Saudis lose EU spin battle with Iran on arms embargo over civilian casualties in Yemen

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Saudi officials believe Iran’s intervention likely led to a European parliament vote on an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

The vote was called because of reported heavy civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition in its war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi F-15s in Yemen. /Getty Images
Saudi F-15s in Yemen. /Getty Images

Saudi representatives were working on Feb. 25 to persuade EU parliament members not to back an amendment that calls for a EU-wide embargo following “the serious allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”

Saudi ambassador to Brussels Abdulrahman al-Ahmed, defended his country’s military intervention in a letter to the EU parliament urging against the embargo.

The ambassador said much of Saudi’s action in Yemen involves humanitarian aid and he added that the Saudi intervention was partly in response to concern in the west about Yemen-based terrorists, including Al Qaida and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

“Saudi Arabia has also answered the call from the west to take a greater role in combating terrorist instability throughout the Middle east and the consequences of our not intervening in Yemen’s conflict would have been far worse than the west could as yet imagine,” the ambassador wrote.

Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest buyers of UK defense equipment, including planes, began bombing in Yemen last March in support of the Yemeni president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was exiled after Houthi forces captured the capital Sanaa.

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