Pentagon: No refueling of Saudi aircraft bombs in Yemen anymore

Pentagon: No refueling of Saudi aircraft bombs in Yemen anymore

James Mattis and Mohammed bin Salman at the Pentagon

Defense Minister Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon on March 16, 2017. Mattis' decision to refuse fueling Saudi warplanes is seen as a step toward punishing the kingdom for his war in Yemen. | Nicholas Crest / AFP / Getty Images

defense

The move was greeted by critics of the US role in the Civil War, but called for the cessation of other support.

By WESLEY MORGAN

The decision to end the refueling of fighter planes from Saudi Arabia and its allies with bomb attacks in Yemen was greeted on Friday by Democrats and other long-time supporters, the Pentagon's support for an allegedly improper use of American forces leading to a humanitarian catastrophe have contributed to cropping.

However, they called on President Donald Trump and members of the congress to take further steps, including stopping the weapons and ending the exchange of information, in order to further liberate the US military from involvement in the Yemeni civil war.

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Late on Friday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed the decision in a statement saying, "We support the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultation with the US government, to increase the coalition's own military capabilities in support of tanker operations use in Yemen. "

The move, first reported by the Washington Post, was welcomed as a positive step by those who called on the Trump administration to cut off the Saudis and their allies in the conflict, including the United Arab Emirates.

"With the definitive end of Saudi Arabian bomber tank missions, the Trump administration acknowledges that our joint operation in Yemen was a disaster," said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He also called the move "a great victory," said deputy Ro Khanna (D-CA), a staunch supporter of US military support for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and said Congress must also pass a resolution that would "ensure all US involvement." is turned off. "

The Saudi government issued its own statement insisting that it stop refueling, as it has now developed the ability to supply its fighter jets on its own.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the member countries of the Yemeni legitimacy coalition are constantly seeking improvements in military professionalism and self-sufficiency," the statement says. "Recently, the Kingdom and the Coalition have increased their ability to independently refuel aircraft in Yemen, and as a result, the coalition, in consultation with the United States, has asked for the end of support for refueling aircraft in Yemen."

Since 2015, US Air Force air tankers have fueled some of the Saudi Arabian-led Air Force fighters attacked by Houthi rebels in Iran.

Some of these strikes have been held responsible for the deaths of civilians, including a bomb attack on a bus that became public in the summer.

"The Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which supports the internationally recognized Yemeni government, continued to bombard civilian infrastructure and carry out indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring civilians," Amnesty International said in a recent report.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also reported that thousands of civilians have died in the conflict and millions have been displaced. It has also fueled the spread of cholera and other diseases by destroying an already very poor infrastructure.

The Pentagon has previously stated that refueling and support to intelligence services has helped to make the strikes more precise and to minimize civilian casualties.

Mattis said in August that US military support was "not unconditional," but also stressed that the Saudi military was taking appropriate precautionary measures and following new procedures after undergoing American training.

"The training we gave them has paid off," Mattis told reporters. "We had pilots in the air who recognized the danger of a particular mission and refused to fall even if they received the authority, and we have seen staffing procedures involving areas without areas where hospitals or schools are housed . "

Last week, Mattis also called for a truce, which should come into effect this month. He said that "the Saudis and the Emiratis are ready" and blame the Houthis for the failure of past negotiations.

Some experts suggested that the Trump administration on Friday tried to avert the growing criticism of the friendly relationship with the Saudi monarchy and the expectation that a new democratic majority in Parliament could force its hand in January.

The broader relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Riyadh Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Congressional critics called on the White House to end its sting in a $ 110 billion deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

"This is being done as part of the government's efforts to move forward with congressional measures against Saudi arms sales and other operational support," said Michael Knights, an employee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has consulted with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition Campaign in Yemen against both a Houthi uprising and militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

"It is clear that the government had decided to stop refueling because it saw and wanted the scripture on the wall before Congress could cut US support for the coalition," said Kate Kiszer, director of the Progressive Foreign Policy Interest Group Win Without War.

The practical effect of the new move should be limited. According to Knights, the United States has provided only about 10 percent of the air campaign refueling aid.

However, it could still reduce civilian casualties.

"The lifting of this support will not end the war," he said. "However, it could be more difficult for Saudi Arabia to station aircraft over the Yemeni capital."

This is the part of the country where the Saudis have undertaken some of their most questionable strikes, including against rebels in motion.

The decision was seen by many critics of the US role as a major turning point.

"The United States has been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia for years, offering targeting and refueling assistance when American bombs were sent to kill thousands of innocent people, including children," Murphy said in his statement. "The United States has radicalized entire generations because it gave every American civilian who was murdered an American stamp."

More needs to be done, he insisted. "Why are we still helping Saudis targeting?" He asked. "Why are we still selling the bombs for a cheap price?

Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, an anti-war group, also praised the Trump administration for intervening, but expressed the hope that this would completely liberate the United States from conflict if a peaceful solution could not be achieved.

"This is an important step, but it is not the end of the struggle to end US support for the war and end the war itself," he said in a statement.

Like others, he called on Congress to play a more active role.

"The Congress must pass the resolutions of the Yemen war powers to bind the government to this change of policy, to end other forms of US support for the war and to reclaim its constitutional authority on the war question," said Martin. "This war was illegal from the beginning, and it's time for Congress to stand up and say that."

Defense Priorities, a conservative Charles Koch Foundation-funded think tank committed to less interventionist foreign policy, has also worked for President Barack Obama for supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

"US military support for this conflict is something that President Obama should never have started," said Benjamin Friedman, a senior Defense Priorities scientist, "The campaign is a humanitarian catastrophe that is doing nothing to advance US security. if it is undermined by it ".

He also said stopping the US refueling of Saudi jets should be just the beginning.

"The United States should end the Saudis' other forms of education and logistical support, including arms sales that support its bombing campaign," Friedman said.

In his Friday statement, Mattis reiterated the need to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

"We are all focused on supporting conflict resolution," he said. "The US and the coalition plan to work together to build legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure the borders of their country, and help fight Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region."

"The US will continue to work with the Coalition and Yemen to reduce the number of civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts across the country," Mattis added, urging all parties to "the ongoing efforts of the United Nations in this country new phase in Yemen ".

The Saudi government on Friday insisted that it seek the same result in a new effort to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, adopted in 2015. These efforts to end the conflict peacefully have so far shown no results.

"The Coalition Command expresses its hope," the Saudi statement said, "that the forthcoming UN-sponsored negotiations in a third country will lead to a negotiated settlement under UNSCR 2216 and an end to the aggression by Iran-backed Houthi Militia against the Yemeni people and the countries in the region. "

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