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Botched Raid Frays US-Yemen Relations As Slaughter In North Continues

A botched raid by U.S. Special Forces last month that left numerous civilians dead has led, according to The New York Times, to the government in Yemen withdrawing permission for the United States to run ground missions against alleged terrorist groups in the country.

At today’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to confirm any withdrawal of permission had occurred, but said more diplomatic work was being done to strengthen the relationship.

The raid, conducted on January 29th, killed numerous civilians including the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was purposely targeted by President Barack Obama for assassination. His son was also killed by a United States drone strike, though the Obama Administration said he was collateral damage.

Yemen has reportedly not withdrawn permission for the U.S. drone strike program, which has also led to numerous deaths of innocent civilians. Based on U.S. government disclosures and outside reporting, the current total of drone strikes in Yemen is believe to be roughly 140, with hundreds of Al Qaeda militants killed. Civilian casualties from drone strikes are estimated to be around 100 people so far.

In the midst of the U.S. war against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a civil war is raging in the north of the country, where the U.S. is assisting a coalition of forces principally led by Saudi Arabia that are killing thousands of civilians.

The civil war in Yemen—which is a result of a group of rebels known as the Houthis overthrowing a U.S. and Saudi-backed government—has become a raging proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, though it remains unclear if Iran was backing the Houthis initially.

Regardless of the accuracy of different state actors’ original perceptions, the war is now in full gear with the United Nations claiming at least 10,000 civilians have already been killed.

Today, the U.N. reports that 12 million people in Yemen face the threat of famine. An August report from the U.N. estimates that more than 3 million people have already been displaced due to the war.

The chief cause of the civilian deaths, displacement, and endangerment is undeniably Saudi Arabia’s grizzly bombing campaign, which has been careless and at times cruel. U.N. sanctions monitors already warned that the Saudi-led coalition’s conduct most likely amounts to war crimes.

That coalition includes the United States, which has been directly assisting the Saudis attacks on targets in Yemen, providing the weapons, mid-air refueling, and intelligence information to conduct the attacks.

As journalist Benjamin Norton recently told Shadowproof, if the U.S. stopped helping the Saudis attack Yemen, it’s likely the war would end quickly. The U.S. serves a vital role in the Saudi war effort in Yemen and, despite claims to the contrary, has tremendous leverage.

But the U.S. has its own purported interests in Yemen in the form of AQAP and appeasing the Saudis after refusing to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. So it looks like for now the slaughter shall continue.

The Clash, Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway in 1980 | Photo by Helge Øverås
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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.