Saturday, May 06, 2017

Emperor heads to the front

After the first Saudi airstrikes in March 2015. AP photo via Al Jazeera.

As I've been telling you for quite a while, US engagement in the Saudi war on the people of Yemen may look ugly and is not cheap, but the intention under the Obama administration really was to save lives. That's clearer now that the Trump administration is showing us what really collaborating with the Saudis is like:

After long seeking to distance itself from Yemen's brutal civil war, the United States under Trump now appears increasingly to see the conflict through the Gulf's prism of Iranian meddling, even as Washington prioritizes a parallel fight [mostly in the orthodox Sunni-dominated southeastern parts of the country] against al Qaeda.
Detailed discussions are under way within the Trump administration that would offer greater aid to Gulf allies fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. Officials say that could included expanded sharing of U.S. intelligence.
The encouraged Saudis are ramping up plans to attack the Houthi-run port of Hodeidah, where most of Yemen's food supply enters the country. Amnesty International writes:
The presence of fighters from the Huthi armed group or other pro-Saleh forces amongst civilians and in civilian areas would not justify the coalition treating the entire city of Hodeidah as a military target – whether or not they officially declare it a military zone as they did in Sa’da.
The consequences of such unlawful conduct would be devastating far beyond Hodeidah since the city’s port is a crucial access point for lifesaving international aid. While the port is currently not operating at full capacity due to damage to its facilities, 80% of goods imported into Yemen flowed through Hodeidah’s port at the time the conflict started. The UN has warned that changes in the flow of imports through the port “would have grave consequences”.
Yemen is currently facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. At least 21 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in order to survive, and approximately 7 million are on the brink of starvation.
Threatening what the Norwegian Refugees' Council Jan Egelund calls "a famine of biblical proportions." It's a war crime that the US government is now directly abetting and wants to abet more, as Defense Secretary James Mattis says only a political solution will work, not a military one, but it's going to take a lot more war to get there:
The Trump administration believes that the Houthis must suffer major blows before bringing them to roundtable talks for such a settlement. According to the Associated Press, US officials asserted that intensified military pressure on the Houthis is necessary for ending the Yemeni crisis. Mattis asked for the removal of the previous administration’s restrictions on support for the Saudi-led coalition, which for example would result in the US military increasing support for the UAE’s forces in Yemen without requiring case-by-case approval by the White House. (LobeLog)
Based, of course, on the theory that the Houthi forces (members of the pseudo-Shi'ite Zaydi sect which has tended to dominate all sides of Yemeni politics, though only 20% of the population) are proxies for Iran—which wasn't even somewhat true at the beginning, but now is getting that way: as of late March,
while claims of Iranian weapons deliveries were seen to be groundless in the opening months of the Yemen war, there is evidence now that the Iranians are assisting the Houthis militarily. (Public Radio International)
In choosing Saudi Arabia for his first official presidential trip abroad (followed by Israel and the Vatican as if to wash off the Muslim cooties before he goes home) instead of the normal Canada or Mexico, Trump is showing the true colors of his "non-interventionist" policy: war for its own sake, just to show you're tough, without even the neoconservative excuse of doing it for democracy. Speak loudly, and wave that stick around, as Teddy Roosevelt didn't say.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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