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Two weeks ago, I ventured a prediction:
Anyway, how do I bet what little I have left on “Saudis screw this up big time within two weeks? I’ll bet it all. I need the money.
The prediction was correct–that was an easy one–but I regret the insensate tone, not least because this is now yet another humanitarian catastrophe. UN estimates suggest 100,000 people have been displaced. It’s easy to dismiss Yemen as a perennially benighted hellhole, but kids who were born in Yemen have committed no other crime:
The chaos in Yemen, now the scene of some of the most chaotic fighting in the Middle East, has left civilians — noncombatants, both locals and foreigners — caught in the crossfire.
Those trying to escape the violence, either by leaving their homes or by leaving the country altogether, have been flung into a vortex of fear, fatigue, flight and death.
Explosions shattered windows in Sanaa, the country’s capital. The fighting has killed hundreds of people in less than two weeks.
At least 74 children are known to have been killed and 44 children maimed since the fighting began on March 26, UNICEF said Monday in a statement. That did not include the children reportedly killed Tuesday in Maitam.
US policy is to deliver weapons to the Saudis:
The United States said on Tuesday that it was expediting deliveries of weapons to Saudi Arabia, a sign of the Obama administration’s deepening involvement in the Saudi military offensive against the Houthi movement in Yemen.
And Saudi policy, it seems, is to bomb relentlessly. To what end? Can you imagine achieving any desirable goal in these circumstances through air power alone? So far, and predictably, it has been serving only to create chaos, from which A.Q.A.P. is greatly profiting:
AQAP already demonstrated its reach this year with what it calls “the blessed battle of Paris,” the attack on the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last winter. The group trained the killers and claimed credit for financing the operation. It credited al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahri for selecting the target. The Paris attack inspired others a month later in Copenhagen against other individuals who had satirized the Prophet Muhammad.
AQAP was behind the December 2009 attempt to blow up a passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Detroit and a series of plots to send explosives to destroy aircraft in the United States. The group has a cadre of experienced bomb-makers.
The longer the war in Yemen continues, which could be a long time, the more al-Qaeda will benefit. It will carry out terror attacks on the Zaydis and the Saudis both. It has underground cadres in the kingdom that Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef tries to unmask. He has been very successful in doing so, but it’s a constant battle.
Why are we backing this? The answer, it seems, is “Why not?“
“If you ask why we’re backing this, beyond the fact that the Saudis are allies and have been allies for a long time, the answer you’re going to get from most people—if they were being honest—is that we weren’t going to be able to stop it,” said an American defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official was discussing internal government deliberations.
“If the Saudis were willing to step in, the thinking was that they should be encouraged,” the official said. “We were not going to send our military, that’s for certain.”
The unstated logic of our policy, I assume, is to reassure the Saudis that our negotiations with Teheran don’t entail a lack of commitment to Saudi defense. (That it is highly unlikely to serve even Saudi ends–and may well end up destabilizing the Kingdom–seems to be of little concern here, but it should be.) So in other words, we’re again at war without any declaration of it, with no clear statement of our aims, no strategy, and no rationale beyond, “The Saudis are stepping in, which should be encouraged.”
The United States had no plan in place for evacuating its own citizens, and is now recommending that they try to hitch a ride out with Indian citizens:
On Monday, India rescued more than 1,000 people by plane and ship, the second time in two days that such a large number have been brought out since Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen on March 26. India has been asked by 26 nations – including the United States – to help get their citizens out of the conflict zone.
Does our policy seem to you wise?