The U.S. continues to intensify its support for the reckless Saudi war on Yemen:
“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” [Deputy Secretary of State Blinken] said, referring to Riyadh’s leadership of a military campaign by several Arab countries to prevent Iranian-allied Houthis from ruling over the whole of Yemen.
“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation centre.”
It would be more accurate to say that the Saudis are “sending a strong message” that they will allow their paranoia about Iranian influence to turn a neighboring country into a humanitarian disaster area. It is also misleading to describe the Houthis as “Iranian-allied.” That is especially important when that is the main justification for the entire war. Were it not for alarmism about growing Iranian influence, the Saudi campaign would be clearly seen as the dangerous and excessive intervention that it is.
The intervention has not been going on long, but the consequences are already very serious. The Saudi campaign in Yemen is not yet two weeks’ old, and there are well-founded warnings that if the war continues to escalate that Yemen’s humanitarian crisis could rival and perhaps surpass that of Syria’s:
Looking to exploit Yemen’s chaos are extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State, said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.
“If Yemen descends into all-out war, which is a likely scenario, we could witness a greater humanitarian crisis than that of Syria, in terms of refugees and mass starvation,” he said. “You could end up with al-Qaeda being the main winner after this conflict.”
In addition to the appalling costs that the war is already inflicting on Yemen, the Saudis are extremely unlikely to achieve their goal. The Saudis are doing this ostensibly to put Yemen’s President Hadi back in power, but the bombing campaign is so deeply unpopular in Yemen that if Hadi were to return to the capital he would be overthrown and probably killed. The Financial Times reports:
Pictures of a grinning Mr Hadi and the president’s energetic support for the campaign, which he personally requested after losing control of the country, have lost what goodwill there is left for him in Yemen’s northern highlands, a stronghold for the Houthis and forces loyal to former-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, says a Yemeni official.
“Can you imagine if he is back in Sana’a [the capital] what will happen?” he asks. “He won’t survive.”
It would be perverse for the Saudis to persist in a military campaign that can’t achieve their desired political goal, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The U.S. has no business backing this campaign, and ought to be withdrawing its support rather than increasing it. The Houthis have indicated a willingness to negotiate if the Saudi attacks are halted, but at the moment peace talks seem unlikely to take place.