Backing a winner

Now that the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen has finally started seeing some major successes, there are calls for both sides in that country’s civil war to stop fighting and pursue peace talks. The feeling is that previous negotiations were rendered impossible by the fact that the Houthi-Saleh side was in such a dominant position that it didn’t feel the need to make any concessions, but now that the Hadi-Saudi side has begun to turn the tide, the Houthis will be more amenable to compromise.

Of course, that kind of talk assumes that the Hadi-Saudi side, which now finds itself in the driver’s seat in the war, will be prepared to make any concessions of its own, or if they’re now committed to achieving a complete military victory over the Houthis. So far Hadi and his pals have given no indication that they’d be amenable to abandoning their hot streak in favor of peace talks, and it’s likely they won’t be unless and until they push far enough north that they finally meet some serious Houthi resistance. Which means the fighting and devastation will go on.

The US, which doesn’t seem to really care how the war ends as long as it ends with Hadi reinstalled as Yemen’s president, has actually increased its aid to the coalition fighting to put him back in power concurrent with the turn in Hadi’s fortunes:

A Saudi-led military offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen has scored major gains this month, including recapturing the strategic port of Aden and the country’s largest air base, after the Pentagon more than doubled the number of American advisors to provide enhanced intelligence for airstrikes.

Who knows if those extra advisers are the reason why Yemen’s situation has changed, but they probably haven’t hurt. Of course, US support is helping the Saudi-led coalition do some terrible things to Yemen’s civilians, like starve them and prevent them from obtaining basic medical care:

The Obama administration is providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling to coalition aircraft, and U.S. warships have helped enforce a blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea intended to prevent weapons shipments from Iran to the Houthis. The coalition includes five Persian Gulf Arab states plus Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan.

Human rights groups say the sea cordon also cuts Yemen off from imports of basic commodities, including food and fuel, adding to the nation’s miseries. Overall, fighting since March has killed nearly 4,300 people, nearly half of them civilians, and forced more than 1.3 million others to flee their homes, according to United Nations agencies.

Humanitarian groups warn that even with aid beginning to arrive at the port in Aden, medical supplies and fuel remain in short supply. Destruction of key infrastructure has left millions without access to clean water or electricity, and a quarter of the country’s health facilities are shuttered, according to the World Health Organization. Outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria and other treatable ailments have become deadly.

And also to drop bombs on them, which is kind of a war crime actually:

All sides in the conflict in Yemen have left a “trial of civilian death and destruction” and may have committed war crimes, Amnesty International says.

A report documents hundreds of cases in which people have been killed or injured in their homes since March.

It accuses the Saudi-led coalition aiming to restore the exiled government of carrying out unlawful air strikes.

The Houthi rebel movement and its allies are meanwhile condemned for using heavy weapons indiscriminately.

Note that the Houthis have war crimes of their own to answer for, but this does not excuse the crimes of the Saudi coalition, nor does it excuse America’s status as an accessory to those crimes.

This is the perfect time for the US to pull out of its assistance role in the Saudi effort, to use its leverage to force the Saudis and Hadi to stop their offensive, consolidate their gains, and take a serious crack at a peaceful end to the conflict coupled with allowing massive nation-wide humanitarian aid into the country. If the Houthis still won’t engage in a peace process, the Saudis can always go back to fighting. But for the US to follow the Saudi lead toward even greater carnage right now is both immoral and unsound policy. What the US wants is to be able to resume its full-scale counter-terrorism work in Yemen against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as quickly as possible, and supporting Hadi and the Saudis as they drag out the fighting works against that goal.

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