Remember Yemen?

Eid Mubarak. Today Ramadan ends, a big celebration in the Muslim community.

Saudi Arabia chose to celebrate by doing what they’ve been doing for over a hundred days: bombing Yemen.

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Yet the continued plight of Yemenis — and the expanding humanitarian crisis — has fallen off the media radar.

That’s particularly notable given that according to the formal readouts, every conversation the President has had with Gulf allies about the Iran deal has also included some discussion of Yemen. There’s his conversation with UAE’s Crown Prince, on July 14:

The President spoke today with Crown Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The President shared details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program agreed to among the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. In discussing the details of the JCPOA, the President affirmed that it will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by cutting off all of the potential pathways to a bomb while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward. Recalling the productive discussions with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members at Camp David in May, the President underscored that the United States is as committed as ever to working with our Gulf partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, support our partners in building their defense capabilities, and pursue together efforts to resolve the region’s crises. The President and the Crown Prince also discussed the urgent humanitarian situation in Yemen, the importance of getting assistance to the Yemeni people in all parts of the country, and the need for a political solution that ends the ongoing conflict.

His phone conversation with King Salman, also on July 14:

The President spoke today with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The President offered his personal condolences over the passing of Prince Saud al-Faisal. He shared details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program agreed to among the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. In discussing the details of the JCPOA, the President affirmed that it will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by cutting off all of the potential pathways to a bomb while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward. The President underscored that the United States is as committed as ever to working with our Gulf partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and promote stability as well as resolutions to the region’s crises. Consistent with the productive discussions the President conducted with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members at Camp David in May, he reiterated the United States’ support in building the capabilities of our regional partners. The President and the King also spoke about the urgency of stopping the fighting in Yemen and the importance of ensuring that assistance can reach Yemenis on all sides of the conflict through international humanitarian channels.

And his face-to-face meeting today with Foreign Minister (and former Ambassador to the US) Adel al-Jubeir:

Today, President Obama met in the Oval Office with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir to discuss a range of regional and bilateral issues. They welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the P5+1, EU and Iran on July 14 which, once fully implemented, will effectively cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and verifiably ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward. Following on the Camp David meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, they discussed efforts underway to further enhance the close and long standing partnership between our two countries and build Saudi Arabia’s security capabilities, noting that Secretary of Defense Carter’s visit to Saudi Arabia next week will advance those discussions.

They also reviewed efforts to jointly address and seek to resolve regional crises. They discussed the urgency of stopping the fighting in Yemen and the importance of ensuring that assistance is reaching Yemenis in need through international humanitarian channels without any impediments or delays. They discussed cooperation to reach a genuine political solution in Syria. They also reaffirmed our mutual commitment to reinforce efforts to support Iraq and continue the coalition’s work in the counter-ISIL campaign. The President asked Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir to convey his best wishes to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The Houthis had started to lose ground (reportedly at the hands of Emirate forces, not Saudi ones) in Aden, but that hasn’t stopped the bombing.

Given the way the Obama Administration has tied some solution to Yemen with the Iran deal, I think it fair to ask whether there has been some kind of understanding that even as Obama pursues this deal, the US will continue to facilitate Saudi Arabia’s efforts to extend its hegemony at the expense of Shias (in Yemen, but also in Syria).

The war in Yemen is America’s war, even if we have no known troops involved. But the US is simply disavowing it — it, and the disaster the war has brought for an already beleaguered people.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. wallace says:

    quote”The war in Yemen is America’s war, even if we have no known troops involved. But the US is simply disavowing it — it, and the disaster the war has brought for an already beleaguered people.”unquote

    “An already beleaguered people.” There is the key. emptywheel has now laid the foundation of understanding why these so called governments need to exist in their present forms. Those entities who have brought this plague of misery upon a faction of human existence were already professed to come. 2 thousand years ago.

  2. wallace says:

    ps… I’m in hope that the worlds beleaguered peoples finally come to their senses and realize their ONLY hope is to organize as a civilization of real human values, and disperse upon the landscape of oligarchy a wave of armed anarchy that the planet has never before seen.

