(UR) Yemen — Days after Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes killed over 140 mourners at a funeral in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, Reuters, in an exclusive report, revealed Monday that the Obama administration has for quite a while been concerned — due to the billions in both financial and military support the U.S. gives Saudi Arabia — about complicity in potential war crimes in Yemen.
Cited from the Reuters report — which was based on government documents obtained via FOIA and interviews conducted with current and former officials:
“The US supports the Saudi war effort by selling arms to the Saudis and providing refueling and logistical assistance. In November 2015 the US announced a $1.29 billion deal for precision munitions specifically meant to replenish Saudi stockpiles used in Yemen. In September 2016 the US Senate gave the go-ahead for a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia by blocking the bill opposing the controversial transaction.”
Regarding the conflict in the devastated North African nation, Underground Reporter has previously explained:
“The Yemeni Revolution began in 2011, concurrent with other Arab Spring protests in the Middle East and North Africa. The uprising in Yemen, led by the Houthi Group, resulted in the ouster of (then-president) Hadi in 2015, and the establishment of a ruling council of militias in the capital city of Sanaa.
“Immediately following Hadi’s expulsion, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab nations and began conducting airstrikes against the Houthi rebels — who, because of their alliance with Iran, the Saudis view as a proxy army of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — in a campaign to reinstall the former Yemeni leader.”
What the new Reuters report demonstrates is that the United States, from the beginning of its support of the Saudi campaign, was always aware the controversial actions of its ally in Yemen could be construed as war crimes — and was very much concerned about being accused of atrocities, itself.
After all — as the report points out — in one of the obtained emails an official made mention of a 2013 U.N.-backed court ruling which found “practical assistance, encouragement or moral support” is sufficient to prove liability for war crimes. There’s no need to isolate a specific event.
And the U.S. has certainly given all that, and more.
Indeed, State Department attorneys reportedly “had their hair on fire” as reports of civilian deaths began to multiply and human rights groups began to take notice. During a meeting in October between rights groups and a State Department specialist, Reuters reports, the official acknowledged Saudi strikes were becoming a problem.
“The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate, but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles,” said the specialist. “The lack of Saudi experience is compounded by the asymmetric situation on the ground where enemy militants are not wearing uniforms and are mixed with civilian populations. Weak intelligence likely further compounds the problem.”
Ironically, just before Saturday’s massacre of over 140 funeral mourners by Saudi-led strikes, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price issued a statement saying, “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check…We have repeatedly expressed our deep concern about airstrikes that allegedly killed and injured civilians and also the heavy humanitarian toll paid by the Yemeni people.”
To alleviate this “heavy humanitarian toll” paid by civilians, the U.S. has provided the Saudis with so-called “no-strike lists” of targets to avoid, officials said. But this hardly negates the abundant support the U.S. had shown Saudi Arabia, as Reuters thoroughly highlights:
“Since March 2015, Washington has authorized over $22.2 billion in weapons sales to Riyadh, much of it yet to be delivered. That includes a $1.29 billion of precision munitions announced in November 2015 and specifically meant to replenish stocks used in Yemen.”
In the end, however, as one senior administration official summarized, “If we’re going to be supporting the coalition, then we have to accept a degree of responsibility for what’s happening in Yemen and exercise it appropriately.”
“In the law of war, you can be guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and at some point the…evidence is going to continue to mount and I think the administration is now in an untenable situation.”
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