Henry Kissinger penned a mostly unpersuasive op-ed that reflects the hawkish panic over Syria I mentioned earlier. This statement about U.S. policies in the region was particularly strange:
The U.S. is now opposed to, or at odds in some way or another with, all parties in the region: with Egypt on human rights; with Saudi Arabia over Yemen [bold mine-DL]; with each of the Syrian parties over different objectives.
At least two of these three claims are wrong. The U.S. may be rhetorically critical of Egypt on human rights, but for all practical purposes the U.S. has given up even pretending to rein in the abuses of Sisi’s regime. The administration temporarily suspended some aid to Egypt’s government following the coup, but has since relented. The claim about Yemen is even more fantastical. The U.S. is so “at odds” with the Saudis over Yemen that it continues to back the campaign with fuel, weapons, and intelligence, it yielded to the Saudi effort to quash a U.N. inquiry into war crimes there, and has kept its public criticisms of the campaign to a minimum. Kissinger’s claims are empirically false, and yet relies on these and other such claims to bolster the rest of his argument.
The remark about Yemen stood out for being so plainly false. It serves Kissinger’s rhetorical point that the U.S. is at odds with all powers in the region, but for some reason he chose examples that directly refute the picture he’s painting of the U.S. role. The U.S. isn’t at odds with the despots in Cairo and Riyadh. It is arming and supporting them, and it is doing so with virtually no criticism of the regimes’ behavior. One might think that Kissinger would know this, and moreover that he would approve. In practice, the U.S. is fully behind the war on Yemen regardless of what some of our officials may murmur in private. Peter Salisbury made this point in an excellent column on Yemen last week:
The United States is said to have become increasingly disillusioned by its Gulf allies’ war, worried about the damage being done to an already battered U.S. reputation in Yemen and the region by its support for the Saudi-led campaign. But Washington values the maintenance of good relations with Riyadh too highly to risk upsetting its Saudi partners by pushing more aggressively for an end or reduction in the intensity of the aerial campaign [bold mine-DL]. Last month, after backing calls for a U.N. inquiry into human rights violations in the war, the U.S. did not push back when Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies spiked the planned U.N. Human Rights Council resolution.
The point here is not just to emphasize the unstinting U.S. support for the atrocious war on Yemen, as important as it is to do that, but to show that Kissinger is relying on obviously untrue claims to back up his larger argument about the supposed “collapse” of the region’s “geopolitical framework.”