Rights groups criticize arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Obama administration to cancel a pending arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the absence of serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen. On No. 17, the Pentagon announced that the State Department had approved a sale of $1.29 billion worth of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs and "general purpose" bombs with guidance systems. "The purchase replenishes the Royal Saudi Air Force's current weapons supplies, which are becoming depleted due to the high operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations," the Pentagon statement said. But HRW's Joe Stork countered: "The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition's indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March. Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible."

Also on Nov. 17, the US Defense Department announced State Department approval for the sale of $380 million worth of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition conducting military operations in Yemen.

Congress was notified of the sale on Nov. 13, which started a countdown of 30 days to block the deal—which is considered unlikely. It appears set to go through this week as part of the Obama administration's pledge to boost military support for Gulf states, after negotiating a nuclear deal with regional rival Iran. (NPR, Dec. 8; HRW, Nov. 18)

  1. Decoding Pentagonspeak on Saudi war crimes

    Note the really special nature of the bullshit in the Pentagon statement on the Saudi arms sale. "High operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations," eh? As if Saudi Arabia were fighting the good fight against ISIS. In fact, Saudi Arabia is a token member of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while waging a massively more aggressive aggressive campaign againt Shi'ite rebels in Yemen—obviously its real priority. This isn't "counter-terrorism operations," but a sectarian war—in which Saudi Arabia is but another sectarian actor, albeit a very powerful one. It shoud also be noted that Saudi Arabia is in a de facto alliance with ISIS and al-Qaeda forces in Yemen against the Shi'ites. There is lots of loose talk about Saudi Arabia funding ISIS, for which there is no evidence—indeed, the Saudis appear to be terrified of ISIS. But the Pentagon's version of reality is equally (or more) twisted.

    Yet again, the dangerously elastc nature of the word "terrorism."