The secretary of state faces a Sept. 12 deadline to certify whether Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are doing enough to limit civilian misery stemming from a U.S.-backed military campaign in Yemen, or face a cutback in Washington’s support.
By NAHAL TOOSI 09/04/2018 04:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must soon make a key decision that could sharply limit U.S. backing for Saudi Arabia’s controversial war in Yemen, where more than three years of fighting have triggered a humanitarian crisis, claims of war crimes and bipartisan anger in Congress.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers inserted a provision in this year’s congressional defense spending bill requiring Pompeo to certify by Sept. 12 whether Saudi Arabia and its military ally, the United Arab Emirates, are taking meaningful steps to reduce civilian casualties, increase humanitarian aid and find a political solution to the Yemen conflict. If Pompeo doesn’t offer the certification, the law prohibits the U.S. from refueling Saudi aircraft.
The pressure on Pompeo reflects growing anger among American lawmakers over the U.S. military role in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have died and millions more face starvation as a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE battles Iran-backed Houthi rebels. In addition to the refueling, the U.S. has assisted the Arab-led coalition with targeting and supplied it with munitions.
The choice for Pompeo also comes as United Nations officials warn that the Saudis may be committing war crimes. Last month, a coalition airstrike hit a school bus, reportedly with a U.S.-made missile, killing 40 Yemeni children.
The Trump administration has closely aligned itself with the Saudi and UAE governments, and has made combating Iran’s regional influence a top priority. But with international outrage growing — and Democrats widely expected to make gains in the November midterm elections that could lead to new legislative efforts to reduce the U.S. role in the Yemen fight as well as possibly embarrassing hearings, Pompeo faces mounting pressure to act.