Yemen: Biden called on to cancel $ 36.5 billion in U.S. military support to warring parties

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

47 civil society organizations and 35 arms control and human rights experts have sent a public letter to U.S. President Biden on arms control and human rights protection in Yemen, commending his decision to end U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen, and urging him to prioritize the need for accountability.

For the upcoming policy decision to be made, the letter urges the Biden administration to consider Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ past conduct with regard to human rights law and international humanitarian law within their borders and in the region.

The CSOs and experts identified 28 previously approved U.S. transfers of weapons and other military support to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that should be canceled in order to truly pursue peace and accountability in Yemen.

Dear President Biden,

Thank you for announcing an end to the United States’ ongoing military support and weapons sales for offensive operations in the Saudi- and Emirati-led intervention in Yemen. After six years of the United States directly aiding and abetting this coalition’s devastating and harmful military campaign, an end to this support is a welcome and necessary first step towards peace, and we are eager to support you in this endeavor.

Curtailing U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should not be limited to arbitrary definitions of what equipment and services are “offensive” or “defensive,” but instead should be guided by these countries’ past behavior as required by U.S. and international law, within their borders and in the wider region, particularly regarding respect for human rights and civilian harm. As your administration works to implement this decision and reset the U.S. diplomatic role in the conflict, we, the undersigned organizations and experts, urge you to use this decision as an opportunity to instill much-needed accountability in the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Any determination of U.S. military support and arms sales that constitutes “offensive operations” must incorporate long-standing U.S. export controls, the recent history and broad use of U.S. weapons by Saudia Arabia and the UAE, and the consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights by these governments. These monarchies have committed and continue to commit human rights violations, not only domestically—where hundreds of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and artists languish in jail—but also throughout the region in Yemen, Libya, and beyond. U.S. munitions and other support to the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been used in a consistent pattern of airstrikes against civilians and on civilian areas and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, markets, weddings, and water wells, including in likely violations of international humanitarian law. There are well-documented reports of mass detention, torture, and targeted assassinations against political opponents by the UAE and allied militias in southern Yemen, as well as the financing of non-state armed groups, including the diversion of U.S. weapons and equipment to affiliates of al-Qaeda, in Yemen and Libya. These are abuses – which disproportionately impact women, children, and Yemeni activists working for peace – many that cannot go unaddressed if the United States wants to be a credible actor for peace in Yemen and Libya, let alone the rest of the region. Moreover, such abuses should inform the provision of any “defensive” support, which should only be supplied in accordance with U.S. and international law.

Any determination must also account for the Houthi, as well as other Yemeni armed groups’ own serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, particularly with respect to the treatment of detainees and the obstruction of humanitarian aid. As the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen recently noted, coalition “air strikes continue to give the Houthis the opportunity to unify the population against their enemies.” Rather than continuing to assist abusive coalition forces, the United States should press the coalition to end their violations by working with counterparts on the UN Security Council to promote tangible accountability mechanisms for all violations committed by all parties during the conflict.

Given Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s consistent disregard for both international and U.S. law, the administration should block all relevant weapons, equipment, training, services, maintenance, and other activities for their current military operations. This should include arms and services—or similar equipment—currently under consideration or previously approved that have likely been misused or implicated in civilian harm or violations of end-use agreements; implicated in enforcing the coalition’s de facto air and sea blockade on Yemen; could open U.S. personnel up to potential liability for violations of international law; or would run afoul of U.S. commitments to international norms, such as those enshrined in the Arms Trade Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime. It should also include spare parts and services that are not on the U.S. munitions list (USML) but are critical to conducting “offensive operations,” and permission from the United States for third-parties to re-transfer U.S. origin defense articles.

