Obama Warned That US Weapons Would Be Used to Target Civilians

Documents reveal that diplomats warned Obama that Saudi Arabia would commit war crimes in Yemen, but the sale proceeded anyway.

Despite stern and repeated warnings from their own diplomatic staff that U.S. weaponry would almost certainly be used to commit war crimes against Yemeni citizens, the Obama Administration nevertheless approved US$1.3 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, according to documents published Monday by the Reuters news agency.

RELATED: UN Calls Out Saudi Arabia for Killing Yemeni Women and Children

During the period in 2015, when the Pentagon was considering weapons sales to its longtime ally, Saudi Arabia, the State Department warned the Obama administration that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes committed by the Saudi kingdom. The Saudis launched a coalition effort in support of embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi​'s loyalists in their ongoing conflict against the country's Houthi tribe.

According to documents obtained by Reuters following a Freedom of Information Act request, Pentagon officials informed the White House of their doubts that Saudi forces would be able to target rebels without also killing civilians or destroying “critical infrastructure.” By 2015, it was already apparent to U.S. diplomats that Saudi air strikes were killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.

"The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles," said a specialist from the State Department while meeting with human rights groups, according to the documents obtained by Reuters under a freedom of information request.

"The lack of Saudi experience is compounded by the asymmetric situation on the ground where enemy militants are not wearing uniforms and are mixed with civilian populations … Weak intelligence likely further compounds the problem," said the specialist.

Government lawyers “had their hair on fire” as civilian casualties continued to grow, after previously not concluding that support for the Saudi regime would not make the country a “co-belligerent” under international law. Human rights groups at the time warned that the administration could be complicit in war crimes.

OPINION: US Disguises Counter Revolution Plans with Saudis as Revolution

The Obama administration said it would “review” its support for the Saudi kingdom following Sunday’s U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrike that killed more than 140 people and injured over 500 who were attending a funeral.

In addition, intelligence publication The Intercept said that an important U.S. ally, the United Kingdom, was also aware that the Saudis were targeting civilians in Yemen. Military personnel for both the U.S. and the U.K. sit in the command center for Saudi airstrikes, the report added.

“The atrocities committed by the Saudis would have been impossible without their steadfast, aggressive support,” wrote the Intercept, who also cited statements from Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister who said that the U.K. and the U.S. “have access to lists of targets.”

The Obama administration continues to support Saudi Arabia. Since 2009, Obama has made 42 separate weapons deals with the kingdom totaling US$115 billion, according to a report from the Center for International Policy in September. The U.S. has also confirmed that it had previously sold white phosphorus, a napalm-like chemical, to the Saudis.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in the bitter conflict pitting wealthy Gulf states against the Houthi resistance, including around 4,000 civilians – the majority from Saudi airstrikes, according to U.N. estimates.

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Saudis could pull billions from US economy, hinder access to Mideast bases following 9/11 lawsuits

Saudi Arabia and its allies could retaliate against US legislation allowing the kingdom to be sued for the 9/11 attacks, including scaling back investment in the US economy or restricting access to important regional air bases, experts claim.
"This should be clear to America and to the rest of the world. When one Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state is targeted unfairly, the others stand around it,” Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University, told Associated Press.

“All the states will stand by Saudi Arabia in every way possible.”

On Wednesday, Congress overwhelmingly voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the bill that would allow Americans to potentially sue Saudi Arabia for 9/11. Lawmakers said their priority was not Saudi Arabia, but victims and families.

The “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)” would allow US judges to waive sovereign immunity claims when dealing with acts of terrorism committed on American soil – potentially allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, told AP that Saudi Arabia could respond in a way that risks US strategic interests.

That could include Saudi restricting its rules for overflight between Europe and Asia and the Qatari air base from which US military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are directed, Freeman says.

“The souring of relations and curtailing of official contacts that this legislation would inevitably produce could also jeopardize Saudi cooperation against anti-American terrorism,” Freeman told AP.

Obama vetoed JASTA last week, saying it would erode the doctrine of sovereign immunity and expose the US to lawsuits around the world.

He argued the bill could lead to other governments acting “reciprocally” by allowing their own courts to exercise jurisdiction over the US, including over deadly US drone strikes.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in June that the US has the most to lose if JASTA is enacted.

There have been reports that Riyadh threatened to pull billions of dollars from the US economy if the bill became law, however al-Jubeir has only officially said investor confidence in the US could decline.

“No business community likes to see their sovereign nation basically assailed by another nation,” the US-Saudi Business Council’s CEO and Chairman Ed Burton said.

The Saudi-led GCC, established in 1981, consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Emirates.

Capitol Hill overrides Obama's veto on 'Sue the Saudis' 9/11 bill

Earlier this month, the group expressed “deep concern” over JASTA, with its Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani calling it “contrary to the foundations and principles of relations between states and the principle of sovereign immunity enjoyed by states.”

In a separate statement, the government of Qatar said JASTA ”violates international law, particularly the principle of sovereign equality between states," according to Reuters.

“Such laws will negatively affect the international efforts and international cooperation to combat terrorism,” said the Emirates Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to the state news agency WAM. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were Emirati.

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US Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims to Sue Riyadh Threatens Global Stability

Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Ameen Madani said that US bill that would allow terror victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia disrupts international relations and threatens to plunge the world economy into a depression.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — An US bill that would allow terror victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia is "ill-advised" and threatens global stability, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Wednesday citing the the head of the organization.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), approved by the US Congress last week, would override current Saudi claims to sovereign immunity, allowing families of September 11 terrorist attack victims to bring a long-standing federal court case against the Saudi government for allegedly sponsoring the 2001 attacks. US President Barack Obama announced plans to veto the bill.

"[Secretary-General Iyad Ameen] Madani said that in passing the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, Congress disrupts international relations, threatens to plunge the world economy into a depression, weakens the necessary alliances that promote peace and security around the world, and compromises the war on terrorism," the OIC's statement read.

The OIC chief warned that if the JASTA became law, it would remove the benefits of "centuries-old" laws and international norms that promote the comity of nations, as well as would plunge the world into chaos if other nations passed reciprocal laws.

According to the statement, Madani expressed the hope that "wisdom will prevail," and Congress would reconsider and recall the bill.

Saudi Arabia, which denies responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, strongly opposed to the bill, and said that in case the JASTA was adopted, international law would turn into the "law of the jungle." Ryiadh also said it could sell up to $750 billion worth US securities and assets in response to the adoption of the bill.

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Russia, Saudi Arabia Sign Oil Pact, May Limit Output in Future

The two countries have been effectively fighting a proxy war in Syria and Moscow also sees itself as an ally of Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on Monday to cooperate in world oil markets, saying they will not act immediately but could limit output in the future, sending prices higher on hopes the two top oil producers would work together to tackle a global glut.

RELATED: Russia: Saudi Arabia May Cut Oil Production

The joint statement was signed by the country's energy ministers in China on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit and followed a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the two countries were moving toward a strategic energy partnership and that a high level of trust would allow them to address global challenges. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the agreement would also encourage other producers to cooperate.

Oil prices soared almost 5 percent ahead of a news conference by the two ministers, but pared gains to trade up 2 percent by 6.30 a.m. ET as the agreement yielded no immediate action.

"There is no need now to freeze production ... We have time to take this kind of decision," Falih said.

"Freezing production is one of the preferred possibilities, but it does not have to happen specifically today."

Even if the Monday statement was short on action, it marks a significant development in the Russia-Saudi relationship. The two countries have been effectively fighting a proxy war in Syria and Moscow also sees itself as a partner of sorts with Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival in the Middle East.

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