Whether it is retaliation for dumping Treasuries, blackmail to keep to OPEC production quotas, or - more likely - being implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians, President Obama has decided that after shipping billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports it will halt a planned arms sale to The Kingdom.
As we detailed previously, citing government documents and the accounts of current and former officials, Reuters reveals that while the Obama administration and the Pentagon rail against Russian bombing in Syria, State Department officials have been skeptical - in private of course - of the Saudi military's ability to target Houthi militants without killing civilians and destroying "critical infrastructure" needed for Yemen to recover.
However, and this may be where Saudi funding for Hillary's campaign - according to a recent report, Saudi Arabia funded 20% of Hillary's presidential campaign - and her election came into play, government lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether U.S. support for the campaign would make the United States a "co-belligerent" in the war under international law, Reuters said citing four current and former officials. Such a finding would have obligated Washington to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen and would have raised a legal risk that U.S. military personnel could be subject to prosecution, at least in theory.
The findings emerge days after an air strike on a wake in Yemen on Saturday that killed more than 140 people renewed focus on the heavy civilian toll of the conflict. The Saudi-led coalition denied responsibility, but the attack drew the strongest rebuke yet from Washington, which said it would review its support for the campaign to "better align with U.S. principles, values and interests."
What Reuters' report reveals is that instead of Russia being the war criminal, as the US has now alleged, the real aggressor would be Saudi Arabia, and the US - whose actions have enabled Saudi war crimes - would be a "co-belligerent" participant.
Of course there is also the fact that the Saudis have been dumping Treasuries...
Saudi Arabia also continued to sell its TSY holdings, and in August its stated holdings (which again have to be adjusted for MTM), dropped from $93Bn to $89Bn, the lowest since the summer of 2014. This was the 8th consecutive month of Treasury sales by the Kingdom, which held $124 billion in TSYs in January, and has since sold nearly 30% of its US paper holdings.
And then there is the OPEC "we cheat sometimes" comment that perhaps needed some reinforcing to ensure The Kingdon doesn't cheat and US Shale can continue to raise production.
But for whatever reason - guilt, retaliation, blackmail, or simply hopes of rescuing his legacy - Reuters reports that President Obama has decided to limit military support to Saudi Arabia's campaign in Yemen because of concerns over widespread civilian casualties and will halt a planned arms sale to the kingdom, U.S. officials told Reuters.
The United States will also revamp future training of the kingdom's air force to focus on improving Saudi targeting practices, a persistent source of concern for Washington.
The decision reflects deep frustration within President Barack Obama's government over Saudi Arabia's practices in Yemen's 20-month-old war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and sparked humanitarian crises, including chronic food shortages, in the poorest country in the Middle East.
It could also further strain ties between Washington and Riyadh in the remaining days of Obama's administration and put the question of Saudi-U.S. relations squarely before the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20.
An Obama administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "systemic, endemic" problems in Saudi Arabia's targeting drove the U.S. decision to halt a future weapons sale involving precision-guided munitions.
"We've decided not to move forward with some foreign military sales cases for air-dropped munitions, PGMs (precision-guided munitions)," the official said.
"That's obviously a direct reflection of the concerns that we have about Saudi strikes that have resulted in civilian casualties," the official said. A second official confirmed the decision to suspend the sale of certain weaponry.
The officials declined to offer details. But a specific case put on hold appeared to involve the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of guidance systems manufactured by Raytheon that convert dumb bombs into precision-guided munitions that can more accurately hit their targets.
Finally, as a reminder, with the Obama presidency in its final month, there is one central element of his foreign policy that has received little attention – the dramatic acceleration of lethal weapons exports by the U.S. military and defense contractors. As Ammo.com details, the Obama administration has approved more lethal weapon sales to more foreign countries than any U.S. administration since World War II. Many billions more than G.W. Bush's administration, in fact. And some of these sales will likely result in unintended consequences i.e. "blowback" – especially as more than 60 percent of them have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
(After all, U.S. weapons supplied to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets were then used to help launch Al-Qaeda. Arms supplied to Iraqi security forces and Syrian rebels have been captured by ISIS. And “allies” from Bahrain to Egypt to Saudi Arabia have used U.S.-supplied weapons to defeat homegrown democracy movements.)
On May 23rd, President Obama announced at a press conference in Hanoi that the U.S. would be lifting its decades-long embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam. Such a reversal in U.S. foreign policy raises questions: How does the U.S. arms export market actually work? Which companies in the military-industrial complex profit from these sales? Who really ends up with U.S. weapons? And most importantly, how many of those weapons could eventually be used against us?
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It's all a little too late for 10,000 Yemenis. Human rights groups have criticized the United States for supporting the Saudi war effort by selling the kingdom arms and refueling coalition jets. The United States says it has not vetted or selected Saudi targets in Yemen. The Obama administration official said the United States would not halt refueling of the Saudi-led coalition planes. "For now that's not going to be touched. Again, the review could continue and people could make a different decision in the coming weeks," the official said.
The decision to suspend the arms sale to the Saudis marks a reversal for the administration. Officials have long argued that supplying so-called "smart weapons" helped in reducing civilian casualties.
Last year, the Obama administration even had the U.S. military send precision-guided munitions from its own stocks to replenish dwindling Saudi-led coalition supplies, a source close to the Saudi government has said. But that argument ultimately failed.