US ‘Tacitly’ Supporting Saudi Atrocities in Yemen, Bahrain: American Analyst
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A senior professor at the University of Minnesota highlighted the US role in the Saudi regime’s war crimes in the Middle East and said since no one outside the region cares about what happens there, Saudis “get away with their atrocities”.
“The US has supported Saudi Arabia as an unquestioned ally since after World War II, and it is very difficult for the administration to do an about-face on this,” William Beeman said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: As Saudi Arabia and its staunch allies are burying Yemeni civilians under the rubble of their airstrikes on a daily basis, some Western states, which claim to defend human rights across the world, not only are keeping silent but also supporting the coalition’s genocide in the Arabian Peninsula country. The US Senate recently voted against blocking a $1.15 billion arms sale to the Riyadh regime. The Pentagon also announced on August 9 that the State Department had approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia. What is your opinion about the US role in the Saudi onslaught on Yemen and its war crimes?
Beeman: The United States has been entirely hypocritical in its dealings with Saudi Arabia. American foreign policy tends to lumber along from administration to administration like a blind, drunken elephant. The US has supported Saudi Arabia as an unquestioned ally since after World War II, and it is very difficult for the administration to do an about-face on this. One should remember that Saudi Arabia was one of the Twin Pillars in the Twin Pillars policy along with Iran under the Shah. The Twin Pillars policy was created to confront and contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The first break with Saudi Arabia in decades came last week when the US Congress voted to allow US Citizens to sue Saudi Arabia for the atrocities of September 11, 2001. Still, -President Obama vetoed the bill; but the Congress overrode the veto. This shows that the administration--even President Obama's administration--is still wedded to supporting Saudi Arabia whatever they do. It will take a lot of political action to convince the US government to reverse this long-standing policy.
The human tragedy in this policy is that the United States is tacitly supporting Saudi atrocities in Bahrain and Yemen.
Tasnim: In a speech earlier on Sunday, the head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council said the Houthi forces will halt their retaliatory attacks if the Saudi-led coalition stops its relentless airstrikes on the Arab country. These remarks indicate that the Yemeni side is willing to put an end to the protracted war. A ceasefire that started on April 11 failed to hold as the Saudi regime repeatedly violated the truce. In your opinion, why the Saudis, who have reached none of their objectives behind the 18-month war, do not want to end the bloodshed and resolve the crisis through peaceful means?
Beeman: The Houthis are Zayidis, a branch of Shi'ism. It is not the Houthis that are the problem for the Saudis. It is the Zayidi population that lives in Saudi Arabia along the Yemeni border. The Saudis are deeply afraid of any Shi'a (Shiite) population in their kingdom--the Athna' Ashara Shi'a in the Eastern Province and the Zayidis in the South. The Saudis fear that if the Houthis are able to regain power in Yemen (they ruled Yemen from the 9th Century until the 1970s, so they are not upstarts), then they will instigate the Saudi Zayidis. The Sunni former rulers of Yemen are natural allies of the Saudis, and the Saudis think that if they are in power, they will contain the Zayidis, or at the very least, not support the Zayidis in Saudi Arabia.
Tasnim: Three months of UN-brokered negotiations hosted by Kuwait to end the Yemeni war or at least broker a real ceasefire have reached nowhere. In your opinion, how can the international efforts yield results?
Beeman: There must be a commitment on all sides to protect Shi'a populations (including the Zayidis) in the region. No Sunni-dominated government is willing to do this.
There is a very absurd idea among Sunnis that ANY Shi'a population (Alawites, Zayidis, Lebanese and Iraqi Shi'a) are somehow "controlled" by Iran. This is of course not true, but it is difficult to counter this idea.
Tasnim: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon openly acknowledged 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?
Beeman: It was deplorable, and shows how easy it was for the Saudis to intimidate Ban Ki-Moon, who has been a rather weak Secretary General. He has also yielded to pressure from the United States on a regular basis.
Tasnim: Why the international community and the West’s mainstream media are so passive in responding to the heinous crimes committed in Yemen by Saudi Arabia? It seems that there is a complete media blackout on the situation in the Arab country. What do you think?
Beeman: The Western media have not had adequate information about the Yemeni situation, and Saudi propaganda and lobbying in the United States has been effective in convincing many people that the Houthis are controlled by Iran. The standard line is that the Yemeni situation is an example of Iranian "hegemony," and since Iran continues to be demonized in the Western press, the plight of the Yemenis is ignored. People see crushing the Houthis as the same as crushing Iran, and Iran's enemies are happy about this.
Also, Yemen, like many similar countries, has virtually no strategic interest for the West or the United States (poor, no oil, no trade), so no one outside of the region really cares about what happens there. By contrast the wealthy and influential Saudis are desperate to crush the Houthis, and because no one outside of the region cares or is paying attention, they get away with their atrocities. There is a similar problem in Bahrain. In order for this to change there needs to be a significant effort to inform news media about the truth of the situation. Thus far, there has been no such effort. The Zayidis have also not been successful in advertising their situation.