Even though it hasn’t grabbed the attention of the mainstream media, the catastrophic US-backed, Saudi-led campaign against the militant groups in Yemen has been one of the most brutal in recent memory, as the conflict has reached a stalemate and affected millions in the country.
“We are aiding and abetting the Saudis and the UAE to eliminate the tribes in Yemen. They have beaten off powers before and it’s my estimation that they’ll beat off Saudi Arabia too,” Distinguished Adjunct Professor Lawrence Wilkerson said in an interview with the Tribe Attaché. Wilkerson previously served in the U.S. State Department as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff.
The Houthis, one of these tribes, successfully overthrew the incumbent government, took over the capital of Sana’a, and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country. Hadi had lead Yemen following the Arab Spring after the reign of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh initially supported the efforts of the Houthis, but was killed earlier in the war once the tribal group found out that he was trying to negotiate with the Saudi-led coalition, which hasn’t been able to emerge victorious despite three years of ongoing fighting.
“Without us, the Saudis would clearly be losing to the point where they would have to stop [their military campaign],” Wilkerson said.
The United States currently assists the Saudi coalition in refueling jet planes, providing reconnaissance and intelligence, and also with the secret deployment of special forces for the purpose of combating the Houthis, according to The New York Times. Additionally, arms sales have been a recent topic of debate, with the August 9 bombing of a school bus full of children taking place with the use of US supplied munitions from the arms company Lockheed Martin, according to CNN.
The Saudis have accused Iran of being heavily involved in the crisis and fomenting discord in the neighboring country. However, these allegations aren’t serious given that top US officials have stated that Iran warned the Houthis against taking the capital of Yemen and instigating a brutal civil war in US intelligence cables, according to The Huffington Post. The current allegations of Iranian support for the Houthis have been made recently by U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, following a missile strike on Riyadh, but these have yet to be proven.
“Iran was not in Yemen until Saudi Arabia was,” Wilkerson said. “Saudi Arabia’s attacks on the Houthis brought Iran to support the Houthis.”
Iran has been a scapegoat for the United States, the Arab League, and Israel ever since the 1979 Revolution. However, the demonization of the Islamic Republic has been unparalleled compared to other gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. All of those countries fund militant groups throughout the Middle East.
“[Mike] Pompeo, [John] Bolton, and [Nikki] Haley at the U.N. continue to say relentlessly that Iran is the greatest state sponsor of terror in the world. That’s hogwash,” Wilkerson said. “Saudi Arabia is the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran sponsors Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s objective is Israel.”
The Saudi-coalition has allegedly cut deals with Al Qaeda groups in the country in an effort to combat the Houthis, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Meanwhile, according to federal law, the stated objective of US forces in the country in order is to combat Al Qaeda and organizations linked to them following the passage of legislation after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“The Saudis are actually arming and paying Al Qaeda to fight the Houthis for them, making [Al Qaeda] stronger even as we try to eliminate them. This is crazy,” Wilkerson said.
Recent activity on Capitol Hill suggests that US support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may be coming to an end. Congress had already taken steps to deal with the growing humanitarian concerns over the conflict. The last National Defense Authorization Act required the Secretary of State to certify that the Saudi-led coalition was taking steps to reduce civilian casualties. Mike Pompeo, the current Secretary of State, recently did so, despite the mountain of evidence that the Saudis and the Emirates were being indiscriminate in their campaign into the neighboring Yemen.
Because of this, many members of Congress are pushing for an end for US involvement in the Saudi-led war. H.Con.Res.81, a war powers resolution related to this purpose, was stifled last year in favor of a nonbinding resolution that passed Congress. That legislation acknowledged that US involvement in the conflict has been unauthorized, but did not affect the Trump administration’s material support for the Saudi-led coalition in the war. This time around, it may very well be different with powerful congressional leaders backing a full US withdrawal from the conflict.
The Senate tackled the issue most recently, with a war powers resolution failing by a close 55 to 44 vote. This time around it will be the House of Representatives. Congressman Ro Khanna, the sponsor of the original War Powers Resolution, has introduced another piece of legislation, H.Con.Res.138, which has the support of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, in addition to the ranking members of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. With this backing, it is highly likely that the House will meaningfully vote on the US role in Yemen in the next coming weeks.