Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that the U.S. would increase its involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a war that has claimed the lives of 4,000 civilians in two years and drawn international criticism for war crimes committed by the Saudis.
As the Trump administration’s foreign policy continues to push the U.S. closer to a new war, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced last week that the U.S. is set to increase support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a war that has drawn international condemnation for the Saudis’ frequent bombings of civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals.
Mattis made the announcement during a visit to Saudi Arabia last week in a speech where he also accused Iran of being a “troublemaker” in Yemen, accusing the Islamic Republic of destabilizing Yemen by supplying the Houthis with weapons. The Houthis’ rise to power was what originally prompted the Saudis to invade Yemen in 2015 after the rebel group took power from former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, criticized by many as a U.S. puppet.
“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.”
Mattis asserted that the U.S. would “reinforce Saudi Arabia’s resistance to Iran’s mischief,” adding that the U.S. will not be leaving the regional war and instead increasing its role in the conflict.
While Mattis, the Trump administration, and Saudi Arabia claim the Yemen conflict is about countering Iranian influence, the Saudis’ true motives in Yemen are instead related to its desire to maintain control over the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, a critical area for the region’s oil trade. The Saudis’ efforts to maintain influence in Yemeni politics and maintain hegemony over a key oil route has now manifested as a war effort that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, most of them civilians.
In addition, more than a third of Saudi airstrikes in the nation are believed to have destroyed civilian targets. 3 million Yemenis have also been displaced as a result of the fighting and thousands more are dying on a weekly basis, particularly children, due to a lack of medicine and medical care – largely thanks to the Saudis’ blockage of key Yemeni ports and illegal bombings of hospitals and clinics.
The Secretary of Defense’s statements came a week after a group of bipartisan Congressmen urged the President to seek Congressional approval prior to expanding the military’s role in Yemen. Mattis, however, rejected this plea, stating that “we can overcome any past frustrations.”
Some are asking if the President really has much of a say anymore in actions taken by the U.S. military as he gave the Pentagon full “freedom of initiative” in March – a move which allows the Pentagon to order missile strikes, bombings, and other aggressive military actions without Presidential approval.
Since then, of course, the U.S. military has shot missiles into Syria, dramatically escalated tensions with North Korea, and dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan. According to administration officials, Trump was not even informed of the massive bombing in Afghanistan until after it had taken place. It seems Mattis – who was once “recruited” to run against Trump in the general election by a group of wealthy neo-cons – is now calling most of the shots when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.