August update on Yemen conflict and Canadian LAV exports to Saudi Arabia

The first two weeks in August saw further negative developments in the Yemeni conflict, despite steps by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to withdraw the bulk of its troops in the stated hope of bolstering the fragile UN-led peace process.

Yemen expert Peter Salisbury comments:

The problem right now from the perspective of ending the war is that Saudi Arabia and to an extent the Trump administration are unwilling to do so without a tangible ‘win’ for Riyadh….

To be blunt, neither Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nor Donald Trump seem capable of understanding the concept of a military stalemate.  And they clearly have no concern whatsoever for the havoc being wreaked on the millions of desperate, starving Yemeni civilians.

As if this were not bad enough, fighting within the Southern-based forces nominally supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemen raises the horrific prospect of a civil war within a civil war. The latest Yemen Alert from the International Crisis Group (ICG) begins:

Fighting within the anti-Huthi front threatens to make an already multi-faceted conflict even more complex and intractable. Clashes in Aden reveal tensions within the Saudi-led coalition and highlight the pressing need to address Yemen’s “southern question” now rather than wait until a post-conflict political transition.

See the  ICG alert on the urgent steps needed to head off further clashes within the anti-Houthi coalition, damage to the UN-led negotiations and an even more dire humanitarian crisis:

Whither Canada?

On 6th August a coalition of 12 Canadian civil society organizations (CSO), including the Rideau Institute, released an Open Letter  expressing our concern that Canada has yet to complete its review of exports of Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The review was said to be initiated over nine months ago, but the outcome has yet to be announced.

Click here for the full text of the CSO Open Letter and here for the accompanying press release.

The CSO action garnered significant media attention, including a Canadian Press article by Andy Blatchford entitled: Trudeau Must Update Canadians On Saudi Arms Deal Before Election, Groups Say (, 7 August 2019).

The issue even made the international news with a prominent story by Aljazeera English aired both on television and online. See: Canadians seek cancellation of major arms deal with Saudi Arabia (Merisha Gadzo,, 9 August 2019).

The article noted that, in December 2018, as pressure mounted over the October 2nd murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Prime Minister Trudeau said in an interview for the first time that:

Canada is looking for a way out of the Saudi arms deal.

Journalist Mersiha Gadzo then went on to write:

However, official figures show that LAVs worth more than $1bn have been exported from Port Saint John on Canada’s east coast to Saudi Arabia since Trudeau announced the review in October.

Canadians — and Yemenis — deserve so much better than this!

We conclude with the words of the CSO Open Letter:

Canadians are entitled to know the outcome of the government review, and a clear answer with respect to your government’s position on the export of LAVs from Canada to Saudi Arabia. We look forward to your response, Prime Minister, and urge that it include an immediate end to these transfers.”

Photo credit: Virgil Fention






Tags: Canadian LAVs, International Crisis Group, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), military stalemate, Saudi Arabia, the "Southern question" in Yemen, UN-led peace process, United Arab Emirates, Yemen conflict, Yemen humanitarian crisis