US, UK, France Knowingly Backing Saudi Genocide in Yemen: American Analyst
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A former US Senate foreign policy analyst said Western powers, like the US, Britain and France, are not only fully aware of the Riyadh regime’s genocide in Yemen but also supporting the oil-rich Kingdom in return for petrodollars.
In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency, Washington-based political analyst James Jatras highlighted the reasons behind the silence of Western communities about Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen and some other Middle Eastern countries and the role that the US, Britain and France are playing in the crimes.
“The real scandal is that the governments of the US, the UK, France and others know full well what the Saudis are doing, and they just don’t care – or worse even support them,” the analyst told Tasnim.
James George Jatras is Deputy Director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a privately-funded American NGO. Based in Washington, DC, he is a former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.
The full text of Tasnim’s interview with Jatras is as follows:
Tasnim: It has been nearly a year and a half since the Saudi regime and its allies waged a war on Yemen in an attempt to restore power to the fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Since March 2015, the people of the Arab country have been under major attacks and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. According to a new study, more than a third of Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen hit civilian sites including schools, hospitals, and mosques. The findings, revealed by the Guardian on Friday, contrast with claims by the Saudi government, backed by its US and British allies, that Riyadh is seeking to minimize civilian casualties. The survey, conducted by a group of academics, human rights organizations and activists, refocuses attention on UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, worth more than £3.3bn since the air campaign began. What is your assessment of the new findings and the UK's role in the ongoing war in Yemen?
Jatras: Documentation of the extent and specifics of the Saudi crimes being committed in Yemen is welcome, but let’s be honest: it really doesn’t tell us anything everyone doesn’t already know. The Saudis are determined to impose their preferred man in Yemen, and they are willing to use what amounts to terror, war crimes, and even genocide to do it. It’s essentially the same policy, carried out by different means, as their support for terrorism in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. The real scandal is that the governments of the US, the UK, France and others know full well what the Saudis are doing, and they just don’t care – or worse even support them for supposed “geopolitical” reasons (thwarting Iran). There are so many pockets in western capitals filled with Saudi money, and of course the influence Riyadh’s massive arms purchases buys, no one should be surprised. Hopefully the tide is beginning to turn in the US with passage by Congress of the bill removing Saudi Arabia’s immunity from 9/11 lawsuits, but all indications are that Obama will veto it.
Tasnim: As you know, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon openly admitted in June that he removed the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of child killers — 72 hours after it was published — due to a financial threat by Riyadh to defund UN programs. What do you think of such a decision by the most prominent international organization, which has always called itself a defender of human rights?
Jatras: I think the answer is self-evident. The corruptive effect of Saudi money is felt as much or more at the UN as it is in western governments. The Saudis reportedly threatened to cut Palestinian aid and funds to other UN programs. They enlisted the (P)GCC and OIC states to bombard Ban’s office with calls, and there was even suggestion of a possible fatwa against the UN. I have not seen any evidence of it, but I’d be very surprised if western governments had not also weighed in.
Tasnim: Why are the international community and the West’s mainstream media so passive in responding to the heinous crimes committed in Yemen by Saudi Arabia?
Jatras: As I indicated, first, the power of money. Second, inertia. For decades, the US has been locked with Riyadh as a “conservative” bulwark against the Soviet Union and communism, as well as against Arab secular nationalists (Nasser, the Iraqi and Syrian Baathists), which Washington considered quasi-communist. This encouraged a mindset that Saudi-supported (extremists) in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria are “freedom fighters,” not terrorists. Western intelligence services regard groups like this as useful. Third, and paradoxically, there is fear. On some deeper level, western governments know groups like this are dangerous, and they foolishly think that keeping Riyadh happy will keep them “on their leash.”
Tasnim: A ceasefire that started on April 11 failed to hold as the Saudi regime repeatedly violated the truce. In your opinion, why have the UN efforts to end the protracted war or at least broker a real ceasefire been so fruitless?
Jatras: The Saudis are too dug into Yemen and have expended too much money and credibility to stop before they have achieved their objective. It’s the same problem with the west’s insistence in Syria that “Assad must go,” even as that looks less and less likely. Perhaps the Saudis have some reason to be concerned. If a truce were agreed to under circumstances that did not return Hadi to power – and leave the Saudis in effective control of Yemen – it would be seen as the failure it is. That in turn might have negative consequences, they fear, both in their foreign policy and domestically. So they press on.
Tasnim: The Saudi regime is burying large groups of Yemeni civilians under the rubble of their flattened homes on a daily basis. At the same time, it is accusing Tehran of “funneling arms” to Houthis in the Arab country. Iran has repeatedly rejected such claims, arguing that the kingdom is playing a blame game in an attempt to cover up its atrocities in the impoverished country. On Saturday, Iran’s permanent mission to the UN said the claims by Riyadh that Iran is shipping arms to Yemen have not been confirmed by any independent body and that they are "unsubstantiated". What’s your take on this?
Jatras: I am not in a position to comment on claims of Iranian arms shipments to the Houthis one way or the other, as I have no direct knowledge of it. But assuming for the sake of argument Tehran is shipping weapons to the Houthis, how would that be worse than US or Saudi support for terrorists in Syria? Even “independent” bodies seldom are independent – somebody, usually some government or governments pay their bills.