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  • May 24th, 2017

Bipartisan efforts in U.S. Congress seek to ban further Saudi arms deals

A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country's future that were boycotted by the rebels. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The highly reputable American Arms Control Association, in its latest Issue Brief, chronicles bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Congress to stop new arms deals and new shipments under existing deals to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. See: Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Should be Rejected (Jeff Abramson, Arms Control Association Issue Brief Volume 9, Issue 3, May 2017).

“The Trump administration initiative [to sell precision-guided missiles worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Saudi Arabia] ignores Saudi Arabia’s repeated failure to avoid civilian targets and would compound the growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen that is largely the consequence of the devastating conflict there.”

UN expert reports, in addition to chronicling likely war crimes by Saudi Arabia in its indiscriminate targeting of civilians, also conclude there is no military solution to the Yemeni conflict, and that the flow of new weapons into the region will only further exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.

“On average, a child under the age of five dies of preventable causes in Yemen every ten minutes.”

A press release supporting a bipartisan bill in Congress to block the precision guided missile sale stated in part:

“The Saudis are important partners in the Middle East, but they have continued to disregard [USA] advice when it comes to target selection and civilian protection. We have an obligation to ensure U.S. military support is not being used to kill innocent civilians….”

The Issue Brief also questions how U.S. security goals are being advanced by continued support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen:

“…[A]s long as the United States provides weaponry and assistance to Saudi war-fighting, the Saudis appear to have no incentive to offer a political solution.”

The Arms Control Association also cites the “landmark Arms Trade Treaty” to which the USA is a signatory as a further reason for denying arms transfers at risk of being used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.

Turning now to Canada, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason comments:

“The fact that the American Congress is currently looking at ways to prevent new Saudi arms deals as well as shipments of weapons under existing deals surely begs the question as to how exactly Canada can continue to justify business as usual with our 15 billion Saudi arms deal”.

For the full Arms Control Association Issue Brief, click here: Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Should be Rejected (Jeff Abramson, Arms Control Association Issue Brief Volume 9, Issue 3, May 2017).

For a recent Ceasefire.ca blog on Canada’s impending accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, click: Key Questions about Canada’s Arms Trade Treaty Legislation (27 April, 2017).

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