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Voting Against Military Aid to Saudi Arabia Wrong

Voting Against Military Aid to Saudi Arabia Wrong
A Yemeni youngster holds a Kalashnikov rifle as he takes part in a gathering near the capital Sanaa to show support to the Shiite Huthi movement against the Saudi-led intervention on February 21, 2019. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 22 February 2019 04:37 PM

Last week the House of Representatives, citing the 1973 War Powers Act, voted to end U.S. military assistance to the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.

The Senate will now have opportunity to veto on the resolution, which, if passed in the upper chamber, will go to President Trump for action. The president is an ardent supporter of Saudi Arabia and may cast the first veto of his presidency.

He would have good reason to do so. A new narrative is emerging in the lengthening confrontation between Saudi Arabia and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen.

For months various Western media outlets have focused on a one-sided interpretation of the Kingdom’s alleged responsibility for the health care and other humanitarian problems hanging over the war-torn nation.

War is a terrible undertaking and there is no doubt there has been significant suffering in parts of Yemen resulting from Riyadh’s refusal to allow Iran and its proxy, the Houthi rebels, to consolidate control on the Arabian peninsula. From the start of hostilities in 2015, Saudi actions have been supported by UN actions and have been taken in response to a request for assistance by the internationally recognized Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Hadi.

At the same time, a closer look at events in Yemen underscores several truths inconvenient for what has been the prevailing Western narrative of Saudi responsibility for conditions in Yemen. Consonant with Iranian policy, the Houthi rebels are engaged in anti-American and anti-Semitic acts on a regular basis. Their infamous chant “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory for Islam” is eerily reminiscent of the Ayatollah Khomeini-inspired political slogan heard at state-sponsored rallies in Iran since the inception of the 1979 Revolution. The usage of such deeply anti-Semitic tropes in Yemen thus casts a light on the ideological motivations and the movement's ultimate intentions.

For example, demonstrations in various parts of the country routinely call for the death of American and Israeli leaders. Those demonstrations often are accompanied by pictures of armed children forced to patrol with older rebel forces the streets of conquered towns.

In addition, there is mounting evidence that the Houthis, who control large swaths of northern Yemen, are carrying out the policies of fear, corruption, and intimidation mostly pinned by the media and various pundits on Saudi Arabia.

Past Houthi claims that they were “purifying” the country from the claimed corrupt practices of former Yemeni leader Saleh have been exposed for their unbridled hypocrisy. Houthi leaders have been seen driving expensive Western automobiles such as Porsches and Range Rovers while those nearby live in squalor, struggling to eke out a living. The vast discrepancy in living standards is well-recognized by those in Houthi-controlled areas and undermines any Houthi claims of legitimate representation.

Houthi corruption is being matched by expanded forms of fear and intimidation.

Those traveling from parts of Yemen not controlled by the rebels into Houthi territory are systematically apprehended, imprisoned, and tortured. In one case described in a Western newspaper, a Yemeni citizen who traveled from his home in Aden to Houthi controlled territory was seized, imprisoned, and tortured repeatedly, including being hanged from a ceiling and beaten with rubber hoses. This is not an isolated incident but rather a widespread campaign against those who might oppose the Houthis.

What is more, September 2018 and January 2019 reports by the UK-based Conflict Armament Research and the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders provide mounting evidence of the Houthi rebel's extensive involvement in the mass production and deployment of mines and improvised explosive devices. Thousands of such atrocious devices have been killing and maiming innocent civilians in southwestern Yemen.

Other well-documented crimes, such as the systematic diversion and destruction of internationally supplied humanitarian aid, further underpin the need to address the dangerous role the Houthi's play in the conflict-ridden country.

As with most observers, ending such a conflict has great appeal but Congressional action against U.S. assistance, and by extension Saudi Arabia, is off the mark.

Dr. Jack Caravelli served in the Central Intelligence Agency and on the White House National Security Council staff under President Bill Clinton.

Sebastian Maier is an associate with the London-based corporate intelligence firm GMTL.

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Last week the House of Representatives, citing the 1973 War Powers Act, voted to end U.S. military assistance to the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.
saudi arabia, yemen, war, military
Friday, 22 February 2019 04:37 PM
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