Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

More U.S. Weapons for the Saudis’ Atrocious War on Yemen

The Senate's only public critics of U.S. support for the war, Rand Paul and Chris Murphy, are trying to block the latest sale.
yemen airstrikes sa'ada

The Saudi-led war on Yemen claimed more civilian lives this weekend:

Ten children died and 28 were injured in what Yemeni locals and officials described as an airstrike on a school in northern Yemen by a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition. The aid group Doctors Without Borders confirmed receiving casualties at its medical facility in the area.

The New York Times reported on the same attack:

Witnesses insisted that no Houthi military forces were present in either the principal’s house or the school.

“It’s a wanton aggression that can’t tell a civilian from a military target,” said Ismail Mufarih, a colleague of the principal, who helped rescue victims. “All were civilians. Their only sin was that they were Yemenis.

The school was located in the vicinity of Saada in northern Yemen. This is the Houthis’ stronghold, and it is also part of the region that the coalition illegally declared to be a military target last year. Indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in Saada has been commonplace for well over a year since the coalition made that announcement last May. The coalition has indiscriminately bombed civilian areas in many parts of Yemen, but Saada is often where the worst damage has been done. Unfortunately, the bombings of schools and hospitals are not unusual occurrences in this war, but keep happening with alarming regularity. This is what the U.S. is helping the Saudis and their allies do in Yemen, and there are no signs that the war or U.S. support for it are likely to end anytime soon.

The latest installment of U.S. support for the Saudis comes in the form of a $1.15 billion sale of military equipment and weapons that was approved last week. The Senate’s only public critics of U.S. support for the war, Rand Paul and Chris Murphy, are trying to block the sale. John Hudson reports:

Citing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Republican Senator Rand Paul says he’s looking for ways to stop a $1.15 billion weapons deal with Riyadh that would include the sale of 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored vehicles, and other military equipment.

The State Department has offered this lame defense:

The State Department defended the proposed deal, saying it did not amount to an endorsement of Saudi Arabia’s activities in Yemen.

This is not remotely credible. The sale of tanks and armored vehicles is helping the Saudis to replace their losses in the war, and by providing them with more military hardware the U.S. is making it easier for the Saudis to wage a longer campaign. At the very least, it reflects Washington’s uncritical support for Riyadh as the Saudis pummels and starves their neighbor. Hudson quotes Scott Paul from Oxfam on this:

A sale of major arms to Saudi Arabia signals the opposite — that the U.S. is instead all-in on a senseless war that has created one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies.

The U.S. is endorsing the Saudi-led coalition’s activities in Yemen every day by helping to make them possible with refueling and weapons, and the latest arms sale just confirms this. The administration wants to get credit for “reassuring” the Saudis by showering them with weapons and diplomatic backing without being held responsible for what the Saudis and their allies do or what the U.S. is actively doing to support them. Even if Paul and Murphy’s efforts aren’t successful, they may at least draw attention to U.S. support for the indefensible Saudi-led war.