tv Brookings Institution on Conflict in Yemen CSPAN November 20, 2018 12:13pm-1:45pm EST
buren may have been the illegitimate son of aaron burr. we don't know, no one will ever know people, john quincy adams once wrote in his diary, i saw it, that martin van buren looks a lot like aaron burr, and he acts a lot like aaron burr. he is sort of always trying to organize and get so there's an northerners in political alliances together. >> sunday night at eight eastern on c-span's q&a. >> belgians have been displaced by the three-year civil war in yemen. the brookings institution hosted a discussion about the conflict in the u.s. policy towards the ongoing violence and related to managing issues. it's about 90 minutes. >> good morning, everyone. thank you very much for joining us. welcome to arguing here in the hall, at the brookings
institution, , on this lovely dy actually a booklet of you watching this on c-span. this is an event that we discussed having quite a while ago for the extreme importance of the issue. the war in yemen, for the cost, the human cost involved and yet it's a very important policy question, something that essential for us in u.s. policy. of course since the events have made the slightly more in the news that use would ever have a full hall. the judge can heinous murder of jamal khashoggi and we've seen some questions even in the press of what is a the murder of one man comestibles as it is, made a whole set of issues more prominent and a huge war? it's a fair question but in truth there is no real contradiction. jamal khashoggi was part of the community innocence in washington, with you with us in the stall at many events, at the brookings institution and we fully expect he probably
would've been yesterday discussed this issue and participate in this event. his last piece same as it was about the war in yemen. and so with that in my i think we can turn to what is an issue that affects many millions in a country that is far bigger than most people think, something that i do. i think of him as a small place in the edge of the middle east or it's not. the large country with many people affected directly. i can think of no better cadre people to discuss this and the stellar lineup we have today here. we are honored to have a couple of guests with us, fatima abo alasrar who's joining joining us from the arabia foundation. she has been an expert on these issues for a long time in part because she herself is some yemen with family both the north and south pictures worked at the yemeni embassy here in washington. she has worked with the aid agency at the arab gulf state
visited a note with the arabia foundation and were truly honored to have you with us. thank you very much for joining. thank you also for much to dafna hochman rand who is joining us here. dafna is now the vice president of care international -- excuse me. vice president for policy research at mercy corps, not at care. and in that implement a whole set of on the ground efforts in many countries, including in our region. not only a doer, she has an illustrious career in washington. she's worked at the seneca the 50 probably including as deputy assistant secretary. she has worked on policy planning staff and a spent time at the white house as well. has a lot of experience on this issue in the previous administration, the obama administration when many of these policy decisions were made. source a special pleasure to have you here and thank you very much to mercy corps for lending
you. and finally my colleague, my colleagues been a very important voice on these issues for a long time including recently bruce riedel. bruce is a senior fellow but also director of our intelligence program and comes with quite a bit of experience. he spent 30 years as a central -- at the central intelligence agency including overseas assignment. he spent time working white house under four to the present from both parties including the daily briefing, spent time at camp david with bill clinton. in january 2009 the new president barack obama asked him personally to write the report on afghanistan-pakistan known as the af-pak report and what the united states might do. someone who's been in a mix of all these decisions for a long time. his latest book which is actually relevant for this as kings and presidents, the history of u.s.-saudi relations and how they have the folder i could not recommend highly
