemeni people for the sake of appeasing its Saudi allies. Sadly, it’s seems to be business as usual when it comes to the US and Saudi Arabia.”

Between 2010 and 2014, the United States has sold Saudi Arabia more than $90 billion in arms, including advanced fighter jets and thousands of bombs. Saudi Arabia has used these US-manufactured and US-supplied aircraft and munitions in indiscriminate attacks against civilian areas and infrastructure, including markets, residential areas, schools, and Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospitals. Recently, Amnesty International confirmed that the Saudi-led Arab coalition used US-made bombs in the 15 August 2016 airstrike on an MSF hospital, which killed 19 people and injured 24 others. Additionally, on Monday it was reported that the Saudi-led coalition had used US-supplied white phosphorus—a highly incendiary and potentially deadly chemical—in Yemen.

As a result of Saudi’s Arabia’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, in the span of 18-months after the kingdom entered the hostilities, the United Nations has documented the deaths of at least 10,000 Yemenis, with an average of 13 civilian casualties taking place each day. Approximately 14 million Yemenis need food aid and seven million more suffer from food insecurity, out of Yemen’s 26 million population.

ADHRB calls on the Government of the United States to immediately halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It also urges the United States to call for the formation of an independent and impartial United Nations investigation into Saudi Arabia’s conduct in the conflict in Yemen, particularly its attacks on civilians.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Matt Sullivan