Saudi Arabia: Manipulative Discourse That Forces Western Nations To Break Coalition Promise

Earlier this week, the German government approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia, making it the second European country to go back on a coalition promise created in January of 2018 in an attempt to alleviate the bloody civil war in Yemen. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition against the Houthi-led rebels that are fighting to take over the failed state of Yemen. The other adherents to the Saudi-led coalition are the United States, the U.K., France, and Germany, among several Gulf States. The Western allies have supplied the Saudis with information and with weaponry, however, the Saudis’ use of their weaponry has led to extreme controversy. The reason these European countries chose to cease the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia was primarily due to the discovery that American manufactured weapons, as noted by CNN international, have been used against civilians. An exclusive CNN edition displays images of used bomb pieces with American serial numbers on them at the homes, cars, weddings, and other places of civilians, resulting in the death or injury of countless innocent Yemeni citizens.

Outrage has been expressed by human rights activists and organizations such as the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights and Citizenship, claiming that America is “fueling” the war in Yemen and that America has a “legal and moral” responsibility for selling weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. According to the German National Broadcaster, Germany has experienced similar criticism for providing weapons to Saudi Arabia and several other countries, already having a skeptical human rights record.

The Mwatana Organization makes a legitimate point that the U.S. and Germany have a moral responsibility to inhibit the flow of firepower being used up by the Gulf States — intentionally or not —  against innocent Yemeni citizens. However, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are using powerful and manipulative tactics to keep these countries roped in. The discourse recently held between Qatar and the U.S., Germany and Spain has been to threaten the latter three countries with canceling all armament sales if the U.S., Germany, or Spain cancel contracts with Qatar or Saudi Arabia that are related to their efforts in Yemen. Despite the fact that Spain, Germany, and the United States decided to discontinue armament sales to Qatar and Saudi Arabia earlier in 2018, in the past few weeks the world has seen these powerful countries — especially the latter two nations — succumb to the will of the Gulf States. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emphasized how many jobs would be lost if all contracts related to the sale of armaments with them were cancelled. As The Middle East Eye points out, Spain, with a 16 percent unemployment rate, is not in a comfortable position to deny their people thousands of jobs. In the trade publication,  Jane’s Defence, the Middle East and North Africa are predicted to compose 40 percent of German arms exports by the end of 2018, nipping at the Achilles heel of one of Germany’s large sources of income. Qatar claims, even in its constitution, that it aims to be the region’s mediator. And Saudi Arabia’s superficial goal is also to stabilize Yemen. However, the atrociousness and inhumanity of the war has been made evident to the world for a few years now. The Gulf States are aware that they are being criticized for their dubious human rights records. Yet innocent civilians are still found to be murdered by the weapons from the Saudi-led coalition, and it is the United States, plus other Western countries, that are supplying this coalition. The U.S. is involved in a situation it does not understand, and by choosing a side without sufficient knowledge, it is harming the innocent, defenseless population of Yemen. It is more understandable, however non-excusable, for a country like Spain in such a troubled financial state, to capitulate to the demands of extraordinarily wealthy nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Although it is completely unacceptable for the United States to do so. If the U.S. continues to participate in such sale contracts, other countries may follow suite.

Yemen – once another inspired participant of the Arab Spring in 2011 to bring down authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh – is now a failed state. The reasons for such a catastrophic failure is due an intensely complex combination of players that each have their own financial, sectarian, or reputational interests in mind. However, due to the lack of knowledge these people have regarding this situation, billions of dollars worth of military equipment have been channeled towards the same impenetrable blockade for the past several years despite the fact that the conflict has evolved and the composition of each side has altered. Additionally and more importantly, the living condition of the opposing side of the Saudi-blockade in Yemen has, according to the Brookings Institution, “created the worst humanitarian disaster in the world and threatens to turn into the largest famine in decades.” For 33 years Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled Yemen, his regime riddled with corruption resulting in both the Yemeni population and the Houthi to rebel against Saleh’s leadership during the Arab Spring. Many civilians viewed the Houthi as a movement against corruption and therefore supported them. However, when Saleh lost his power in 2011 to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, a Sunni Muslim from the south, the Houthis then became opposed to the Hadi government, eventually beginning to conspire with Saleh against Hadi. Saudi Arabia, a dominant Sunni power in the region, took the side of Hadi. However, no matter the side, as Bruce Riedel from Brookings states, “[they are] all credibly accused of war crimes.”

The content of this article is not to unearth the reasons for the Saudi-coalitions’ dubious actions. It is to spread awareness regarding the situation in Yemen, and then, more specifically, the role the Western countries have been playing. While many European countries are struggling financially and desperately need to provide their citizens with more jobs, people cannot ignore the destitute and voiceless people of Yemen. The world cannot negotiate with Qatar and Saudi Arabia or let their threats influence others’ actions, especially to the degree that people ignore their own values — something the United States is so notorious for.