“This is an important first step in ending our material support for war globally, and the genocide in Yemen in particular,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar.
By Brett Wilkins
The Biden administration is reportedly imposing a temporary freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and examining sales to the United Arab Emirates pending a review of billions of dollars worth of weapons deals with the repressive regimes approved during the presidency of Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reports unnamed officials said sales covered by the moratorium include nearly half a billion dollars worth of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. The latter are part of a $23 billion deal approved by the Trump administration under the Abraham Accords, the peace agreement signed between the repressive Gulf monarchy, Israel, and the United States last August.
“The [State] Department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review,” a department spokesman told the Journal.
Critics, including CodePink’s Medea Benjanin and Ariel Gold, had lambasted the deal—which Gold called “peace through weapons sales”—as a thinly-veiled attempt to “give an Arab stamp of approval to Israel’s status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses of Palestinian rights,” and a bid to boost Trump’s flagging reelection odds.
HUGE NEWS: The Biden administration just froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. @POTUS this is your chance to do the right thing and CANCEL those sales completely! The last thing our world needs is more weapons!
Take action: https://t.co/47K5fucCOC
— CODEPINK (@codepink) January 27, 2021
More importantly, Saudi Arabia is leading a war against Yemen—fought with U.S. weapons, logistical, and political support—that has killed thousands of civilians in aerial bombardments and tens of thousands more in an economic blockade that has exacerbated famine and intensified human suffering on a mass scale.
In 2019, the UAE began withdrawing most of its forces from the war against Yemen and handed control of its operations to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. has also been bombing Yemen since the early years of the so-called War on Terror, a global campaign that has claimed at least hundreds of thousands of lives in more than half a dozen Muslim countries.
The United Nations—which has called the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis—last September recommended that the International Criminal Court investigate possible war crimes committed by all sides in the six-year civil war.
Congressional lawmakers opposed to ongoing U.S. involvement in the war applauded Wednesday’s news as a positive development even as they called on the administration and others to go further:
Good. This is an important first step in ending our material support for war globally, and the genocide in Yemen in particular. I encourage the Biden administration to continue down this path.
Next step: an end to ALL arms sales to countries that violate human rights. https://t.co/7GDH6JRp1T
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 27, 2021
Despite being one of the world’s worst human rights violators, Saudi Arabia has long enjoyed warm relations with the United States, regardless of the political party of the president in the White House or the balance of power in Congress.
During the previous administration, Trump touted the billions of dollars worth of warplanes, missiles, warships, and other weapons the Saudi regime purchased from U.S. corporations, while reportedly boasting, “I saved his ass” about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after the heir to the throne was accused by the CIA and other international intelligence agencies of ordering the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In July 2019, Trump vetoed a bipartisan congressional resolution that would have forced an end to U.S. military funding and involvement in the five-year war. The Senate, then under Republican control, subsequently failed to override the veto.
While the Biden freeze stops far short of ending U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war, it does reflect campaign promises made by the president to halt weapon sales to the Riyadh regime, which he called a “pariah.”
This is a bold and moral step. @ABlinken @jakejsullivan deserve enormous credit for making this a priority and caring about the humanitarian catastrophe. Thank you to all the progressive activists who have fought for years to get to this moment. https://t.co/q43PK8cAyu
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 27, 2021
During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed to “take a hard look” at the Trump-approved sales.
“We have real concerns [about] the policies that our Saudi partners have pursued,” Blinken said during the hearing, “and accordingly, [Biden] has said we will review the entirety of the relationship to make sure that, as it stands, it is advancing the interests [and is] respectful of the values that we bring to that partnership.”
Blinken added that Biden “has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and I think we will work on that in very short order.”
While peace advocates welcomed news of the arms sale freeze, military-industrial complex executives took a longer-term view.
On Tuesday, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes reportedly told participants in a company earnings call that the planned sale of 7,500 Paveway precision-guided bombs to “a customer in the Middle East [who] we can’t talk about” had been removed from the books in anticipation of the moratorium.
