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Bolstering Case to End American Role, Saudis Reportedly Providing US Weapons to al-Qaeda Forces in Yemen

"It is nearly impossible to overstate how backwards and counterproductive our bipartisan obsession with arming the world is, but here's example number 7,439."

According to CNN's exclusive investigation, "terror groups have gained from the influx of U.S. arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand." (Photo: CNN/Screengrab)

Bolstering the already overwhelming case for cutting off U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's years-long assault on Yemen, a "bombshell" CNN investigation published late Monday found that the Saudis have sold or freely "passed on" American weapons to al-Qaeda fighters and other militia groups that have helped create the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"The 'beautiful military equipment' Trump sold Saudi Arabia and UAE is now in the hands of al-Qaeda aligned militias. One group drives U.S. made armored vehicles now. This is what happens when you flood a war zone with more weapons."
—Sen. Chris Murphy

According to CNN, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have for years been transferring "American-made weapons to al-Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen... as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape."

Citing analysts and local commanders on the ground in Yemen—where an estimated 14 million people are on the brink of famine due to the U.S.-backed Saudi assault—CNN reported that "terror groups have gained from the influx of U.S. arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand."

"Militia leaders have had ample opportunity to obtain military hardware in exchange for the manpower to fight the Houthi militias," CNN's exclusive report found. "Arms dealers have flourished, with traders offering to buy or sell anything, from a U.S.-manufactured rifle to a tank, to the highest bidder.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) went on to add that the CNN report confirms once again "that the Saudis can't be trusted."

"This is yet another reason to pass the War Powers Resolution this month and end our involvement in their war in Yemen," the congressman declared.

Watch CNN's segment on its findings:

The Department of Defense told CNN that "the Saudi-led coalition is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the U.S." by handing weapons to al-Qaeda, and confirmed that there is an "ongoing investigation into the issue."

Stephen Miles, director of Win Without War, called CNN's report "example number 7,439" of "how backwards and counterproductive our bipartisan obsession with arming the world is."


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In the southwestern Yemeni city of Taiz, an undercover CNN reporter discovered a market in which U.S.-made pistols, hand grenades, and assault rifles were on sale next to women's clothing and sweets.

"The American guns are expensive and sought after," one weapons trader told CNN's undercover journalist.

As CNN notes, "these shops don't just take individual orders, they can supply militias—and it's this not-so-hidden black market that in part is driving the demand for hi-tech American weapons and perpetuating the cycle of violence in Yemen."

And the Saudis are not just selling and transferring pistols and assault rifles.

In October 2015, CNN reported, militia forces "boasted on Saudi- and UAE-backed media that the Saudis had airdropped American-made TOW anti-tank missiles on the same frontline where [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] had been known to operate at the time."

Sound familiar? As Common Dreams reported in 2015, these same TOW missile systems were finding their way into the hands of the al-Qaeda aligned Jabhat al-Nusra forces in Syria after being provided to so-called "moderate" militias by the U.S. military and CIA.

Additionally, CNN found that the Abu Abbas brigade, which is linked to al-Qaeda, "now possesses U.S.-made Oshkosh armored vehicles."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)—who is part of the growing group of lawmakers attempting to use the War Powers Act to end U.S. complicity in the Saudi assault on Yemen—wrote on Twitter, "This is what happens when you flood a war zone with more weapons."

CNN's investigation comes just days after a coalition of American lawmakers led by Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week renewed urgent efforts to cut off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's assault on Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions on the brink of starvation.

"Our immediate job is to end the terrible war in Yemen," Sanders said. "But the time is also long overdue for Congress to reclaim its constitutional right, and to make certain that no president, Republican or Democrat, engages in a military conflict unauthorized by the U.S. Congress."

This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

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