The US Must Oppose a Saudi Coalition Attack on Hodeidah

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Trump administration is considering lending additional support to the atrocious Saudi-led war on Yemen:

The Trump administration is weighing an appeal from the United Arab Emirates for direct U.S. support to seize Yemen’s main port for humanitarian aid from Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, according to US officials, a move they worry could have catastrophic effects on the country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asked for a quick assessment of the UAE’s plea for assistance such as surveillance drone flights to help a Saudi-led coalition retake Hodeidah, which currently serves as a vital lifeline for the country’s 29 million residents, US officials said.

US support for the war on Yemen has been a disgrace for the last three years. Increasing that support to enable coalition forces to attack Hodeidah would be the worst thing our government could do in Yemen right now. Instead of entertaining requests for increased military assistance, our government needs to be withdrawing all support. Coalition governments need to believe that the US won’t tolerate an attack on Hodeidah, and just by considering this the administration is giving them reason to think that they can go ahead with the attack on their own.

The report’s language is misleading in a few ways. First, the coalition wants to seize the port to tighten the stranglehold they have on Yemen’s civilian population. If they were interested in ensuring the delivery of aid, they would not be blockading the country and impeding the flow of goods and aid into Yemen. Seizing the port is a death sentence for countless Yemeni civilians who would starve and die from other preventable causes as a result. If they attack Hodeidah, the Saudi coalition wouldn’t be “retaking” the port, since they are foreign governments intervening in Yemen and never controlled the port in the first place.

If the coalition attacks the port, it will not be for “humanitarian aid,” since the attack will cut off the vast majority of the population from their access to commercial goods and humanitarian aid. Aid groups are warning against doing this because of the likely disastrous effects it would have on a civilian population already ravaged by famine and disease:

As forces of the Saudi-led military coalition close in on the main Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, aid agencies fear a major battle that will also shut down a vital lifeline for millions of hungry civilians.

The U.N. recently warned that another 10 million will be at risk of starving to death by the end of the year, joining the more than eight million that are already on the brink of famine. Allowing the coalition to attack Hodeidah or helping them to attack it will cause many of these people to die from starvation. Those deaths could still be prevented if the US reins in the coalition, pressures them to lift the blockade, and halts its support for this shameful war.

Daniel Larison is a…

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