Based on publicly available information, we have identified $36.5 billion worth of sales, support services, and other assistance to these countries that would meet such “offensive operations” criteria, which have been previously approved by the executive branch since 2017. These include:

Country Estimated cost (millions USD) Proposed Weapon, Equipment, Support, or Other Assistance Notification Date
Saudi Arabia 290 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) Munitions 12/29/2020
Saudi Arabia 478 Paveway II, Enhanced Paveway II, Paveway III, Enhanced Paveway III, and Paveway IV Weapons Systems for the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15, Tornado, and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. 12/22/2020
Saudi Arabia 1800 Aircraft Follow-on Support and Services 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 136 Continued Tactical Air Surveillance System Aircraft Support 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 800 Aircraft Follow-on Support and Services 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 1571 Transfer defense articles, defense services, and technical data for the assembly, design, development, intermediate level maintenance, modification, operation, repair, design, development, intermediate level maintenance, modification, operation, repair, testing, and demilitarization of Paveway II, Enhanced Paveway II, Paveway III, Enhanced Paveway III, and Paveway IV Weapons Systems for the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15, Tornado, and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 209 Transfer defense articles, defense services, and technical data to support the manufacture of the Aurora Fuzing System for the Paveway IV Precision Guided Bomb Program. 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 175.9 Technical data and defense services in order to provide technically qualified personnel to advise and assist the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) in maintenance and training for the RSAF F-15 fleet of aircraft. 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 549 Defense articles, including technical data and defense services, to support the performance of maintenance and repair services ofFl 10 engines to support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Defense. 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 50.8 Export of 15,000 120mm M933Al mortar bombs to Saudi Arabia for end use by the Saudi Arabian Royal Land Forces. 5/24/2019
Saudi Arabia 1310 155MM M109A6 Paladin Medium Self-propelled Howitzer System 4/5/2018
Saudi Arabia 670 TOW 2B (BGM 71-F-Series) Missiles 3/22/2018
Saudi Arabia 300 Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps Foreign Military Sales Order (Fmso) Ii Case 3/22/2018
Saudi Arabia 106.8 Helicopter maintenance – Continuation Of Maintenance Support Services (MSS) 3/22/2018
Saudi Arabia 500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Paveway laser-guided bombs for Saudi Tornado and Typhoon aircraft, and the integration of the Kaman FMU-152A/B Joint Programmable Fuze into the MK-80, BLU-109, and BLU-100 munitions 5/23/2017
UAE 150 Foreign Military Sales Order (FMSO) II Case 4/23/2020
UAE 556 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles 5/7/2020
UAE 10400 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter 11/10/2020
UAE 10000 Munitions, Sustainment and Support 11/10/2020
UAE 2970 MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft 11/10/2020
UAE 270.4 Sidewinder AIM 9X Block II+ (Plus) Tactical Missile 11/9/2020
UAE 900 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) 5/24/2019
UAE 80 RQ-21A Blackjack Unmanned Air Vehicles 5/24/2019
UAE 102 Javelin Guided Missiles 5/24/2019
UAE 830.3 CH-47F Chinook Cargo Helicopters 11/7/2019
UAE 684.9 Transfer of defense articles, defense services, and technical data to support the integration, operation, training, testing, repair, and operational level maintenance of the Maverick AGM-65 Weapons System and Paveway II, Paveway III, Enhanced Paveway II, and Enhanced Paveway III Weapons Systems for use on the Rafale, Cougar, F-16 Block 60, Hawk 100 Series, Mirage 2000, and Air Defense Force and Air Force. 5/24/2019
UAE 325.3 Transfer defense articles, defense services, and technical data to support the export and integration of 60,000 FMU-152NB Joint Programmable Bomb Fuze systems into the UAE-GHQ’s fleet of the following aircraft and associated weapons: F-16, Mirage 2000, AT-802 Air Tractor and S2R-600 Archangel. 5/24/2019
UAE 270.4 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block Ii MissilesC32:C38 3/7/2018

Permanently cancelling these transfers is an essential step toward ending the cycle of impunity that U.S. policy has helped create, but it does not on its own constitute peace, healing, or justice for the Yemenis – as well as countless other civilians throughout the region – who have long suffered, in significant part as a result of a virtual blank check of U.S. military support for these countries. To date, there has been no transparent, independent efforts to investigate nor provide reparations for civilian casualties, human rights abuses, and violations of international and domestic law caused by the use of these weapons. Without a full accounting of the harms done and tangible steps towards accountability as a result of the sale and use of these weapons – including a comprehensive moratorium on any military support that is at-risk of misuse – the U.S. cannot be a credible actor for peace.

