Biden’s $500m Saudi Deal Contradicts Policy on ‘Offensive’ Weapons
The Biden administration’s new $500m military contract with Saudi Arabia contradicts the spirit of the White House’s public policy to bar all “offensive” weapons sales to the kingdom for use against Yemen, critics of the deal have alleged. The military contract will allow Saudi Arabia to maintain its fleet of attack helicopters despite their previous use in operations in Yemen.
The administration’s decision to end so-called “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia was one of Joe Biden’s first foreign policy objectives, and reflected what the US president called his commitment to “ending all support” for a war that had created “a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe”.
Saudi Arabia was given permission by the state department to enter a contract to support the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command’s fleet of Apache helicopters, Blackhawks, and a future fleet of Chinook helicopters. It includes training and the service of 350 US contractors for the next two years, as well as two US government staff.
“To my mind, this is a direct contradiction to the administration’s policy. This equipment can absolutely be used in offensive operations, so I find this particularly troubling,” said Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.
The decision to approve the military maintenance contract comes as the Biden administration appears to be softening its approach to the kingdom, with several high-level meetings between senior administration officials and their Saudi counterparts.
Experts who study the conflict in Yemen and the use of weapons by Saudi Arabia and its allies say they believe that Apache attack helicopters have mostly been deployed along the Saudi-Yemen border. They also say that it is difficult to pinpoint specific violations of international humanitarian law that occurred as a result of the Saudis’ use of Apaches, in part because such detailed data is scarce and difficult to verify.
A September 2017 report in AirForces Monthly magazine states that five Saudi-operated Apache helicopters had been lost in Yemen, which strongly suggested they had been used in offensive operations.
But other experts said the $500m contract did represent a distinct shift by the White House, and was a sign that Biden has largely abandoned a campaign promise to turn the regime of Prince Mohammed into a “pariah”.
“Many experts will tell you that there is no differentiation between defensive and offensive weapons. And so I think that making this differentiation from the beginning was a purposeful attempt to create leeway to pursue military cooperation,” said Yasmine Farouk, a scholar at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“When he first came to the White House they maintained his narrative about reviewing arms sales, until this sale happened,” Farouk added.
Experts are also increasingly concerned about the lack of accountability for human rights violations after Bahrain, Russia, and other members of the UN human rights
Source: The Guardian