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UK to continue arming Saudi-led war on Yemen

Saeed Pourreza
Press TV, London

What was called a forgotten crisis has once again become front-page news: the brutal war on Yemen waged by a Saudi-led coalition, aided and abetted by western powers: in particular the US and the UK.

It is a war that has killed more than 100,000 people, destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure and subjected more than 20 million of its population to famine.

But last week, an apparent change in policy; an end to US support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen, announced by US President Joe Biden which received with cautious optimism for its ambiguous wording.

Across the Atlantic, a different reaction from the second leading arms supplier to Saudi Arabia: “The decisions the US takes on matters of arms sales are decisions for the US. The UK takes its own arms export responsibilities very seriously, and we continue to assess all arms export licenses in accordance with strict licensing criteria,” said Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly. 

Those campaigning to end the UK weapons exports to Riyadh beg to differ. In 2019, following a case brought by the campaign against the arms trade led to a UK court decision banning the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi-led forces over breaches of International Humanitarian Law. A year later, that ruling was overturned.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £6.8 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including more than two and a half billion pounds in the form of aircraft, helicopters, drones and nearly four billion pounds in grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures.

The real scale of UK arms exports is said to be much higher, with most weapons licensed via the opaque and secretive Open License system. The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has pocketed £15 billion from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began. 

An end to arms sales alone may not end the war in Yemen, but it could be the beginning of its end. Perhaps it’s time the UK put conscience before its arms industry and stopped Yemen from burning further. 

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