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Yemen: where are the Houthis getting their weapons from?

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Yemen: where are the Houthis getting their weapons from?

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Insiders Editor-in-Chief Sophie Claudet met up with Pieter Wezeman, a Senior Researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI specialised in arms sales and military expenditure.

Sophie Claudet: “In February the EU parliament voted a non-binding resolution to stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, has any European country heeded the call?”

Pieter Wezeman: “The only country I know of which has imposed restrictions which are very close to an arms embargo is the Netherlands. Its leaders basically said: ‘We will not licence the export of military goods or arms to Saudi Arabia if we aren’t 100% sure that those weapons can’t be used in Yemen.’ Countries, member States within the Euro are very important suppliers of arms to the Middle East. Countries like the UK and France are amongst the biggest ones when it comes to arms supplies to Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Saudi Arabia is, as I said, heavily dependent on arms imports. It doesn’t really produce arms itself. The weapons that Saudi Arabia makes itself are weapons they produce under licence with technology, with machinery, with equipment usually bought in Europe or in the United States.”

Sophie Claudet: “Now to the other side. Where are the Houthis – the rebels – getting their weapons from?”

Pieter Wezeman: “First of all, the Houthis have managed to both convince part of the Armed Forces to join them and they have been able to run over a large part of the country including the military arsenals which were already there before. Yemen has received over the decades massive amounts of arms and ammunition -mainly small arms but larger ones too. For example, the Houthis have ballistic missiles for shorter range use and have fired them against Saudi Arabia. Of course there are also indications that they get some weapons from abroad, in particular from Iran. We are not entirely sure what the volumes are there or who is behind this but in a number of cases, weapons made in Iran – or with Iranian labels on them – have been intercepted.”

Sophie Claudet: “Human rights organisations – whether it be Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch – have accused both sides of committing war crimes.”

Pieter Wezeman: “That is correct and that raises some questions. To which extent are the Saudis and the UAE actually able to use the high-tech equipment they have? In principle, if you have high-tech sensors and high-tech position bombs, you should be able to wage war in such a way that you really try to hit only military targets. But in reality, they have not been able to do that, whether that is deliberate or whether that is due to a lack of competence, that is very unclear. For the Houthis, they wage a much more primitive type of warfare compared to what the Saudis and the UAE do. There, they might have a different excuse for certain types of attacks and will probably claim that they don’t have the equipment to do surgical strikes, or whatever you would like to call them.”

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