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America’s role in Yemen’s disaster

Two Yemeni men under banners showing Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Nikki Haley.
A campaign in Sanaa, Yemen, labeling Donald Trump , Nikki Haley, and Benjamin Netanyahu as enemies of human rights. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

Dozens of children were killed today when an airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition struck a bus in Yemen.

The bigger picture: The war in Yemen is exacerbating what has been called the "world's worst humanitarian disaster." The coalition has bombed weddings, hospitals, and schools, been accused of torturing detainees and, according to a recent AP report, paid off and even recruited al-Qaeda members. The U.S. has continued to support it.

  • Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told Axios that the U.S. was not involved in Thursday's strike.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche tells Axios the U.S. has two primary goals in Yemen — countering Iran and fighting terrorist groups — and the coalition is "addressing these issues on our behalf."

"Why are we going to get in their hair about how they're conducting this war, because basically they're doing our work for us over there."
— Seche, describing the thinking of some in the administration

While the war started under President Obama, the Trump administration has taken a different approach to working with the coalition, Seche said:

  • The Obama administration: "We will give you a green light on certain things in Yemen, and if we don't then you stand down."
  • The Trump administration: "Explain to us what you need to do — we'll offer some words of caution, some words of advice — but at the end of the day it's your call to make. That is your backyard, it's not ours."

The Pentagon's view, via Rebarich: "The U.S. military support to our partners mitigates noncombatant casualties, by improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties. The final decisions on the conduct of operations in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States."

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