U.S. Complicit with Saudi Arabia in 10,000 Yemen War Deaths

Posted Nov. 15, 2017

MP3 Interview with Shireen Al-Adeimi, Harvard Graduate School student originally from Yemen, conducted by Scott Harris


The war in Yemen between Shiite Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi began in 2014 after rebels seized control of the capital city of Sanaa. Saudi Arabia and allied Gulf nations launched a brutal bombing campaign targeting the Houthis in March 2015. Human rights groups have condemned the non-stop Saudi airstrikes for repeatedly targeting civilians and civil infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and markets.

It’s estimated that more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 2014. However, a larger humanitarian crisis has developed due to a prolonged air and sea blockade preventing food and medicine from entering the country. As many as 7 million people in Yemen already face “famine-like” conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive. An outbreak of cholera, caused by the destruction of water and sanitation systems by Saudi airstrikes, has already killed more than 2,000 people.

The Saudi government grounded all humanitarian aid flights into Yemen after a missile was fired into Saudi Arabia from Yemen on Nov. 4. The Saudis blamed the Houthi rebels, charging that the missile was supplied by Iran, which they assert may be considered an “act of war.” The U.S. has aided the Saudi bombing campaign with intelligence, in-air refueling, and weapons sales. In a rare bipartisan challenge to U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad, the House of Representatives passed a resolution on Nov. 13 which states that U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen has not been authorized by Congress. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Harvard graduate School Student originally from Yemen, who discusses the humanitarian crisis which the conflict has triggered, and U.S. complicity with Saudi Arabia in the ongoing war.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: The Saudis have been bombing indiscriminately. They have not left anything unbombed. So, houses, schools, hospitals, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), they had in one year, four of their hospitals were bombed. And this was after they were providing exact coordinates to the Saudi-led coalition, saying "Hey, don't bomb us, we're a hospital." And that didn't seem to help either. Saudi Arabia and Yemen have been known for committing double-tap strikes, which means that they bomb an area, and then when rescue operations are underway, they come and they bomb the rescuers one more time. We've had double-tap and triple-tap attacks in Yemen consistently. In October of last year, they bombed a funeral home, killing 140 or 150 people. And so they have crossed every boundary. Nobody has been left unscathed by their bombing campaign.

And they're using the blockade as a form of control as well. They are starving people to death in Yemen and that's another one of those violations that they continue to commit with inpunity.

Unfortunately, the United States has been helping them right from the beginning, under the Obama administration, continuing through the Trump administration. The United States, of course, has huge weapons deals with Saudi Arabia. So do a lot of other countries. But we go further, we provide mid-air support while the jets are flying and they're bombing civilians or targeting whatever they're targeting, the U.S. provides mid-air refueling for the Saudi jets, and they provide logistics and training and all sorts of things, so it's really difficult to justify why we're in Yemen, and that's part of the reason why nobody's really talking about the conflict in Yemen.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I've read that up to seven million people in Yemen face starvation because of the air and sea blockade. And we also have a situation there where thousands of people are dying from cholera, primarily children.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: The world's worst outbreak of cholera is happening in Yemen right now. Haiti, at the peak of their cholera outbreak, which took five years, there were 700,000 cases. Yemen has already passed 900,000 cases in just a few months. The treatment for cholera is clean water and people don't have clean water to drink. And so the most vulnerable are those who are very young children and the elderly, people who have been compromised by hunger and their bodies have been weakened by starvation and what-not. Over 2,000 have already died. The blockade means that people aren't getting food or very little food and medicine is coming into the country. Prior to the war, Yemen used to import 90 percent of its food. And so, there's nothing really growing in the country. We have a water crisis and so people are starving and whatever little food remains people can't afford any more because civil servants haven't been paid in a year, and those who are being paid, prices have skyrocketed. The country is set to run out of fuel in one month and vaccines in one month.

So, when the UN says it's the world's worst humanitarian crisis, it's not an exaggeration. Millions and millions of people are already at risk of starvation. People are already dying of starvation and it's just going to get worse if the Saudis don't lift the blockade.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What can you tell us about any actions that have taken place within the U.S. Congress and to address the U.S. involvement in this bloody war in Yemen, given the fact we provided intelligence, air refueling and the sale of large amounts of weapons that are being used by the Saudis in this war?

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI: Right, Congressman Ro Khanna from California introduced H.CON.RES.81, and it says, "Directing the president pursuant to section 5c of the War Powers Resolution to remove United States Armed Forces from unauthorized hostilities in the Republic of Yemen." And under the War Powers Resolution, this would have been a privileged bill, which meant that they had to vote on it and debate it in the House and then vote on this U.S. involvement in Yemen. But, unfortunately it was stripped of its privileged status and what we learned from Ro Khanna is that he ended up negotiating an alternate resolution, which is House Resolution 599, which is nonbinding. It just basically says "We need to have an urgent political solution in Yemen; we denounce the activities of all parties in Yemen" – it repeats a lot of the Saudi rhetoric on Yemeni involvement and it was passed in the House overwhelmingly. But this isn't the resolution that Yemenis were hoping for.

This isn't the resolution that people in Yemen were hoping for that would extricate the United States from involvement in Yemen, because without the United States' support, the Saudis cannot sustain this war. They rely very heavily on U.S. support in Yemen intelligence, logistical training, all of those things, besides the weapons, of course. And so, it's really disappointing that there is this one chance, this hope for the United States finally after two-and-a-half years, to get out of Yemen, not be involved in these war crimes that the Saudis are committing. But nothing concrete so far.

Learn more about the conflict in Yemen and the humanitarian crisis there by visiting the Middle East Research and Information Project at merip.org and the Yemen Peace Project at yemenpeaceproject.org.

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