THE reconstituted House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), made up of members of four select committees – Business, Innovation and Skills, Defence, and Foreign Affairs – has justifiably come under fire for turning a blind eye to the UK’s extensive arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the effects that UK weapons of mass destruction are having on the people of Yemen.
The CAEC launched its inquiry into the May’s government’s latest 2017 Strategic Export Controls Annual Report in late 2018, and held its first evidence session by inviting a number of officials and sales experts to the House of Commons last week.
Its agenda, however, was void of any reference to London’s dealings with the Riyadh regime, which has become the largest purchaser of UK-made weapons since 2015 – the year it launched its deadly military aggression against its impoverished southern neighbour Yemen.
The exclusion of the conflict in the Yemen from the inquiry proves that the House of Commons has put a blindfold on as regards the massacre and starvation of Yemeni men, women and children by its Saudi allies, because the Saudis are using UK-supplied arms.
Its current silence contrasts with its previous report which was deemed to be so damaging to the reputation of the UK that a number of MPs asked the government to end weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The growing divide over the issue eventually led to the reconstitution of the CAEC.
The current lineup of lawmakers took over the panel in October 2017, and made it clear that they were not even going to be neutral over the Yemen war.
Graham Jones, a Labour MP and chair of the reconstituted CAEC, said last week that neither the West nor Saudi Arabia were to blame for the war in Yemen, which has killed over 57,000 people since its onset in March 2015.
He went as far as calling ‘dishonest’ the campaign groups that bring attention to Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen. ‘We see it time and time again with regards to airstrikes – there is a gross exaggeration by NGOs as to what has happened. You just have to pick up the newspaper.’
His claims came just days after the CAEC received a highly critical report by the Control Arms UK – a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – which urged May’s government to reduce or halt altogether weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
‘Our conclusion is based on copious, authoritative information, and is compelling,’ said Roy Isbister of Saferworld, who contributed to the report. ‘All of the warring parties in Yemen are repeatedly in breach of international law. Yet our voice is ignored by a government that will quote our work as ballast to its own arguments in other countries when it suits.’
The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms exports, including missiles and fighter jets, to Riyadh since the deadly conflict began. The war is being led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and has created a cholera epidemic as well as leading the country to the brink of an entirely preventable famine.
The Munich Security Report 2019, just released on Monday, said: ‘Between 2013 and 2017, the value of Middle Eastern countries’ arms purchases doubled compared to the previous five years,’ adding that 53 per cent of the total volume of the arms exports to the Middle East originated in the United States. The US was followed by France (11 per cent), the United Kingdom (10 per cent), and Canada.
So far, the UK-armed Saudi regime has killed or starved to death around 56,000 Yemenis. The United Nations has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
The Munich Security Report 2019 also warned of a possible risk of a clash between Saudi Arabia, the US-UK, Israel, and Iran in the region, stressing that the confrontation ‘cannot be discounted.’ In fact, the Saudi regime is, along with Israel, the US-UK’s chief ally in the region. Both are literally able to get away with mass murder!
The Saudi regime, headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has proved to be untouchable despite the Yemen slaughter and his despatch of a team of killers to Ankara to murder the dissident Khashoggi.
US and UK workers must take action to stop the Trump and May regimes from arming Saudi Arabia and Israel! The May government must be brought down and a workers government brought in that will recognise the state of Palestine, stop arming Israel and Saudi Arabia, and start arming the movements for national liberation!