Leaked Report: Western Arms Are Essential to Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen

April 24, 2019

A French intelligence report reveals that Saudi Arabia and UAE depend on Western support for their war in Yemen. Just Foreign Policy co-director Hassan El-Tayyab speaks about the report and the need to override Trump's veto of the Yemen War Powers resolution

A leak of classified documents from the French Directorate of Military Intelligence shows that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are extremely dependent on U.S. and European weapons for their war on Yemen. The documents, released by French investigative journalism organization Disclose and translated by the Intercept, reveal that the U.S., France, and the U.K. assist coalition forces with targeting, making these countries complicit in war crimes; that France is aware that their weapons are routinely used in attacking civilians in Yemen; and that Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. are so dependent on NATO weaponry that it would take decades to replace it with Chinese or Russian weapons and to retrain soldiers with the new equipment.

The documents illustrate how crucial U.S. and Western ally support is to the war in Yemen, explained The Real News Network’s Greg Wilpert. If Saudi Arabia were to stop buying arms from the U.S. and its allies they could not easily substitute them with other weapons purchases, which contradicts the argument made by the U.S. and other governments that the war would continue regardless of their involvement.

“There is not a clear path for them to just switch over to Russian manufactured weapons. It's kind of like switching from Macintosh to Microsoft. It's just not an easy transition. It takes a lot of time,” Hassan El-Tayyab, co-director of Just Foreign Policy, said. “So again, it kind of deeply involves the United States, and there are bipartisan majorities that want to end this war. And now we have proof just how urgent that is and how much we could impact the situation on the ground for millions of Yemenis that are living on the brink of famine by stopping these arms sales.”

“This secret report that was leaked just increases the urgency for the U.S. Senate to override Trump's veto and to push to end this illegal war. It's horrifying to know just how complicit we are in Saudi coalition war crimes in Yemen,” El-Tayyab said, referring to the Senate resolution invoking the 1973 War Powers Act since vetoed by Donald Trump. The resolution would direct Trump to remove U.S. forces from Yemen on the basis that there was no formal declaration of war. The House could override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both House and Senate, El-Tayyab explained.

Even if the veto stands, there are more options available within the U.S. to remove support for the war in Yemen.

“There's still plenty Congress can do to end the war. I mean, they can vote to defund the war because they have the power of the purse and there is a National Defense Authorization Act vote over the summer. There's also some standalone bills that would cut off arms sales. McGovern has one in the House that's pending. So again there's more vehicles that we can use to cut support for the coalition,” said El-Tayyab. “Some are even talking about legal action. Actually there are some Yemeni activists I know that are talking about filing a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration. And finally there are some even calling for impeachment, because again this is an unconstitutional war under Article 1 Section 8 because it hasn't been declared by Congress–so this is definitely far from over.”

El-Tayyab also commented on the impact international pressure could have on ending the war.

“France is also under tremendous pressure right now after the release of this report to come clean about their arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Macron is getting pressure from inside this country and even among allies in the EU such as Germany, who has already stopped their arms sales to the Saudi Arabian government. So I just think overall this increases the international community's awareness and a desire to cut off the coalition and end this war,” he said. “I think whether or not we go all the way really depends on how much pressure the international community can put on the Saudi government.”


Leaked Report: Western Arms Are Essential to Saudi Arabia's War in Yemen

Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore. A highly classified investigation of the French Directorate of Military Intelligence shows that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are extremely dependent on U.S. and European weapons for their war on Yemen. The report was discovered and released by the French investigative journalism bureau Disclosed and by The Intercept. According to the report, the French are very aware that their weapons are routinely used in attacking civilians in Yemen. Also it debunks the argument made by the U.S. president and by other governments, that if arms shipments to Saudi Arabia were to stop, they would simply purchase their weapons elsewhere. The report shows that the Saudi coalition is so dependent on NATO weaponry, that it would take decades to replace it with Chinese or Russian weapons and to retrain their soldiers with the new equipment. The report focuses on especially the problematic role of the U.S., France, and U.K. in assisting the coalition forces in targeting, which makes them complicit in war crimes. This is a point that Andrew Feinstein stressed in a recent interview that he gave to The Real News.

ANDREW FEINSTEIN Those civilians have not been killed as collateral damage as often happens in conflict but have been directly targeted largely by the Saudi-led coalition. This would not be possible without the support of the United States of America which has provided not only three out of every five weapons that is being used in Yemen but is also providing a whole variety of additional support to the Saudi-led coalition. This includes mid-air refueling of the jet fighters that are dropping the bombs and missiles. It includes intelligence support and perhaps most damning of all, it includes assistance with targeting.

