Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
While the American mainstream media is diligently reporting on the scandal of Melania not wearing a headscarf in Riyadh and cheering the triumph of her husband not bowing to the Saudi King as his predecessor did, the rogue elephant in the palace is being largely ignored. On Saturday Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The weapons sale, the largest single arms deal in American history, will according to Trump “help the Saudi military take a greater role in security operations.”
More specifically, the sale will further enable the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition to carry out additional war crimes and add to fatalities in the war on the impoverished Arab country of Yemen. In addition to the death toll from bombs, the Yemeni people are now dying of hunger and cholera.
The roots of the Yemeni war go back to the Arab Spring in 2011 during which a broad-based, nonviolent, pro-democracy movement in Yemen rose up against the U.S.-backed government of dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. If Washington and Saudi Arabia had allowed this coalition to come to power, the tragic events unfolding in Yemen could have been prevented. But of course the Saudis and the Americans feared a popular uprising might eventually challenge their hegemony over the region.
With U.S. logistical support, the Saudis are attempting to re-instate Yemen’s exiled government — which enjoys the backing of the West and the Sunni Gulf monarchies — in the face of a military offensive by Houthi rebels from northern Yemen.
Amnesty International has denounced the “glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda which will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror.” As if to prove them right, Trump went on to congratulate not only the Saudis but also Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, heaping praise on the autocrat, telling him, “You have done a tremendous job under trying circumstances,” and complimenting his shiny black shoes. The only country that Trump criticized was Iran, a rival of Saudi Arabia – saying it is “responsible for so much instability in the region” and “has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” He called on “all nations of conscience to work together to isolate Iran.”
However, according to many experts, Saudi Arabia, not Iran, remains the world’s largest sponsor of terror. David Shariatmadari at the Guardian, writes:
“While Trump was courting the leaders of a country in which women are not permitted to drive, let alone vote, liberal Iranians were celebrating Hassan Rouhani’s win in the presidential elections…. And yet Iran was the country singled out for trenchant criticism, while Gulf regimes were told: ‘We’re not going to lecture anyone.’
Let’s be clear. The United States is selling over a hundred billion dollars of advanced weapons to a corrupt totalitarian state that is carrying out a genocidal war against its much smaller, much poorer neighbor. And the US president is justifying these arm sales by slandering Iran which has made significant progress toward democracy?
Equally disturbing are reports that the US is not just supplying arms to Saudis but is actively engaged in warfare against the long-suffering Yemeni people, carrying out drone attacks and deploying military advisors.
“It would be much too simplistic to blame the current crisis in Yemen entirely on the United States. However, one still has to wonder: If instead of allying with Saudi autocrats to install another strongman in the name of stability, Washington had supported that country’s nonviolent pro-democracy movement, what might have been?”
At the very least, the US has helped to create a huge mess in Yemen that is costing the lives of many innocent people. And it looks like Trump is making the deadly mess even larger.
Copyright 2017 Michael Simms