enough. the essential reading on this topic. finally our moderator today, daniel byman, another to collect the center for middle east policy, senior fellow, also associated at george sent an expert on counterterrorism here in washington that he spent time on the 9/11 commission for congress and has written extensively on all issues of counterterrorism and also on issues of yemen, and offshoots of al-qaeda in the arabian peninsula. so with that alternate over today and and please join me in thanking our panelists and welcoming them for debate. thank you. [applause]
tragedy in the world today, and increasingly strategic disaster for many countries in the middle east and beyond. what were going to do this one is begin this as a dialogue where i'm going to ask the speakers questions. they will respond to me and perhaps one another, and then as a morning goes on i'm going to open it up to the audience. what i'd like to begin with is simply learning more about yemen itself, and fatima, i'd like to ask you to start us off, which is simply could you give us a lay of the land about the main players in yemen itself? and not the regional dynamics that occupy so much attention in washington but the tragedy and the find has been borne by the yemenis. could you explain what we should be thinking about? >> thank you so much, dan. thank you for inviting me. i'm really honored to be here. and i thank you for the question because that been so much focus
on the international original aspect of this conflict without really looking at the local dynamics in yemen, and which really threaten gammons sovereignty, without which we cannot really solve yemen yemes issues. i think the media has been portraying the war in yemen as media, , to set up between saudi arabia and local rebels but the situation is a bit more complex than that. i think it's probably useful a little bit to give the audience some context. back in 2014 a group known as the houthis have allied with former president, and overtook him and shortly after the arab spring. the alliance was very peculiar. we are all very by it because not only with houthis adversaries and fiercest of the news that also the former
president had actually killed the leader of the houthi movement. at that point both of them were really seasoned fighters. the houthis are definitely one of the fiercest fighters in yemen, and no one was able to stop their influence inside yemen. they have threatened political parties. they overthrew the government of yemen completes entire cabinet under house arrest and ultimately in 2014 and september they took large amounts of land, the capital, the seaport on the west coast. it's ties under siege. seeing a lot of fights in the south and it was really a brutal warfare.
just to put things in perspective, within six months of the houthis alliance that took place, about 7000 people died, and this was long before saudi-led coalition intervened. these statistics are local statistics from credible organization in yemen and usually immediate as a report on them. not because of lack of access on information but perhaps most of the consumer is of interest in telling that part of the story. so the arab coalition intervention probably has been one of the most horrific or catastrophic for yemen, because started in march 2015 and it was based on the government of humans request from saudi arabia and others to remove the houthi militia, but it ended up being a quagmire as we all know. and it was catastrophic because
also added another layer to the conflict on top of the local one. so now you have compounded complex in yemen that are taking place and, of course, also no one really thought that the houthis were going to be intimidated by this. in fact, houthis just really love fighting. during their war with president saleh they made a mockery of yemen army. kids that were six years old would put hand grenades and tanks on the battlefield and you know, it was just, it was dirty guerrilla warfare. they spared no ugly tactic in this war. and so on the outset so side of it always claims their helping yemen, and surely they do and a lot of aspects, and economic and political assistance, but the military campaign for them is
truly about the national security. the houthis are supported by iran economically, , financially through the media. we have recently seen also the houthis have increased in their use of sophisticated weaponry, which tribesmen from the houthi high lands, you wonder where what they have access to these weapons. they been able to attack the u.s. as colin 2016. they have planted a lot of sea mines on the red sea and they had a really destructive role based on really iranian sponsorship as it has been proven. but since the coalition intervened, the houthis have been effectively pushed back from many areas in yemen. initially they had 90% of the land. now they control about 30%.
