According to Defense Secretary James Mattis, additional support should be given to Saudi Arabian forces as they fight Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
“We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah. But the bottom line is, we are on the right path for it,” said Mattis while he was in Riyadh, meeting senior Saudi officials.
However, members of both U.S. political parties have expressed doubts about whether the United States should assist the Saudis in Yemen.
Mattis reportedly discussed sending additional assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, such as potential intelligence support, but no U.S. troops.
More than 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Yemen’s civil war, which has been going strong for more than two years. During this time, the United States has helped out by selling billions of dollars of weapons to the Saudis, providing intelligence and helping with logistics.
The Obama administration talked about scaling back aid to the Saudis, but new reports indicate that President Trump may “re-up the aid, with focus put on an offensive on a key port held by rebels in Yemen.”
“Nobody wants four more years of the last eight years of U.S. policy. Nobody expects the U.S. to be as muscular in the region as it was under [President George W. Bush], but they all want presence. They want to put Iran back in the box and they want to get rid of ISIS and Al Qaeda,” said foreign and defense policy expert James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation.
“They can do what Obama did and walk away; they can do what Bush did and try to shape the region; or, they can do what this is … persistent presence. ‘We’re going to be there and we’re going to work with you.’ It’s not like they have a whole lot of choices,” continued Carafano.
In a letter sent earlier this month, 55 House members (most of them Democrats) asked President Trump to stop sending logistics assistance to the Saudis. The group demanded that Trump obtains congressional approval before he gets the United States further involved in the Yemeni civil war.
Senators also announced a new bill which would require the president to verify that Saudi Arabia meets certain conditions before future arms sales to the country are finalized.
“The United States has no business supplying a military that targets civilians or enables terrorist groups to thrive, but that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in Yemen,” stated Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), adding, “The Saudis are important partners in the Middle East, but they have continued to disregard our advice when it comes to target selection and civilian protection.”
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