WASHINGTON — Thursday, February 11, 2021, 47 organizations and 35 experts sent a letter to President Biden commending his decision to end all U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen, and identifying 28 previously approved weapons transfers and other military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that must be canceled in order to meet that goal.
Noting Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s long histories of disregard for international law and repeated use of U.S. weapons to commit gross violations of human rights, the letter calls on the Biden administration to determine its policy not by “arbitrary definitions of what equipment and services are offensive or defensive,” but by the need for accountability. The signers call on the administration to “block all relevant weapons, equipment, training, services, logistical, maintenance, and other activities,” specifying 28 transfers worth a total of $36.5 billion, to be canceled.
The letter can be read in full here.
“The US arms sales to Saudi and UAE have exacerbated Yemeni suffering,” said Dr. Aisha Jumaan, President of the Yemen Relief & Reconstruction Foundation. “These weapons have been used in ways that disregarded human rights and international laws governing wars making the US complacent. It is time to end US complacency.”
“The people of Yemen have been forced to live under siege, and internal and external conflict for almost six years,” said Jehan Hakim, Chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee. “The Biden administration has a historic opportunity to end U.S. involvement in this crisis — that can only happen once we end arm sales to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, pressure the coalition to lift the blockade on Yemen, and ensure that diplomacy and the human rights of Yemenis are at the forefront of our policies.”
“We are immensely grateful for the Biden administration’s decision to end U.S. support for the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in Yemen,” said Win Without War Policy Director Kate Kizer. “But if we are to truly address the totality of U.S. complicity in the war, and if the President wishes to become a credible actor for peace in Yemen, we can’t get bogged down debating which massive multi-billion dollar arms sales are ‘offensive.’ The facts are simple: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have repeatedly used weapons sold by the United States to commit mass atrocities within and beyond their borders. The time is now for a clean-break from the past. Cancelling these transfers is an essential first step.”
“The impacts of US arms sales have been catastrophic, and the Biden administration has both the responsibility and the opportunity to set things right,” said MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind. “The move to end support for ‘offensive operations’ is an important first step, but ending the war in Yemen will require a demonstration of a clear commitment to track and block weapons transfers, permanently. To reset the course, the US must also offer repair for the damage done to Yemeni communities and support those providing care and healing in local communities, like community-based women’s groups.”
“The United States simply should not be selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, especially given their role in exacerbating the suffering in Yemen,” said Jeff Abramson, Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association. “The Biden administration has taken initial steps to reverse the dangerous flow of some weapons into the region, but now must act boldly and broadly to rethink America’s contribution to security in the Middle East, prioritizing efforts other than those that rely on arms transfers.”
“President Biden took an important first step in announcing an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen,” said Seth Binder, Advocacy Officer at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “In order to fulfill that promise, the United States must cancel the transfer of arms that have been repeatedly and egregiously misused by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
“The Biden administration is to be commended for proposing a shift in U.S. policy that ends U.S. support for the catastrophic Saudi/UAE-led war in Yemen and seeks to help promote a durable, inclusive peace accord,” said William D. Hartung, Director, Arms and Security Program, Center for International Policy. “To be fully effective, the new policy should stop all major arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both proposed and in the pipeline, including bombs, aircraft, drones, and maintenance and logistical support. All of these systems have been used to inflict devastating civilian harm in Yemen and beyond. The administration should also take concrete steps to hold Saudi Arabia and the UAE accountable for past misuse of U.S. weaponry, from diversion to extremist militias to striking civilians and civilian targets in violation of the laws of war.”
Win Without War is a diverse network of activists and national organizations working for progressive foreign policy in the United States.