The State Department and the Pentagon are looking into allegations that U.S. military hardware, sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has ended up in the wrong hands in Yemeni civil war.
The State Department has already sent questions to both of its allies over these allegations but has received “insufficient responses” to the questions on whether either the Saudis or UAE, or perhaps both, allowed U.S combat gear, that had been sold to them, to end up in the wrong hands.
This ongoing probe centers mainly around MRAP armored vehicles (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles). The MRAPs were sold to the UAE and Saudi Arabia and then somehow were transferred to the very enemies of the forces that the U.S. is supporting in the civil war — in some cases, including al Qaeda-linked fighters and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
If true, this is a clear violation of the agreements Washington has with both the Saudis and Emiratis. However, Col. Turki Al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen responded to the State Department’s claim stating that “all required information (is) available.”
The Emiratis released a statement saying that in no instances was any U.S.-made gear used without direct UAE oversight but admitted that four vehicles were captured by enemy forces.
Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pressed the State Department for answers. She has made two requests in 2019 demanding answers to whether U.S.-made military weapons were ending up in the wrong hands in Yemen.
“The latest report underscores the need for concrete answers to my initial inquiry, highlights the importance of preventing unauthorized access, unauthorized transfers, or other violations of end-user agreements by foreign governments, and raises legitimate questions about whether it is in America’s interest to continue selling arms and other military hardware to the Saudi and UAE governments,” Warren wrote.
The State Department answered Warren with a letter of their own saying, “the Department of State takes these allegations very seriously and is working closely with partner nations to determine whether there were any such unauthorized transfers.” The letter was written by Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor.
Warren, a 2020 Presidential hopeful, has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. And in Congress, Democrats have successfully pushed resolutions to end U.S. support and block a package of emergency arms sales that the Trump administration had approved for Saudi Arabia to continue fighting in Yemen.
According to a CNN report earlier this year, the Saudis, who began this coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in 2015, are using the U.S.-manufactured military gear to buy the loyalties of local militias or tribes that support the Saudi side of the conflict.
Handing off U.S military hardware to third parties is in direct violation of the agreement Washington has with its partners in the region. By receiving U.S. weapons, the Saudis and the Emiratis are legally obligated to obey the end-use requirements that prohibit the transferring of any equipment to third parties without the prior authorization of the U.S. government. This authorization was never obtained from Washington.
And by having the Iranian-proxy Houthi rebels being in possession of these MRAPs, they have turned over the technology to Iran which already stated that they’re “are assessing U.S. military technology very closely.” This would allow them to probe for weaknesses in the vehicles or to reverse engineer them.
Back in 2017, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the de facto rebel leader, was filmed by television cameras proudly sitting behind the wheel of an MRAP in Sanaa.
Despite a peace deal signed on October 31, the fighting in Yemen continues. Over 100,000 people have been killed since 2015 and over three-quarters of the population (22 million) are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.