Buoyed by President Joe Biden’s announced decision to limit U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, U.K. peace activists on Friday renewed calls for the British government to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi-led forces have killed thousands of civilians… No matter how dire the crisis has become, they have been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the U.K. government.”
—Sarah Waldron, CAAT
The Stop the War Coalition called Biden’s move “a welcome change to U.S. foreign policy,” and the group’s convener, Lindsey German, said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab should now follow his lead.
German accused both Johnson and Raab of having “blood on their hands” in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“Their support for the carnage in Yemen,” said German, “must end immediately.”
The group said the ongoing U.K. backing for the Saudis is shameful and that an “overwhelming majority” of people “on both sides of the Atlantic” oppose the ongoing arms sales fueling the war.
On Friday, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) also published a statement calling on Britain to follow Biden’s lead and stop supporting the war.
“Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the U.K. has licensed at least £5.4 billion [$7.4 billion] worth of arms to the Saudi regime,” said CAAT, including warplanes, helicopters, drones, missiles, bombs, and other armaments.
In addition to providing technical and logistical support for the Saudi-led war effort, British arms manufacturers profit handsomely from the conflict that has claimed an estimated 233,000 lives from direct and indirect causes, according to the U.N.
Sarah Waldron of CAAT said that Biden’s move “puts the spotlight firmly on to the U.K. government and companies that have armed, supported, and enabled the brutal bombardment.”
“Saudi-led forces have killed thousands of civilians and bombed schools, hospitals, and homes,” said Waldron. “No matter how dire the crisis has become, they have been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the U.K. government.”
“That support must end, and so must… the arms sales that have done so much damage,” she added.
The activists’ calls were echoed by Lisa Nandy, the Labour shadow foreign secretary, who said Friday that “the government’s support for Saudi campaign in Yemen is not only morally wrong but increasingly leaves Britain isolated on the world stage.”
“President Biden’s decision to end U.S. support for operations in Yemen shows just how far global opinion has shifted and leaves the U.K. worryingly out of step with our allies.”
Labour shadow foreign secretary
“President Biden’s decision to end U.S. support for operations in Yemen shows just how far global opinion has shifted and leaves the U.K. worryingly out of step with our allies,” said Nandy. “Ministers must now take long overdue action to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and end the U.K.’s role in a conflict which has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Leading weapons-manufacturing nations including Italy and Germany have ended or significantly limited arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition, while others including Canada and France have continued to profit from the war.