Mattis Supports Riyadh's Refusal of US Refuelling of Coalition Aircraft in Yemen

Clay Curtis
November 10, 2018

Beyond refuelling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen's war.

Norway said on Friday it was freezing all defence material export licences to Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen.

The decision came after a request from the coalition members for a cessation of United States refueling as they have increased their own independent capabilities to refuel aircraft inflight, the coalition said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate end to the military escalation in Yemen.

The change comes at a time of global outrage over the killing of US -based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican lawmakers threatened to address the refueling operations next week in Congress.

He said the U.S. will continue working with the coalition to minimise civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts in Yemen.

"The Saudi-led Coalition and pro-Hadi forces, the Houthi forces â€" and those who supply arms or other support to the parties to the conflict â€" all have the power or the influence to stop the starvation and killing of civilians, to give some reprieve to the people of Yemen", Bachelet said in a statement on Saturday.

A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt the refuelling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress.

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USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday to discuss the decision before its announcement, said the end to refuelling wouldn't stop American training and military assistance. "If there is a halt to the airstrikes, then we can proceed to political negotiations".

A Saudi blockade of the country and an assault on the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, the main conduit for food and aid into Yemen, has only exacerbated what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Yemeni Joint Resistance forces took full control of new strategic areas in western areas of Hodeidah, while continuing their advance towards As Saleh city, located in the east of Hodeidah.

The Houthis maintain that their forces are holding their ground and deny losing territory to the coalition-led ground forces. "It could avert a humanitarian crisis", he told United States online news publication The Intercept.

As per various media reports, almost 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of starvation.

The action comes amid growing congressional anger against Saudi Arabia, a key ally and the country where President Donald Trump made his first visit overseas after taking office.

Mr Mattis also argued it would embolden the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and targeted commercial and military vessels off Yemen's coast. The Houthis also have imprisoned opponents and indiscriminately laid land mines. At the end of October, Mattis joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in calling for a cease-fire.

Pro-government forces are now pushing deeper into Hodeida amid fierce fighting. Worldwide aid agencies warn any disruption to the port could sever that crucial lifeline. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their global backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people".

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