Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Alliances: my question answered

Last month I wrote about my concerns about Saudi Arabia’s bombing of civilian targets in Yemen, including schools and hospitals, and the resulting deaths of men, women, and children. Indeed, a US member of Congress, Ted Lieu,who is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and an attorney, said there is “significant evidence” that the Saudi coalition has committed war crimes in Yemen.

And I said, “But perhaps the most worrying thing about this is the involvement of the American and British governments.”

America and Britain are arming the Saudi Government. America has supplied the Saudi Arabia with such indispensable assistance as intelligence, in-flight refuelling of aircraft and help in identifying appropriate targets.” When the U.N. was going to investigate Saudi killing of Yemeni children by bombing civilian targets, all the evidence suggests that America and Britain supported Saudi Arabia’s efforts to ensure the investigation didn’t take place.

In the words of Daniel Larison “The Obama administration and Cameron’s government have not only provided the Saudi-led coalition with the means to pummel and starve Yemen, but they have gone out of their way to make sure that the coalition’s wrongdoing (and their complicity in it) is covered up as much as possible.”

And I asked the question: “Why have the US and UK governments been behaving like this?” And I said that the answer is “Because the Saudis are our allies.”

Confirmation of that came from on the British side from Theresa May, who when asked about the fact that Britain providing weapons that were being used to commit crimes against humanity, responded “Actually, what matters is the strength of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. When it comes to counter-terrorism and dealing with terrorism, it is that relationship that has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe.”

There is the key point: What matters is the strength of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

We now have confirmation from America as well. According to the Washington Post,

“. . . .When the operation began, support for a key ally was a foregone conclusion, one official said. “There was this great sense of ‘this is the right thing to do,’ ” the official said. . . . Despite repeated strikes on schools and hospitals, officials see little choice for now but continued support, given the intense desire to shore up a bilateral relationship rocked by President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and new legislation linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

There is that key point again: “Support for a key ally was a foregone conclusion. Officials see little choice for now but continued support, given the intense desire to shore up [the] relationship.”

It is all about alliances. Britain and America will continue to support a country that is probably committing war crimes, because they are our ally.

And it is not just bombing schools and hospitals. Saudi Arabia is also imposing a blockade on Yemen. The BBC reports “After two years of war in Yemen and a Saudi-led blockade lasting 18 months millions of people are slowly starving – some are already dying for lack of food.”

Millions of people are slowly starving. This is a major humanitarian disaster. And it is completely man-made. Saudi Arabia, an incredibly wealthy oil country, is starving the people of Yemen – which has always been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East.

And Britain and America are supporting Saudi Arabia. Why? Because, as far as the British and American governments are concerned, their relationship with the Saudi government is so important.

Postscript: Here is part of a speech by Hillary Clinton, which sets out the basic American government position on alliances.  I suspect that the British government would be in agreement.

When we say America is exceptional, it doesn’t mean that people from other places don’t feel deep national pride, just like we do. It means that we recognize America’s unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and opportunity. Our power comes with a responsibility to lead, humbly, thoughtfully, and with a fierce commitment to our values.

Because, when America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rush in to fill the void. So no matter how hard it gets, no matter how great the challenge, America must lead. The question is how we lead. What kind of ideas, strategies, and tactics we bring to our leadership. American leadership means standing with our allies because our network of allies is part of what makes us exceptional.

No other country in the world has alliances like ours. Russia and China have nothing close. We stand with our allies because generations of American troops fought and died to secure those bonds, and because they deliver for us every day.

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