Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A boy stands on rubble

A boy stands on rubble of a house destroyed in March 26, 2015, in an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on March 24, 2015 in Sana'a, Yemen. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

Leaked Docs Show Saudis 'Overwhelmingly Dependent' on Western Weapons to Wage War on Yemen

"The West can stop the carnage. But it chooses profit over life."

Jessica Corbett

Leaked documents from France's military agency "show that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are overwhelmingly dependent on Western-produced weapon systems to wage their devastating war in Yemen," The Intercept reported Monday.

The latest evidence of Western complicity in the slaughter comes from a highly classified report by France's Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM), dated Sept. 25, 2018. The report was obtained by the French investigative news organization Disclose, and published in full Monday by The Intercept, Disclose, and four other French media outlets.

DRM produced the 15-page report for an October meeting of top French officials that included French President Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, and Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

As The Intercept explained:

The Saudi-led bombing campaign in North Yemen primarily relies on three types of aircraft: American F-15s, British EF-2000 Typhoons, and European Tornado fighters. The Saudis fly American Apache and Black Hawk helicopters into Yemen from military bases in Saudi Arabia, as well as the French AS-532 Cougar. They have lined the Saudi-Yemen border with American Abrams and French AMX 30 tanks, reinforced by at least five types of Western-made artillery guns. And the coalition blockade, which is aimed at cutting off aid to the Houthi rebels but has also interfered with humanitarian aid shipments, relies on U.S., French, and German models of attack ships... as well as two types of French naval helicopters.

[...] An appendix catalogues the major weapon systems used by the Saudis and Emiratis, but is not a complete list; it does not mention munitions, rifles, or several types of armored vehicles spotted by monitoring groups.

Overall, the appendix reinforces a point that observers of the war have made since the intervention began: that the military capability of the coalition has been created and sustained almost entirely by the global arms trade. In addition to the U.S., the U.K., and France, the report mentions radar and detection systems from Sweden; Austrian Camcopter drones; defensive naval rockets from South Korea, Italian warships, and even rocket launcher batteries from Brazil.

Although "the French report suggests that U.S. drones may also be helping with Saudi munitions targeting," a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command told The Intercept via email that "the U.S. military does not provide that type of support to the Saudi-led coalition."

The U.S., U.K., and European governments' support for the Saudi and Emirati-coalition's four-year military assault on Yemen—which led to what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis—has continued to face mounting scrutiny since the brutal murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

The leak of the DRM report comes less than two weeks after members of Congress sent a War Powers resolution that aims to end U.S. complicity in the carnage to President Donald Trump's desk. Though Trump threatened to veto the resolution—a move reportedly backed by key White House staffers—the measure's sponsors remain optimistic that he could be convinced to sign it. 

Despite the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that top Saudi leadership likely ordered the hit on Khashoggi, Trump in October defended arms sales to the kingdom by claiming that if his administration blocks billions of dollars in weapons deals with the Saudis, "they're going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else."

However, as The Intercept reported Monday, many of the weapons systems listed in the DRM report "are only compatible with munitions, spare parts, and communications systems produced in NATO countries, meaning that the Saudis and UAE would have to replace large portions of their arsenals to continue with Russian or Chinese weapons."

In other words: "The West can stop the carnage. But it chooses profit over life," as Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council and an award-winning author who focuses on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, said on Twitter Monday in response to The Intercept's article.

"The reality is that countries that supply weapons to the Saudi-led coalition—having known for years that they may be used in unlawful attacks—risk complicity in committing grave violations of the laws of war," Bénédicte Jeannerod and Wenzel Michalski, the French and German directors of Human Rights Watch, wrote in an op-ed published by the EU Observer last week.

Through last September, per estimates from the DRM report and an independent watchdog, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has carried out some 24,000 airstrikes in Yemen—killing thousands of civilians and devastating crucial infrastructure.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, a recent bombing in a residential area of Sana'a, the Yemeni capital city currently controlled by Houthi rebels, killed at least 11 people and injured dozens more, many of them children at a local school.

Through February of 2019, "a total of 1,140 bombing missions targeted agricultural production and the country's food and water supplies, including farms, markets, fishing boats, and reservoirs of drinking water," Disclose detailed in its interactive report, published in French and English.

The coalition's ongoing air war, coupled with a blockade of foreign food and medical aid, has left 20 million people in Yemen food insecure, with "half of them suffering extreme levels of hunger," according to United Nations data from February. In addition, "a total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million lack access to adequate healthcare."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

With Amazon Accused of Cheating, NLRB Official Says Workers Should Get Another Union Vote

"Amazon cheated, they got caught, and they are being held accountable," said the head of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

Jake Johnson ·

Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer Told 'Stop Playing the Blame Game' and Extend Eviction Moratorium

"Who are the adults in the room?" asked the Sunrise Movement's advocacy director. "Do whatever it takes to extend the eviction moratorium and end this eviction emergency."

Jessica Corbett ·

Report Outlines 'Crucial' Need for Biden Administration to Aid Climate Refugees

"Ready solutions are available to address root causes and displacement that are centered in human rights and humanitarian protection."

Brett Wilkins ·

Hundreds Arrested in DC Demanding Voting Rights, End to Poverty, and Death of Filibuster

Clergy and low-wage workers with the Poor People's Campaign are also calling on Congress to treat the nation's immigrants with respect.

Jessica Corbett ·

'He Should Resign': Women's Rights Group Denounces Violent Misogyny of Kevin McCarthy

"With Kevin McCarthy voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, it is clear that his comments are reflective of his deeply held beliefs about how women should be treated."

Brett Wilkins ·