Yemen and the Absurd “No Daylight” Standard
Colum Lynch reports on how members of Congress are reacting to the U.S. role in the war on Yemen. He notes that Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy is raising questions about whether the administration is violating U.S. law by providing weapons to the Saudis that they use in the commission of war crimes, but others in the Senate are taking a more predictable pro-Saudi position:
But other lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to do more to support Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf neighbors, which they see as a critical counterpoint to Iranian influence in the Middle East. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s chairman, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said the administration needs to “close the daylight” between the United States and its Gulf allies [bold mine-DL]. He echoed claims by Gulf powers that Yemen’s Shiite Houthis are receiving backing from the Iranian government.
The idea that the U.S. needs to do more to support the Saudis and their allies than it is already doing in Yemen is disgraceful and obnoxious. If there is any “daylight” between the administration and the Gulf clients in this war, it is extremely easy to miss since he U.S. has backed up the Saudis and their allies in attacking Yemen from day one. Corker’s position is regrettably all too common in Washington. Relying on pro-Saudi talking points and largely ignoring the horrible consequences of the intervention, many members of Congress wrongly perceive the war on Yemen as an appropriate and even necessary military action that the U.S. should continue to back. Like the administration, they are making a horrible error, and moreover they are doing so on the basis of shoddy information. Even if Saudi claims about Iranian influence in Yemen were true, it wouldn’t begin to justify what they have been doing to the people of Yemen. Since we know that the coalition governments don’t really believe their claims about Iran’s role, the intervention is that much worse.
As Leahy says, the U.S. is barred from “providing security assistance to countries responsible for gross human rights abuses,” and that would certainly seem to apply to a war effort by our clients that is resulting in thousands of civilian casualties and creating a famine. It would not only be right for the U.S. to withhold any further support from the Saudis’ campaign, but it would also be consistent with our own laws. It is hard to think of a better case where the U.S. needs to have as much daylight as possible between our government and our clients than this one. As it always does, the “no daylight” standard for managing relations with reckless clients guarantees that the U.S. will be tied to the many excesses that our clients commit, and there is no way that this can serve U.S. interests.