British arms exports fueling Saudi war on Yemen three times more than government revelations 

July 17, 2021 - 12:13

The UK government’s official figures says it signed £6.7 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since Riyadh began its bombing campaign on neighboring Yemen in March 2015. These included bombs, missiles, and warplanes.

A new landmark investigation by the NGO, Campaign Against Arms Trade, which looked deeper into the records of both the government and weapons manufacturers shows the true number is closer to £20 billion.

The probe says the government  figure does not include sales under a parallel non-transparent "open licence" system, which gives the green light to arms manufacturers to sell specific weapons without a monetary limit. Between 2014 and August 2019, the UK operated an “open license” for bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia that had been used  repeatedly in the war on Yemen. Equipment for warplanes, used in Saudi Arabia’s bombardment, have also been sold under the same “open license” system.

In a report, the researchers warn that ‘the use of open licences also offers the government a convenient sleight of hand when it comes under pressure over arms sales to a particular country due to events such as wars, military coups, or well-publicised human rights abuses’. The UK Department for International Trade has not disputed the findings of the study. The Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The use of Open Licences covers up the real extent of the UK arms trade and makes it impossible to know what quantities of weapons are being sold around the world.

UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles have had a devastating impact in the ongoing bombardment of Yemen. The fact that the real total of these sales could be so much higher than previously reported emphasises the central role that the UK government and UK-based companies have played in the war. So much of the arms industry takes place in secret, and that’s how the arms dealers like it”. The Saudi war on Yemen has killed tens of thousands of civilians while the United Nations says country has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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