“Saudi Arabia appears to be using U.S.-supplied white phosphorus munitions in its war in Yemen, based on images and videos posted to social media, raising concerns among human rights groups that the highly incendiary material could be used against civilians,” Washington Post reported in an article Monday.
Even though the newspaper said it is unclear exactly how the Saudis are using the munitions, but “the government has already received widespread condemnation for its indiscriminate bombing in civilian areas since its campaign against rebel forces in Yemen began in 2015.”
The author went on to say that US officials confirmed that the American government has supplied the Saudis white phosphorus in the past but declined to say how much had been transferred or when.
After reviewing a social media image taken from the battlefield that showed a white phosphorus mortar shell, a US official said it appeared to be American in origin but could not trace it to a particular sale because some of the markings were obscured.
“The United States expects any recipient of US military assistance to use those items in accordance with international law and under the terms and conditions of any U.S. transfer or sale,” said a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss politically sensitive issues.
The official said the department was looking into reports of Saudi forces’ improperly using US-supplied white phosphorus munitions. “If a country is determined to have used US-provided weapons for unauthorized purposes, the US will take appropriate corrective action,” the official claimed.
The United States has grown increasingly wary of its material support to the Saudi military. In May, the Obama administration halted the sale of roughly 400 cluster bombs to the Saudis after human rights organizations documented the weapons’ use in civilian areas. This week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill moved to delay a $1 billion arms deal that would replace some of Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-supplied tanks that have been damaged in the conflict.
The Washington Post said that since coming to office in 2009, the Obama administration has facilitated more than $115 billion in 42 different arms sales to Saudi Arabia, more than any other US administration, according to a report in the Security Assistance Monitor. Batches of the equipment are likely to be delivered for years to come.
“The United States must not provide or sell white phosphorus munitions to Saudi Arabia or any other military that would use them in the Yemen conflict,” said Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “As a major arms seller to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. risks being complicit in Saudi Arabia’s likely war crimes in Yemen.”
According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 3,700 civilians have been killed and 2.8 million have been displaced during the now nearly two-year-old war on Yemen.
“The United States is concerned by the high number of casualties resulting from this war,” the State Department official said. “We are prepared to work with the Saudis to deter and confront any external threat to their territorial integrity, and we stand by that assurance. However, that does not mean we refrain from expressing our concerns about the war in Yemen and how it has been waged.”
The article revealed that Pentagon provides midair refueling for Saudi aircraft and limited intelligence resources to Saudi forces. In addition to short-term military assistance, the Pentagon and the State Department, as well as other Western countries, have facilitated the sale of billions of dollars worth of arms to the Kingdom, everything from hand grenades to attack helicopters.
Images on pro-Saudi Twitter and Instagram accounts show that Saudi forces are using several systems for firing white phosphorus munitions, including tank rounds, mortars, howitzers and rifle grenades.
Footage and images and social media posts showing the munition indicate that it is being used near the Saudi-Yemen border — in Najran province — and around the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
The most recent footage — posted Sept. 9 — shows a U.S.-developed M198 155mm Saudi howitzer with the telltale sea-foam green white phosphorus rounds nearby ready to be loaded and fired.
Many of the images posted to social media show white phosphorus rounds from a distance, leaving any writing or identifying features blurry or ill-defined. The shell’s color pattern is the most telling, as the greenish-hue interrupted by yellow bands and red writing is internationally recognized as indicating white phosphorus munitions.
Source: The Washington Post