Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says the Trump administration needs to do much, much more to protect civilians from the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
For months, Warren has been calling for the US to change its policies on Yemen. Warren says that back in August, she asked the Pentagon to stop helping the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states carry out its bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels in Yemen.Thousands of civilians have died in the Saudi-led attacks on the country, and many say that the Pentagon has tacitly assisted the Saudi coalition by refueling their fighter planes and helping the coalition find targets.
Warren says that back in October, when she asked the Pentagon about its policy on helping Saudi Arabia, officials acknowledged that they refuel Saudi fighter jets, but said they had no way of knowing whether those particular jets were striking civilians in Yemen.
“For over 3 years, the US has helped the Saudi-led coalition bomb Yemen with few constraints. Thousands of civilians died in airstrikes. When I asked the Pentagon if it tracked the Saudi aircraft we refueled and the targets struck, they said they didn’t.”
Then on Friday, US and Saudi officials announced that the US would end its policy of refueling Saudi-coalition aircraft. Warren applauded the change — but said it was “too little, too late.” The Massachusetts senator said she wants more: she’s asking the US to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, and to take solid action to signal opposition to the war in Yemen.
The change was first reported by the Washington Post. Following the Post’s article, both Saudi and US officials tried to play down the change, although they didn’t deny it. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Saudi Arabia had decided “to use the coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen. We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict,” Mattis said.
The New York Times is reporting that the US changed its Yemen policy because of pressure from Congress after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national and Washington Post contributor. Khashoggi, a sharp critic of the Saudi government, was killed last month when he went to collect some paperwork from the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Turkish officials say that a team of Saudi nationals flew in for the sole purpose of killing Khashoggi.
Khashoggi’s death sparked international outrage and drew further attention to the Saudi campaign in Yemen. The Times reported that the Trump administration likely ended its support for the Yemen campaign in an effort to “punish” Saudi Arabia for its treatment of Khashoggi.