but that 30% is heavily controlled population centers, so this is where you're seeing a lot of this management, a lot of the corruption, a lot of images of the famine, the diseases that are happening, mostly happening in houthi areas. in liberated areas the situation really depends. it's not really prosperity for every situation in yemen is different. so some areas in the north have been a bit of success story. they have about over a million internally displaced people from yemen, including their own population, and the economy has been booming. they've been doing for he wasnt there able to get rid of the militia and i think the saudis are playing a constructive role in that area not only economically but through also stopping the ballistic missiles on landing which the houthis
launched almost on a daily basis. they stop them through the years patriot missile systems. these areas in the north are aligned with the government of yemen, of course. with that there comes the that benefit of that alliance. the south is an entirely different story. the south is liberated. they don't have the houthis but they have terrible economic conditions, and they are really suffering from government neglect. but also the south is, detests the government of yemen because they are secessionist to the core. yemen for those who don't know it used to be two countries, north and south, and the united in 1990 and a since 1993, like just three years later, the south wanted secession because they felt that the treaty of
unity did not really respected them. and they felt exploited afterwards. now, the problem in the south is about you have the southern transitional council. your elements in the south that are confronting the state, and i think this is really a ticking time bomb. if we're going to have peace between the international level, between saudi arabia and the houthis other government and the houthis, the south has a huge destabilizing effect. just to put things in perspective, in 1986 there was a brief civil war, south civil war, the claimed the life of 10,000 people in three months. so currently there is more or less constructive role that is being played by the coalition
because some of the southerners are more aligned with the coalition and actually with their own government. they also found there's an interesting dynamic that with the role of the united arab emirates in the south, as they have cultivated a special relationship based on perhaps the and the ross disdain for the district and the righties disdain is close to fill it with the muslim brotherhood. it also fight isis and account which is been very active in the south to bring destabilizing effect in liberated areas. but it just made the relationship between the yemeni government go sour. it's an interesting dynamic to really watch. it also brought a lot of theories that the uae is interested in the south of rats and secession for its own interest because of the ports that are there in the south and economic resources and so on and
so forth. and i was mentioning to bruce earlier on that there's another element that often we don't think about is there's actually close familial ties between united arab emirates and the southerners many southerners in the '70s migrated to uae, and some of the fighters that we know are in yemen are uae fighters, factually families. so somewhat the fate of the region or fate of human is really closely aligned with the goal allies. finally, and really briefly well, or maybe not, just want to talk about the houthis. their living conditions other houthi controlled areas -- houthis have really strong grip on the areas that they control.
the reason for that is because they are really becoming more of a totalitarian police state. i had a friend who was visiting sana'a, visiting her family, and that someone knocked on the door and said who is on the third floor? so people really, nothing goes that are without people knowing about it. there's a culture of fear over there, and we see the famine and destruction, you know, the colorado while the houthi leadership on -- , -- there is o consent for the houthis. there's some consent for the houthis. there some popularity but by
large the houthis have alienated most of their supporters, including and especially after they have killed the long time ally, president saleh. because unless you in december after he just had an alliance with them. president saleh felt the houthis were not respecting their power-sharing agreement and that they wanted to completely control the government and state institutions. one thing that i feel is missing from, or misunderstood about yemen and the houthi role is the houthis doctrine, which is based on a sectarian genealogical supremacy. the houthis believe that only the people of the household of the prophet muhammad are eligible to rule yemen. this is really the tragedy in
yemen. there's an indoctrination, i mean, i don't know if i should call sectarian coercion because it's really so narrow on the issue. i think this is extremely dangerous, as they're enforcing this and often explain this phenomenon, , this religious phenomena and selected this as drawing striking parallels to "the handmaid's tale." even like the houthis have things, have, they call them -- [inaudible] in yemen, where these women would storm homes of people and look into the women's cell phones to make sure that they are not think anything that against the houthis, to make sure that they are in check.
i i know during a demonstrationn october 6 which was a demonstration on famine and hunger, one of the girls was on the university of sana'a got arrested, and she told us privately the story of how one of these women just violated her. and as she tried to notice, the woman that her cheek and are very so we are saying things that we haven't seen in yemen. it's an unprecedented moral decay to the social fabric, and this goes on as long as there is this lawlessness permeating around. i guess i wanted, wanted to just say that the houthis have been somewhat portrayed in the media as legitimate actors or indigenous minorities, and i think that this is just a huge
mischaracterization. they did have legitimate grievance, but then again they allied with their chief violated. violated. so what does that tell you about them? i think that in an effort to improve the situation in yemen has been a lot of mischaracterization an effort to say saudi arabia shouldn't have intervened. a lot of inaccuracies have been just reported in the media. what has been really frustrating for me as a yemeni watching this conflict of watching people report on it is that the international community has open sign on houthi violations. i would say the most disappointing was the recent u.n. human rights report that was issued in august where there was no mention at all to the fact that the houthis have killed thousands of people.
