US ‘Emergency’ Arms Sales

The UN held a session that highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Yemen last week and the next day the White House announced a large weapons sale to the Saudi-led coalition, Thalif Deen reports.

By Thalif Deen
at UN Headquarters

Inter Press Service

When the UN Security Council met last week to discuss the deaths and devastation caused to civilians in ongoing military conflicts and civil wars, the killings in Yemen and the air attacks on hospitals, schools, mosques, and market places — whether deliberate or otherwise — were singled out as the worst ever.

The death and destruction were caused by weapons provided by some of the permanent members of the Security Council, including the U.S., France and U.K.

Children on a street in Craiter in Aden, Yemen. The area was badly damaged by airstrikes in 2015 as the Houthi’s were driven out of the city by coalition forces. (UN OCHA/Giles Clarke)

The day after that meeting — in defiance of U.S. congressional opposition to arms sales to some of the warring Middle Eastern nations — the Trump administration said it would sell $8.1 billion in American arms to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia under an “emergency notification.” 

All three countries are part of a Saudi-led coalition unleashing attacks on Yemen in order to battle Houthi insurgents who U.S. officials claim are trained and armed by Iran. The new weapons systems are expected to add more fire power to the coalition. One of arguments adduced by the Trump administration is that increasing arms sales to Middle Eastern allies are meant to counter an “anticipated Iranian aggression.”   

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco with a specialty in Middle Eastern studies, told IPS this sale is not about deterring Iranian aggression and it is certainly not an emergency.  “It’s about the profits of American arms manufacturers at the expense of countless Yemeni lives.” 

Arms to Dictatorships

Zunes continued, “This is but the most extreme manifestation, however, of a longstanding bipartisan policy of transferring deadly and sophisticated armaments to the family dictatorships in the Middle East.”

 Zunes, who also serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said it was ironic that a nation that emerged in revolution against monarchy, would be the world’s No. 1 arms supplier of absolute monarchies today.

Lawmakers may try to block the sale, The Hill reported May 29.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on May 23 that civilians continue to make up the vast majority of casualties in conflict, with more than 22,800 civilians dying or being injured in 2018 in just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. He stressed the need for the Security Council to do more to enhance compliance with the laws of war.

Guterres: More compliance with laws of war. (Wikimedia Commons)

Amnesty Statement 

Last week, the London-based Amnesty International ridiculed the U.S. argument that some of the weapons supplied to the Saudi-led coalition were “precision-guided” to avoid civilian casualties.

“The great military powers cynically boast about ‘precision’ warfare and ‘surgical’ strikes that distinguish between fighters and civilians. But the reality on the ground is that civilians are routinely targeted where they live, work, study, worship and seek medical care,” Amnesty’s statement said. “Parties to armed conflict unlawfully kill, maim and forcibly displace millions of civilians while world leaders shirk their responsibility and turn their backs on war crimes and immense suffering.”

Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, told IPS that President Donald Trump’s decision to circumvent Congress and authorize billions of dollars’ worth of arms sales to serial human rights abusers Saudi Arabia and the UAE is extremely unfortunate and reckless.  “Both these countries have used U.S.- made weapons to commit war crimes in Yemen, a country mired in conflict that has been made worse by the conduct of the UAE and Saudi led coalition,” he added.

Nassif pointed out that the atrocious human rights records of these governments — where executions, extrajudicial killings, mass incarceration, torture and indefinite detentions are part of daily life — is made worse by the U.S. continuing to arm them.

“Now that the UAE and Saudi Arabia will receive new American weapons, we can expect a continuation of the hell that has been brought upon Yemen, where 11 million people are suffering from famine, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and thousands killed,” Nassif said. “We can also expect weapons to fall into the wrong hands, such as Al Qaeda, or be sent to other conflict zones where the Saudi’s and UAE are backing ascending autocrats, such as Hafar in Libya.”

Pompeo’s Determination

In a May 24  statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “I made a determination pursuant to section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act and directed the Department to complete immediately the formal notification of 22 pending arms transfers to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia totaling approximately $8.1 billion to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity.” 

