Understanding the Civil War in Yemen; Dozens of Yemeni Civilians Die in Saudi-led Coalition Airstrik
In the often forgotten, and very complicated civil war in Yemen, America supports a Saudi-led coalition against the [mostly] Zaidi Shia Houthi rebels backed by Iran. And, in a sense, Yemen's civil war embodies the ongoing struggle in the Middle East between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, and Shia Muslim Iran for dominance in the region.
The United States provides intelligence, military advice, and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition to protect its regional allies and to reduce Iran's influence in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has lobbied Washington repeatedly for greater assistance in the conflict, but Congress is torn because of the humanitarian crises the conflict has left in its wake. The civil war has been devastating to the civilian population of the nation and the UN refers to it as world's worst man-made humanitarian disaster:
BBC: According to a United Nations report last December reported on by the BBC, "more than 9,245 people have been killed and 52,800 injured since March 2015."
"At least 5,558 of those killed, and 9,065 of those injured up to 14 December 2017 were civilians. Saudi-led coalition air strikes were the leading cause of overall civilian casualties."
And the situation continues to deteriorate for the civilian population of Yemen.
BBC/UN: "...about 75% of the population - 22.2 million people - are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in acute need who urgently require immediate assistance to survive - an increase of 1 million since June 2017."
"Some 17.8 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 8.4 million are considered at risk of starvation. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five."
Yesterday was a good example of the toll the civil war is taking on the country. Dozens of civilians, mostly children, were killed, and many others wounded when an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a bus in the Houthi-held north of the country.
And in this complicated struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shia against Sunni, the Associated Press reported several days ago that in supporting the Saudi-led coalition, America is also supporting al-Qaida militants in Yemen.
Axios: The U.S. is aligned with the the Saudi-backed coalition in eliminating fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — "the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks.
But because al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim terrorist organization and is also battling the Houthi rebels, we have also protected them when it served the coalition's larger strategy.
Axios: "Al-Qaeda militants have been paid off to evacuate certain areas that were being targeted by the coalition, the AP reports. In one instance, al-Qaeda fighters left major port city Mukalla after being "guaranteed a safe route and allowed to keep weapons and cash looted from the city."
"Another deal allowed militants to leave six towns in the Abyan region; they were assured that the coalition and U.S. would "cease all bombings as AQAP [al-Qaeda] pulled out with its weapons," five tribal mediators involved in the negotiations told the AP."
Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, says America believes that stopping Iran from gaining further influence in the Middle East is more important than defeating al-Qaeda at this point in the civil war.
Michael Horton via Axios: "Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP [al-Qaeda] ... However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen."
Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon