The Senate may vote as early as tomorrow on a resolution blocking the latest arms sale to Saudi Arabia:
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on a resolution to reject a pending arms sale from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia following reports of civilian casualties in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a telephone briefing Monday morning that the vote to is expected to come to the Senate floor as early as Tuesday. He raised deep concerns over Saudi Arabia’s conduct in Yemen.
“I think this war in Yemen poses an immediate crisis within our relationship,” Murphy said. “I think we need to press pause on this arms sale in order to send a strong signal to the Saudis that the way they have conducted this war is unacceptable.”
Once again, Sens. Murphy and Paul deserve a lot of credit for taking up this issue, as do their co-sponsors Sens. Mike Lee and Al Franken. I hope the resolution is successful, but even if it isn’t the vote will draw more attention to the disastrous Saudi-led war and the Obama administration’s ongoing support for it. A vote on stopping the arms sale will force tacit backers of the Saudi-led war to go on record and face public scrutiny for their position that they have been able to avoid thus far.
The vote on the Senate resolution comes as Amnesty International says that the bomb that destroyed the MSF-supported Abs hospital in northern Yemen was a U.S.-made precision-guided bomb. Providing the Saudis with such weapons obviously doesn’t reduce civilian casualties when the coalition planes deliberately target civilian targets with them. The Washington Post also reports that the Saudis have been using white phosphorus in Yemen that was sold to them by the U.S.:
International humanitarian law does not ban the use of white phosphorus outright, but there is a strict requirement that it be used only in areas clearly separated from civilians. Even using it against enemy combatants has raised concerns, given that the munitions can cause particularly horrific injuries.
“The United States must not provide or sell white phosphorus munitions to Saudi Arabia or any other military that would use them in the Yemen conflict,” said Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “As a major arms seller to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. risks being complicit in Saudi Arabia’s likely war crimes in Yemen.”
Given the coalition’s careless and illegal use of other weapons that the U.S. and Britain have sold the Saudis and their allies, it seems more likely than not that the coalition is using white phosphorus with similar disregard for civilian lives. In light of these reports and the findings of the study I mentioned yesterday, halting arms sales to the Saudis is a necessary and long overdue response to the atrocious war on Yemen.