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Our Saudi Problem and the War on Yemen

Paul Pillar comments [1] on the increasing divergence of interests between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia:

In Yemen, the United States has allowed itself to become associated with a destructive and misguided Saudi military expedition, and thus also with the humanitarian tragedy that the operation has entailed. The main Saudi objective is to show who’s boss on the Arabian Peninsula, another objective not shared with the United States. Saudi Arabia’s operation has shown itself, more so than Iran, to be a destabilizing force intent on throwing its weight around in the neighborhood.

Pillar doesn’t mention it here, but in addition to all this the war has been a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been able to make gains in both Mukalla and Aden over the last few months. Besides having nothing to do with advancing U.S. interests, the Saudi-led war has been directly harmful to U.S. interests there. Insofar as it has helped jihadist organizations, the war has made the U.S. and the region less secure, and it has come at the great expense of the people of Yemen.

Human Rights Watch released a report [2] on Saudi Arabia to coincide with King Salman’s visit to Washington this week. Among other things, the report described the Saudi-led blockade and its effects:

The coalition-imposed blockade also has had a severe impact on Yemen’s civilians. According to the UN, 21 million Yemenis – a staggering 80 percent of the population – needed assistance and half the population faced food insecurity by September. More than 15.2 million people lacked access to basic healthcare, and over 20 million lacked access to safe water. With commercial imports accounting for 90 percent of Yemen’s food and fuel supplies, the coalition-imposed blockade may amount to starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, a war crime [bold mine-DL].

After more than five months of depriving the civilian population of basic necessities and preventing their access to humanitarian aid, I don’t think this needs to be qualified by saying that this “may” be a war crime. It seems clear at this point that the blockade is a deliberate and sustained effort to inflict punishment on the civilian population in violation of international law. I have said this before, but it bears repeating that U.S. participation in this cruel and unnecessary campaign is indefensible and disgraceful.

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "Our Saudi Problem and the War on Yemen"

#1 Comment By Uncle Billy On September 4, 2015 @ 11:13 am

The Saudis, perhaps even more than the Israelis, have played the United States as fools. We are told that the Saudis are our valued allies, so we must do their bidding, even if it conflicts with our own interests.

The Saudis are creating havoc in Yemen because they fear even the slightest influence by Iran among the Shiites there. This action in Yemen benefits the Saudis and of course, the Sunni fanatics in Yemen. It does not benefit the United States.

It does not matter if the President is a Democrat or Republican, the Saudis will bamboozle him. We see it, again and again.

#2 Comment By collin On September 4, 2015 @ 11:14 am

I saw Obama wants to put Yemen on the refugee list for the US. While this a good sign for Yemen, the Yemen war is one area Obama is really failing both Yemen and Saudia Arabia. I am not sure how Obama should break his support for SA here, but the Saudia Arabia is bringing more chaos and terrorism to the region.

On Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen asked which nation could have the next Financial Crisis, and I submitted Saudia Arabia as the Super Dark Horse for 2017. (In reality I choose a commodity based South American nation for 2016.) They have spending their huge currency reserves at an alarming speed rate financing this war and the price oil appears to staying under $70/barrel for the near futre. And realize Saudia Arabia has no other tradable goods on the market.

#3 Comment By Nantucketeer On September 4, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

“The Saudis, perhaps even more than the Israelis, have played the United States as fools.”

Not even close. The Saudis may get free intel and logistical help, but they actually pay for the weapons we sell them and receive virtually zero foreign aid.

The Israelis, by contrast, have us paying for the privilege of fighting their wars for them, military, diplomatic, and economic. Total US aid to Israel outstrips aid to any other nation on earth, the biggest cash gift by one nation to another in world history … You’d think we had full employment and a giant budget surplus.

#4 Comment By Ken Hoop On September 4, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

I would add that the Saudis have at least offered several peace plans to liberate parts of Palestine from the thieves, failing to follow through for fear of harming the alliance with the US (of which I disapprove as much as I do the alliance with Israel.)
The Israelis however, even the “liberal” Zionists
never intend to deal fairly with the vanquished
while retaining albatross status with the United States.

#5 Comment By Kassanova On September 8, 2015 @ 1:04 pm

Nantucketeer, Who do you think got us to fight the first and second Gulf war? Israel?
Think again, it was our best OIL buddies, the Saudis. Saddam was knocking on their door and got the Al Saud family pee in their pants.