December 12-18: US suspends transfer of some weapons to Saudi Arabia

Monday, December 12UNICEF reports that child malnutrition in Yemen is at an all time high, with nearly 2.2 million in need of urgent care. The agency says that one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen because of malnutrition, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections. The report added that Sa’dah governorate has the world’s highest rates of stunted growth, with eight out of 10 children affected in some areas.

During a trip to Sa’dah, journalist Nawal al-Maghafi speaks to residents who have lost their homes and family members in coalition airstrikes. Powerful interviews and footage show the devastating impact the war has had on Yemen’s north.

Photographs taken by Mohammed Yaseen for ICRC tell the stories of individuals displaced by Yemen’s war and their hopes for the future.

Former chairman of the home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, warns that last week’s comments by foreign minister Boris Johnson on Saudi Arabia’s "proxy war" could damage the UK’s efforts to end the conflict in Yemen. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry backed Vaz, saying the incident showed that UK support for the Saudi coalition lacked both “consistency and principle,” indicating that policy was driven by “sheer absolute hypocrisy”.

Tuesday, December 13 Following a review of its strategic and military support of the Saudi-led coalition, the Obama administration has decided to suspend some arms sales to the kingdom and cut back on certain forms of intelligence sharing. The decision aims to reduce sharing of information that the United States believes could be used to conduct problematic strikes.

“This is not a punitive measure; it’s a corrective measure,” said an anonymous senior US official. “We have to careful not to cut back on things that serve our interests in the process of trying to cut back on things that don’t serve our interest.”

The White House has blocked the sale of about 16,000 guided munitions kits, which, in total, are valued around $350 million.

In response to a question about the suspension, Spokesperson for US Department of State John Kirby said, “there have been some adjustments made that will help us further support a strong defense of the Saudi border and that the focus will continue to be on enhancing the sharing and analysis of threat information so that Saudi Arabia can better defend itself against future cross-border attacks.”

The Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents 13 charities including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, launched a televised and radio broadcast appeal for Yemen relief in the hopes of alleviating the suffering of 14 million Yemenis who do not have enough food. Scotland’s government donated £250,000 as part of the effort.

Yemeni officials report that four al-Qaeda members, including a commander, were killed east of San’a in a US drone strike that targeted their car as they were traveling from al-Jawf to Marib province.

Wednesday, December 14 The Intercept reports on the sale of internationally-banned cluster munitions by the US to Saudi Arabia and the deadly consequences these deals continue to have on Yemeni civilians.

Eleven male corpses were found in al-Hiswa nature reserve in Aden. The bodies were headless and believed to have been dumped there over a month ago. Both the identities of the victims and the perpetrators are still unknown.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman says that he will not tolerate external "interference in the internal affairs" of Yemen, likely referring to Iran’s supposed role in the country’s conflict. Salman added that he would not allow Yemen to become "a base or a point of passage for whatever state or party to menace the security or the stability of the kingdom and of the region".

Another must-watch video from the BBC follows Nawal al-Maghafi to San’a where she interviews survivors of October’s funeral bombing and later speaks to Representative Ted Lieu about his opposition to the US supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Seventy-six Yemeni students who traveled to Lebanon on scholarships in 2014 are now destitute after not receiving the money promised by their government. They currently live at the Yemeni embassy in Beirut and are unable to support themselves or their families back home.

Thursday, December 15 Yemen is facing a waste management catastrophe after a major treatment facility was bombed by the Saudi coalition twice last year.

Professor Mohammed al-Qahali, head of the science and technology department at Sanaa University, says the accumulation of trash may contaminate country’s already depleted water supply.

"The main problem we're now facing is in the management of waste in Yemen that is posing a real danger to the general health of residents."

In an interview with Democracy Now, award-winning journalist and Yemen expert Iona Craig discusses the country’s humanitarian crisis and the US and the UK’s involvement in the war.

Mondoweiss covers Yemen’s food crisis and the impact it is having on the country’s children, many of whom are suffering from severe malnutrition.

“UN and private relief organizations have been mobilizing to respond to the crisis, but a staggering 18.8 million people need humanitarian assistance, and the situation is only getting worse. At the same time, the UN Refugee Agency has received less than half the funds it needs.”

Friday, December 16 Yemen’s major wheat importers have ceased operations due to a crisis at Yemen’s central bank. One of these importers, Fahem Group wrote in a letter addressed to Yemen’s trade ministry saying that they “have been unable to conduct any new contracts for wheat as local banks cannot transfer dollars for the value of any wheat cargoes."

Despite the move this week to halt the sale of some weapons to Saudi Arabia, the US continues to play a leading role in the bombardment of Yemen. This piece in PRI explains why the blocked transfer is only a small step in what the US should be doing to help end the war.

“...the bombing there has not stopped. And the same day the United States announced it was halting the weapons shipment, the US Air Force delivered the Saudis four new fighter jets — aircraft designed to launch the same precision-guided munitions that the Obama administration had just withheld.”

The New York Times features a powerful collection of photos and videos from a recent trip to Yemen. It includes images from October’s funeral hall bombing and displaced persons camps.

Saturday, December 17 Oman, whose role in the peace process often goes unnoticed, has been admitting and caring for Yemeni civilians wounded in coalition airstrikes. The sultanate has remained remarkably neutral in the conflict, but there are concerns that continued fighting will have an impact on Yemen’s neighbor.

One Yemeni politician, who was recently in Oman for peace talks, told Al Jazeera that "Oman keeps its role silent, and that's the reason why they are accepted by all Yemeni factions".

Sunday, December 18 A suicide bombing struck a group of soldiers queuing to receive their salaries in Aden’s al-Arish just one week after a similar attack. At least 48 were killed and 84 injured, while over 40 were killed in the previous attack. Both bombings were claimed by IS.

The US state department released an outline of a meeting between the foreign ministers of the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, and UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The group discussed UN proposals for a Yemen peace plan, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive agreement signed by all parties before a political transition can take place.

“The Ministers urged the Yemeni government in advance of negotiations to engage on the basis of the UN Special Envoy’s proposals. They welcomed the November 16 endorsement of the Roadmap by the Houthis and elements of the General People’s Congress and called on them to engage urgently on the basis of the UN Special Envoy’s security plan.”