US restricts weapons sales to Saudi Arabia because of too many civilian casualties in Yemen

The decision stems from “concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged." Washington will not deliver more precision-guided weapons, but will honour contracts signed on 8 December. Saudi Arabia has remained silent in the matter.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The US plans to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of the high number of civilian casualties linked to Saudi air strikes in Yemen.

Precision-guided weapons will no longer be delivered, a Pentagon official said.

The Obama administration said it was concerned over "flaws" in the way Saudi air strikes are targeted in Yemen.

This comes just days after the signing of several contracts for the sale of weapons and military hardware (including aircraft, helicopters and missiles) to four Arab countries.

The most important of these is the sale to Saudi Arabia of 48 CH-47F Chinook transport helicopters for US$ 3.51 billion built by Boeing and Honeywell Aerospace. This deal will not be affected by today’s “limitations”.

White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price warned Saudi Arabia that US security co-operation was "not a blank cheque".

“We continue to have concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged, most especially the air campaign,” another official said.

Nevertheless, whilst some sales are being scaled back, the US said it will continue to provide Saudi Arabia with intelligence focused on border security.

It will also train pilots involved in the Saudi-led air campaign in order to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible, Price explained.

Since January 2015, the Gulf nation has been the scene of a bloody internal conflict opposing Sunni leaders, backed by Saudi Arabia, and Shia Houthi rebels, close to Iran.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition launched air strikes against the rebels in an attempt to free the capital Sana'a and return the country to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi who returned to the country after going into exile.

According to World Health Organisation sources, at least 6,400 people have been killed in the war with an additional three million internally displaced.

On 8 October, an air strike (probably Saudi) hit a group of mourners in Sana‘a, killing more than 140 people.

Saudi Arabia has denied responsibility in the deadly incident, and has insisted that it is making every effort to minimise fatalities.

Saudi General Ahmad Assiri did not comment the US decision to limit weapons sale.