OPINION: U.S. Lawmakers Rethink Relationship With Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia transferred U.S.-made arms to al-Qaeda affiliate groups in Yemen. (flickr)

Saudi Arabia transferred U.S.-made arms to al-Qaeda affiliate groups in Yemen. (flickr)

A CNN investigation has revealed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates transferred U.S.-manufactured arms to militant groups in Yemen linked to Al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia also transferred arms to the Abu al-Abbas Brigade, a militia headed by a militant sanctioned by the U.S. for financing the Yemeni chapter of the Islamic State. On top of that, CNN discovered that U.S.-made arms and military vehicles had ended up in the hands of Houthi rebels.

Reuters reports that on February 7, several U.S. senators introduced a bill that would place limits on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, end the practice of refueling Saudi aircraft engaged in the war in Yemen, and sanction those behind the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Republican Senate leadership stymied previous efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, the controversies surrounding Khashoggi’s assassination and the transfer of U.S. arms to terrorist groups have renewed efforts among U.S. lawmakers to penalize Saudi Arabia.

This recent bill is an important step in rebuking Saudi Arabia for its transgressions. The kingdom has long acted with impunity in Yemen; it has indiscriminately conducted airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians, and its blockade has strangled the flow of vital food and medicine imports, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The Saudi regime’s assassination of Khashoggi further displays reckless behavior and a staunch unwillingness to abide by international law. Moreover, the regime has conducted a repressive campaign within its own country and targeted dozens of activists. The U.S. government should go beyond holding Saudi Arabia accountable for its violations of international and U.S. law. As the Saudi government continues to flout international conventions and rack up human rights abuses—at home and abroad—the U.S. should fully reevaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia and its role in permitting and even perpetuating such criminal acts.