“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

Yemeni capital Sanaa after airstrikes, Oct. 9, 2015. (Almigdad Mojalli/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Delaying this shipment, Pompeo argued, could degrade systems and create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility. He said that national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, “and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit.”

The equipment to the three countries includes aircraft support maintenance; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); munitions; and other supplies. 

“Today’s action will quickly augment our partners’ capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to U.S. posture in the region to deter Iran. I intend for this determination to be a one-time event,” Pompeo added. 

He pointed out that Section 36 is a long-recognized authority and has been utilized by at least four previous administrations since 1979, including Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. 

“This specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to develop prudent measures to advance and protect U.S. national security interests in the region,” he said. “The United States is, and must remain, a reliable security partner to our allies and partners around the world. These partnerships are a cornerstone of our National Security Strategy, which this decision reaffirms.”

This article was first published by Inter Press Service. The author, Thalif Deen, can be contacted at [email protected].

27 comments for “US ‘Emergency’ Arms Sales

    June 2, 2019 at 14:49

    Impeach Trump now—then prosecute him for his crimes—–including complicit with Saudi war crimes in Yemen —–

  2. U
    May 31, 2019 at 10:51

    The world needs to rebel against the US empire

  3. KiwiAntz
    May 30, 2019 at 20:31

    For a Country, such as America that sells Billions of dollars of Military weapons all over the World, why don’t they or their buyers, ever win any wars or conflicts that the hardware is supposed to help them win? Russia’s military weaponry is snuffing out the so called advanced Zio- American military hardware & missiles in Syria & with all the sabre rattling with Iran, is this the real reason the Trump administration hasn’t invaded is that the American Military capability & weapons could be exposed as worthless piles of junk, a dog with more bark than bite? But the charade must continue & the looting of the American people, to fund this corrupt, criminal, Military Industrial Complex that wastes trillions of dollars waging Wars they never win, manufacturing obsolete, useless, worthless weapons for enemies that no longer exist, at the expense of the US people!

  4. Kenneth Fingeret
    May 30, 2019 at 18:54

    Hello Thalif Deen and Everyone,
    Did anyone besides me have a deja vu moment when reading the last sentence of the third paragraph. “One of arguments adduced by the Trump administration is that increasing arms sales to Middle Eastern allies are meant to counter an “anticipated Iranian aggression.”” The last three words are utterly horrifying!

  5. Andrew Nichols
    May 30, 2019 at 17:30

    In a May 24 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “I made a determination pursuant to section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act and directed the Department to complete immediately the formal notification of 22 pending arms transfers to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia totaling approximately $8.1 billion to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity.”

    How dare you call yourself a Christian!

    • Mark McBurnett
      May 31, 2019 at 18:15

      Amen and Amen!!!

  6. mary floyd
    May 30, 2019 at 17:22

    Who is Pompeo (and the rest of this criminal US administration) trying to kid? This master plan of eternal war for eternal peace has worn out its welcome all over the world. And when Pompeo said that this is a one off and that the administration would definitely check in with the US Congress (and get their ok??) in the future! What a total lie…this rogue administration is running a rogue state and is decimating countries in the world that have no way of fighting back on the same level as the US military…what cowardice and cruelty.
    Desperate times call for desperate measures I am guessing in this case…the US is on the downslide and now in its death throes is giving all it can (all bad) to attempt to keep control by keeping their weapons manufacturers bottom lines in the black. Pathetic…

  7. Abe
    May 30, 2019 at 15:21

    The United States and Saudi Arabia have alleged that the Houthis receive weapons and training from Iran. The Houthis and the Iranian government have denied any affiliation.

    The Houthis have been accused of being proxies for Iran, since they both follow Shia Islam, although the Iranians are Twelve-Imam Shias and the Houthis are Zaidi Shia.

    On April 2015, United States National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan stated that: “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”.

    Under the Trump administration, unmistakably with the rise of pro-Israel Lobby operatives John Bolton and Mike Pompeo in 2018, US policy has increasingly been divorced from reality.

