Saudi Arabia: Buying more arms ...

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Saudi Arabia: Buying more arms ...


Saudi fighter pilot ready to bomb Yemen. There has been international criticism of the bombing of schools, hospitals and wedding parties. Britain and other countries sell these arms. © Fayez Nureldine/Getty

For many years Saudi Arabia has spent billions on weapons systems – but not often used them. In Desert Storm (1990-91) people said that the Saudi military didn’t know how to use a lot of the high-tech equipment they had.

Now it’s different. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia started to bomb Yemen. They lead a group of (mostly Sunni) Arab countries who want to destroy the Shi’a Houthi rebels in Yemen. The rebels got control of the capital, Sana’a.

It is terrible for the people of Yemen:


• In 2015 more than 5,700 people were killed, about half of them civilians.

• Bombing of markets, factories, houses, schools and health clinics – including a hospital run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières and a school funded by Oxfam.

• Saudi airplanes have dropped cluster bombs (banned by international agreement).

• In December 2015, 1.5 million Yemenis had no homes. And more than 7.6 million – almost a third of the population – desperately needed food. This is mainly because of the bombing and a Saudi blockade – stopping food getting to Yemen.


The bombing of Yemen has been very good for countries that sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

The main countries are Britain (36% of arms sales to Saudi Arabia), the US (35%) and France (5%). Canada has a big US$15 billion contract to sell them light armoured vehicles.

From 2010 to 2014 Saudi Arabia bought four times more arms than from 2005 to 2009. In 2014 Saudi Arabia became the biggest buyer of arms in the world.

The British government agreed to sell $8.3 billion of arms to the Saudi Arabia between May 2010 and May 2015 (eg. Hawk and Typhoon planes, machine guns, teargas, bomb parts, military vehicles, and targeting equipment).

When Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen more in March 2015, Britain and other countries started selling them more arms:

• In July 2015 Britain sold Saudi Arabia $234 million of bombs (Paveway IV precision-guided 500-pound) – they were originally for the British Royal Air Force.

• In six months between March and September 2015, Britain gave 37 licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia.

• In October the US made an $11.25 billion agreement: for warships (up to four Lockheed Martin) for Saudi Arabia, and other weapons, training and support.

• In November the US State Department agreed to the sale of $1.29 billion of bombs (eg. laser-guided bombs and ‘general purpose’ bombs with guidance systems).

They told the public and legislators that the reason for all these sales was that Saudi Arabia needed more arms after they have used theirs for ‘counter-terrorism’.


In the US, Human Rights Watch said Congress must stop selling to Saudi Arabia.

‘The US government knows about the Saudi-led bombings that have killed hundreds of people in Yemen since March,’ said Joe Stork from HRW. ‘If the Saudis get more bombs, more people will die, and the US will be partly responsible.’

Amnesty International said bomb sales must stop after a report that the Saudis had used British bombs to attack civilian targets. This breaks International Humanitarian Law.

Lawyers Philippe Sands QC, Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh found that the British government was breaking national, EU and international law by selling arms to Saudi Arabia to use in Yemen.

Andrew Smith of the British Campaign Against Arms Trade said that arms sales to Saudi Arabia must stop; political support for Saudi Arabia must stop. He asked how many more people will be tortured and killed before the UK government stops selling arms.

The British people seem to agree. Opinium LLP research company has found that 62% of adults are against arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Only 16% support this.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL (and see links to the sources of information): (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).