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US senators want to block drone sales to Saudis

Al Jazeera

Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would block international sales of United States-made drones to countries that are not close US allies, mentioning Saudi Arabia in particular. Reuters broke the news in June that President Donald Trump's administration planned to reinterpret the Missile Technology Control Regime, a Cold War arms agreement between 35 nations, with the goal of allowing US defence contractors to sell more drones to an array of nations. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Chris Coons, and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, introduced the measure. It would amend the Arms Export Control Act to prohibit the export, transfer or trade of many advanced drones except to countries that are NATO members and to Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Israel, they said in a news release. US lawmakers have tried before to rein in Trump administration plans for arms sales, particularly to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for use in the war in Yemen.

China's cheaper armed drones now flying across Mideast battlefields

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – High above Yemen's rebel-held city of Hodeida, a drone controlled by Emirati forces hovered as an SUV carrying a top Shiite Houthi rebel official turned onto a small street and stopped, waiting for another vehicle in its convoy to catch up. Seconds later, the SUV exploded in flames, killing Saleh al-Samad, a top political figure. The drone that fired that missile in April was not one of the many American aircraft that have been buzzing across the skies of Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Across the Middle East, countries locked out of purchasing U.S.-made drones due to rules over excessive civilian casualties are being wooed by Chinese arms dealers, the world's main distributor of armed drones. "The Chinese product now doesn't lack technology, it only lacks market share," said Song Zhongping, a Chinese military analyst and former lecturer at the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force University of Engineering.

US Senate to vote on Saudi-Yemen war resolution

Al Jazeera

The US Senate will vote on Wednesday on a resolution to end Washington's support for the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen, as lawmakers push President Donald Trump to toughen his policy toward the kingdom. Announcing the vote on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders called the war "a humanitarian and strategic disaster". Sanders, an independent who is running for president as a Democrat, is a lead co-sponsor of the resolution along with Republican Senator Mike Lee. The Saudi-Emirati-led coalition fighting in Yemen since 2015 has consistently attacked civilians, as well as homes, schools, businesses, farms, a health clinic, a government administration building and a celebration hall, in violation of the laws of war. Despite ongoing abuses by the alliance, the US continues to sell Saudi Arabia and the UAE weapons for use in the war on Yemen.

War Crimes Risk Grows for U.S. Over Saudi Strikes in Yemen

NYT > Middle East

When President Trump hosts the signing of a diplomatic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, the White House ceremony will also serve as tacit recognition of Mr. Trump's embrace of arms sales as a cornerstone of his foreign policy. The president sweetened the Middle East deal with a secret commitment to sell advanced fighter jets and lethal drones to the Emirates. But White House officials are working to push through the weapons transfer in the face of broader concerns that the president's arms-sale policies could lead to charges of war crimes against American officials, a New York Times examination has found. Those concerns -- stemming from U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates as they have waged a disastrous war in Yemen, using American equipment in attacks that have killed thousands of civilians -- will be the subject of congressional hearings on Wednesday. House lawmakers are expected to question top State Department officials over their role in keeping weapons flowing into the conflict and burying recent internal findings on civilian casualties and the legal peril for Americans. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. government officials show that the legal fears related to the arms sales run far deeper than previously reported.

In Yemen Conflict, Some See A New Age Of Drone Warfare

NPR Technology

Iranian soldiers carry part of a target drone used in air-defense exercises. Iran is also turning some target drones into low-tech weapons for its proxies. Iranian soldiers carry part of a target drone used in air-defense exercises. Iran is also turning some target drones into low-tech weapons for its proxies. In January, a group of high-level military commanders gathered at an air base in Yemen.