The Associated Press reports: More than 1,000 mourners were packed into the funeral hall, including some of the most powerful figures in Yemen’s rebel movement. Ali al-Akwa, who was just about to start reciting the Quran, heard warplanes overhead — but that wasn’t strange for wartime Sanaa. Surely a funeral would be safe, he thought.
Moments later, a huge explosion struck, tearing bodies apart. The ceiling collapsed, walls fell in and a fire erupted. As people scrambled frantically to get out, a second missile struck, killing more of them.
Nearly 140 people were killed and more than 600 wounded in Saturday’s airstrike — one of the deadliest since Saudi Arabia and its allies began an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015. The coalition is trying to uproot the Shiite Houthi rebels who took over the capital and much of northern Yemen from the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The coalition seems to have been hoping to take out a significant part of the Houthis’ military leadership and its allies, who were expected at the funeral. Instead, the attack is likely to deepen the stalemate in a war that has already pushed the impoverished country into collapse.
The bloodshed has eclipsed new U.N. efforts to secure even a brief cease-fire. Amid popular anger, the coalition has lost potential tribal allies. In an attempt to expand the war, the Houthis have retaliated by firing rockets into neighboring Saudi Arabia and at U.S. warships.
The only hope for progress toward a resolution, many Yemenis say, is if the strike prompts Saudi Arabia’s top ally, the United States, and other Western nations to halt arms sales, pressure Riyadh to ease the war and move toward negotiations. [Continue reading…]
Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes: In the public consciousness, this brutal conflict blurs into the other bloody wars across the Middle East, each of them marked by its own complicated mix of players, incentives and grievances that make peace unlikely.
But Yemen is different. Here, Obama could single-handedly cause a major drop in the bloodshed, experts say. He simply doesn’t seem to want to do it.
Per Obama’s orders, planes belonging to the Saudis and others involved in their coalition currently receive aerial refueling from American planes, a defense official confirmed to The Huffington Post this week. U.S. military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia offer intelligence and logistical support to the coalition, but don’t decide where it bombs, the official said. And the Obama administration has greenlit three new transfers of weapons ― ammunition, bombs, air-to-ground missiles and tanks ― to the kingdom to replenish stocks used in Yemen, according to arms trade expert William Hartung.
Obama could stop all of that at any time. [Continue reading…]
In September, The Atlantic reported: Obama has said little about the war in Yemen. With mere months left in his presidency, there is scarce indication that he will. Increasingly skeptical of America’s ability to shape events on the ground in the Middle East, Obama sees little incentive to overturn the status quo, even if that means supporting the apparently reckless military forays of a [Saudi] government he disdains.
A U.S. official who briefs the White House on regional national security matters summed up the Obama administration’s prevailing attitude. Yemen was already a “complete shit show” before the war, he argued, echoing Obama’s use of a phrase he is said to use privately to describe Libya. The Houthis are a nasty militia who deserve no favors and Yemen would be a “shit show” whatever the United States does. So why further degrade a sometimes-unpleasant, but necessary relationship with the Saudis to produce the same end result?
After a joint U.S.-Russian press conference held in Geneva to announce the abortive Syria ceasefire this month, journalists were served vodka from the Russians and pizza courtesy of the Americans. Yemen wasn’t even worth the takeout order, al-Muslimi said: “There is no pizza or vodka when it comes to Yemen. Only cluster bombs and arms deals.” [Continue reading…]