However, Hayes offered this sanguine prognostication: “Look… peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon. I think it remains an area where we’ll continue to see solid growth.”
This article is from Common Dreams.
“In partnering with Israel on upgrading checkpoints [across the West Bank], the Gulf [states UAE and Bahrain] will be aiding Israel in making its technology of confinement and control of the Palestinian population even more sophisticated, benefiting once again the settlers [and intensifying Israel’s illegal military regime of occupation and annexation].
“This is the real story of the Gulf’s Abraham Accords [“normalisation” with Israel] – not simply of turning a blind eye to Israel’s decades-long oppression of Palestinians, but of actively becoming partners with Israel and the settlers in carrying out that oppression.”
– Investigative journalist Jonathan Cook (14-December-2020)
“Even as American politicians choose to deny that Israel is a racist state and choose to reject the Palestinian call to impose boycotts, to divest, and to place sanctions on the state of Israel, the egregious violations of international law and human rights abuses continue […] Israel enacts deeper and more severe anti-Palestinian policies […]
“Even though it is still early, it already seems that when it comes to policy regarding the Middle East and Iran, the Biden Administration, just like the Trump Administration before it, will be taking orders from the Israeli government.”
– Miko Peled, MintPress News (28-January-2021)
Let there be peace on earth….and let it begin with ?????
Or will these arms sales be farmed out to company subsidiaries in the likes of Canada Brutain and Australia?
This is great a welcome sign for sure– so long as it isn’t followed not too long from now by an unfreezing of the sales.
Hopefully not just a blip in the operational schema but a real change that many of us look forward to .Stop arming war operations worldwide and this would go a long way to make this new administration viewed as real change we can believe in .Not just words please,actions are needed.
This is a start and it is about time. I not sure what Israeli supporters, and Biden is one, are thinking. I do have a very good idea of what Notinyahoo and the great pompous ass Pompeo were thinking.
After watching the Israelis literally get away with murder in the territories they control and occupy and those bordering them it is time to act. We all have seen what is wrought on those areas by the Israeli government.
One simply examine geography of the area to understand what the Israelis would do if they controlled the Bab-el-Mandeb. The implications of Israeli control of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden cannot be left unexamined.
The Saudis need to be reminded of who has armed them for the last 50 years and the Israeli government needs to be told by the U.S.. “hands off Yemen” .
Can one imagine what the Israelis would do if they controlled the Bab-el-Mandeb? The Israelis are actors of bad faith, who cannot be trusted to do the “Right Thing”. Examine their history, enough is enough.
The sale will go through. This is just about the new admin letting mbs know theres a new sherriff and it’s no longer kushners world. Once mbs gets onboard w/ joes grift the weapons will flow.
stop sale of training, parts and ammo too
“Next step: an end to ALL arms sales to countries that violate human rights.” This means we would also need to end ALL arms sales to ourselves. Let’s stop pretending that America isn’t violating human rights here and around the world!!
Exactly what’s I was thinking. Thanks for saying it!
Let’s just wait and see. There were an awful lot of weasel words coming out of Blinken’s mouth , so its best to wait.
Of course, what’s most urgently needed is an immediate freeze on military aid to Israel:
“We have real concerns about the policies that our Israeli partners have pursued, and accordingly, the President has said we will review the entirety of the relationship to make sure that, as it stands, it is advancing the interests and is respectful of the values that we bring to that partnership.”
Any remote hint of such a policy shift causes both the Red and Blue wings of the pro-Israeli Lobby to scream bloody murder in very short order.
Does Omar understand that she is demanding that the US arms industry stops selling arms to the US goverment?
If this is true, it is wonderful news!
I’m cautious since Obama/Biden have a long bad record in Yemen, going back to the on-going National Emergency with sanctions against the Yemeni in 2012 responsible for tens of thousands of deaths from starvation and cholera, and agreeing to support Saudis in their Yemeni genocide in exchange for not criticizing their Iran nuclear deal.
(And of course the extrajudicial killing of American al-Awlaki in Yemen, and later his 16 year old son and 8 year old daughter there).