Saturday, 22 September, 2018

US says Saudi, UAE acting to reduce risks to Yemen civilians

Mohammed Hamoud  Getty Images Europe Mohammed Hamoud Getty Images Europe
Jeannette Daniel | 15 September, 2018, 19:07

Pompeo's decision drew the derision of critics of the Saudi-led air campaign, which has always been denounced even by Western allies for the number of civilian casualties it has caused and for driving Yemen to the brink of starvation.

Some 22 million Yemenis, including more than 11 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, in what the Norwegian Refugee Council previous year called called a "man-made starvation of Biblical proportions".

"We will continue to work closely with the Saudi-led coalition to ensure Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain support for UN-led efforts to end the civil war in Yemen, allow unimpeded access for the delivery of commercial and humanitarian support through as many avenues as possible, and undertake actions that mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure", he added.

Last month, a report by the United Nations (UN) said that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and militia allied to them were responsible "most direct civilian casualties" and were targeting residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats, and even medical facilities.

Without Pompeo's approval, USA forces couldn't continue offering support to the coalition.

But some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed back.

Under a provision in the defense policy bill, Congress required Pompeo to repeatedly certify that the coalition was fulfilling several objectives to continue to receive USA assistance.

On Wednesday, Pompeo did just that - assuring Congress that the Saudis were really, truly committed to trying their very best to massacre somewhat fewer children in Yemen.

"There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties", Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the U.N.'s Group of global and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, said in a statement. Those include officials working on the issue at the State Department and Defence Department, he said. "Members of Congress must act to end the United States' complicity in this war".

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As Reuters reported, "U.S. lawmakers, concerned about a growing humanitarian crisis, included a measure in this year's defense spending bill that required Pompeo to certify by Wednesday whether Saudis and UAE were taking meaningful measures to reduce civilian casualties and allow humanitarian aid".

A Saudi-backed investigative team later determined the airstrike was not justified.

Larry Lewis, a former State Department adviser to Saudi Arabia on reducing civilian casualties, called Pompeo's statement "objectively false".

"There's more that can be done", Lewis, now the director of the Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence at the CNA, a Washington think-tank, wrote in an email.

All we are saying is give more war a chance.

"With Secretary Pompeo's certification, the State Department demonstrated that it is blindly supporting military operations in Yemen without any allegiance to facts, moral code or humanitarian law", Oxfam America said in a statement.

The coalition of Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has repeatedly said that by taking control of Hodeidah they would be able to force the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement to the negotiating table by cutting off their main supply line.

An attempt to convene UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva collapsed last weekend after the Houthi delegation failed to show up for three days. Without that certification, they would lose the aerial refuelling services provided by the United States. The Houthis have also been criticized for hitting civilians, though the United Nations says "coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented casualties".

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