News & Politics

John Kerry: America Stands With Saudi Arabia While It Commits War Crimes in Yemen

Kerry's comments came amid mounting warnings from rights groups.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday assured Saudi Arabia of the U.S. government’s unwavering support for the Gulf country’s 10-month-old military assault on neighboring Yemen.

Speaking at the Royal Air Base in Riyadh, Kerry declared, “In Yemen, we face the Houthi insurgency and the ongoing threat that is posed by al-Qaida, threats to the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He added, “We have made it clear that we stand with our friends in Saudi Arabia.”

Part of a speech confirming the U.S.-Saudi friendship, Kerry’s statements about Yemen were largely buried by major media outlets.

Yet his comments came amid mounting warnings from rights groups, Yemenis and the United Nations that the Saudi-led coalition is committing profound human rights abuses and likely war crimes. Senior UN humanitarian officials over the weekend called on all parties to allow aid to reach to reach the central city of Taiz and every other area under siege “where civilians have been deprived of the basic necessities of life.”

The plea came months after the U.S. Navy's own report found that the Saudi-led blockade is choking off vital food and humanitarian aid. Earlier this month, the UN announced that roughly 2,800 civilians have been killed in the conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition has a pattern of targeting civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure, from densely populated urban centers and factories to weddings and a center for the blind. Yemenis, including those with the online campaign Kefaya War (“Enough War” in Arabic), have fastidiously documented atrocities committed by all sides of the conflict.

Kerry’s declaration of support for the Saudi-led attacks follows consistent U.S. material backing since the bombings began in late March of 2015—from intelligence assistance to massive arms shipments. In addition to this direct involvement, many argue that U.S. is giving political cover for ongoing atrocities by refusing to explicitly condemn them.

And indeed, National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price on Sunday released a tepid "statement of concern" over the rising civilian death toll in Yemen, but refrained from naming Saudi Arabia.

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Sarah Lazare was a former staff writer for AlterNet and Common Dreams. She coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.