Saudi Arabia, the recently crowned head of a UN human rights panel and close U.S. government ally, has now bombed two wedding parties in Yemen in just over a week. Yes, you read that right.
SANA, Yemen — Airstrikes by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia hit a house south of the capital on Wednesday, killing at least 23 people who were attending a wedding party, said witnesses and a local medical worker.
The attack was the second airstrike on a wedding in Yemen in a little over a week, and it added to growing criticism over the coalition’s air campaign, which has killed more than 1,100 civilians over the past six months, according to the United Nations.
On Sept. 28, coalition warplanes bombed wedding tents on the Yemen’s Red Sea coast, killing at least 70 people.
Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive in March against rebels known as the Houthis after they drove the Saudi-backed government from power. As war has spread throughout the country, more than 2,355 civilians have been killed — the majority of them in coalition airstrikes, human rights workers say.
Interestingly, this indiscriminate murdering of civilians is finally starting to get some attention in Washington D.C. We learn from Al-Monitor that:
“I fear that our failure to strongly advocate diplomacy in Yemen over the past two years, coupled with our failure to urge restraint in the face of the crisis last spring, may put the viability of this critical [US-Saudi] partnership at risk,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “The Leahy Law prohibits US security assistance — and many forms of defense cooperation — with forces that have engaged in gross violations of human rights. If reports are accurate, the Saudi indiscriminate targeting in the air campaign and an overly broad naval blockade could well constitute such violations.”
“Providing additional arms to Saudi Arabia would effectively give a green light to an ongoing military campaign that continues to cause immense suffering in Yemen,” said Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy adviser for Oxfam America. “More than six months after airstrikes began, the Saudi-led coalition has not demonstrated a willingness to agree to engage meaningfully in a political process. With more than four out of every five Yemenis in need of some kind of aid to survive, the US must make crystal clear its desire to see an immediate cease-fire. Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia totally undermines that message.”
So how do those who support arming the Saudis defend their position? Incredibly, this is how:
Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., declined to discuss the conversations taking place inside the committee. He did appear, however, to support the sale going through, pointing out that precision-guided munitions could lead to fewer deaths than Saudi reliance on so-called dumb bombs, echoing an argument State Department officials have also been making.
Precision-guided munitions…like the ones recently used by the U.S. military to destroy a Doctors Without Borders hospital? Those kinds of munitions?
The key question now for anyone who cares about the Middle East, is how the Saudis will pivot in the face of increased criticism. Will they pull back, or will they become even more barbaric and aggressive militarily? My guess is the latter.
The reason I come to this conclusion is the fact that the nation’s leadership transition earlier this year resulted in even more authoritarian and reckless rulers. In fact, the guy currently seen as pulling the strings is an inexperienced prince who is actually known as “Reckless” in the Kingdom. See:
Additionally, we recently learned the following from Al-Monitor:
Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal, a grandson of the late Saudi King Faisal and a nephew of the kingdom’s recently deceased longtime foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, told an audience on Capitol Hill that Saudi Arabia is prepared to lead the Middle East against a host of threats, including “increasing Iranian incursion into other states’ affairs” and the turmoil that has followed the so-called Arab Spring.
Saudi bombing of Yemen, which began in March after the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and marched south has aroused widespread criticism because of the humanitarian crisis it has caused in one of the world’s poorest states.
However, Sultan, who had extensive training in the United States, including in the US Navy SEAL program, and led development of the Saudi navy’s special forces, said the Saudi role in regional conflicts “is very much misunderstood by many in the international community and some of our Muslim brothers.” Situated “in a region of turmoil, revolutions and occupation … Saudi Arabia has to survive and maintain a stable and viable government,” Sultan said. “We do not seek to become an expansionist country … export revolutionary ideas [or] project power through far-off lands.”
Wait, Saudis train in the Navy Seals program? You learn something new every day I suppose.
With the United States and other Western powers disengaging from Middle Eastern conflicts, “We are going to have to take care of ourselves,” Sultan said. Speaking fluent English, Sultan said with emphasis, “We are moving the armed forces to a level needed today to lead — lead — the Middle East.”
In recent years in part because of concerns about Iran, Saudi Arabia has gone on a weapons buying binge. The kingdom ordered about $65 billion worth last year — making it the world’s top arms importer — and is in the middle of the largest US arms deal in history — $60 million in new fighter jets and helicopters. The Saudis are also buying more US Patriot missile batteries.
Brace yourselves. If you think the Middle East is in turmoil now, based on Saudi behavior, you ain’t seen nothing yet.