  3. yastreblyansky says:

    I think you should consider another reading, starting with what Obama said to Friedman in the interview: the way I heard it he was trying to explain, without saying it openly, that the Saudi case for the bombing is a fraud and that the bombing (and Saudi/Israeli/Republican policy in general on Shiite activities anywhere) is dangerous and destabilizing. When he talks to Saudis constantly about the urgency of stopping the fighting, he means they ought to stop it. They won’t, because they’re acting out like toddlers, punishing him for the Iran deal, which hurt their feelings.

    • P J Evans says:

      As an explanation, that would work better if the Saudis hadn’t been in Yemen for years before the Iran deal.

      • yastreblyansky says:

        I realize they’ve always been in Yemen in one way or another since 1903, and they’re also seekkng revenge for their defeat by Houthis in 2009. But this is very different from previous iterations. It’s by far the most violent and destructive, especially to civilians, that it’s ever been, and also takes pressure off the real Qa’eda organization in Yemen and the possibly imaginary IS one as well, so it’s really especially counter to US interests in addition to being really disgusting.

    • Tom in AZ says:

      He isn’t trying that hard. We’re the ones targeting all those civilian targets the Saudis are delighting in destroying. With our latest and greatest bunker busters. Just creating more haters of our ‘freedoms’

  4. What Constitution? says:

    America will get involved if, by some chance, the salmon are endangered. That was such a good movie, after all.

  5. wallace says:

    quote”It’s by far the most violent and destructive, especially to civilians, that it’s ever been, and also takes pressure off the real Qa’eda organization in Yemen and the possibly imaginary IS one as well, so it’s really especially counter to US interests in addition to being really disgusting.”unquote

    Disgusting. Right. Says an American while not actually having to deal with the death and destruction, but travels daily back and forth to work while stopping to shop at the local Wal-mart. unbelievable. I’d submit those who are on the verge of dieing in Yeman would spit in your face.

  6. yastreblyansky says:

    @Wallace:
    Because I think the Saudi attacks are a terrible thing and express reasons to hope Obama is working to stop it? I think the average Yemeni might feel sorry for me because I’m so naive, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t hate me for it.

  7. wayoutwest says:

    The Drone War in Yemen against the AQAP was the Amerikan’s War but this Civil War has become the House of Saud’s and the GCC’s War, their security interests are what motivated them to intervene. With the US busy elsewhere the Saudis had to take up this new position as Junior Hegemon, they cannot depend on the US to intervene in the ME for their interests anymore.

    The conquest of western Yemen by Ansar Allah, the Yemeni Hezbollah could not be allowed to succeed because that would mean Iranian satraps or proxy forces on their north and south. I don’t have any sympathy for the Saudis but I try to understand what motivated their actions.

    • bevin says:

      The Houthis have nothing to do with Iran. The sect involved ruled Yemen for centuries until a Nasserite revolution overthrew the Imam in the 1960s- Nasser’s army was actually fighting the ‘royalist’ forces, which were then supported by the Saudis and Britain (which ruled S. Yemen) when the Israelis launched the 1967 war.
      The Saudis didn’t see the Houthis as shia allies of Iran then and they know that they are not now. This is Saudi expansionist aggression of the worst kind, a seizure of the strategic port of Aden which controls access to the Gulf. It goes far beyond anything charged against Putin in Crimea or China in the South China Sea.
      Whether the US is assisting and enabling the Sauds out of habit or whether it is doing so to tighten the vise on the Gulf is unclear. But one word from Washington would put an end to this carnage- hearing none, we can only assume that the US is happy to sponsor this bloodbath.

      • wayoutwest says:

        The original Houthis were followers of the teachings of Hassan Nasrallah and they modeled their Ansar Allah militias on Hezbollah. Their leaders have stated their religion and ideology are influenced by Iran and their flag and motto is modeled on that of the Iranian revolution, Death to America. Their military doctrine follows the Khomeini revolution in Iran. Some of their fellow Zaidis think they may be secret converts to the Twelver sect of Shia Islam. I read some time ago that Muqtada al-Sadr is their intermediary with Iran supplying guidance, intelligence and possibly more material support.

        Even with these obvious connections with Iran they certainly have legitimate grievances against the corrupt Yemeni government but do they have the right to rule over the majority Sunni population of Yemen? The people of Aden appeared very happy when the Saudi backed forces routed the Houthis from their city.

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