|Crime & punishment in Saudi Arabia|
By Ivan Eland
The United Nations top official on human rights recently told the U.N. Security Council that the U.S.-supported, Saudi Arabian-led coalition of Sunni nations fighting Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen bore a disproportionate responsibility for attacks on civilians. Since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015, more than 2,700 civilians have been killed and dozens of hospitals and schools have been attacked, leading the United Nations to warn of violations of international law.
The problem is that the United States is supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes by providing intelligence for targeting and also by refueling coalition’s war planes, thus extending the range of their bombing. Domestically, Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record on human rights that it is exporting to Yemen via bombing civilians there. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein exacerbated the Sunni-Shi’ite division throughout the Islamic world, and the war in Yemen is actually a joust for influence in the Persian Gulf between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are bitter regional rivals. Saudi Arabia does have substantial interests at stake in Yemen, which borders the autocratic kingdom, but the United States does not and should cease providing weapons and the aforementioned support, which is tainting the U.S. with support for a country that very well may be committing war crimes.
Yemen is a small, poor, and insignificant (from the perspective of U.S. vital interests) country just South of Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t even produce much oil; but of course Saudi Arabia does—and that’s why the Saudis are getting so much U.S. support, despite Saudi Arabia’s despicable foreign and domestic policies. The U.S. government ousts dictators in Iraq and Libya and loudly criticizes Iran’s bad human rights policies; in contrast, the United States mutes its criticism of Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, sweeps under the under the rug that the 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi nationals, and ignores that Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of militant Sunni Islamism by its support for radical schools around the Islamic world. Why does the world’s only superpower tolerate a major ally supporting potential U.S. enemies (the U.S. has the same toleration for Pakistan doing a similar thing)?