Saturday, October 15, 2016

Semantics: Update

Damage done to the HSV Swift, leased by United Arab Emirates, in a missile attack that the Houthi rebels admitted to the week before. Via USNI News.
There was another much more important Yemen event last week that the Times hardly seems to have covered, let alone NPR, that should have figured into the way I wrote the previous post: after the horrifying attack of October 8 when the Saudis bombed a Yemeni funeral party, killing 140 people and wounding several hundreds more, the US announced that it was going to do a big review of the policy of giving assistance to KSA.

I was aware of this for about five minutes—
—but forgot it as the Trump continues to occupy larger and larger swaths of our overtaxed brains.

Juan Cole seems to have bypassed it too, but it turns out that the review is ongoing, and serious, at least according to anonymous officials quoted in Missy Ryan's story in the Washington Post:
Future American military assistance to Saudi Arabia will hinge partly on whether the gulf kingdom embraces a U.S.-backed cease-fire with Houthi rebels in Yemen, officials said Thursday, as the Obama administration intensifies efforts to distance itself from a bloody bombing campaign.
“It’s not going to help sustain any support . . . if they don’t accept the unconditional cessation of hostilities that we think is absolutely, urgently needed, now more than ever,” a senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
That is, if the story is true, the US is doing exactly what I would have wanted it to do, sending KSA an ultimatum demanding that it stop killing Yemenis if it wants to keep getting that military aid. This is really good news, if it's true and the Obama administration is able to focus hard enough to make it happen.

I've thought since the thing got started in spring 2015 that the US aim in giving the Saudis particular help (with intelligence and targeting, I didn't know they were refueling planes as well) was actually to reduce civilian casualties (I thought I had pretty good evidence), and if so the policy was obviously failing—that funeral massacre being the last straw.

Meanwhile, however, the "rebel" forces appeared to have been seeking their own revenge for the funeral attack on Saturday when they fired two cruise missiles (harmlessly) at the USS Mason, cruising in the Red Sea, on Sunday evening, around the same time the US policy review was announced. At least that's what the authorities on our side say, with a lot of technical discussion that makes it sound like they know what they're talking about. Houthis, on the other hand, formally denied they had anything to do with it on Tuesday; then again, they had maintained earlier that they would target coalition ships in the area and acknowledged hitting a UAE ship the week before, so maybe that statement was diplomatese for "Sorry about that, and we're ready for that cease-fire."

In any event, the attack on the Mason is basically noise (nobody got hurt, I'm glad to assert), and a distraction from the important story, which is that this crappy thing may be starting to get better, and the Obama policy a little more the way I always hope. (And of course the NPR coverage is even more derelict than I thought, although the other sources I follow aren't doing much better; I hate having to praise Wapo, which I tend to not follow, for getting the story I was waiting for, but they did.) Thanks, Obama?

Or maybe not (stay tuned).

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