26 March marks “four years since Saudi-led forces began bombing Yemen”. Despite tens of thousands of deaths from bombs and thousands more from what the UN has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, war continues. Saudi Arabia has been leading an assault on Yemen since 2015. Yet it shows no sign of ending this brutal conflict: propped up with UK and US arms sales.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) issued a press statement which stated unequivocally that: “The bombing of Yemen is only possible because of US and UK arms sales”.
Yet to ‘mark’ the anniversary, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt defended those same arms sales. In an article for Politico, he claimed:
Some argue that Britain has contributed to the crisis because of arms sales to some of the participants. In fact we have some of the strictest arms control export guidelines in the world
But as CAAT reported, within these ‘strict guidelines’, the UK still “licensed £5 billion worth of aircraft and bombs to Saudi Arabia since… March 2015”. These figures may well be far higher because “bombs and missiles” are often licensed through “the opaque and secretive” Open Licence system. This makes it far harder to track arms sales.
Recorded arms sales include:
- “£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)”
- “£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)”
CAAT also pointed out that the Court of Appeal will examine the “legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia” in April.
This terrible war would not be possible without the political and military support of arms dealing governments like the UK. As the war enters its fifth year it has only become more urgent that they do the right thing, and finally end the arms sales.
Arms profits kill
In March, Yemen-based Mwatana for Human Rights released a report that examines the use of US and European arms by the Saudi-led coalition. It stated that “allies of western countries commit atrocities with western-supplied weaponry” and the US and UK have “accelerated arms sales because of the war”. The report notes that attacks between “April 2015 and April 2018 killed at least 203 civilians and injured at least 749”. It found evidence of US and UK arms in those attacks.
And yet Hunt insisted that “our [British] values require us to play our part” in this conflict. He continued:
We could halt our military exports and sever the ties that British governments of all parties have carefully preserved for decades, as critics are urging. But in doing so we would also surrender our influence and make ourselves irrelevant to the course of events in Yemen.
As Smith said:
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world. Tens of thousands of people have been killed. No matter how bad the situation has become, Jeremy Hunt and his colleagues have put arms company profits ahead of the rights and lives of Yemeni people.
As The Canary reported, thanks to a compliant media, 58% of Britons – according to a 2018 YouGov poll – aren’t aware of the UK’s role in this crisis. And only 2% claimed to “know a lot about the conflict in Yemen”.
Essentially, Hunt is defending nothing more than a profit-fuelled trail of death and destruction. The UK must stop all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, because Yemen can’t and shouldn’t face another day of war, yet alone another four years.
Featured image via Felton Davis/Wikimedia
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?