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The U.S. Is Helping Commit Atrocities in Yemen — And Pretending It's Iran's Fault

20.04.2015  |  10:29
The U.S. Is Helping Commit Atrocities in Yemen — And Pretending It s Iran s Fault

In an April interview with PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about Iran's involvement in the escalating war in Yemen. His response was astounding and revealing

In an April interview with PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about Iran's involvement in the escalating war in Yemen. His response was astounding and revealing.

"Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines - international boundaries - in other countries," Kerry said.

The quip was astounding because Iran is not bombing Yemen or engaged in "overt warfare" there, though it has given some support to one side. The culprit on the overt warfare front is Saudi Arabia.

It was revealing that Kerry ignored the Saudi and Gulf Arab role in the catastrophe unfolding in Yemen. The silence on their bombing campaign, which has led to civilian deaths, a flow of refugees and the destabilization of the poorest country in the Arab world, is effectively a show of support for the Saudi war. And that support extends far beyond mere words, or the lack of them.

In late March, Saudi warplanes, alongside Gulf allies like the United Arab Emirates, commenced an intense bombing campaign in Yemen. The muscular move was launched in response to rapid gains by Yemeni Houthi rebels, who were sweeping across the country and capturing territory as the Saudi-backed president's regime crumbled. Yemen quickly became the hottest front in the proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, which the Gulf says is backing the Houthi rebels, a claim that is overblown. While Iran has hosted Houthi leaders and reportedly supplied them with weapons and training, the support does not mean Houthis are controlled by Iran, which is what the Gulf states say. In March, Reuters reported that U.S.

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officials had concluded that "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel were training and equipping Houthi units." But some U.S. officials said they thought the Iranian backing is "largely opportunistic and not a top priority for Tehran."

The U.S. government has been engaged in its own war in Yemen by using drones to attack Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, attacks that frequently kill civilians. The Obama administration is now fully backing the Saudis with intelligence and equipment as the Gulf Arab powerhouse rains bombs down on Yemen. At a time when the Gulf states are concerned with the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration is showing the Saudis that it will still back them in a chaotic Middle East, no matter how flawed and brutal their military adventure is. And Yemeni civilians are paying the price.

UN officials estimate that 650 civilians have died. At least 100,000 civilians have been internally displaced. Residents in the the city of Aden, which has seen intense fighting, say the area is in ruins and that there are shortages of electricity and water.

The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is the latest example of the state's involvement in Yemen, its southern neighbor. The powerful Saudi regime has long meddled in the poor country. The roots of this crisis lie in the 2011 Arab revolts, which deeply impacted Yemen.

Yemen's democratic uprising was massive, touching on every social sector in the country. It sparked a schism in the Yemeni military which led to gun fights between pro-regime and anti-regime factions of the armed forces. To stave off a prolonged crisis and civil war, the United States and its oil-rich Gulf Arab allies brokered a compromise to ease Yemen's long-standing president, Ali Abdallah Saleh, out of office. They installed Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in his place. A national dialogue with many of Yemen's groups ensued. The end goal was to recommend a path forward for the country after the revolt.

But a powerful group, the Zaydi revivalist Houthis, felt they were left out. Some Southern Yemenis, who have been discriminated against by Northern Yemen (North and South Yemen unified in 1990), were also angry at the national dialogue process. But the Houthis, who espouse anti-imperialist, pro-Islamist politics, took the most decisive action, sparking the current war in Yemen.

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