U.S. lawmakers criticise Saudi Arabia, ask about weapons restrictions

A US-made MRAP or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle in Yemen in the hands of a radical Salafi faction backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia transferred American-made weapons to militants in Yemen: CNN

Speaking to Senators on Tuesday, Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel said that the U.S. needs to "look more closely" at reports that arms sent to Yemen to back the Saudi invasion ended up going to al-Qaeda and other Islamist factions.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, including the United Arab Emirates, are using the American weapons as a way to buy the loyalty of militias or tribes, support their allies and influence the political landscape, CNN reported, citing local commanders and military analysts.

A new open-source investigation published by Amnesty International today has highlighted how the United Arab Emirates is arming out-of-control militias operating in Yemen with a range of advanced weaponry - much of it sourced from Western countries, including the UK.

The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of Yemen, exposing some of America's sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of USA troops in other conflict zones, the report based on an investigation said on Tuesday. Engel, who hold the right of foreign weapons sales, asked: "Should Congress pursue greater restrictions on offensive weapons to the Saudi coalition?"

According to publicly-available data, since the outbreak of the Yemeni conflict in 2015, Western countries have supplied the UAE with at least US$3.5billion worth of arms.

The Department of Defense asserts that Saudi is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the U.S. by handing off military equipment to third parties. However, it has sold and delivered over $6 billion in weapons to the UAE.

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President Donald Trump's administration opposed numerous bills, calling the Saudis important regional partners and praising weapons sales as an important source of U.S.jobs.

In December, the US Senate passed a resolution calling for an end to the US military support to the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni conflict.

None of those bills became law, but Engel said the committee would continue to press for a response to casualties in Yemen, Khashoggi's killing and the imprisonment of women's rights activities.

"This is our very first committee action and we're getting ready to take an action that is going to have detrimental consequences without really thinking it through", the Illinois Republican warned.

An worldwide rights group urged Western governments Wednesday to stop supplying weapons to parties to the conflict in Yemen after reports that they were ending up in the hands of militant groups.

Amnesty International calls on all states to stop supplying arms to all parties to the conflict in Yemen until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

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