Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Sudarsan Raghavan / The Washington Post & The Star & Lesley Wroughton and Jonathan Landay / Reuters – 2018-11-01 00:02:06
US Officials Call for Immediate Peace Talks on Yemen
US demand for ceasefire seen as rebuke of Saudis
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
“We have mired in this problem long enough.”
— US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
WASHINGTON (October 31, 2018) — Following Defense Secretary James Mattis’ and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s calls Tuesday for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, and talks to be set up in the next 30 days, the US is continuing to push for peace talks, saying they believe “the climate is right” for a UN-backed effort.
Previous UN-brokered talks have never gone far, with the Saudi-backed forces refusing any deal that involves any concessions. The most recent talks never even started, as the Saudis refused to agree to let the Houthis fly to the conference.
State Department officials say it’s “time to end the conflict,” and also say the sudden US interest in ending the Saudi-led war has nothing to do with the Saudis having just recently murdered Jamal Khashoggi.
That story is going to be a tough sell, as the Trump Administration clearly wasn’t worried about the war before, and desperately wants to do something short of threatening the Saudi arms deal.
This is raising speculation that this marks the start of the US backing away from the Saudis, though it may well be a show of retribution against the kingdom to avoid having to do something more concrete.
Saudis’ Account of Yemen War Called into Question
Sudarsan Raghavan / The Washington Post & The Star
CAIRO (October 30, 2018) — In Saudi Arabia’s version of its war in neighboring Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition carefully chooses targets for its airstrikes. The rapidly rising civilian death counts reported by the United Nations and humanitarian groups are highly exaggerated. So are the accounts of an impending famine caused by war. And the coalition is in no way interfering with humanitarian aid or with assistance to Yemen’s beleaguered economy.
But now that narrative is wearing thin, critics say.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi this month by Saudi agents — and Saudi Arabia’s repeated denials of any knowledge of his fate — is raising new concerns about the Saudi account of how it is waging its devastating military campaign in Yemen.
“It’s thrown open the doors of doubt to the entire Saudi version of the war in Yemen,” said Elisabeth Kendall, a Yemen scholar at Oxford University. “It is no longer able to just tell the world what it wants it to think without the world now being suspicious and skeptical.”
As these doubts multiply, they are raising questions anew about whether US President Donald Trump’s administration can trust what Saudi Arabia is telling US officials about its conduct of the war in Yemen, especially its role in civilian casualties and human rights violations. Administration officials rely on the Saudi information in urging US lawmakers to allow more weapons sales and other military assistance to the kingdom.
The United States supports the Saudi-led forces in their fight against a rebel insurgency by refueling their jets, and by providing intelligence and logistical support in addition to billions of dollars (US) in weapons sales.
US Says ‘Climate Is Right’ for
Talks to End War in Yemen
Lesley Wroughton and Jonathan Landay / Reuters
WASHINGTON (October 31, 2018) – The Trump administration on Wednesday reinforced its call for a ceasefire in Yemen and said the “climate is right” for the combatants to return to UN-backed peace talks to end the more than three-year war.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday both urged an end to hostilities and resumption of talks that collapsed in September, drawing praise from US senators critical of US inaction in Yemen.
The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Robert Palladino, on Wednesday urged the Iran-aligned Houthi group to immediately cease missile and drone strikes in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and told the Saudi-led coalition to halt air strikes in populated areas in Yemen.
“We have come to the assessment that the climate is right at this time to move forward,” Palladino told reporters.
A US source familiar with the issue said that one of the driving factors is progress made by UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, during a September visit to the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa.
At that time, Houthi leaders expressed an interest in participating in talks that Griffiths wants to occur in November, the source said.
“They want to be there,” the source said of the Houthis, adding that the war, a looming famine, economic desperation and growing public resentment against the rebels “is not good for them either.”
Mattis, who on Tuesday called for a ceasefire within 30 days, said the Saudis and UAE appeared ready to embrace efforts by Griffiths to find a negotiated solution.
The Saudi-led coalition has massed thousands of troops near Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, local military sources said on Wednesday, in a move to pressure the Houthis to return to talks.
Another major factor behind the new push for talks, the US source said, is anger from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and their growing frustration over mounting civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign against the Houthis.
Those feelings intensified with the Oct. 2 murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who lived in the United States and was a critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The bombing of the school bus took it (anger on Capitol Hill) from a seven to a nine and a half,” the source said, referring to an Aug. 9 Saudi airstrike that killed at least 44 children. “Khashoggi was probably dragging it over the line.”
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Senator Todd Young, who have worked together on Yemen-related legislation, applauded what they called the “overdue diplomatic surge.”
Sheehan said “it’s past time for the United States to use our leverage to help end this horrific war.”
Young said that when the Senate returns after the Nov. 6 elections he planned to introduce legislation that would end US air refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen.
Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; writing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool
Saudi-led Forces Mass Near Yemen’s
Hodeidah Despite Calls for Ceasefire
Yemeni military claims around
30,000 troops will be involved in offensive
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 31, 2018) â€“ On Tuesday, two major reporters on the Yemen War emerged. One was that Saudi-backed forces are planning a massive offensive against Hodeidah port, with tens of thousands of troops rallying in the area. The other is that the US officials demanded an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all airstrikes in populated areas.
That combination clearly doesn’t work, but while US officials continue to talk up the peace talks they envision happening next month in Sweden, the Saudi-backed forces continue to mass. Yemeni military officials are now claiming around 30,000 troops are south of Hodeidah for the planned push.
There has been no comment from the Saudis on the ceasefire front, and all indications on the ground are that it went in one ear, and out the other. The arrival of thousands of Sudanese troops in Yemen was intended to be a major turning point for the offensive against he Shi’ite north, and it seems that offensive is happening, come hell or high water.
Analysts are questioning that 30,000 fighters are really in the area, but if the Saudis believe the State Department intends to force peace talks within 30 days, it would be in keeping with past strategy to launch a big offensive first to try to make last minute gains before peace happens.
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