not only that but there was no mention of the houthis have landmines in yemen. it's one of the biggest landmines operations since world war ii. and is going to continue to affect generations for years to come. this is also why wendy ap reported on the violations and the torture of the prisoners dozens of prisoners in uae fact presence in the south, they failed to even mention in the footnote that there are 7000 yemeni prisoners into the militia presence, 2500 are journalists. so people are really afraid of peeking out. they are not really vocal and we are trying to maybe fridges giving you this alternate view of the conflict and the local dynamic, understand the complexity of the houthis. there's so much to say about the
humanitarian aid and the way that it is being delivered and the role of saudi arabia, but i believe that for the other speakers. >> thank you. that's really a fantastic foundation for us to build our broader conversation. i want to take your last point and extent on it. have to come if i get asked about the humanitarian situation, which is always extreme difficult in the best of times, and is now off the cliff. if i get asked did not just nothing mentioned situation for what might be done about it, not just by the u.s. government but by other governments, u.s. congress, humanitarian organization? >> thank you very much. thank you for inviting him for hosting the panel and for inviting me. there are statistics that your question at the analysis. maybe i'll start with a few really shocking statistics and didn't answer your question by analyzing some of the solutions.
just this with the other sector humanitarian affairs of the u.n. gave his briefing on yemen and provide the most up-to-date figures the u.n. holds, colin thumpers on the document increases below to share a few of these just cannot i verbalize how tragic dish a turn could toss it is but the specifics. the population 2889, 22.2 million are not need of humanitarian aid in yemen. that's across the country. 19 million of the population lack clean water. 1.2 meg cases of cholera. the vessel as with 16.4 million people lack access to health care and that's a combination of dust of doctors and they can't physically access the hospitals and then the third reason is health medical sites have been destroyed. i want to emphasize on the statistics that it has decreased dramatically, decreased this year. since 2018.
this is a humanitarian catastrophe that is shaped by a market situation. while that might be a fit of babel there's no money to purchase the food and the cost of it is extraordinary that even for the best of times. you imagine in your famine situation and you imagine the food. there is some food but no one could afford it or i should add low-cost provides upwards estimation of the number of people are actually at risk of them which is a category under the u.n. about to enter a sort of family red light center used to be 8.4 million. as of september august come just six weeks later, so this week on october 22, almost 14 million. i get to what's changed in the past six months that is exponentially decrease dramatically, made the situation deteriorate even from early tragic levels of the humanitarian situation. there's been a 35% increase in food prices just since january 2018. just in the past ten months. just to give you guys a flavor
for what this means, if the family of seven is asking for a food basket of this sort that mercy corps or other of the mentors might give him the food basket consists of wheat, flour, fried beans, oil, sugar and salt, that's it. that's the food basket for seven people to the price has increased 25% in the past couple months. for some of the basic food is highly correlate with the price of fuel. that you are in limbo and affecting each other economic. fuel has skyrocketed. let's talk about what's happened in the past six months to eight months to an effect of these figures. in july, the beginning of the offensive and also the was a pause in the fighting in the port area, and it has been correct in analyzing that. the fighting continues across that. that's a very important for you mention access issue. people know the ports associated
are the main image access point for the entire country, 80% of all humanitarian goods get to those ports. so the fighting and the transfer leads come if the translator have cut off road access between the port city even if the fighting has subsided to the rest of yemen including northern yemen where fast because of population is living pretty much about that a just part of the trucks get good to get that explains a lot of the new figures of the past six to eight weeks. i would just offer that the transit airport is a key a key transport port 408 and has been closed since beginning of the war and that is an obvious solution here is to reopen the airport for entry of humanitarian goods. that's the solution of the human skull or four and a part of negotiations with the special envoy. in addition to the fighting and the government there the number of idps has increased and that is leading to deterioration of
the american situation writ large since the fighting began in hodeida there are 500 new ip deese and i'll estimate and they are playing everywhere. that gives your plate for the american situation. i could go on and on but want t to enter the second question which are the solutions and a congress has dealt with that. and to commend of the u.n. and u.s. special envoy and imaging organizers were taken a lead in the international system and also the many, many donors around the world including the u.s. government who have responded with humanitarian aid. unfortunately the aid comes the donations of food and fuel and water and medicine is a sufficient the issue is access. the ports being open at full capacity. last year in november of 2017 does a complete blockade of hodeida port. that was alleviated a little bit but that extent port access is
