An Assessment of the Legality of Arms Sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Context of the Conflict in Yemen
This White Paper analyzes U.S. statutory obligations regarding arms sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia in the context of the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The United States has provided significant support for Saudi Arabia, including over $115 billion in arms sales over the last eight years. During the course of hostilities conducted by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last two years, the United States has provided billions of dollars of equipment for use in Yemen and provided in-flight re-fueling to support bombing operations. In light of credible allegations of widespread violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict resulting in significant civilian casualties over the last two years, concerns have been raised about the legality of further arms sales under U.S. law. In the face of persistent reports of wrongdoing, Saudi Arabia has failed to rebut allegations or provide detailed evidence of compliance with binding obligations arising from international humanitarian law. In the context of multiple credible reports of recurring and highly questionable strikes, even after Saudi units received training and equipment to reduce civilian casualties, the United States cannot continue to rely on Saudi assurances that it will comply with international law and agreements concerning the use of U.S.-origin equipment. Under these circumstances, further sales under both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act are prohibited until the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes effective measures to ensure compliance with international law and the President submits relevant certifications to the Congress. Congress should utilize the expedited review procedures of both Acts to ensure compliance with the law.