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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

U.S. Widens Role in Saudi-led Campaign Against Yemen Rebels - Washington has concerns about Riyadh’s goals in the conflict

From The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is expanding its role in Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen, vetting military targets and searching vessels for Yemen-bound Iranian arms amid growing concerns about the goals of the Saudi-led mission, according to U.S. and Arab officials.

U.S. officials worry mounting civilian casualties will undermine popular support in Yemen and in other Sunni Arab countries backing the campaign. At least 648 civilians have been killed since the intervention began, and Saudi-led strikes have hit hospitals, schools, a refugee camp and neighborhoods, according to U.N. officials. The Saudis have blamed the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and their Yemeni allies for civilian casualties and said they were doing their best to limit them.

Saudi officials have said they aim to degrade the military capabilities of the Houthi rebels who have overrun much of Yemen and to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power after militants forced him to flee the country.

The Obama administration is skeptical the airstrikes will reverse the Houthi gains. Worried by the risk of more direct intervention by Iran, U.S. officials say they are urging the Saudis to set their sights more narrowly on halting rebel advances and reaching what amounts to a battlefield stalemate that leads all sides to the negotiating table.

Seventeen days of Saudi aerial and naval bombardment have prevented the Houthis from holding Yemen’s main port city, Aden, but failed to thwart the group’s advances elsewhere.

The campaign has made one of the world’s poorest countries the center of a regional proxy fight with high stakes for the Obama administration. The April 2 framework agreement that the U.S. and other world powers reached with Shiite Iran to trade sanctions relief for limits on its nuclear program has prompted the Saudis and their Sunni Muslim allies to resist what they see as Iran’s efforts to impose its influence in the Middle East—often along sectarian battle lines.

Prince Saud Al Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, underscored the tensions on Sunday, telling reporters his country is “not at war with Iran” in Yemen. But he demanded Iran end its political and military support for the Houthis, who adhere to the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam.

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