New Documents Show US Knew Helping Saudis in Yemen Could Be War Crime


New Documents Show US Knew Helping Saudis in Yemen Could Be War Crime

A Saudi military member stands next to a destroyed building in Aden, Yemen. (Photo: Ahmed Farwan/flickr/cc)

Originally appeared at Common Dreams

As the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia comes under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the Gulf nation’s weekend bombing campaign in Yemen, a Reuters exclusive published Monday reveals that the Obama administration approved a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings that it could implicate the U.S. in war crimes.

The Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen on Saturday killed at least 140 people and wounded hundreds more, prompting the U.S. to launch a “review” of its support for the kingdom. On Monday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of State had already warned the government that “the United States could be implicated in war crimes” for aiding the campaign.

Officials also had doubts that the Saudi military would actually be able to target Houthi militants without hurting civilians or destroying infrastructure, according to department emails and interviews with officials.

However, government lawyers stopped just short of concluding that U.S. support for the campaign would implicate the country in war crimes—which could have opened up the U.S. military to accountability. Reuters writes:

U.S. government lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether U.S. support for the campaign would make the United States a “co-belligerent” in the war under international law, four current and former officials said. That finding would have obligated Washington to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen and would have raised a legal risk that U.S. military personnel could be subject to prosecution, at least in theory.

The documents, obtained by Reuters through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, shed new light on “how the United States pressed the Saudis to limit civilian damage and provided detailed lists of sites to avoid bombing, even as officials worried about whether the Saudi military had the capacity to do so,” Rueters continues.

American officials were actually well aware that airstrikes in Yemen were killing scores of civilians. Reuters writes:

State Department lawyers “had their hair on fire” as reports of civilian casualties in Yemen multiplied in 2015, and prominent human rights groups charged that Washington could be complicit in war crimes, one U.S. official said. That official and the others requested anonymity.

During an October 2015 meeting with private human rights groups, a State Department specialist on protecting civilians in conflict acknowledged Saudi strikes were going awry.

“The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles,” the specialist said, according to a department account of the meeting.

The specialist also noted that “weak intelligence” had contributed to confusion over who was who on the ground.

The investigation comes just after the U.S. approved yet another billion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia. At the time of the authorization in September, Oxfam America president Ray Offenheiser condemned the deal as continued evidence of both nations’ “startling indifference to civilian lives.”

Indeed, as Common Dreams reported over the weekend, the Obama administration’s new review has little credibility among anti-war advocates. Although National Security Council spokesman Ned Price rebuked the airstrikes Saturday night, stating, “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check,” United Nations-based journalist Samuel Oakford pointed out in response that the government has long been making that empty declaration.

“WH used this ‘not a black check’ language for months,” he tweeted, noting that there is also no deadline for the review and that “refueling continues.”



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  • Gue Bjuen

    if you are not aware of the real history the current world events would not make sense. but if you are aware of the truth, the current endless cruelty will make sense to you. it’s a matter of life and death.

    to give you a picture of what will happen to the russians if they lose this war. and this is only one of the many things they will do to the russians and their allies.

    sadly, i can’t find the english version of this docu. but it is based on a book called other losses.

    this is a work of Deanna Spingola, very brave and honorable.

    this is a docu about the real death camps in english.

  • hvaiallverden

    Rule of thumbs, never, never believe anything they say, never ever believe whats their definitions of reality, never ever believe their history’s, never believe them in fact because they lie about everything all the time.
    Nothing is true, everything is permitted, this is the ugly truth.

    WW2 is an great lie, and the Holohoax is just that, an freak show I dont believe an freaking word of, because and here is the second ugly truth, there is no profs whats so ever, and after 75 years I havent seen any prof of mass graves what so ever, and never forget they scrap book, witch was used then as its used to day, nothing have changed since ancient Rome.

    They arent smart, or highly intellectuals, nope, simple petty criminals who’s shrewdness is unprecedented, millions have died and more millions will die.
    And they dont care, haven’t cared jack shit to now, and are there still brain dead people out there that think they do, and you drool about conspiracy nutcases, huh, there is the big smoking cannon of them all.

    BUT I am feed up, with what was then I want to talk about 2016, f….. and whom is the evil incarnated, look at the leaks, huh, they play dirty, and the sheep’s just spreads their butt cheeks wider and wider, while the scums laugh all the way to their banks.
    The sice of the cluster f…. we are witnessing is biblical is proportions and scope, and not once have the Imperial banana republics pirates on the Potomac talked about what we all know is the best, that THEY stay the f…. out of the Middle east, after an century of wars and plundering we finally have approached an momentum where even the brain dead Arabs are realizing it.

    The ameristans arent anyone friend, they are the enemy of humanity, unprecedented in evil, and unprecedented in slaughtering, their plundering of nations all over the globe must one day suimply stop, the Phillipines is one ex.
    But their propaganda is lame, their excuses is so far out that everybody sees it.
    How f…. stupid do you think we are, yankee boys.

    Go home.


  • The US knew when they helped the UK-Empire in the first world war they were assisting the colonizers and war criminals.
    The US knew when they assisted the UK-Empire in the Second World War to level central European cities and ethnically cleansed millions of indigenous peoples that they were assisting genocide and crimes against humanity.
    The US knew when the burned down Atlanta with the citizens inside of it that they were committing genocide.
    The US always knows they commit genocide. This is going to continue till China, Turkey, Germany, Greece, Egypt, Russia, Japan, Spain all unite and fight back against the Evil-Global-UK/UN/USSA-Empires.