By Theodore Shoebat
For years, the American military has sought to distance itself from a brutal civil war in Yemen, where Saudi-led forces are battling rebels who pose no direct threat to the United States.
But late last year, a team of about a dozen Green Berets arrived on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, in a continuing escalation of America’s secret wars.
With virtually no public discussion or debate, the Army commandos are helping locate and destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that Houthi rebels in Yemen are using to attack Riyadh and other Saudi cities.
Details of the Green Beret operation, which has not been previously disclosed, were provided to The New York Times by United States officials and European diplomats.
The report shows that Green Berets went to the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in December of last year, weeks after a ballistic missile fired from Yemen sailed close to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Saudi military claimed that it intercepted the missile over Riyadh’s international airport, with the use of an American ballistic missile system. But much doubt has been expressed about this claim. Trump, during his trip to Japan, boasted about this saying: “Our system knocked the missile out of the air … That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”
The report apparently goes contrary to what the talking points of the United States government, that American support for Saudi Arabia has been limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and the sharing of intelligence information. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, called the Green Berets mission a “purposeful blurring of lines between train and equip missions and combat.” Kaine referenced the report from The Times, and called for a new vote from Congress on the authorization for the use of military force. The New York Times report also states:
A half-dozen officials — from the United States military, the Trump administration, and European and Arab nations — said the American commandos are training Saudi ground troops to secure their border. They also are working closely with American intelligence analysts in Najran, a city in southern Saudi Arabia that has been repeatedly attacked with rockets, to help locate Houthi missile sites within Yemen.
Along the porous border, the Americans are working with surveillance planes that can gather electronic signals to track the Houthi weapons and their launch sites, according to the officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the mission publicly.
“We are authorized to help the Saudis defend their border,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of United States Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13. “We are doing that through intelligence sharing, through logistics support and through military advice that we provide to them.”
Since 2014, violent conflict has been terrorizing Yemen, when the Iranian backed Shiite Houthi rebels did a coup and overthrew Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was a counterterrorism partner in Yemen for the US. In 2015, Saudi Arabia began bombing the Houthis who returned fire by launching missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Robert S. Karem, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 17th that the United States had about 50 military personnel in Saudi Arabia, “largely helping on the ballistic missile threat.” In March, the State Department approved the sale of an estimated $670 million in anti-tank missiles in an arms deal that also included spare parts for American-made tanks and helicopters that Saudi Arabia previously purchased. As we read in one report on this arms deal:
The State Department said on Thursday that it had approved the sale of an estimated $670 million in anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, just hours after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Pentagon leaders to discuss the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.
The proposed package includes up to 6,700 missiles made by Raytheon, as well as spare parts for American-made tanks and helicopters that Saudi Arabia already owns.
The proposed sale is bound to be questioned by Congress, where the Senate this week rejected a bipartisan effort to halt American military support for the bombing campaign in Yemen. The Trump administration strenuously protested the effort, and sent Pentagon and State Department officials to Capitol Hill last week to lobby against its passage.
So there is your Trump, lobbying for arms deals, worth $100s of millions, with Saudi Arabia. Here is the president who the masses idealized as some sort of savior who was going to “make America great again.” When are people going to finally see the light, that all these presidents are just fronts for the military industrial complex? Hours before this arms deal was okayed, Prince Mohammed met with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who has complimented Saudi Arabia as “part of the solution” in Yemen. “We are going to end this war. That is the bottom line,” Mr. Mattis said. “And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.” Trump praised the arms deal with Saudi:
“Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world”
Trump also expressed his admiration for Prince Mohammed, saying that he was “more than the crown prince now” as he displayed a posture showing military aircraft worth $12.5 billion that the United States had agreed to sell to Saudi Arabia. Last year the Trump administration intensified the war effort in Yemen, by having 130 airstrikes in Yemen, according to United States Central Command. The majority of these strikes were aimed at Al-Qaeda militants, and ten were launched against ISIS fighters.
In April of 2015, Saudi Arabia claimed that it had successfully destroyed the Houthis’ missiles and the technology used to launch them. But in the following June, the Houthis continued bombarding the Saudis with missiles, aimed at Khamis Mushayt, a Saudi city about 60 miles from the Yemen border. The Houthis have been relentless in their attacks, launching shorter-range modified antiaircraft missiles and imported Iranian munitions. “Iran destabilizes this entire region,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Riyadh on Sunday. “It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.”
