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Trump administration to continue support for Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen

The warring parties involved in the Yemeni conflict began peace talks in Sweden last week

Sarah Harvard
New York
Monday 10 December 2018 00:01 GMT
Malnutrition centre in Mukalla, Yemen provides care for children suffering hunger and famine

The US will continue to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen as it attempts to rival Iranian influence and Islamic extremism in the region, the State Department has said.

Since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist, at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate, the Trump administration has come under fire for its four-year-involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen — leading the country to the brink of famine with about 85,000 young children said to have died from starvation.

Last month, the Senate voted to move forward a resolution ending US military support in the conflict, which includies arm sales and intelligence sharing with the Sunni Muslim coalition’s quest to expel Iranian-backed Houthis from the country and restore an internationally recognised government.

“Obviously there are pressures in our system ... to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” Timothy Lenderking, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Gulf affairs, said at a security forum in the United Arab Emirates.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support,” he added.

The US has, however, halted its refuelling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition, which has been blamed for killing thousands of Yemeni civilians since the start of the conflict.

UN-sponsored peace talks in Saudi Arabia between the warring parties began last week. Mr Lenderking said the peace talks were a “vital first step” in ending the conflict that has killed thousands of people.

“Looking down the road we seek a stable and unified Yemen that fosters rather than drains regional and global stability,” he said.

Mr Lenderking also stated the coalition was also combatting Islamic State and al Qaeda militants in Yemen.

“There is no place in a future Yemen for an Iranian-backed threat to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and vital international economic quarters,” he added.

Yemen, located in the Arabian Peninsula, sits on the southernmost point of the region along the Red Sea, which is considered one of the most important oil trade routes in the world.

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The war in Yemen is primarily seen as a proxy war in the region between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It positions the Houthi movement against Yemeni forces, backed by Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates, devoted to the ousted government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis ousted Mr Hadi in 2014, and now control the Yemeni capital and other cities in the country.

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