Three countries have halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the U.S. has stuck by the kingdom after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Denmark and Finland both announced Thursday that they would halt future arms exports to Saudi Arabia, following a similar decision by neighboring Germany earlier this month. The Danish and Finnish announcements come the same week President Trump backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the CIA assessing that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Denmark’s ban includes goods that can be used both for military and civilian purposes but is still less expansive than the German measures, which also included sales that had already been approved.
The October killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked criticism by both Republicans and Democrats and put intense pressure on President Donald Trump to criticize a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. After reports surfaced showing a CIA assessment concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, Trump said the U.S. would stick by the kingdom. The president cited oil prices and an arms deal in his rationale. He publicly questioned the CIA’s assessment, emphasizing Salman’s denials even as the Saudi government’s account of Khashoggi’s fate has repeatedly shifted.
Although the administration of US President Donald Trump continues to stand by Riyadh, other nations are increasingly taking steps to block arms sales to the kingdom, both over Khashoggi’s murder and Riyadh’s war in Yemen. The United Nations has stated that the kingdom’s war in Yemen has killed over 10,000 non-combatants, including thousands of children, and has placed millions in the poorest nation in the Middle East on the brink of starvation and at the risk of widespread disease, including a cholera outbreak.
Denmark’s ban includes goods that can be used both for military and civilian purposes but is still less expansive than the German measures, which also included sales that had already been approved. While the Nordic countries are tiny arms equipment exporters in comparison with bigger players such as the United States, Britain or France, their decision will probably exacerbate concerns within the European arms industry of a growing anti-Saudi consensus in the European Union and beyond. While Denmark, Finland and Germany are being celebrated by human rights advocates for following through on their threats to halt sales to the kingdom, bigger arms exporters have pointed out the two nations have far less to lose domestically than others. And Germany has in the past shown it is willing to break its own promises whenever pressure by human rights groups drops. After the current government vowed to halt all arms sales earlier this year, it approved new sales months later — only to halt them once again after the Khashoggi killing.