Statement: The Trump administration should end U.S. refueling and all military support for Saudi-led war in Yemen

November 9, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC—In response to a breaking report from The Washington Post, Defense Priorities Senior Fellow and Defense Scholar Benjamin H. Friedman issued the following statement:

“The reported decision by the Trump administration to stop aerial refueling of Saudi bombing flights in Yemen is welcome but insufficient.

“U.S. military support for this conflict is something President Obama should have never started. The military campaign launched by the Saudis and UAE in 2015 against Yemen’s Houthi rebels is a humanitarian disaster that does nothing to advance U.S. security—if anything it undermines it.

“The United States should end the other forms of intelligence and logistical support provided to the Saudis, including the arms sales aiding their bombing campaign. America should recalibrate its relationship with the Gulf monarchies, treating them as neither adversaries nor allies, but as normal autocracies that we can work and trade with without endorsing their illiberal actions.

“Houthi rule of part or all of Yemen may be undesirable, but it is no threat to the United States. Nor do the other stated reasons given for aiding our Gulf allies withstand scrutiny. Saudi oil, a diminishing asset, will flow because the kingdom depends on its profits—and the Saudis do nothing useful to balance Iran that they do not have a self-interest in doing, with or without U.S. support.

“By backing the Saudi and UAE war in Yemen, Washington has exacerbated a civil war that has given refuge to anti-American terrorists, enabled a humanitarian crisis, and tarnished our standing as an exemplar of liberal values. These costs are not justified by any potential gains from our involvement in this civil war.

“The Trump administration is right to press for an overdue settlement to the war. Limiting support for the Saudis advances encourages them to settle.”