On September 12, a Saudi-led coalition launched 11 airstrikes against the Houthis in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, according to Al Jazeera. Reports have not concluded casualties, but this airstrike is just one piece of an ongoing conflict that has ignited worldwide attention.
An important aspect of this conflict is the source of the weapons used against the Houthis that fueled the civil war that has now exploded into a regional and sectarian conflict. The United States has a history of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia with the largest record of about $110 billion under the Obama administration.
America’s involvement in the war has led to the suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians through famine, disease and violence, according to NPR. In the process, it has also destabilized the Middle East. Airstrikes launched by the Saudis have been devastating to civilians because of the imprecise munitions, such as cluster bombs, that are produced and sold by the United States.
According to the International Affairs Review, the war has displaced millions, directly led to the death of 50,000 children and led to a cholera outbreak that killed 2,000 Yemenis. The United States has been an integral part of this damage as they account for 61% of the arms sold to Saudi Arabia.
The dependency of Saudi Arabia on the United States arms gives the US a unique diplomatic advantage in ending the war.
“If the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman that this war has to end, it would end tomorrow because the Royal Saudia Air Force can not operate without American and British support,” Former CIA and Pentagon official Bruce Riedel said.
The conflict in Yemen was supported by and escalated as a result of heavy arms sales by the United States as well as the UK and a few other nations. Riedel added also that “Without U.S. sales of spare parts the Saudi air force would be grounded in a matter of days.”
Because of the heavy dependence on arms, spare parts, technical upgrades and training from the United States, a report revealed that “it would take decades for the Kingdom to wean itself from dependence on [the] U.S.”
This means that the United States has the power, with the United Kingdom, to end a devastating war in Yemen. The Saudis have no other place that they can reasonably turn to.
The war has been largely counterproductive for the United States and its regional interests. The war in Yemen has been raging since 2014, with no end in sight, and US weapons are a major reason for that. The Cato Institute published an article asserting that American arms “encourage the recipients to continue fighting, even with no chance of success, leading to more casualties.”
American weapons have enabled oppressive governments, like Saudi Arabia, to continue to mistreat their people and wage unnecessary wars for their own regional interests. The Saudis have mistreated their own civilians with US support for decades and continue to have the US on their side with countless accusations of war crimes against Houthis in Yemen.
Most notably, Saudi Arabia violated international law regarding war by firing missiles at a funeral home. The United States not only physically provides the resources for such atrocities but sends an international message that the violation of international humanitarian law is acceptable.
Not only has the United States contributed to the war crimes in Yemen and destabilization of the region, but its sales of arms are damaging to its own interests. Indirectly, the United States is strengthening Anti-American sentiment and internationally condemned terrorist organizations. Not only have Al-Qaeda and ISIS been strengthened by the destruction of Yemen, but they are empowered in their hatred for the United States.
According to Eric Neumayer in Journal of Peace Research, one increase of military aid raises anti-American terrorism by 135, 109 and 24%. More specifically, the very groups that the United States empowers, those who fight against the Houthi rebels, are, according to the Institute for Policy studies, affiliates of al-Qaeda.
The United States has to take responsibility for its own hand in fueling terrorism by involving itself in wars where there is no winner and no side is clean. Near the anniversary of 9/11, American citizens are reminded of the horrors of terrorism and our government should act to protect the world from such violence. The United States has the power to end the cycle of violence and terror that they hold a large part in creating and strengthening.