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New Documents Show US Knew Helping Saudis in Yemen Could Be War Crime


As the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia comes under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the Gulf nation’s weekend bombing campaign in Yemen, a Reuters exclusive published Monday reveals that the Obama administration approved a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings that it could implicate the U.S. in war crimes.

The Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen on Saturday killed at least 140 people and wounded hundreds more, prompting the U.S. to launch a “review” of its support for the kingdom. On Monday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of State had already warned the government that “the United States could be implicated in war crimes” for aiding the campaign.

Officials also had doubts that the Saudi military would actually be able to target Houthi militants without hurting civilians or destroying infrastructure, according to department emails and interviews with officials.

However, government lawyers stopped just short of concluding that U.S. support for the campaign would implicate the country in war crimes—which could have opened up the U.S. military to accountability. Reuters writes:

U.S. 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, four current and former officials said. That 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.


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