    On 13 March 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 54-46 in favor of ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and calling on the President to revoke U.S. forces from the Saudi-led coalition. However, in May of 2019, the Senate fell short of the votes needed to override Trump’s veto of the legislation.

    The pro-Israel Lobby has been constantly clamoring for military confrontation with Iran.

    In 2015, Trump loudly declared “We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1000 percent.”
    VIDEO minutes 2:15-8:06

    Candidate Trump’s questioning of Israel’s commitment to peace, calls for even treatment in Israeli-Palestinian deal-making, and refusal to call for Jerusalem to be Israel’s undivided capital, were all stage-managed for the 2016 campaign.

    Trump’s “1000 percent” efforts on behalf of Israel began immediately after the election, prior to his taking the oath of office. He has aggressively pursued the pro-Israel Lobby agenda of conflict with Iran.

    Bolton owes his job to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the biggest individual donors to the GOP in the 2018 election cycle and to the Trump campaign in 2016. The Adelsons had long promoted Bolton for a top foreign-policy position once they moved to support Trump’s presidential candidacy in the spring of 2016.

    Pompeo has worn his Christian evangelical faith on his sleeve with, among other things, his references to The Rapture. The ardent Zionism of Protestant evangelical leaders derives from a peculiar British 16th-century interpretation of the Book of Revelations. The Christian Zionist camp of the pro-Israel Lobby has consistently supported Netanyahu’s belligerence and threats against Iran.

  8. May 30, 2019 at 11:59

    After shamefully shilling for the empire’s immoral and illegal “regime-change” wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Nicaragua and now Venezuela, Amnesty International decides to take an ethical stand on Yemen? How noble.

    • May 30, 2019 at 17:01

      Sometimes I think that hypocrisy is a limited resource, like timber. If you use to much too fast, you face shortages and other bed effects.

    • geeyp
      May 30, 2019 at 18:32

      Amnesty International has no courage to stand up for humanity, as shown recently with their nonsupport for Julian Assange.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    May 30, 2019 at 11:57

    Yeah, right. The only emergency here is the inability of “the coalition” of Sunni states to crush the Shi’a Houthis. Frankly, the UN has become worthless as t*ts on a boar hog. It has made exactly zero effort to rein in the viscous depredations of “The West” (read, the old colonial powers) and their master the “Leader of the West” aka the United States.

  10. May 30, 2019 at 11:09

    What’s NOT an emergency for our parasitic ruling class:

    1.) working people slaving away at two jobs to make ends meet with their children in daycare most of the day and parent-child contact at all time lows
    2.) runaway housing and rental costs
    3.) the refusal of many young people under 40 y.o. to have children (who can blame them!) due to pitiful wages, paltry benefits, shoddy health ins., exorbitant housing costs, insecure employment
    4.) millions of citizens with no healthcare coverage or coverage with outlandish co-pays, loopholes, deductibles, and premiums
    5.) the dental healthcare crisis that goes virtually unaddressed
    6.) the assault on organized labor and strong democratic unions; this assault by the employer class has largely caused this entire mess
    7.) the dangerous Russophobia that’s growing in our midst as more and more people believe the lie that the Kremlin interferes in elections
    8.) the overwhelming influence in Washington of the military industrial complex and the Zionist power configuration
    9.) the consolidation and almost total corporate control of our entire mass media spectrum

    • May 30, 2019 at 11:51

      Drew – excellent observations. Thanks.

      • May 30, 2019 at 12:18

        Thanks Mr. Weglarz.

        I forgot to add that massive student loan debt is another issue that’s definitely not a priority for our elites.

        Take care.

    • DW Bartoo
      May 30, 2019 at 13:06

      Pithy, superb comment, Drew Hankins.

      • DW Bartoo
        May 30, 2019 at 13:13

        Drew Hunkins …

        (Chell Speck persists, despite being corrected several times …)

        • May 30, 2019 at 16:53

          Understood! Thanks for the kind words.

