Trump Compounds Obama’s Terrible Error in Yemen
The Wall Street Journalreports on increased U.S. support for the war on Yemen:
The Trump administration has significantly increased military support for Sunni Arab states fighting al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias in Yemen, said U.S. and Arab officials, drawing the U.S. deeper into the two-year civil war there.
American support now includes greater intelligence and logistical support for the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, these officials said.
The Trump administration also is moving to resume the sale of precision-guided weapons to Saudi Arabia, which were frozen during the final months of the Obama administration due to concerns about the rising numbers of civilian fatalities in Yemen.
Giving the coalition even more support further encourages and rewards the worst behavior of the Saudis and their allies, and it shows that the administration’s Iran obsession is leading it to escalate the worst Obama-era policy for all the wrong reasons. The administration’s Iran hawks support a policy that will do enormous harm to the people of Yemen and involve us in an atrocious war, but it will not reduce Iranian influence in the region. It will only make the region less stable, fuel sectarian hatreds, and strengthen jihadists as they take advantage of the situation. Republican hawks berated Obama for his treatment of regional clients, and many have called for having “no daylight” between them and the U.S. This is what “no daylight” looks like in practice: indulging and enabling their most destructive behavior and making the U.S. complicit in their crimes.
The report is somewhat misleading about the coalition campaign, almost all of which is focused on fighting the Houthi/Saleh alliance and virtually none of which has been aimed at Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthis still receive only limited support from Iran, so to call them “Iranian-backed” suggests that there is far more Iranian involvement and influence than there is. Insofar as Trump administration officials accept the coalition line about “Iranian expansionism” in Yemen, they are letting themselves be played for fools. If they think that the coalition will suddenly take more of an interest in combating AQAP in the future, they are kidding themselves.
Support for the war on Yemen was arguably Obama’s greatest foreign policy blunder, and now Trump is starting off his presidency by compounding Obama’s terrible error with even more support for the Saudi-led coalition.