Arab Americans votes and the Yemen war
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
With diverse backgrounds Arab and Muslim Americans vote in unpredictable ways; however, in these midterm elections the majority are likely to favor Democrats. Feelings are hurt. President Trump has managed to insult many minorities; and for Americans with Middle Eastern or Muslim backgrounds the provocation has been exceptional.
Should the Democrats regain the House of Representatives on November 6, they would be more inclined than the Republicans to pressure Trump to stop the genocidal war in Yemen. For most Americans, the suffering in Yemen is not on their political radar, but for Arab and Muslim Americans Yemen’s war, Palestine, Syria and Libya are issues they think about constantly.
The war in Yemen is probably the most urgent crisis in the Middle East today: an entire nation is being starved and decimated by a futile Saudi-led air campaign against an Iranian backed rebel community, the Houthis, who control the capital city and a large area of the country.
Washington heavily supports the Saudis in the Yemen war. In a recent (Oct. 23) Washington Post piece Daniel Byman and Michael O’Hanlon offer a sound opinion in a telling title: “It is time to put the breaks on Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.”The two foreign policy experts assert that:
Three years into the Saudi intervention, there is no longer any reasonable argument for believing that what the Saudis are doing will work. Meanwhile, the intelligence support, logistics assistance and specific types of weaponry that we provide Saudi Arabia have made us complicit in all the airstrikes gone wrong and the ensuing carnage among civilians.
Shamelessly, Trump considers Yemen war a lucrative arms-export opportunity. Iran on the other hand, finds in Yemen a way to expand regional power.
Like many other Mideast problems, the Yemeni conflict is too complicated to be resolved by outsiders. Still, the war in Yemen could be de-escalated with rational steps to allow protagonists- the Houthi rebels, local government and other rival groups- to reconcile, rethink and start rebuilding statehood.
The US could force Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to halt his ruthless air campaign. At the present the opportunity for the US to engage in damage control in Saudi Arabia has never been as ripe. A single event in October changed the dynamics of Middle East politics: the Saudi government involvement in the murder of a Washington Post Saudi writer, Jamal Khashoggi, in a the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government’s cover up of the murder of Khashoggi has exposed and weakened Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Furthermore, Trump’s resistance to holding the Crown Prince responsible for the murder has not served the US president’s image and credibility.
Anticipating unpleasant consequences the Khashoggi affair could generate for Trump and for the Republican Party, Secretary of state Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mattis announced an orchestrated reconciliatory step in the Yemen crisis. Last week Pompeo and Mattis- separately but within an interval of twenty four hours, called for ceasefire in Yemen, to be executed by the end of November. Without previous planning, this sudden call for an immediate ceasefire sounded like a military order. It reflected a gesture of a policy adjustment rather than a serious change in direction. If Washington is serious about ending the war in Yemen it would have factored in Iran’s role as a central protagonist in the conflict. Instead of showing flexibility toward Tehran, Washington is slapping a new set of severe economic sanctions. What kind of conflict resolution is Washington pursuing?
If Democrats win back the House there will be more pressure on the Saudis to end their war in Yemen, and more pressure on Trump to change his approach to Iran. In dealing with Iran Trump is as reckless as Mohammad Bin Salman is with Yemen.
Regardless of US midterm election results, ending the War in Yemen swiftly maybe a brilliant face-saving measure of relief for Bin Salman’s unrealistic agenda, the Kingdom’s hemorrhaging treasury and for his personal political future. If the Saudis persist in continuing this war they would be heading into a more serious crisis in the near future.