Trump and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Credit: The White House/Flickr

By all accounts, the civil war in Yemen should represent exactly the kind of situation Donald Trump promised to steer clear of militarily. Much like the civil war in Syria, it began with protests spurred by the Arab Spring in 2011. But unlike Syria, the corrupt leader of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, stepped down in 2012 following an assassination attempt.

The various factions fighting in Yemen are complex, meaning that it is impossible to assign white hats to the good guys and black hats to the bad ones. But it was the Houthi movement of Shia Muslims that advanced militarily to control large swaths of the country, including the capital city of Sanaa in 2015. That is how it emerged as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.

Initially, the Obama administration backed the intervention of the Sunni Arab states. But over time, as Saudi Arabia consistently attacked civilian populations with cluster bombs, the U.S. began to back out of their support in 2016 and worked towards diplomatic solutions instead.

Three years later, the civil war rages on as the Trump administration has increased U.S. involvement in the conflict. Today, Yemen is experiencing what has been described as “the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster.”

The US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project estimates that more than 67,650 civilians and combatants have been killed since January 2016, based on news reports of each incident of violence…

More than 3 million people – including 2 million children – are acutely malnourished, which makes them more vulnerable to disease. The charity Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition may have died between April 2015 and October 2018…

[A]lmost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation. Consequently, medics have struggled to deal with the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, which has resulted in more than 1.49 million suspected cases and 2,960 related deaths since April 2017.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, combined with the fact that U.S. intelligence services determined that Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, led some Senate Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation to end this country’s support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Two weeks ago, the House passed a similar measure.

Contrary to all of his promises about removing the U.S. from endless military conflicts in the Middle East, Trump vetoed the legislation on Tuesday.

Given what we know about this president, it is safe to assume that he is ignorant of the complexities of the situation in Yemen, is unaware of the fact that the Saudi-led military intervention has been ineffective, and is immune to the suffering of the Yemeni people. One can only conclude that he is, once again, doing the bidding of the Saudi royal family. That could be because he is simply enamored with autocrats, or it could represent something much more sinister.

There is a repressive and murderous regime that Trump has been subservient to other than the one in Moscow, and it is based in Riyadh. We need some answers about his acquiescence to that one as well.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.