AntiWar.com & Reuters & Fortune & BBC World News – 2017-12-02 19:47:25
Saudis to Buy $7 Billion More in US Arms for Yemen War
Deal Expected to Face More Resistance in Congress
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 23, 2017) — With international complaints about war crimes mounting, and a vote on US involvement in Yemen having just been derailed by the Congressional leadership, another vote on Saudi weapons sales is likely forthcoming, following reports the Saudis have made deals for another $7 billion in US arms related to the war.
Details of exactly what is being bought aren’t totally clear, with the State Department yet to officially disclose it to Congress. The deals are with Raytheon and Boeing, and are described as “precision guided munitions.”
Congressional votes on arms sales have historically been very easy to pass, though sales to the Saudis have been getting closer and closer, with thousands of civilians killed in the US-backed Saudi war, and concern that more arms sales adds to US culpability.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) has already confirmed in recent months that he intends to block future arms sales to the Saudis related to the Saudi blockade of Qatar. The Saudis have been buying arms aggressively from both the US and British since the 2015 invasion of Yemen, and so far haven’t had any outright refused like that.
Concerns Over Yemen as Saudi Arabia
Agrees to Buy $7 Billion in Weapons From US Firms
Reuters and Fortune.com
(November 23, 2017) — Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy about $7 billion worth of precision guided munitions from US defense contractors, sources familiar with the matter said, a deal that some lawmakers may object to over American weapons having contributed to civilian deaths in the Saudi campaign in Yemen.
Raytheon (rtn, +0.36%) and Boeing (ba, +0.25%) are the companies selected, the sources said, in a deal that was part of a $110 billion weapons agreement that coincided with President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May.
Both companies declined comment on the weapons sale.
Arms sales to the kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council member states have become increasingly contentious in the US Congress, which must approve such sales.
The US State Department has yet to formally notify Congress of the precision guided munitions deal.
“We do not comment to confirm or deny sales until they are formally notified to Congress,” a State Department official said, adding the US government will take into account factors “including regional balance and human rights as well as the impact on the US defense industrial base.”
The Yemen civil war pits Iran-allied Houthi rebels against the government backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition. Nearly 4,800 civilians have been killed since March 2015, the United Nations said in March.
Saudi Arabia has either denied attacks or cited the presence of fighters in the targeted areas and has said it has tried to reduce civilian casualties.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman declined to comment on the specific sale, but said in a statement his country will follow through on the agreements signed during Trump’s visit.
He said that while the kingdom has always chosen the United States for weapons purchases, “Saudi Arabia’s market selection remains a choice and is committed to defending its security.”
Trump, a Republican who views weapons sales as a way to create jobs in the United States, has announced billions of dollars in arms sales since taking office in January.
A US government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the agreement is designed to cover a 10-year period and it could be years before actual transfers of weapons take place.
The agreement could be held up in Congress, where Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced in June that he would block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the GCC, over a dispute with Qatar, another US ally in the Gulf.
In November 2016, the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, halted the sale of $1.29 billion worth of precision guided weapons because of concerns about the extent of civilian casualties in Yemen.
That sale process started in 2015 and included more than 8,000 Laser Guided Bombs for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The package also included more than 10,000 general purpose bombs, and more than 5,000 tail kits used to inexpensively convert “dumb” bombs into laser or GPS-guided weapons.
US lawmakers have grown increasingly critical of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. The coalition had briefly banned naval, air and land transportation to Yemen following a missile fired by the Houthis that was shot down over the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The Senate in June voted 53 to 47 to narrowly defeat legislation that sought to block portions of the 2015 package.
David Des Roches, a senior military fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies in Washington was aware of the deal but said the Saudis “are one errant strike away from moving five or six senators over to the other side.”
Denying Saudi Arabia precision guided munitions was unlikely to change their behavior, he said.
