After the latest report of violence and destruction in Yemen, Britain must stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia

British ministers are plainly embarrassed by the actions of Saudi Arabia – and their own failure to do anything to restrain its rulers from bombing Yemen into submission, if not back to the Stone Age

The Independent Voices

The United Nations says that seven million Yemeni children are at risk of starvation: more than the entire population of Scotland ( AFP/Getty Images )

Why is Britain still selling arms to Saudi Arabia? The cruel absurdity of what is happening is highlighted in the latest news from Yemen. For arms that have been by supplied by one of its Western allies are now being used by Saudi Arabia to destroy aid projects funded by Britain. Oxfam reports that a cholera treatment centre and a water plant have been hit by air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition. The circle of destruction has itself come full circle.

It is a further grotesque aspect of a war that has been pitiless – and claimed huge loss of life. International agencies warn that the worst famine in a century will soon overwhelm the country, which was hardly prosperous before the bombs started to fall. The United Nations says that seven million Yemeni children are at risk of starvation: more than the entire population of Scotland. It is difficult to comprehend the scale of the humanitarian disaster unfolding on the Arabian peninsula – precisely to the south of one of the richest nations on earth, sitting on vast oil reserves and with a sovereign wealth fund valued at around $700bn. The obscenity is almost too big to contemplate.

Yet British ministers tell a concerned public that the arms were supplied to Saudi Arabia under the guidelines set down under the last Labour government, and are designed to prevent them being used for internal repression or international aggression. There seems to be rather a lot of that in evidence at the moment. Pressed by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford at prime minister’s questions last week, Theresa May told him that the UK’s rules on arms sales are “among the strictest in the world”. Not strict enough, obviously


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