The State Department is looking into allegations that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are transferring American-made armored vehicles being to armed Yemeni groups with possible terrorist affiliations, according to a letter released Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“The Department of State takes these allegations very seriously and is working closely with partner nations to determine whether there were any such unauthorized transfers,” reads the Nov. 19 letter (pdf) from Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.
Taylor noted that the alleged unauthorized transfers appeared to be limited to Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, and that the State Department and Department of Defense conducted a joint investigation into what happened to the MRAPs in September.
The departments will visit Saudi Arabia this month to carry out an investigation there as well, Taylor added.
Once the two agencies “complete the visits and any necessary follow-up discussions with the two governments,” according to Taylor, the State Department would have “a full account of the circumstances related to the disposition of this equipment and any potential violation of the agreements.”
The State Department’s response came after Warren wrote to the department about the allegations in October, according to CNN.
Warren said she is “troubled by the apparent lack of full cooperation in this process by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which calls into question whether it is in America’s interest to continue selling arms and other military hardware to these governments.”
Backing the Saudi-led intervention of the ongoing civil war in Yemen is a crucial part of Trump administration’s Middle East policy, which focuses on reducing Iran’s influence in the region. In April, Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, calling it “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”
“Houthis, supported by Iran, have used missiles, armed drones, and explosive boats to attack civilian and military targets in those coalition countries, including areas frequented by American citizens,” Trump wrote at the time. “The conflict in Yemen represents a ‘cheap’ and inexpensive way for Iran to cause trouble for the United States and for our ally, Saudi Arabia.”
The Yemeni civil war first began in 2015 and quickly escalated into what many seen an Iran-Saudi proxy war. The ongoing conflict, now four years long, has forced the country into a humanitarian crisis.