Yemen’s civil war has been ongoing since 2015, and is considered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with tens of thousands of civilians killed or injured, over three million displaced, 80 percent of the population in need of assistance and 10 million threatened by famine, according to the UNDP.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Yemen, drawing attention to “the starving children of Yemen.”
Critics of the arms deal in the Senate have warned that it will contribute to the humanitarian crisis in the civil war.
“President Trump talks about our strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia as if all we care about is selling weapons, stabilizing energy markets, and having a close ally in a potential conflict with Iran,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) stated on Twitter on Monday.
He added that “the President has failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its conduct in the war in Yemen, its human rights violations, & for the murder of American-resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Today the Senate has an opportunity to send a clear message that this is unacceptable.”
Pope Francis, who has repeatedly denounced the international arms trade, said in June 10 comments on Syria that “sometimes I also think of the wrath of God that will be unleashed against the leaders of countries that talk about peace and sell weapons to carry out these wars.”
Earlier in 2019, Congress passed legislation to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen, but President Trump vetoed the bill.
The State Department lists Saudi Arabia as a “Country of Particular Concern,” a designation reserved for the worst offenders of religious freedom. While it has waived sanctions that normally accompany such a designation, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the waivers to be rescinded in light of ongoing egregious abuses that have continued in the country.
USCIRF’s recent 2019 annual report noted “positive developments” in Saudi Arabia with respect to the government’s relaxation of policies like allowing Christian services and Mass to take place. However, USCIRF maintained that “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” are ongoing such as “a ban on non-Muslim public religious observance” and the kingdom continuing “to arrest, detain, and harass individuals for dissent, blasphemy, and apostasy.”