- Joe Biden has repeatedly pledged to end US support for the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen
- US-made weapons have played a key role in the war, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis
- US is by far the largest provider of arms to Saudi Arabian forces. UK is second largest seller.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has urged Joe Biden to stick to his pledge on ending US support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. The bombing and blockade, which began in March 2015, has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Throughout his Presidential campaign, Biden repeatedly promised to end arms sales and military support. In 2019, in a submission to the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden wrote “I would end U.S. support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen and order a reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia… President Trump has issued Saudi Arabia a dangerous blank check. Saudi Arabia has used it to extend a war in Yemen that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pursue reckless foreign policy fights, and repress its own people.”
The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, with US sales accounting for around one third of the world’s total arms trade. It is hard to get an exact number, but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that US-made arms have accounted for almost three quarters of the value of all arms sales to Saudi Arabia from 2015-2019.
An early test of Biden’s commitment will be whether he carries through with the $290-million bomb sale that Trump’s White House approved to Saudi forces in December.
The UK is also a major contributor to the war, with at least £5.4 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi forces since the war began. This total does not include weapons sold using the opaque open licence system, so is a very conservative estimate. CAAT estimates that the real total value could be three times higher. These arms sales are the subject of an ongoing legal challenge by CAAT.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The bombing of Yemen has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. It would not have been possible without the arms sales and support of the US and UK, which have empowered Saudi forces and enabled the war.
Joe Biden has spent decades at the heart of Washington and has a long history of supporting arms exports and interventionism, often with terrible consequences. Now that he is President, he can set a vital precedent by ending the arms sales and the policies that have allowed them to flourish.
The bombardment has endured for six years, and the stakes could not be higher. But if Joe Biden sticks to his word, he can play a vitally important role in ending this devastating war.”