Dem calls for halt to 'aiding and abetting' Saudi coalition in Yemen

October 12, 2016
In The News

A Democratic lawmaker is calling on the United States to immediately stop supporting a Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

“The evidence has now become overwhelming that the Saudi military coalition is either intentionally or indiscriminately killing civilians in Yemen,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, released Wednesday. “The U.S. needs to cease immediately the aiding and abetting of the coalition pending the administration’s review of the war in Yemen.”

Lieu has long been critical of U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, recently leading an effort to try to stop a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia over its conduct in the war.

But the urgency among those who oppose U.S. support for the war has grown in recent days after a weekend bombing of a funeral that killed more than 140 people.

Saudi officials have pledged to investigate the bombing.

The attack prompted the White House to start an official review of its support for the coalition.

“In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with U.S. principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen's tragic conflict,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Saturday.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The United States supports the effort with limited intelligence and logistics such as air refueling, as well as selling the Saudis billions of dollars of arms.

In addition to the funeral bombing, the situation in Yemen grew more complicated Sunday when two missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled territory at a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea. The Pentagon has said it’s weighing retaliation for the incident.

In his letter, Lieu cited a Reuters article from Monday that said U.S. officials went ahead with an arms sale despite some officials’ concerns that Washington could be implicated in war crimes for the Saudi coalition’s conduct.

Lieu, an Air Force veteran who taught the law of armed conflict while serving, said he agreed with the officials quoted in the Reuters article.

“Under both international and U.S. law, American officials can be prosecuted for conspiring to commit war crimes,” he wrote.

The frequency of airstrikes hitting civilians — at least 70, according to human rights groups — show Saudi Arabia is either intentionally hitting civilians or not distinguishing between civilians and military targets, said Lieu, who added both would be war crimes.