UNITED NATIONS – The West continues its strong political and military support to one of its longstanding allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia –- despite withering criticism of the kingdom’s battlefield excesses in the ongoing war in neighboring Yemen.
A Saudi-led coalition has been accused of using banned cluster bombs, bombing civilian targets and destroying hospitals – either by accident or by design—using weapons provided primarily by the US, UK and France.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week the armed conflict in Yemen continues to take a terrible toll on civilians, with at least 81 civilians reportedly killed and 109 injured in December.
As a result, the toll of civilian casualties, recorded between 26 March and 31 December 2015, are estimated at more than 8,000 people, including nearly 2,800 killed and more than 5,300 wounded.
But Western powers — which are quick to condemn and impose sanctions on countries accused of civilian killings– have refused to take any drastic action against Saudi Arabia or its coalition partners, including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
The Saudi stranglehold is increasingly linked to a thriving multi-billion dollar arms market — with British, French and mostly American military suppliers providing sophisticated weapons, including state-of-the-art fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, battle tanks and electronic warfare systems.
The arms supplying countries, for obvious reasons, are unwilling to jeopardize their markets, specifically Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi arsenal alone includes Boeing F-15 fighter planes (US supplied), Tornado strike aircraft (UK), Aerospatiale Puma and Dauphin attack helicopters (French), Bell, Apache and Sikorsky helicopters (US), Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning Control System (US), Sidewinder, Sparrow and Stinger missiles (US) and Abrams and M60 battle tanks (US).
Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Research Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS that for years, the US government has documented Saudi human rights abuses in its own reports, including the State Department.
“Yet the United States continues to provide a largely open-ended weapons supply line to the Saudi government. It’s time for the US government to act in accordance with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and with its own laws and suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia,” she said.
She argued US weapons manufacturers’ profit motives for continuing massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia should not drive US military and foreign policy.
“The US Defense Department may benefit in the short term by keeping some weapons supply lines open with foreign orders. But the risks to US military personnel and US interests should be given far greater weight in decision making,” said Goldring who also represents the Acronym Institute on conventional weapons and arms transfer issues, at the United Nations.
The current issue of Time magazine says Saudi Arabia continues to spend a bigger portion of its economy on defence than any other nation (11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 3.5 percent by the US).
“It burns through $6 billion a month to bomb Yemen, an ill-advised war that has come to define the abrupt change brought by King Salman since he assumed the throne a year ago,” said Time.
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