Home/Daniel Larison/The Iran Obsession Poisons Everything

The Iran Obsession Poisons Everything

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

Mike Pompeo made another ludicrous statement about who is responsible for the starvation of the people of Yemen:

This is a fundamental difference in the humanitarian nature of these two nations. Iran causes death and destruction inside of Yemen and does nothing to prevent the starvation [bold mine-DL], and the Saudis provide millions and millions of dollars – as do the Emiratis – to mitigate this risk and this harm. And so it’s a complicated problem; I made a statement last week. I’m very hopeful that every side will lay down their weapons in Yemen, and that Martin Griffiths, the UN special representative tasked with finding a political solution in Yemen – but that can’t happen unless the Iranians decide that the Houthis will no longer engage in violence there [bold mine-DL].

The Trump administration is frequently guilty of using double standards in how it judges the conduct of certain states, but Pompeo’s statement goes far beyond that and actually tries to blame Iran for the things that the Saudis and Emiratis are doing. Iran can’t do anything to “prevent the starvation” that the Saudi coalition is causing with our government’s support. Iran isn’t the one creating the famine conditions, and it is not within their power to end them. It is, however, within the power of the coalition and the U.S. to alleviate the terrible suffering of the people of Yemen, and every time that Pompeo tries to shift blame and accuses Iran of being responsible for starvation in Yemen he is confirming that the Trump administration has no interest in acknowledging, much less addressing, the real causes of famine there. Praising the Saudis and Emiratis for their paltry aid efforts would be bad enough, but to buy into the idea that these aid efforts are actually being offered in good faith to “mitigate this risk and this harm” is inexcusable. Aid groups on the ground denounced the coalition’s aid plan as a war tactic, and the coalition is doing everything it can to cause greater harm to the civilian population because their goal is to starve Yemen into submission. Pompeo’s assertion that the Saudis should be viewed as humanitarians because they throw a little money at the country they are destroying is a reprehensible piece of propaganda.

Iran hawks have been parroting discredited pro-Saudi talking points on Yemen for so long that they may have started to believe them. Pompeo claims that it is up to the Iranian government to “decide that the Houthis will no longer engage in violence.” That statement betrays the extent of Pompeo’s ignorance about the conflict, and it shows how the Trump administration’s Iran obsession poisons and warps everything else they do in the region. Iran doesn’t control the Houthis, and it doesn’t decide what they will or won’t do. Iran advised the Houthis against taking Sanaa, and the Houthis ignored them. It is the Saudi coalition that is responsible for most of the death and destruction inside Yemen, but Pompeo has nothing but praise for them. Pretending that the resolution of the conflict is somehow up to Iran while doing absolutely nothing to rein in the governments that the U.S. has been arming and supporting confirms that the administration’s ceasefire demands are being made for show and have no substance behind them.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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