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Leaked Docs Show Saudis ‘Overwhelmingly Dependent’ on Western Weapons to Wage War on Yemen – Jessica Corbett (04/16/2019)

Leaked documents from France’s military agency “show that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are overwhelmingly dependent on Western-produced weapon systems to wage their devastating war in Yemen,” The Intercept reported Monday.

The latest evidence of Western complicity in the slaughter comes from a highly classified report by France’s Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM), dated Sept. 25, 2018. The report was obtained by the French investigative news organization Disclose, and published in full Monday by The Intercept, Disclose, and four other French media outlets.

DRM produced the 15-page report for an October meeting of top French officials that included French President Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, and Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

As The Intercept explained:

The Saudi-led bombing campaign in North Yemen primarily relies on three types of aircraft: American F-15s, British EF-2000 Typhoons, and European Tornado fighters. The Saudis fly American Apache and Black Hawk helicopters into Yemen from military bases in Saudi Arabia, as well as the French AS-532 Cougar. They have lined the Saudi-Yemen border with American Abrams and French AMX 30 tanks, reinforced by at least five types of Western-made artillery guns. And the coalition blockade, which is aimed at cutting off aid to the Houthi rebels but has also interfered with humanitarian aid shipments, relies on U.S., French, and German models of attack ships… as well as two types of French naval helicopters.

[…] An appendix catalogues the major weapon systems used by the Saudis and Emiratis, but is not a complete list; it does not mention munitions, rifles, or several types of armored vehicles spotted by monitoring groups.

Overall, the appendix reinforces a point that observers of the war have made since the intervention began: that the military capability of the coalition has been created and sustained almost entirely by the global arms trade. In addition to the U.S., the U.K., and France, the report mentions radar and detection systems from Sweden; Austrian Camcopter drones; defensive naval rockets from South Korea, Italian warships, and even rocket launcher batteries from Brazil.

Although “the French report suggests that U.S. drones may also be helping with Saudi munitions targeting,” a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command told The Intercept via email that “the U.S. military does not provide that type of support to the Saudi-led coalition.”

The U.S., U.K., and European governments’ support for the Saudi and Emirati-coalition’s four-year military assault on Yemen—which led to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis—has continued to face mounting scrutiny since the brutal murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

The leak of the DRM report comes less than two weeks after members of Congress sent a War Powers resolution that aims to end U.S. complicity in the carnage to President Donald Trump’s desk. Though Trump threatened to veto the resolution—a move reportedly backed by key White House staffers—the measure’s sponsors remain optimistic that he could be convinced to sign it. 

Despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that top Saudi leadership likely ordered the hit on Khashoggi, Trump in October defended arms sales to the kingdom by claiming that if his administration blocks billions of dollars in weapons deals with the Saudis, “they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”

However, as The Intercept reported Monday, many of the weapons systems listed in the DRM report “are only compatible with munitions, spare parts, and communications systems produced in NATO countries, meaning that the Saudis and UAE would have to replace large portions of their arsenals to continue with Russian or Chinese weapons.”

In other words: “The West can stop the carnage. But it chooses profit over life,” as Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council and an award-winning author who focuses on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, said on Twitter Monday in response to The Intercept‘s article.

“The reality is that countries that supply weapons to the Saudi-led coalition—having known for years that they may be used in unlawful attacks—risk complicity in committing grave violations of the laws of war,” Bénédicte Jeannerod and Wenzel Michalski, the French and German directors of Human Rights Watch, wrote in an op-ed published by the EU Observer last week.

Through last September, per estimates from the DRM report and an independent watchdog, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has carried out some 24,000 airstrikes in Yemen—killing thousands of civilians and devastating crucial infrastructure.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, a recent bombing in a residential area of Sana’a, the Yemeni capital city currently controlled by Houthi rebels, killed at least 11 people and injured dozens more, many of them children at a local school.

Through February of 2019, “a total of 1,140 bombing missions targeted agricultural production and the country’s food and water supplies, including farms, markets, fishing boats, and reservoirs of drinking water,” Disclose detailed in its interactive report, published in French and English.

The coalition’s ongoing air war, coupled with a blockade of foreign food and medical aid, has left 20 million people in Yemen food insecure, with “half of them suffering extreme levels of hunger,” according to United Nations data from February. In addition, “a total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million lack access to adequate healthcare.”