According to Mr. Karem, since 2015 the Houthis have launched over 100 missiles to Saudi Arabia, aiming at heavy civilian populations such as airports, oil infrastructure, and military installations. There is a huge pool of arms in Yemen. According to a report from the UN Security Council:
Estimates reiterated by sheikhs, Government officials and independent researchers put the number of serviceable weapons in Yemen at between 40 million and 60 million, a number repeated by international organizations such as the United Nations.81 The widespread availability of all kinds of weapons in Yemen is not only a domestic issue that jeopardizes the peace, security and stability of Yemen; it is also one that extends beyond its borders.
Since the war, thousands upon thousands have died, and around three million people have been displaced. After the ballistic missile was launched at the Riyadh airport, as we read in a report from Time Magazine:
the sound of bombers could be heard rumbling above Sana’a. In an ink-black night, the Saudi planes took their revenge. A dozen missiles hit the Ministry of Defense and obliterated Al Sabeen Square, where Saleh staged a major demonstration last August. The symbolism was unmistakeable.
Within 48 hours, Saudi Arabia struck again at the heart of the wound, imposing a total blockade on a country already on the brink of starvation. Two-thirds of the population in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is dependent on humanitarian aid that was already in short supply. Over a month later, the blockade of sea, air and land ports has not been permanently lifted, despite Washington’s warning to its Saudi allies to relax restrictions.
In Sana’a, war has become everyday. Every morning, people emerge with empty containers to seek drinkable water. At night, angry crowds amass to rail at Saudi Arabia and the complicit silence of the international community. In front of the collapsed buildings of the capital, historic statues have been stained with red paint, in memory of the hundreds of civilians killed by the Saudi military coalition’s air raids. The children of Sana’a no longer go to school, but they are very well educated on fighter jets. They point at the sky to identify a Mig, like military veterans. Since the blockade was imposed, the airplanes have been prowling over Sana’a every night.
But for the past six months, the Ministry of Health funds have been virtually empty and the entire healthcare system is in a state of collapse. More than half of Yemen’s medical centers have closed, and even basic health care is difficult to provide in the remaining ones. The doctors that have not deserted have worked for months without hope of payment. Ghassan Abou Chaar, head of mission in Yemen for Doctors Without Borders, says this—and not merely the famine—is the great threat to the country. “We can have programs worth 100 million euros to distribute food, but if we don’t have doctors, it’s useless.”
In Saada, a town near the Saudi border more than 500 kilometers north of Sana’a, most doctors remain at their posts—not out of duty, but out of ideology. The city is the cradle of the Houthi rebels who practice Zaidism, a minority branch of Shia Islam. The Houthi leader, Abd-el-Malik Al Houthi, is said to be hiding in the nearby mountains and the movement’s revolutionary Islamist doctrine now holds sway over much of the local population. The Houthi militiamen succeeded in restoring order to this unstable border area, executing highway bandits and reconciling rival tribes. It offered a sense of security, but at the cost of freedom.
The Saudi-led coalition has declared the town a military zone and it has come under sustained attack. Mosques, schools, public buildings—everything that might have been a training camp or weapons cache has been razed to the ground by the coalition. When we visited, Governor Mohammed Jaber Awad took local journalists on a tour of what remains of his city. In the ruins of what was once the courtroom, he bends down to pick up a piece of shrapnel that he brandishes in front of the cameras. “Look at the gift of the West! Is the blood of Yemeni children worth less than Saudi oil?” he says. The United States has sold Saudi Arabia $20 billion worth of military equipment to the Saudi monarchy, including cluster bombs—more than 3,500 of which are believed to have been used in Yemen in less than a year.
At the public hospital in Saada, the most recent victims of these weapons—which are prohibited by the international convention—had just been admitted on Oct. 29. Nachmi, 9, sits on a bed with half his face torn off. Her mother put an arm around his bare shoulders. His brother lies immobile in a corner of the room. A projectile is lodged in the child’s brain, but there is no scanner or surgeon to attempt an operation. The boy floats between life and death. Their father explains that his sons were herding their sheep across a paved road when the bomb fell. Twenty minutes later, as family and neighbors came to their rescue, another fell. In military jargon, this is called a double tap. In human language, it simply means twice as many civilian casualties.
Thousands have also died of cholera, and due to the blockade, medical provisions and attentions has been greatly impeded. A report from Reuters that just came out today warns of a possible outbreak of cholera in Yemen:
Yemen’s rainy season will likely trigger another wave of cholera, putting millions at risk in the war-torn country, which is still reeling from one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the killer disease, scientists warned on Thursday.
Experts also called for a public health campaign during Ramadan, which begins mid-May, after research suggested that traditions linked to the holy month may have helped spread the disease last year.
More than 1 million suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen since 2016, killing more than 2,000 people.