Saudi Arabia, and other countries within its coalition, allegedly gave fighters linked to al-Qaeda waging war in Yemen American-made weapons, which were also given to a Salafi militia headed by at least one member with ties to a Yemeni branch of ISIL.

According to a CNN investigative report, forces backed by Iran have also procured these weapons, as well as U.S. weapon technologies. As recounted by local military leaders and analysts to CNN, the U.S.-produced weapons were used "as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape." 

The report also stated that in 2015 American arms were in the possession of a militia brigade under the leadership of Abu al-Abbas, who was accused by the U.S. in 2017 of funding the Yemeni chapter of ISIL.

An anonymous official from within the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed to CNN that they are investigating whether the weapons in question were transferred to a third party, a move that breaches the current arms agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi coalition.

The conflict in Yemen has been ongoing since 2015, after the Saudi-backed Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was ousted by members of the Houthi movement, due to political and economic turmoil during his tenure. After Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, the country —along with eight other countries backed by the U.S., the U.K. and France — entered the conflict with the aim of reinstating Hadi as Yemen's leader.

The civil war in Yemen has since claimed thousands of lives and brought the country to the brink of starvation, with an estimated 20 million food insecure. The United Nations declared in 2018 that the current situation in Yemen the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis

Relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been tense following the assassination in October of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. The murder, which is believed to be politically motivated and allegedly ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prompted bipartisan pressure from Congress to hold Saudi Arabi accountable despite President Trump's interest in maintaining an arms deal.

Despite the foreign-policy dispute between Congress and the White House, the House and Senate are expected to vote on whether to withdraw U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen.

The Senate in December voted 56-41 to withdraw forces within or impacted by the conflict. The then-Republican controlled House blocked a vote on a Yemen-related resolution.

Armed Yemeni men Armed Yemeni men stand in the back of a pickup truck. Photo: Getty