“Saudi Arabia has shown they will fight in Yemen and they’re going to keep on fighting in Yemen regardless of what we think,” Des Roches said
Saudis Renege on Promise,
Continue Blockade on Yemen Port
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 23, 2017) — Despite promising earlier this week that they would lift the blockade on northern Yemen at noon on Thursday, the time came and went, and UN and other humanitarian aid ships continue to be prevented from accessing the port of Hodeidah.
Northern Yemen is facing calamitous shortages related to the Saudi blockade, with many dying in recent weeks from the lack of medicine, thousands dying from a cholera epidemic that is among the worst in human history, and warnings that millions will soon be going from malnutrition to outright famine.
Despite having made a very public point of their plan to ease the blockade, at least as it relates to certain humanitarian ships, the Saudis have made no comment since then, and it’s puzzling why they announced it at all if they didn’t intend to allow the ships in.
Though the Saudis had in recent weeks blockaded all ports across Yemen, they’ve already allowed the reopening of certain “loyal” ports in the south. Hodeidah is the lone rebel port, however, and the only way to get humanitarian aid into the entire northern half of the country, since Saudi warplanes damaged the Sanaa airport a few days ago.
Aid groups and the UN are deeply critical of the ongoing blockade, warning that millions of lives are potentially at stake. So far, there is no sign that’s going to make any difference to the blockading states.
Yemen War: Aid Agencies
Await Saudi Clearance to Reach Rebel Ports
BBC World News
(November 23, 2017) — Humanitarian groups are waiting to see if aid flights and shipments to rebel-held Yemen can resume after a Saudi-led coalition eased its blockade.
UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator Jamie McGoldrick told the BBC that he hoped to receive clearance within hours.
The coalition closed Yemen’s borders two weeks ago after rebels fired a missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. But the UN warned the restrictions could trigger “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades”.
Yemen is reliant on imports for more than 80% of its food, and it faced the largest food security emergency in the world even before the blockade was tightened.
The coalition announced the “temporary closure” of Yemen’s air, land and sea borders on 6 November, two days after a ballistic missile fired from territory held by the rebel Houthi movement was intercepted over Riyadh’s international airport.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of supplying the missile, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied arming the Houthis.
Although the coalition said it would continue to allow humanitarian aid into Yemen, it was seven days before government-controlled ports reopened.
On Wednesday, the coalition announced it had carried out a review of the UN’s inspection and verification procedures of aid shipments aimed at preventing the alleged smuggling of weapons to rebel-controlled facilities.
As a result, it said it had decided to reopen the Red Sea port of Hudaydah “to receive urgent humanitarian and relief materials” and reopen the capital Sanaa’s international airport to “UN aircraft, designated for humanitarian and relief efforts” from 12:00 (09:00 GMT) on Thursday.
But by Thursday afternoon there had been no reports of any aid arriving.
“There is a system where we notify [the coalition] and ask for space or time slots to bring our planes in, and we negotiate in terms of getting space on the port as well,” Mr McGoldrick told the BBC. “We’ve actually gone through the normal procedures and we’re just waiting to find out how that goes,” he added. “Around 19:00 this evening we expect to hear something one way or another.”
On Wednesday, the UN said it had 145 tonnes of humanitarian cargo waiting at a port in Djibouti, and 18 tonnes of relief items ready to be airlifted. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was also not expecting any flights on Thursday.
Spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said the coalition’s decision to reopen rebel-held air and sea ports for humanitarian and relief efforts was a “positive move”, but added that it was also “very concerned about the resumption of trade into Yemen”.
“Aid alone is not sufficient to provide for the essential needs of 27 million Yemenis, who will need more than that to survive the crisis and ward off famine,” she warned.
Last week, three UN agencies said “untold thousands of innocent victims” would die unless the delivery of life-saving supplies to all rebel-held ports was permitted.
More than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Some 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and seven million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children.
At least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare and the world’s largest cholera outbreak has resulted in more than 913,000 suspected cases and 2,196 deaths.
Fighting on the ground and air strikes have also killed more than 8,670 people and injured 49,960 others since the coalition intervened in the war between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthis in 2015, the UN says.
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