We are ready to support your administration’s bold commitment to peace in Yemen, and humbly suggest that emerging as an effective diplomatic broker in the midst of this complex conflict requires ending the blank check for impunity that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have enjoyed in Washington. Polling indicates that majorities of Americans across the ideological spectrum will support such a move. Any return to business as usual when it comes to the U.S. relationship with these two countries will be woefully insufficient to meet your own campaign promises or the needs of the Yemeni people at this moment.

Sincerely,

Organizations:

  1. Action Corps
  2. Action on Armed Violence
  3. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  4. Amnesty International USA
  5. Bridges Faith Initiative
  6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  7. Campaign Against Arms Trade
  8. Center for International Policy
  9. CODEPINK
  10. Colombian Campaign To Ban Landmines
  11. Common Defense
  12. Demand Progress
  13. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  14. Fellow Travelers Blog
  15. Freedom Forward
  16. Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
  17. Human Rights Watch
  18. Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
  19. Interfaith Peace Network of WNY
  20. Jewish Voices for Peace Action
  21. Just Foreign Policy
  22. Justice Democrats
  23. Knowdrones.com
  24. MADRE
  25. MoveOn
  26. National Iranian American Council Action
  27. National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
  28. New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs
  29. Our Revolution
  30. Pax Christi USA
  31. Peace Action
  32. Peace Direct
  33. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  34. Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  35. Saferworld
  36. Security Policy Reform Institute (SPRI)
  37. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
  38. Shadow World Investigations
  39. United For Peace and Justice, Administrative Committee
  40. United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
  41. US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
  42. Veterans for Peace
  43. Western New York Peace Center
  44. Win Without War
  45. Working Families Party
  46. Yemeni Alliance Committee
  47. Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation (YRRF)

Individuals (titles and affiliations of individual signers for identification purposes only​):

  1. Amed Khan, President, Zaka Khan Foundation
  2. Andrew Feinstein, Executive Director, Shadow World Investigations
  3. Anna Stavrianaki, Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex, UK Annelle Sheline, Research Fellow for the Middle East, Quincy Institute
  4. Annie Shiel, Senior Advisor, US Policy & Advocacy, Center for Civilians in Conflict
  5. Danny Postel, Assistant Director, Center for International & Area Studies, Northwestern University Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
  6. Eli McCarthy PhD, Professor of Justice and Peace Studies, Georgetown University Elizabeth Beavers, peace and security strategist
  7. Erik Sperling, Executive Director, Just Foreign Policy Gabriel Mondragón Toledo, Hamburg Universität Gordon Adams, Distinguished Fellow, Quincy Institute Greg Thielmann, Board Member, Arms Control Association
  8. Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation Iain Overton, Author, Executive Director, Action on Armed Violence
  9. Jeff Abramson, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus
  10. Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
  11. Justin Russell, Principal Director, New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs Kirpatrick Day, former USAID/OTI Country Representative – Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan
  12. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, College of William & Mary Leila Murphy, Steering Committee, Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
  13. Marie Dennis, Senior Advisor, Pax Christi International Medea Benjamin, author and peace activist
  14. Mitchell Plitnick, President, ReThinking Foreign Policy Nina Allen, Massachusetts Peace Action
  15. Pam Campos-Palma, Director of Peace & Security, Working Families Party Paul Barker, Editor, Advocacy Bulletin, Peace Corps Iran Association Richard Krushnic, Mass Peace Action, Mass Public Banking
  16. Sahar Khan, Editor, Inkstick Media
  17. Sam Ratner, Editor, Fellow Travelers Blog
  18. Sherif Mohyeldeen, Director of the Research and Advocacy Unit at the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
  19. Sunjeev Bery, Executive Director, Freedom Forward
  20. Thea Paneth, member, Administrative Committee, United for Peace and Justice Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President, Quincy Institute

CC: Secretary of State Tony Blinken
Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

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