White House 'strongly opposes' halting support of bloody Saudi-led campaign in Yemen – US official
“Obviously there are pressures in our system… to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the [Saudi-led] coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs Timothy Lenderking said on Sunday, cited by Reuters.
The official added that the support for the coalition “is necessary,” and discontinuing it would be sending “a wrong message.” This echoed the words of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who earlier argued that withdrawing military assistance to the Saudis would cause "immense damage" to US interests.
Lenderking made his remarks at a security-themed event in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, which is a part of the devastating bombing raids in Yemen. He blamed Tehran for causing chaos in the small Arab nation, saying that “a future Yemen” must be free from “an Iranian-backed threat” to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The high-ranking State Department official stood by backing the coalition's military efforts just two days after the UN Refugee Agency announced that the conflict kills or maims on average 123 civilians a week.
Since the Saudi led-intervention, Yemen has plunged into what the UN calls “the world's largest humanitarian crisis” with 75 percent of the population in need of aid. At least 16,000 civilians were killed during the war, and 2.3 million were displaced. The Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports caused cholera outbreaks and put millions on the brink of starvation.Also on rt.com 5 reasons the nightmarish war in Yemen should never be forgotten (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Washington's military aid to the Saudis has met some resistance at home as a number of lawmakers urged President Donald Trump to pull out from the conflict. Last month, the US Senate voted to advance a bill, effectively ending US involvement. Lawmakers have also been incensed at the Saudi rulers since the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi back in October.
Despite all that, the White House continues aiding the Saudis as Riyadh remains one of its top arms buyers and an important ally in the region. President Trump did vow to inflict a “severe punishment” on Riyadh if it is found complicit in Khashoggi's death and even placed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials in connection with the case. However, it would be “foolish” to scrap $450 billion worth of contracts and investment deals with the kingdom, Trump stressed.
Explaining his decision not to cut ties with the Saudis, Trump went to great lengths to praise Riyadh as a valuable partner in maintaining regional security and the fight against Iran. He also pinned the blame on Iran for the “bloody proxy war” in Yemen. The US president said that it would be particularly wrong to ditch the $110 billion of lucrative arms deals with the kingdom because otherwise the contracts will be picked up by Russia or China.
Just a week after Trump declared that the US will stand with Riyadh, the Pentagon gave the greenlight to a $15 billion deal to sell 44 THAAD air defense systems to Saudi Arabia.
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