The U.S. is looking to increase support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, officials said Wednesday—a move that some see as another signal that President Donald Trump is itching to take the U.S. to a new war.
Among the options for support are boosting intelligence-sharing and logistical efforts. Officials say increased military pressure on the Houthis is needed to push them into negotiating an end to the conflict—but the rebel group has shown no interest in peace talks since a previous attempt failed last summer, Stars and Stripes reported.
While the U.S. said it would not put boots on the ground, officials said the support would make clear the administration’s hard-line stance on Iran.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis accused Iran of being a troublemaker, saying the country was destabilizing the region by supplying the Houthis with weapons.
“Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis said Wednesday after meetings with King Salman and other top Saudi officials. “So right now what we’re seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption and instability they can cause.”
The U.S. would “reinforce Saudi Arabia’s resistance to Iran’s mischief,” he continued, adding that “we are not leaving this region.”
The news comes amid tense relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. One of the Obama administration’s parting moves was to halt planned armed sales to the Gulf kingdom over civilian casualties caused by the coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen—a decision which the Trump administration immediately looked to undo.
Just last week, dozens of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the president urging him to seek approval from Congress before expanding military action in Yemen.
Read the letter below:
But Mattis on Wednesday said, “We can overcome any past frustrations.”
Since the war began in 2015, some 10,000 people have been killed, including 4,000 civilians, and roughly 3 million Yemenis have been displaced, according to the United Nations.
The announcement also comes just after Trump authorized an airstrike on a Syrian air base and deployed the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that a preemptive strike against North Korea was “on the table.”
As Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis, who directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote for Foreign Policy in Focus, “Not one of these actions was necessary. Not one will make people in this country—let alone the Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Somalis, or others—any safer.”
“The question now isn’t what Trump—or the generals and billionaires filling his cabinet—will do next,” Bennis wrote. “It’s what will we do next, as opponents of these wars?”
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