The U.S. remains defiant in its support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen, even as its backing for the ongoing and indiscriminate assault comes under increasing scrutiny.
Following a week that saw the Saudi-led coalition kill significant numbers of Yemeni civilians, including in an attack on a school and the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders facility—which led the charity to announce it was pulling its staff from the northern part of the country—Reuters reported exclusively on Friday that the Pentagon in June withdrew military personnel who were involved in planning the campaign from Saudi Arabia.
“Fewer than five U.S. service people are now assigned full-time to the ‘Joint Combined Planning Cell,’ which was established last year to coordinate U.S. support, including air-to-air refueling of coalition jets and limited intelligence-sharing,” according to the news service, which cited Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Bahrain. That’s down from a peak of 45, he said.
However, Reuters continued:
And a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, said: “The U.S. may move its assets, but that doesn’t have any impact on the bilateral relationship between the countries.” Indeed, the “average of two refueling sorties every day” and provision of “limited intelligence support” to the coalition will continue, Pentagon officials confirmed to Reuters.
That’s “on top of more than $100 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2015, and recent deals made explicitly to “replenish” stockpiles spent in Yemen,” Samuel Oakford wrote at the New York Times on Friday.
In a piece charging the U.S. with “looking the other way” as Saudi Arabia kills civilians with impunity, Oakford continued:
Indeed, Trevor Timm argued this week in the Guardian:
Not only are Obama administration officials “hardly ever asked about the crisis,” Timm added, but “[b]oth the Clinton and Trump presidential campaigns have been totally silent on this issue despite their constant arguing over who would be better at ‘stopping terrorism’.”
And he went on:
In fact, argues independent journalist Marcy Wheeler on Saturday, “misleading” stories like the Reuters exclusive—which seems to suggest “the U.S. is not as involved in this war as it really is,” she says—will make the necessary task of limiting arms transfers “all the more difficult.”
Meanwhile, an estimated 100,000 Yemeni citizens demonstrated in the capital of Sana’a on Saturday, in support of a new governing council announced by Houthi rebels and in opposition to the renewed Saudi airstrikes.
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According to news outlets, bombs were reported to have been dropped nearby by planes of the Saudi-led coalition, though no casualties were reported.
Peace group CodePink is circulating a petition calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to “make clear that the U.S. will not continue to support Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen and demand that the ceasefire is resumed” when he meets with Saudi leaders this Thursday and Friday.