The Dangers of Ignoring Yemen

    Matthew Reisener

    Security, Middle East

    A man shouts slogans during an anti-Israeli rally to show solidarity with Al-Aqsa mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen July 21, 2017. The placards read:

    The Saudi military risks inspiring future generations of extremists dedicated to disrupting the established order in the Arabian Peninsula.

    In the weeks following President Trump’s first State of the Union speech, much has been written about the topics on which the president chose to speak. However, one topic of concern that noticeably received no mention during the speech was Yemen, a country in which the United States has carried out several military operations yearly since 2010. While the Trump administration criticized Saudi Arabia for blockading Yemeni ports in December 2017, the White House has been otherwise silent regarding the damage inflicted by the Saudis on civilian targets during Yemen’s ongoing civil war. Additionally, the United States has consistently provided assistance enabling Saudi Arabia’s sustained military operations in Yemen. Instead of remaining silently compliant towards the bulk of Saudi Arabia’s mistakes in Yemen, the United States should utilize its considerable sway with the Saudis to convince them to take the necessary precautions to minimize the impact of their bombing campaign on Yemen’s civilian population, which risks further exacerbating the existing civil conflict.

    While Yemen’s civil war initially began in 2014 as a struggle between the government of Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi rebels, the list of combatants quickly grew to include participants outside of Yemen’s borders. The fall of Hadi’s government in Sana’a prompted the entrance of a ten-nation coalition led by Saudi Arabia into the conflict to help Hadi reassert control over the fractured country. Given their desire for stability on their southern border, opposition to the Iranian-backed Houthis, and clear preference for Hadi’s Sunni rule over that of the predominantly Zaydi Shia Houthis, Saudi Arabia’s decision to intervene on behalf of Yemen’s beleaguered president was hardly a surprise to observers of the region’s politics.

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