    • mary floyd
      May 30, 2019 at 17:27

      I think most rational people would totally agree with you on this! Well worded!

      • May 30, 2019 at 18:24

        Thank you Ms. Floyd. We must spread the word to all those who are willing to climb up out of Plato’s shadowy cave to witness the reality.

  11. May 30, 2019 at 10:29

    Can anyone provide a link(s) to help me better understand the reasons behind this conflict? Is is oil, KSA aggression/expansion, etc.

    • May 30, 2019 at 17:13

      Not really. The main actors do not care about “Western public opinion”. Wikipedia, IMHO, provides enough information to cobble together a partial understanding, but you are on your own to create an explanatory narrative.

      However, a partial explanation is as follows: following the ouster of the local strongman, the restoration of the democracy in Yemen was left to the tutelage of a committee of absolute monarchs, a.k.a. GCC. What could go wrong? Those worthies understand enough about democracy to correctly conclude that they do not like it at all.

      • matt
        May 31, 2019 at 15:01

        Thank you, all. Very helpful.

    • AnneR
      May 31, 2019 at 08:07

      From what I understand, admittedly not as much as I ought: yes, oil (and perhaps gas) does have something to do with it. Off Yemen’s coast. And Saudia’s reserves are running out. So in the manner of all like regimes (including the imperial west of course) when a “lesser” nation has something of value that you want…. Throw in the fact that Yemen has been something of a fractured nation for well over a hundred years, indeed only been “one” for a few decades and that there is a sizeable Shia population in the North (Houthi) and their opposition to the Saleh government which was very close to the Saudis…

    • Gregory Herr
      May 31, 2019 at 14:05

      “Yemen is a strategically key geopolitical stretch of land at the critical connecting point of the Red Sea which links to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. It’s the site of one of the world’s most strategic shipping choke points, the Bab el Mandab, a narrow passage a mere 18 miles distance from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, making it one of the US Department of Energy’s Oil Transit Chokepoints. According to the US Department of Energy an estimated 4.7 million barrels of oil passesthrough Bab el Mandab in both directions daily, including oil bound for China

      In March 2015 a new civil war raged in Yemen between the group known popularly as Houthis after Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, of the Zaidi sect of Islam. The Zaidi area traditionally moderate group who favors equality of women, something anathema to the Saudi Wahhabites.The Zaidi had ruled Yemen for more than 1,000 years until 1962.

      The Houthi movement had forced the ouster of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in late 2011 on charges of vast corruption.He was succeeded by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Saleh’s Vice President. At that time both Saleh and Hadi were proxy presidents of Saudi influence.

      Things began to change whenHadi refused to step down after his mandate expired. His decision to cut subsidies on fuel prices as well as refusing agreed reforms led to his arrest by the Houthi movement forces in early 2015. He managed later to flee to Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2015 and that same day Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman ordered the start of the ongoing bombing war against Yemen and the Houthis.

      By the end of 2015 Prince bin Salman and his coalition in the strangely-named Operation Decisive Storm (remember Desert Storm) had inflicted atrocities on the civilian population of Yemen. Within six months of relentless Saudi-led bombing, the UN declared Yemen a “Level Three” emergency, the highest level. Bombings destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, health facilities and the Saudis blockaded urgently needed food, water and medical aid to an estimated 20 million Yemenis, in violation of international law. Some 2,500,000 Yemeni civilians have been displaced. Famine and cholera are rampant. In short, it is genocide.”

    • JohnDoe
      June 1, 2019 at 09:42

      “Can anyone provide a link(s) to help me better understand the reasons behind this conflict?”

      It would be difficult to understand without reading all the history since it was a British colony, the efforts to try and subjugate the country since it gained independence from the British empire never stopped. First they called in the Russians to play the usual divide and rule, a coup organized by the old Soviet Union split the country. Then came in a sequence of strong men and militias armed by the Americans via proxies like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
      So, Yemen was never allowed full independence, however it’s not just about oil, Yemen ha some oil, but not so much, it is about the broader picture, keeping all the middle east under control.

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