Obama Trading Cluster Munitions for Riyadh’s Loyalty?

Saudi Arabia, where President Obama is meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the capital of Riyadh. The visit comes at a time of strained relations between the two allies, following the Iran nuclear deal and a push by some congressmembers to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 report believed to document Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, human rights organizations have been pressing Congress to block arms sales to the kingdom in the wake of Saudi-led coalition strikes in Yemen. The United Nations estimates more than 3,000 civilians have been killed since the Saudi bombing campaign began last March.

This comes as Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off $750 billion in U.S. Treasury securities if Congress passes a law to allow the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks to sue the Saudi government for any role it may have played in the attacks. The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage.

William Hartung talking:

the thing that amazes me is that since he met with the GCC leaders in May at Camp David last year, he’s approved $33 billion in weapons sales to the Gulf states, mostly to Saudi Arabia, at a time when the Saudis have been engaged in a brutal bombing campaign in Yemen, accused of possible war crimes, using cluster bombs, at least 3,200 civilians killed. And it’s not clear to what degree he brought this up, to what degree he’s threatened to cut off arms supplies. So, to me, that colors the whole event, because, basically, in the name of reassuring the Saudis about Iran, they’re allowing this to go on and actually facilitating the Saudi killing in Yemen.

under the Obama administration, we’ve made more arms deals with the Saudis than in other—any other time in history. And it’s been the full gamut. They’ve been combat ships, missile defense systems, fighter planes, attack helicopters, guns, bombs, missiles—basically, an entire arsenal. And on top of that, they are providing targeting information to the Saudis, refueling their aircraft. So they’re right in the middle of this conflict. And I think there’s a couple reasons for that. One is this notion of reassuring the Saudis about Iran. One is the underlying issue of oil politics, which I don’t believe has gone away. And one is the fact that it benefits large numbers of weapons contractors, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and others.

They’re trying to divert attention. Obviously, it’s not even clear that the Saudis are making any effort to protect civilians. So, if you’re aiming at civilians, regardless if the bombs are accurate or inaccurate, you’re committing a war crime. And the Saudis have blocked an independent U.N. investigation of what’s going on there, with the tacit support of the United States. So, if they want to have an effect on civilian casualties, they should cut off the bombs and missiles, they should push for an independent investigation. And the notion that more accurate bombs somehow solves this problem is not only outrageous, I think it’s unconscionable.

The United States has no business arming this regime. And I think relations—this notion of favoring them in any way, I think, is unacceptable, given both their internal policies and what they’re doing in Yemen. If any other country in the world were doing this, they would rightly be treated as a pariah. And I think the administration should do so.
William Hartung
senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor. He is also the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung’s latest book is called Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. His article for The New York Times is headlined “Obama Shouldn’t Trade Cluster Bombs for Saudi Arabia’s Friendship.”

— source democracynow.org


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