Mike Pompeo gave a typically evasive answer at the end of his interview with Chris Wallace earlier today:
QUESTION: Meanwhile, you and Defense Secretary Mattis this week called for negotiations and a ceasefire within 30 days between the U.S.-backed Saudi forces and the rebels that are fighting in a war inside Yemen. There are reports that up to 16,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in this conflict and that around 14 million Yemenis are now on the brink if not already in famine conditions.
Two questions. First of all, are you comfortable with the role that the U.S. has played in backing Saudi Arabia in this effort in Yemen? And secondly, if the humanitarian crisis is so urgent, why allow this to continue for another month, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, we did make a statement this week, Secretary Mattis and I. Frankly, it’s nothing new. We have been urging all the parties to come to the table and recognize that there’s no military victory that can be achieved in Yemen. We’ve asked the Iranians to do that too, Chris. Much of the harm that is taking place there comes from the fact the Iranians continue to supply weapons and missiles to the Houthi rebels that are fighting there in Saudi Arabia. They are responsible for the starvation in Yemen as well.
Pompeo didn’t answer either of the questions that Wallace asked him, and instead tried to change the subject to complaining about Iran. His failure to answer those questions says quite a lot about the Trump administration’s policy. Secretary Pompeo is likely very comfortable with the role the U.S. has played in supporting the war, since he lied to Congress only a few weeks ago to ensure that U.S. refueling for coalition planes wouldn’t be shut down. He couldn’t answer the second question because he and the rest of the administration have no good answer to give. The administration is giving the Saudis and their allies at least another month because they feel no sense of urgency about the country’s humanitarian crisis. If they had, they would not have approved of the Hodeidah offensive that has already exacerbated the crisis and threatens to plunge the country into full-blown famine. Arms sales are a higher priority for this administration than preventing the worst famine in decades, and their actions have made that perfectly clear.
The Trump administration has been desperate to make the war on Yemen all about Iran for more than a year and a half, and that has required them to exaggerate Iran’s role in the war while whitewashing and denying the harm done by the coalition. Pompeo’s suggestion that Iran is “responsible for the starvation in Yemen as well” is unadulterated propaganda, and there is nothing to support that claim. The lion’s share of the responsibility for the impending famine goes to the coalition of governments that has been maintained an air and sea blockade of the country for more than three and a half years and to the Saudi-backed puppet government that relocated the central bank to Aden and stopped paying public sector salaries. Iran’s limited role does not account for “much of the harm” in Yemen, and Pompeo is saying this to deflect attention from the fact that the administration continues to aid and abet the coalition’s war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Saudi coalition and its Western patrons created the famine conditions in Yemen and they own the consequences, and no amount of last-minute blame-shifting can change that.
Unfortunately, Pompeo was allowed to get in the last word in this interview, so he was able to get away with his shameful evasions and misrepresentations. To his credit, Wallace asked some of the right questions about Yemen, but they came at the very end and went unanswered. Even now the war on Yemen and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis are still treated almost as afterthoughts instead of being recognized as the most important story in the world. That neglect allows administration officials to make spurious and false claims without being rebuked or challenged on air, and it has allowed our government to pursue an indefensible policy at very low political cost.