For seven years, the United States has been flooding powerful Gulf states with advanced weapons worth tens of billions of dollars, a British online newspaper reported, but it claims that it has little idea whether its helicopters, missiles, and bombs are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
A report by the Government Accounting Office, which monitors US spending, says neither the Pentagon nor the State Department could show if they had properly investigated allegations that any of the nearly $55 billion in weapons it has sold to allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2015 and 2021 had been improperly used to harm civilians in Yemen, the Independent reported.
“The conflict in Yemen is a pressing humanitarian concern, and the US government lacks a clear and complete picture of how military support provided to Saudi Arabia and UAE has contributed to or reduced civilian harm in Yemen,” says the report.
The report suggested that US officials in the Biden administration reclassified weapons such as medium-range missiles, which can devastate civilian or military targets, as “defensive”, a way of working around White House policies meant to halt sales of offensive weapons to Yemen.
The GAO findings come as US president Joe Biden plans to renege on his own campaign promise to isolate the Saudi regime. Next month he plans to visit Riyadh, where he will pay his respects to the aging King Salman and meet with his heir, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose henchmen butchered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The killing prompted an outcry in the west and raised questions about US and British support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are fighting against Ansarullah for control of the country in an ongoing conflict that has become one of the manmade worst in the world.
Candidate Biden in the run-up to 2020 elections vowed to reevaluate Washington’s relationship to Saudi and make a pariah of Prince Mohammed. But faced with high oil prices, Mr Biden is now seeking to repair relations with Riyadh in an effort to get the oil-rich kingdom to ramp up production.
“Despite several reports that airstrikes and other attacks by Saudi Arabia and UAE have caused extensive civilian harm in Yemen, [the Department of Defense] has not reported and State could not provide evidence that it investigated any incidents of potential unauthorized use of equipment transferred to Saudi Arabia or UAE,” said a summary of the report.
Under US law, weapons exports must be vetted for their potential to harm civilians before they are sold.