Military Arms Trade in spite of 4600 Civilian...
The subject of weapons sales agreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia is nothing new and all previous US president have continued this policy with different ideologies. Even Barak Obama during his presidency signed many arms deals with the Middle East, to the extent that Pentagon’s report shows that in 2009 the United States sold 115 billion dollars’ worth of weapons o Saudi Arabia and an additional 198 billion dollars’ worth to other Persian Gulf Arab countries.
In a report the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute regarding the military expenditure of the countries of the world showed that the purchase of arms in the Middle East in the last five years has been significant, to an extent that it was unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.
On this basis the arms trade in the 2012-16 period has increased by 8.4 percent in comparison with the 2007-11 period, most of the increase being related to the Middle East region. Also the import of weapons in the 2012-16 has increased by 86 percent in comparison with the 2007-11 period, which indicates it makes up 29 percent of the total global imports for the same period. On this basis, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the biggest importers of weapons in the region.
According to various statistics and reports Saudi Arabia was the biggest importer of weapons for the period 2012-16 which is an increase of 212 percent compared to the 2007-11 period. In 2015 alone, Saudi Arabia purchased 9.300 billion dollars’ worth of weapons due to its military attack on Yemen and arming terrorists in Iraq and Syria, and this figure indicates a 50 percent increase compared to the previous year. Out of this figure, 800 million was spent on F-35 fighter jets and various air to air, surface to air and surface to surface missiles.
Former US president Obama’s Administration had suspended the plan because of an increase in criticisms and protests regarding the Saudi led attack against Yemen and the report of civilian casualties. But with the new Trump Administration which was just under four months ago, a human rights group called upon the United States to not sign the arms sales agreement with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but in spite of this it was decided that on his first foreign visit, with Saudi Arabia being one of his stops, Donald Trump signed the 1 billion dollar arms trade agreement with the kingdom.
In a letter sent to Donald Trump in March 2017, Amnesty International declared that the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia will only provide more weapons to the Saudi led coalition which will result in thousands of civilians getting targeted in contrast to international law. Despite this human rights warning however, American sources announced that in this Trump is due to only the amount of the agreements that he is due to sing in his trip to Riyadh, which is over 1 billion dollars. The joint agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia has been signed and the shipment of arms are taking place without delay, and this is while other contracts that are worth 350 billion dollars are to be executed over the next ten years.
In spite of all the criticisms and protests against US government’s performance in the Yemen war and the continuation of Washington’s support for Riyadh have not affected the decision making of the Trump Administration and in the 2 years since the war in Yemen which has resulted in the death of at least 4600 civilians, still US officials continue to expand new arms deals with Riyadh.
Meanwhile, the international community has not had much reaction and only Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch can be named as protestors against the signing of this arms deal.
In a released statement, the director of Human Rights Watch criticised US president’s trip to Saudi Arabia. The director of HRW, Kent Rut in the message which was published on Twitter said: To recognise the main nature of the Saudi society, make a note of all the protests taken place against Trump in the United States.
With the publication of this message HRW director intended to criticise the way the Saudi authorities confronted its protestors.
Amnesty International also stated that the new heavy weapons agreements between Saudi Arabia and the US and Britain are human rights violations and civilians are paying for it.
But these reactions against the war crimes and civilian deaths – women and children in particular – are not enough, the international community and the UN Security Council must declare the Saudi led coalition’s war against Yemen and these crimes against humanity war crimes and apply punishments against Saudi Arabia.
International organizations and human rights groups must strongly criticise the US to Saudi sales of arms and the group of lawyers known as Campaign Against the Arms Trade, should do the same as it did with Britain, to whom they gave 14 days to suspend military equipment exports license to Saudi Arabia, until the contents of the regulations of the United Nations and the memorandum of the export license of the weapons are reviewed, should show a serious reaction towards the US-Saudi agreement.
By: Sanaz Moazezi
International Law senior expert