Yemen is embroiled in a civil war that has formed a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – both important US allies – against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and the presence of US-made weapons has only contributed to the fighting.
Two US officials with knowledge of the US Department of State and the Pentagon investigation told CNN that it took over a year to complete because of what a source described as delayed tactics by the United Arab Emirates.
While the probe ended earlier this year, the results have not been made public. But several government officials on both sides of the aisle and within the administration told CNN that the UAE has now been cleared.
The State Department has told some leaders in Congress that it is “pleased that no actual transfers were made” and has “made sure the United Arab Emirates appreciates the letter of their agreement” with the United States, another source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
With that insurance, lawmakers gave their blessing to a new proposed sale of US military hardware to the United Arab Emirates, the source said.
In a statement to CNN last week, the United Arab Emirates would not confirm or deny if it had been cleared but said its “armed forces confirmed the US government’s continued adherence to the terms” of arms sales.
The Pentagon said it could not comment on the investigation or subsequent talks with Congress and directed CNN to the State Department for further comments.
The State Department confirmed to CNN that its investigation had been completed. “We believe the United Arab Emirates now has a better understanding of its EUM (end-user monitoring) obligations,” said one official without giving further details.
But some US government officials told CNN that they were worried about the United Arab Emirates being cleared of inaccuracies and that this disputed move was made while Congress was focused on the current krona virus crisis. Two administrative officials were willing to be quoted but asked not to be named due to fear of retaliation.
“Look, gun sales are really key to Trump personally and it’s been a real fight with Congress, even Republicans have pushed back,” said a senior official with knowledge of the issue. “The Emirates is an important ally and we believe this sale is in the US national interest. It felt like a good time to push this through.”
Another senior official familiar with the deal was much more concerned about the approval of the potential sale of MRAP at the moment.
“We had real problems getting cooperation from them [the Emirates] about our investigation, “the official told CNN.” Their feeling was that they didn’t feel they had done anything wrong, which didn’t really appeal well for future compliance, but the message we got from the top was Trump wants this done and now is a good time to go through. “
The National Security Council did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Fear sales could undermine US national security
The proposal, approved on May 7, is the next phase of a $ 2.5 billion arms deal that was agreed with the United Arab Emirates in 2014. The deal was put on hold last year pending the results of the US investigation.
An assistant to the rope. Michael McCaul, the top Republican in the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the State Department had informed its committee about the probe.
“The State Department repeatedly informed staff of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s investigation of its unauthorized transfer of MRAP, which was sold to the United Arab Emirates in 2014, which was closed earlier this year,” Leslie Shedd said in a statement.
Shedd added that McCaul and other top executives for the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations had previously reviewed and approved the proposed sale. Shedd referred CNN back to the Foreign Ministry when asked if the investigation had cleared the United Arab Emirates of inaccuracies.
Senator James Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee’s foreign affairs, declined to comment and referred questions to the State Department. Rope. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Warren slammed the State Department for not disclosing the results of the investigation in a letter sent last week to Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“To my knowledge, there has been no unclassified publication or transfer of any kind to Congress on the results of your visits to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to address the erroneous diversion of US military hardware that we sold to these governments and corrections actions taken by some, taken to address these charges, “the senator said in a letter dated May 14 seen by CNN.
“If your departments investigation of improper diversion of the same category of US military allies by US allies has not been completed or terminated without any measures taken to prevent these redirects in the future, I am concerned that the continued sale of this equipment will undermine US national security. “
Murphy, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, criticized the proposed sale and urged Congress to block it.
“Congress should not allow a new arms sale to the United Arab Emirates until the administration publishes its report on Emirates’ probable serious violations of previous arms sales agreements. We cannot allow our allies to take the weapons we sell them and hand them over to dangerous, extremist who the Emirate did. accountability when there is a meaningful violation of [an] gun sales agreement, and this gun sale sends the opposite message, “Murphy told CNN.
Several US officials confirmed to CNN that the United Arab Emirates was being investigated in accordance with Section 3 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), which prohibits the transfer of US weapons to third parties without prior approval.
At that time, an Emirati person told CNN that the Giants Brigades were “part of Yemeni forces” and under the direct supervision of the UAE, and therefore the equipment was in the “collective possession” of the coalition.
But according to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia’s arms sales agreement with the US, US-made MRAPs are considered “in-house technology”, which neither party is supposed to release from its control. Recipients of US weapons are legally required to comply with end-use requirements that prohibit the transfer of equipment to other parties without prior approval. This condition was never obtained.
The letter, from the Foreign Office’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs, said that a joint state Pentagon visit was made to the United Arab Emirates in September to verify what had happened to the MRAPs that the United States provided.
The letter added that another similar “monitoring visit” to Saudi Arabia was planned in November, after which “the department expects to have a full account of the circumstances related to the disposition of this equipment and any breach of the agreements.”
Saudi officials did not respond to CNN’s request for comment when asked if they had been similarly cleared in similar ways.
The United Arab Emirates withdraws troops but retains influence
After five years of involvement in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates announced last July that they would gradually withdraw all their troops from the country and change their strategy of engagement from boots to the ground to rely increasingly harder on their local agents.
In its most recent statement, the Emirates told CNN that “it has largely withdrawn its presence from Yemen and is focused on terrorist efforts against AQAP, ISIS and other dangerous groups.”
But the United Arab Emirates has maintained the operational control of several militia or non-state actors, including the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a secessionist group based in the southern port city of Aden that has often waged a war within the war between the various factions of the golf-supported coalition.
Allied groups have repeatedly turned their weapons against each other and lost their larger mission to unleash the Houthi militia that controls the capital, Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north.
There were signs of hope in November last year, when the Emirate military was nearing completion of its abolition, STC signed an agreement with the Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Riyadh pact gave STC the legitimacy it demanded and guaranteed the United Arab Emirates’ foothold in the conflict even after the last Emirati soldier left the Yemeni earth.
But political maneuvering has again been exposed to ordinary Yemenis.
On April 25, the STC turned its back on the Riyadh agreement and announced that it would establish autonomy in the areas under its control.
The move led to yet another outbreak of violence in Yemen, which has coincided with an increase in Covid-19 infections. The UN has warned the virus can spread rapidly in a country where health care is fragile and millions are on the brink of famine.
About 80% of the population is already in need of humanitarian assistance or protection, according to the World Health Organization, which said 197 cases and 33 coronavirus-related deaths had been confirmed in Yemen as of Friday.
CNN’s Barbara Arvanitidis, Ryan Browne and Sarah Sirgany contributed to this report.