Since Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi Arabians in 2018, US-Saudi relations have been strained and attention to the Saudi-Yemen allies’ airstrikes through the Yemen War heightened. The United Nations dubbed the war the “worst humanitarian crisis” as it cost over 70,000 deaths with approximately 50,000 of them being from starving children in 2017. Exact death tolls are likely higher, and approximately 8 million people are in famine. Casualties are continuously rising and grew by 164% from June to September of 2018.
Notably, the U.S.’s supply of aircraft and weaponry to Saudi Arabian is receiving ample criticism. Khashoggi’s killing has surmounted pressure on the U.S. which sold billions (USD) to Saudi Arabia to counter Houthis, which the U.S. considers to be surrogates for Iran. This likely caused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October of 2018 to verify to Congress that such casualties were being prevented, although it is not clear as to how. Likewise, Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for ceasefire and enacted negotiations on October 30, 2018.
In November of 2018, the U.S. halted aircraft fueling of warplanes in Yemen and thus expressed disapproval of the Saudi coalition. This will likely decrease the distance that jets need to target and weight that they can carry. Thus begs the question, why was this not done sooner?
The Pentagon has stated that although the U.S. sells billions in war weaponry to Saudi Arabia, it does not track where it is used. In other words, the U.S. government turns a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s use of American weapons in the Yemen War. Perhaps, this is because the international partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is kept close to maintain Middle Eastern security. It has allowed Saudi Arabia to prevent terrorism and other threats in its country and the Middle East overall. Most likely, though, the partnership is maintained as it generates substantial revenue. Saudi Arabia is the U.S.’s largest foreign military sales customer and purchased over $114 billion in 2018 alone. President Trump even stated that the partnership will remain as “[he] doesn’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,” and that if the U.S. doesn’t do so, China or Russia will. This military relationship also occurred during the Obama administration, thus showing that it is has been deemed as beneficial to the U.S. and thus continued regardless of Presidential party.
The United Nations and U.S. should work together to hold the coalition’s accountable in Yemen civilian deaths. Its attack on non-militants is a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which protects the right to life. Likewise, it is a breach of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which ensures the right to food, shelter, education, and health. Thus, the United Nations should have intervened via international law infringement and the U.S. should have rejected contribution to mass killings for profit. Although it has taken several years for the U.S. government to pivot from its approval of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war and its use of U.S. weapons, there is now a slight shift to humanity instead of financial gain. Likewise, the Democratic majority in the U.S. House is expected to push for the nation’s lessened supply of such weapons to Saudi Arabia. Hopefully, it is successful in doing so as to eliminate our nation’s contribution to civilian murders.
Christine Savino is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.