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The unintended consequences of Jamal Khashoggi's killing

Has the Trump administration had a sudden attack of humanitarianism? Perhaps it was struck by warnings of na...

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 12:45 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 12:45 PM

Has the Trump administration had a sudden attack of humanitarianism? Perhaps it was struck by warnings of nationwide famine in Yemen? Or did it move to call for a ceasefire in southern Arabia out of a sudden concern for its tattered citizens?

Nope.

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Famine and food shortages

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International relations and national security

Jamal Khashoggi

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Mike Pompeo

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United States

Yemen

But no matter how cynical the tardy call for a quick peace may be, it's likely to be welcomed by both sides in an unwinnable war.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have fired a double-barreled salvo of demands for a peace in Yemen because the war -- which the US has backed there -- is now seen by DC as toxic.

Many Republicans and Democrats in Congress are bitter that the Trump administration has, until recently, been blind to the atrocious war that has torn apart an already fragmented Yemen.

Whatever the outcome of the midterm elections in the US next week, the Trump administration will still have to face an ever-tougher line -- from both parts of the legislature -- on continued support for the Saudi-led coalition, which is waging war against Iranian-backed Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

This line will inevitably harden following the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudis have admitted he died at the hands of their security personnel.

His death is unrelated to the war in the Yemen. But it's being felt as a straw that has broken the back of the most hardened supporters of the Kingdom.

As Republican Sen. Linsey Graham said: "The relationship is important, but our values are more important. I have been there enough to know. I have been the leading supporter along with John McCain of the US-Saudi relationship. I feel completely betrayed."

Then there's the warnings of famine. According to the UN's World Food Programme some 12 million Yemenis face the threat of famine because of the Saudi-led coalition's pressure on the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah.

In short, the argument goes, Hodeidah is the lifeline to 12 million people in Houthi territory. If the coalition closes the port as part of its military campaign, the food stops flowing.

So Pompeo put out a statement calling on all sides to reach a ceasefire.

"The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

But he too cared to make sure that the Saudis, who are backed by the West including the US, UK and France, don't have to make the first move.

That falls to the Iranian-backed Houthis. Once they've stopped their drone and missile attacks. "Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen," Pompeo said.

Mattis followed up with: "We've got to move toward a peace effort here, and you can't say we're going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days."

Sudden urgency from the US comes after years of overt and covert support for the Saudi-led coalition including midair refueling of Saudi jets and a steady flow of new bombs from the US and the UK.

David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, was quick to endorse the US call for a ceasefire.

"The statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen is the most significant breakthrough in the war in Yemen for four years," said the IRC boss, who also happens to be a former British foreign secretary.

The Saudis and their main Gulf allies in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, appeared to have been caught on the hop by the sudden American passion for peace.

Eighteen hours after the Mattis and Pompeo statements, they were still scrabbling for a response.

They may feel peeved that they've been blindsided.

But as with their Houthi enemy, there is likely to be a sense of relief.

The Saudi-led coalition's campaign to take Hodeidah has run into the sand. Troops from anti-Houthi militia including Sudanese fighters have been held up on the outskirts of the port city around the airport for weeks.

They've had heavy losses elsewhere, coalition sources said, and there are signs that the fractious forces of the anti-Houthi alliance are fragmenting.

Meanwhile, the Houthis face what the UN says is a famine in their territory. And have seen their local uprising now harnessed to Iran's geopolitical struggle for regional dominance with Saudi Arabia.

Support from Tehran has been militarily useful but may prove strategically dangerous, trapping the Shia Houthis into a status of perpetual enemy to their Sunni neighbors.

So both sides may find the US calls for a ceasefire convenient and allow a degree of face-saving as neither can be accused of suing for peace themselves.

A positive, if unintended, consequence of the murder of a Saudi journalist who, ironically, has criticized his government's campaign in Yemen.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295295

Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19672230
Hinds18799386
Harrison16710278
Rankin12685264
Jackson12592226
Lee9687160
Madison9457199
Jones7962146
Forrest7208136
Lauderdale6833226
Lowndes6022137
Lamar588080
Lafayette5733113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4609123
Oktibbeha441393
Panola430394
Pearl River4167130
Warren4129114
Pontotoc408869
Marshall403192
Monroe3989126
Union395374
Neshoba3807168
Lincoln3541102
Hancock347374
Leflore3375118
Sunflower318386
Tate302474
Pike300195
Scott293870
Alcorn291861
Itawamba289975
Yazoo289262
Tippah278765
Copiah277857
Coahoma277568
Simpson274878
Prentiss269758
Wayne253841
Marion252678
Leake252471
Covington248879
Grenada247377
Adams234377
George231745
Newton229652
Winston221675
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201151
Holmes182270
Clay179150
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170539
Clarke169371
Calhoun157828
Smith152731
Yalobusha144836
Greene127633
Walthall124140
Noxubee122829
Montgomery122438
Perry121634
Lawrence120321
Carroll118225
Amite111533
Webster110630
Jefferson Davis101731
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93324
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77114
Franklin76119
Choctaw69516
Jefferson62527
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493769

Reported Deaths: 9931
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson710731374
Mobile36139727
Madison32425455
Tuscaloosa24184410
Montgomery22586500
Shelby21968215
Baldwin19758283
Lee14967153
Morgan13667251
Calhoun13300286
Etowah13184319
Marshall11262209
Houston10104261
Elmore9385185
Limestone9363134
Cullman8897181
St. Clair8827223
Lauderdale8607211
DeKalb8459175
Talladega7523163
Walker6524255
Jackson6495102
Autauga627091
Blount6102127
Colbert6004118
Coffee5249102
Dale4642107
Russell404930
Franklin399177
Covington3960106
Chilton3876100
Escambia377672
Tallapoosa3588142
Clarke343650
Chambers3413110
Dallas3403141
Pike293472
Lawrence283484
Marion281995
Winston246867
Bibb245060
Geneva239970
Marengo236455
Pickens224654
Barbour211651
Hale210568
Fayette200756
Butler196866
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163740
Washington156535
Crenshaw144854
Clay144454
Macon142043
Cleburne137839
Lamar132833
Lowndes131151
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105627
Sumter98531
Coosa88923
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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