US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the US government’s policy of selling precision-guided missiles to countries like Saudi Arabia — which has been criticised for killing civilians during its campaign in Yemen — could save innocent people’s lives.
“It is this administration’s judgement that providing precision-guided munitions actually decreases the risk,” Mr Pompeo said during a congressional hearing.
The comments came after reports that the Trump administration had asked Congress to review the sale of more than 120,000 precision-guided missiles and munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Members of Congress have expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen, the country has been leading a campaign against Houthi rebels.
Thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire since March 2015, when the country entered the fray.
Last year, the United States approved a massive $110bn (£82bn) arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which the Trump administration said, would in part help to reduce civilian casualties. It included radars, precision guided bombs, and training for Saudi soldiers. About $7bn (£5.2bn) worth of guided missiles sales to Saudi Arabia were included.
President Donald Trump has indicated in the past that he views foreign weapons sales as a way to create jobs in the United States, which is already one of largest sources of weapons sales in the world.
It is not clear exactly what portion of the guided missile sales are currently being reviewed.
The civil war in Yemen began in 2015 and has seen drastically deteriorating conditions for many people in that country. More than 190,000 people have fled the violence and into neighbouring countries, while another 280,692 people have sought refuge in less violent portions of Yemen itself, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, or the UNHCR.
The violence in the country has created what Human Rights Watch has called the “world’s largest humanitarian” crisis, with at least 8 million people who are on the bring of famine, and almost one million people who have become infected with cholera.