Trump’s Record of Failure in the Middle East
Ten months ago, I responded to the claim that Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East had been “moderately successful” and argued that it was just the opposite:
When we judge these policies all together, they don’t add up to being “moderately successful.” On the contrary, these policies are almost all failed, costly, and unwise, and in many cases Trump has inherited bad situations and made them worse.
Since I wrote that, the Trump administration has reneged on the JCPOA, reimposed sanctions on Iran without justification, supported the dangerous Hodeidah offensive in Yemen, committed fully to an open-ended mission in Syria that risks war with Iran, indulged the Israeli government as it gunned down unarmed protesters week after week, relocated the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, starved Palestinian civilians of essential aid, and most recently joined in an effort to cover for the Saudi government’s murder of a prominent critic. That is not an exhaustive list of their destructive behavior, but it gives us a picture of how much worse things have become in the last ten months.
In this same period of time, conditions in Yemen have deteriorated significantly. More than 8 million people were on the verge of starvation then, and now the U.N. is warning that as many as 13 million innocent Yemenis could die from hunger. The U.S.-backed bombing campaign has also contributed to the worsening conditions. There were multiple high-profile massacres committed by Saudi coalition forces over the summer, including the Aug. 9 school bus massacre. The administration has promoted the fiction that U.S. military assistance reduces the number of civilian casualties in Yemen, but in the last few months both the number of casualties and the frequency of attacks on civilian targets have increased. The Yemen Data Project’s latest report shows the increase in attacks on non-military targets in the month of September:
September data is out: Almost half of all coalition air raids in Yemen in Sept hit civilian targets, nearly three times the number that targeted military sites. Of the 154 air raids where the target could be identified over 70% targeted non-military sites https://t.co/WI99aaE2FPpic.twitter.com/kvsbALglwd
— Yemen Data Project (@YemenData) October 17, 2018
There is obviously no improvement in Saudi coalition targeting, and there isn’t going to be any. U.S. support for the war does not make the Saudi coalition less likely to kill civilians because they intentionally make a regular habit of attacking civilian targets. The Trump administration’s determination to keep U.S. support for the coalition flowing despite ample evidence of deliberate attacks on civilians ensures that more Yemeni civilians will die. That is the cost of the administration’s lies to Congress about Yemen.
After watching twenty months of Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East, we have to conclude that it has needlessly escalated conflicts, inflicted collective punishment on tens of millions of people for no good reason, damaged U.S. interests and our national reputation, and made our government complicit in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity. One can call the administration’s policies successful only in the sense that they are “successfully” inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on people in many different parts of the region. This awful record cries out for oversight and action from Congress and a strong rebuke from the public. Passage of H.Con.Res. 138 to force an end to U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen would be a good start.