Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally, is killing hundreds of children in neighboring Yemen in what looks like war crimes. But U.S. President Barack Obama still wants to sell the Saudis a massive package of weapons worth more than $1 billion, with no questions asked.
The upcoming sale comes as some members of Obama’s own party are blasting the Obama administration for assisting the Saudis in targeting Yemen’s civilian population — indiscriminately bombing neighborhoods nowhere near military targets — in its 18-month war against Shiite Houthi rebels.
“The United States of America should not be assisting, or aiding and abetting Saudi Arabia in its strikes on civilians,” said Democrat Congressman Ted W. Lieu, who said the Saudis’ actions look like “war crimes.” He added that the Saudis’ bombing of schools and hospitals is either on purpose of a sign of indifference.
“There is significant evidence that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is committing war crimes,” the California lawmaker told Borderless News Online in an interview Tuesday.
Obama has for years turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s blatant human rights abuses, such as its practice of beheading people who don’t agree with that county’s version of Islam, as well as for the “crime” of hooking up outside marriage. The country also doesn’t allow women and men to publicly mix, and may have had a hand in the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people from countries worldwide.
Lieu recently led a bipartisan group of over 60 U.S. lawmakers in an effort to postpone the arms sale to the Saudis, penning a letter to the Joint Chiefs and calling for the U.S. to hold off on the sale until a debate is completed. But as of Friday, this effort appeared to be unsuccessful, with Lieu’s office telling Bordleress News Online that they’ve not heard anything that would indicate the arms sale won’t go through.
Lieu noted that human rights group Amnesty International has documented over 30 instances of civilians being targeted and killed.
“A significant number of those instances are nowhere near the military targets,” he said.
“Just last month, the Saudi-led coalition struck a Doctors Without Borders hospital and killed patients and staff and doctors. And they also struck a school, injuring 28 children and killing ten. And the kids were as young as six to eight years old,” he said, referring to a brutal Saudi attack in August against a hospital that was no where near any military target.
“One reason that we need a debate on this issue is that it undermines U.S. foreign policy to be assisting (the Saudis) that looks like it’s committing war crimes,” he said.
Washington’s continued support of the Saudis in their alleged war on Yemeni civilians chips away at U.S. credibility in the region, Lieu said, and experts have long said such actions have the potential to swell the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS, who view the Saudi regime as puppets of the U.S.
“When Saudi Arabia kills children and civilians, and we (are viewed) as aiding in that effort, that breeds additional terrorists who will strike Saudi Arabia and the U.S. because of what we’ve been doing,” he said.
Writing for Politico, Samuel Oakford said Washington has tacitly encouraged the Saudis, and noted that the U.S. has supplied Riyadh with targeting assistance, logistical support and daily aerial refueling of coalition jets in Yemen.
Critics of Saudi Arabia — including one well-known Muslim reformist leader — say the only difference between the Saudis and ISIS is that the Saudis have palaces and private jets. But both practice the same twisted version of Islam, critics say, which includes requiring Saudi women (in most places there) to cover themselves from head to toe. The entire Saudi system is based on the subjugation of women, and it’s commonplace there for male relatives to murder women for maligning the family reputation by, for example, getting a divorce.
Critics, including well-known Muslim reformers, say that Saudi exports the ideology that influences groups like ISIS to launch bomb attacks against innocent people, such as the attack on a gay night club in Orlando this summer that killed dozens of people.
Saudi Arabia was the top recipient of American-made arms from 2011 to 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Reuters recently cited a report that found that the Obama administration has offered the Saudis more than $115 billion in weapons, other military equipment and training, the most of any U.S. administration in the 71-year U.S.-Saudi alliance. The report, authored by William Hartung of the U.S.-based Center for International Policy, said the offers were made in 42 separate deals, and the majority of the equipment has yet to be delivered, Reuters reported.
Aside from Washington’s complicity, the UN has also bowed down to Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International recently slammed the UN for what the rights group called the international body’s “shameful pandering” to Saudi Arabia, as the UN removed the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from its list of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights in conflict. The UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has allowed himself to be bought off by the Saudis, kowtowing to the hard-line Islamist regime after its leaders threatened to cut off funding to the UN.
Meanwhile, a group of U.S. Senators, led by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday launched a last-minute bid to block the arms sale to the Saudis. The eleventh-hour effort comes at the tail end of the 30-day period in which Congress has to consider whether to go ahead with the sale or not.
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