U.S. Has Supplied UAE $27B in Arms Despite Nation’s Links to Torture, Mercenaries & Child Soldiers

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We look at how U.S. weapons are supporting the ongoing devastation in Yemen with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of a new report about the role the United Arab Emirates has played in Yemen. It is titled “'Little Sparta': The United States-United Arab Emirates Alliance and the War in Yemen.” We also speak with Ruhan Nagra, the executive director of the University Network for Human Rights, and Radhya Al-Mutawakel, chairperson of the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights. They recently published an investigation into the role of U.S. and European bombs in civilian deaths in Yemen.

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NERMEEN SHAIKH: As we continue our conversation of the U.S.-backed, Saudi- and UAE-led war on Yemen, I want to bring into this conversation William Hartung. He’s the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He recently wrote a report titled “'Little Sparta': The United States-United Arab Emirates Alliance and the War in Yemen.”

So, welcome back to Democracy Now!, Bill. Can you talk about this? Why is the UAE, first of all, referred to as “Little Sparta”? And by whom?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, people like Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, have called them that, because he is akin to the Greek city-state, which is a warrior state, so he’s saying that they’re good warriors. But, of course, they’re putting their warrior skills to very devastating results, which none of us should be supporting.

I should point out that we can stop this. Next year—next week there’s a vote on the Sanders-Lee amendment—Mike Lee, the Republican; Bernie Sanders—to stop U.S. support for both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, our military support, for the war in Yemen. So, I think there are still some people on the fence about that. I think that’s important to push forward, both in its own right and to put leverage on the peace process. So, you know, the crimes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Congress has it in its hands to play a role in stopping them, which I think is important.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it is amazing what is happening there. You have Nick Turse reporting for Yahoo! News, “Despite denials, documents reveal U.S. training UAE forces for combat in Yemen.” The U.S. is training them. What about this U.S., UAE and Saudi relationship and the power of the military contractors that are benefiting from all of this? They’re having their heyday under President Trump.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, on the UAE side, the U.S. has supplied $27 billion in weapons in the last decade, trained 5,000 troops, including those pilots, for combat. Our special forces work closely with them on the ground. And the UAE has engaged in torture. They’ve hired mercenaries and child soldiers, including from Sudan, like the Janjaweed militias. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing are profiting directly from this war and have lobbied for these arms sales—even after the Khashoggi murder. So, you know, there’s profit. There’s criminal activity. And there’s been unswerving support from the Trump administration. So, really, it’s up to activists, who have done a tremendous job of moving the Congress, and for Congress to live up to its responsibilities, I think, if we’re going to stop this.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Radhya, can you talk about this, I mean, the involvement of the United Arab Emirates—I mean, it’s a tiny, little Gulf state—how it came to occupy this oversized position in the region, and also the number of European countries that have now either suspended or canceled arms sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, following Khashoggi’s murder and the continuing devastation of Yemen at their hands?

RADHYA AL-MUTAWAKEL: First, the United Arab Emirates, they have a very big control in the south areas, and which is really strange, that they—as I said, they are empowering fanatic, extremist groups. And they also control some, which is called, the Security Belt and other security groups. And they are just doing very horrible violations—detention, torture, forced disappearance. And they are dealing with the area, with Yemen, as there is no people. They have their own project, and they’re dealing with us like a land with no people. They didn’t even try to provide the services in the areas that they are controlling. And they can do it for people, but they don’t care. For the European countries, there are some European countries who already stopped selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, even before the Khashoggi case, like Netherlands and then Germany. But still, one of the European countries who are really selling weapons to Saudis is France. And they didn’t stop until now.

AMY GOODMAN: And your final call, Radhya, in Congress yesterday, to be there as a woman from Sana’a, the capital, if you can explain what you said to the congressmembers?

RADHYA AL-MUTAWAKEL: Well, it was strange to me that many members in the Congress were just focusing on the humanitarian access. And humanitarian access is important, but while we are in the Congress, we can talk about how to stop the war, not only how to make the humanitarian access easily, because even humanitarian NGOs are saying that humanitarian aid will not solve the problem in Yemen. In 2018, there was 22 million people need a kind of humanitarian assistance. And now, in 2019, the number increased to 24 million. So, you cannot feed a nation. I’m so scared that to be here in 2020 saying that the number increased. This should stop. And I tried to explain to the Congress that they can do a lot to stop the war in Yemen. It’s a humanitarian disaster, that they have the power to stop it. And they can—it can get benefits from the power they have to do this.

AMY GOODMAN: Radhya, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Radhya Al-Mutawakel is chairperson of the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights. Ruhan Nagra, executive director of the University Network for Human Rights. We’re going to link to your piece, your report on the role of the U.S. and Europe, the role that it’s played in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-, UAE-led war in Yemen. And thanks, Bill. We’ll also link to your report. William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

That does it for our show. I’ll be speaking in Denver March 15th at the historic East High School. Check our website at democracynow.org.

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