LONDON/RIYADH – United Kingdom’s leading arms manufacturer is found to have sold more than £15 billion ($18.9) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the Wahhabi kingdom started a brutal war of aggression against Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation.
The Guardian carried a news article last Tuesday, citing data obtained from the BAE (British Aerospace) Systems’ most recent annual report that has also been newly analyzed by Britain’s Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). The sum includes £2.5 billion in revenues that the company received from Saudi arms sales in 2019.
The sales came despite a ruling by Britain’s Court of Appeal in June last year that all British arms exports that could be used against Yemen were to be halted.
Andrew Smith of the CAAT, meanwhile, said, “The last five years have seen a brutal humanitarian crisis for the people of Yemen, but for BAE it’s been business as usual. The war has only been possible because of arms companies and complicit governments willing to support it.”
The data further showed that the true value of the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia is far greater than the £5.3bln total value of the country’s export licenses since March 2015, when Riyadh and a coalition of its allies launched the military campaign.
The gap has been due to the fact that arms have also been sold to the Saudi kingdom under open licenses, which authorize the sales without recording the cost under the official export total.
“These figures expose the cozy relationship between the Saudi regime and BAE. But they also imply that the value of UK arms sales is far greater than government figures show,” Smith added.
Riyadh is BAE’s third-biggest buyer. The company maintains and supplies Tornado warplanes to the kingdom and provides “operational capability” to its Air Force and Navy.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been staging indiscriminate attacks against Yemen since March 2015 to put the country’s former Saudi-allied officials back in the saddle. The war — which has the support of the UK, the US and other Western states — has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and rendered at least 80 percent of Yemen’s 28-million-strong population dependent on aid for survival.
The UK government has been under fire for keeping up arms sales to the Saudi regime despite widespread reports that the weapons are being used against Yemeni civilians and non-military infrastructure. Last week, the invaders claimed they were halting military operations in support of United Nations peace efforts and to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus in Yemen.
The Yemeni army, however, reported days afterwards that it had been forced to repel several Saudi-led assaults on various fronts in just one day. The Houthi Ansarullah movement — which runs Yemen and leads its armed forces — said the Western-backed coalition had even ramped up its acts of aggression since announcing the so-called truce.