U.S. Arms and Training Fuel UAE’s War in Yemen

From Lobe Log, September 29, 2017, by William D. Hartung. 

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Published on September 29th, 2017 | by Guest

Discussions about the war in Yemen in the media and on Capitol Hill generally focus on the role of the Saudi-led bombing campaign, which has killed thousands of civilians while targeting hospitals, marketplaces, and even a funeral. Just last week, Amnesty International revealed details of a Saudi air strike that killed 16 civilians—including seven children—with a U.S.-supplied bomb.

To make matters worse, the Saudi regime has doggedly opposed efforts to establish an independent United Nations investigation of potential war crimes committed by all sides in the conflict. The Saudi role in contributing to what a UN official has described as “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis” has drawn growing criticism in Congress. In June, in response to Saudi actions in Yemen, 47 senators voted to block a sale of U.S. bombs to the regime.

But another U.S.-backed regime also bears a major share of responsibility for the devastating consequences of the Yemen war—the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has been the most important participant in the ground war and has participated in the naval blockade of Yemen that has made it extremely difficult to get humanitarian aid to those who need it. More recently, there have also been allegations that the UAE and its local allies have been running a network of secret prisons in Yemen where suspects are regularly subjected to brutal acts of torture, including a technique called “the grill,” which involves rotating a human being over a fire.

The United States has a longstanding, close relationship with the UAE military, grounded in the UAE’s participation in U.S.-led interventions in Somalia, Iraq (1991), Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Syria. The only exception to the rule was the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other U.S. officials have long referred to the UAE as “Little Sparta” in recognition of the effectiveness of their air and ground forces. The tight connection between the two nations is further underscored by the fact that Mattis served as an unpaid advisor to the UAE military after retiring as the head of the U.S. Central Command and before joining the Trump administration as secretary of defense. And data from the Security Assistance Monitor indicates that the U.S. has trained more than 5,000 UAE military personnel since 2009.

The United States has played an enabling role in the UAE’s war effort in Yemen, supplying the bulk of its imported weaponry, training thousands of its military personnel, and refueling its aircraft. Many of the weapons supplied are directly relevant to the war in Yemen, including offers of over 30,000 bombs since the March 2015 Saudi-led intervention there. The Pentagon refuses to divulge how many of these bombs have been delivered to the UAE thus far, but if nothing else the scale of the offers indicates an endorsement of the UAE’s conduct in Yemen. In any case, more than half of the UAE’s air force is composed of U.S. supplied F-16s—souped-up models that are more capable than those possessed by the U.S. air force.

Although the Obama administration seemed to be internally divided about ongoing U.S. support for the Saudis and their allies in the Yemen conflict—as evidenced by the suspension of a sale of guided bombs late in Obama’s term—the Trump administration has no such reservations. President Trump buys the Saudi line that the Yemen war is simply a response to Iranian expansionism expressed via its support for the Houthi rebels who are fighting the Saudi-led coalition. But most experts on the region have noted that the Iranian role is limited and that the Houthi forces have longstanding grievances that would lead them to fight for a greater share of political and economic power within Yemen regardless of whether Iran was involved in the conflict.

The one ray of hope for U.S. policy is growing bipartisan opposition to the current approach of uncritical military backing of the Saudis and their allies in the war, led by members such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). Blundering ahead with the current approach does not serve U.S. interests, however narrowly defined, given that the arming of the Saudis and the UAE risks implicating Washington in war crimes even as it creates a chaotic situation that has made it easier for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to make gains in Yemen.

A sounder U.S. policy towards Yemen should include support for an independent investigation of human rights abuses by all sides of the conflict, a suspension of U.S. arms and training to the Saudis and the UAE until allegations of torture and intentional targeting of civilians are resolved, and pressure on U.S. allies to participate in inclusive peace talks that take into account all parties to the dispute. Anything less will only lead to more needless suffering while undermining the security of the United States and the region.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of the Center’s new report, “U.S. Arms Transfers to the UAE and the War in Yemen.” Photo: Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meets with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (Jim Mattis via Flickr)

 

UN moves to blacklist Saudi coalition for violations against children in Yemen

From The Guardian, October 4, 2017, by Karen McVeigh.

Recognition of efforts to improve child protection branded a sop by campaigners as Saudi-led coalition accused of recruiting child soldiers and bombing schools

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen has been included in a draft version of the UN’s annual blacklist for grave violations against children in conflict.

The report, parts of which have been seen by the Guardian, conceded that the coalition has put in place measures to improve child protection.

It is the first time the annual study has distinguished between parties that have introduced measures to “improve the protection of children” during the reporting period and those that have not, a move campaigners have seen as an attempt to reduce controversy.

The coalition’s inclusion in the UN list means all parties to the Yemen conflict will be named for violations. The infractions identified included the recruitment of child soldiers, bombing of schools and hospitals, and the killing and maiming of children.

“In Yemen, the coalition’s actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and, as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016,” said a draft explanation of the blacklist. “The coalition is included in section B of Annex I, as it has put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children.”

The draft annex – first seen by Reuters – also blacklists the Houthis, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula for violations against children in 2016. Each of these parties featured in the UN report on violations in 2015, which was published last year.

The coalition was briefly added to the blacklist last year before it was removed pending review by Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief at the time. Ban later accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” and undue pressure after reports that Riyadh had warned it would cut its UN funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.

The report is set to be published this month, before the children and armed conflict debate on 31 October. It has to be approved by António Gutteres, the current UN chief before publication and is subject to change.

Save the Children said it hoped the final version would include the Saudi-led alliance.

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, said: “All sides in Yemen’s war have failed to respect international law, and children have paid a terrible price. As a cholera epidemic continues to infect thousands of children every day, they are also being bombed in their homes and schools, denied humanitarian relief and forced to fight on the frontlines.

“The secretary general has stood up for Yemen’s children and for the rights of all children in conflict with this decision. Now the UN and wider international community must make sure the violations by all parties to the conflict end. Being added to this shameful list should act as a wake-up call to every party in Yemen’s conflict – and countries that are supporting or arming them.”

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told Reuters the UN does not comment on leaked documents.

In August, following the publication of an earlier draft of the UN report, the Saudi UN mission told Reuters there was “no justification whatsoever” for including the coalition on the blacklist.

The earlier draft said about half of the 683 child casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition were killed, with the others injured. Houthi rebels and affiliated forces were responsible for nearly one-third of the total 1,340 child casualties verified by the UN in 2016, it said.

In August, human rights groups including Save the Children and Global Citizen wrote a letter to the secretary general asking him to protect Yemen’s children by naming and shaming all parties committing violations.

Rather than triggering UN action against blacklisted parties, the report seeks to shame them into implementing child protection measures.

In a separate development,the UN human rights council agreed last Friday to set up a panel to examine all allegations of human rights violations committed in Yemen’s three-year civil war and identify those responsible.

 

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