GREG WILPERT Joining me now to discuss the leaked French report and its significance, is Hassan El-Tayyab. He is Co-director of the organization Just Foreign Policy where he has been working on ending the war in Yemen. Thanks again for joining us, Hassan.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB Thank you.

GREG WILPERT So much of the report that was leaked, there were things that we already knew basically. But the governments, especially the U.S. government, refused to acknowledge many of these things so they’re basically confirmed. Aside from the information about weaponry procured from Western arms companies, the report also criticizes the effectiveness of the Saudi coalition forces, arguing that they’re incompetent and not well-trained in the use of state-of-the-art NATO technology. Talk to us about the significance of this leaked report. What new information does it provide?

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB You know this secret report that was leaked just increases the urgency for the U.S. Senate to override Trump’s veto and to push to end this illegal war. It’s horrifying to know just how complicit we are in Saudi coalition war crimes in Yemen. France is also under tremendous pressure right now after the release of this report to come clean about their arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Macron is getting pressure from inside his country and even among allies of the E.U., such as Germany who already stopped their arms sales to the Saudi Arabian government. So I just think overall, it increases the international community’s awareness and a desire to cut off the coalition and end this war.

GREG WILPERT And what about the point of the dependency of the Saudi coalition on— clearly there is a tremendous amount and this report shows how dependent they are on U.S. weapons and U.S. targeting assistance. What does this mean for whether or not Saudi Arabia would even be able to continue the war without Western support?

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB Yeah. I think it shows pretty clearly that they cannot continue this war without the United States and Western allies. There is not a clear path for them to just switch over to Russian manufactured weapons. It’s kind of like switching from Macintosh to Microsoft. It’s just not an easy transition. It takes a lot of time. So again, it deeply involves the United States and there’s bipartisan majorities that want to end this war and now we have proof of just how urgent that is and how much we could impact the situation on the ground for millions of Yemenis that are living on the brink of famine by stopping these arms sales.

GREG WILPERT Now last time we had you on, it was shortly after the Senate passed its historic resolution to invoke the 1973 War Powers Act, demanding that the U.S. halt its support for the war in Yemen. Since then, as you mentioned, the resolution has passed the House and has been sent to Trump, and he decided to veto the resolution. Now in theory it should go back to Congress for a veto override, meaning that the House and Senate would have to pass it with a two-thirds vote. What is the status of the resolution at the moment, and how do you see the chances of it being overridden and ultimately enforced?

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB Yeah, sure. So now that Trump has done the thing that we expected him to do and veto the Yemen war powers resolution, the ball’s back now in Congress’s court. The Senate has a chance to override his veto. First, they need a two-thirds majority. If they pass that, it then goes to the house for a two-thirds majority. We’re expecting that first vote in the Senate possibly as early as next week, but sometime in the next few weeks. But even if that effort fails, there’s still plenty Congress can do to end the war. I mean they’ve got the— they can vote to defund the war because they have the power of the purse and there’s a National Defense Authorization Act vote over the summer. There’re also some standalone bills that would cut off arms sales. McGovern has one in the house that’s pending. So again, there’s more vehicles that we can use to cut support for the coalition. Some are even talking about legal action. Actually, there are some Yemeni activists I know that are talking about filing a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration. And finally, there are some even calling for impeachment because again this is an unconstitutional war under Article 1, Section 8 because it hasn’t been declared by Congress, so this is definitely far from over.

GREG WILPERT And finally, given the increasing pressure on Trump and other Western governments to end the arms transfers and support for the Saudi coalition, do you think that this pressure can turn the Hudaydah ceasefire agreement into a more permanent peace treaty?

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB I do. So I think the momentum is with us. We’ve got bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress and what we’ve seen is after each of these votes in the House and in the Senate, we’ve made progress on the ceasefire agreement in Hudaydah. So December 13th, that was the original agreement that happened in Stockholm, Sweden. So that was signed the same day as the original passage of the Yemen War Powers resolution in the Senate. So there was another breakthrough in, I believe, January after the House vote. And then there was even another agreement just shortly after the final passage of S.J.Res.7. And both sides agreed to redeploy forces outside of Hudaydah, which is kind of the next phase. They call that phase one of the talks and while it’s a shaky, fragile ceasefire, we have seen progress. Now I think whether or not we go all the way really depends on how much pressure the international community can put on the Saudi government.

GREG WILPERT Okay. Well of course we’re going to continue to follow the situation but we’re going to have to leave it there for now. I was speaking to Hassan El-Tayyab, Co-director of Just Foreign Policy. Thanks again, Hassan, for having joined us today.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB And thank you.

GREG WILPERT And thank you for joining The Real News Network.