far below pre-2017 levels. that that means in 11 months there's been a decrease in the coalitions that billy to permit ships into the port of hodeida. that's an obvious solution is increased the military capacity of the port come to open the airport, et cetera. those are really the solutions for the mention crisis involves access in addition to the food eight and the other aid itself. congress has focused on three basic responses to this humanitarian tragedy and oversight and engagement and levels of discussion in congress have been really unprecedented. i would argue yemen that the fes one of top three, top four for the first issues across the desk of many members of congress and members of the senate from both parties. it's become a bipartisan issue. there are three ways congress has responded. the three main lines of oversight have been in respond both to the humanitarian but
also to use engagement in the work and support for the saudi-led coalition have been to focus on first the war powers issues, the authorization of the use of force, who congress now has a number of bills but the question has been and an congr, have we congress authorized executive branch. this civil conflict as separate from u.s. operations against al-qaeda and other counterterrorism issues in yemen. that question is rising and will continue to rise probably through the next time lyrically. the second question has been but discrete arms sales. the process is the state department will notify the sender on foreign military sales on discrete items. usually there is congressional notifications for the rubber stamps. this was deal, there's a guy a couple met in women and is and look at it but over the past two or three years this has become a huge place oversight. items being sold to foreign military sales to members of the coalition. there have been roll call votes
of disapproval on discrete items being sold to members of the coalition weathers ablate the the item has a direct effect on the war in yemen and incentives even a roll call vote on items that had nothing to do with the war in yemen in 2016. that has been allied oversight and leverage that is gained a lot of congressional attention and will continue to be so. the 30th most recent legislative activity around the department of defense support militarily logistical support for the coalition. this is the actual manifestation of use support in real-time which is the refueling and logistical support and congressional activity has focus on conditioning this you support on better behavior, better actions by the coalition. the conditionality argument is essentially that if congress forces executive branch to pressure the allies in the coalition to increase humanitarian access to be more
careful on the civilian and the targeting of civilians in the air operations and in the ground offensive and to press harder towards an appreciation toward a political settlement then the leverage of 40 by just for the coalition, the u.s. is not in the coalition but his military supporting the coalition, that this leverage, will change behavior and the certification language and the national defense authorization act of last year explicitly requested that the secretary of state certified there has been progress along all three lines, humanitarian access can civilian casualty, more care in regard and decrease insulin casualties, the efforts towards political resolution. the secretary of state in a controversial move certified that there'd been progress toward all three and i would end by noting the way that legislative oversight, the third bucket of oversight was worded, it offers executive branch or demands executive branch will again has to report in both
every 60, yeah, every three months, every 180 days to to fill the least two more rounds of certification and a query given with a fixed duration of the situation literally in the past eight weeks if anyone honestly can make the case about the human access and the decrease in civilian casualties with the final caveat that in august sure before the certification it was the deadliest month for seven casualties with 500 civilians being killed of course the tragedy with the school bus that many people read about in the media. i would end with that. that note that certification is defective cars again in three months. >> thank you. that's painfully sobering for all of us. bruce, i want to turn to you with all this in mind, which is can you explain u.s. policy towards yemen, the international crisis group did a report a while back that called u.s.
policy a yellow light of kind of both trying to stop some of the actions of the powers but at the same time being permissive. i'd love to get your take on how to think about what the united states is trying to cheat or simply what's been going on over the years. >> if u.s. policy was a yellow light two years ago, it's a green light right now. the united states as a general sense 1946 when harry truman said the first american delegation to northern yemen has been that we don't have a yemen policy. we have saudi policy. saudi policy at the highest levels of the administration will focus on tremendously including the president. then yemen is kind of a subset of that. there are advantages of this. u.s. ambassadors in yemen usually tend to have a lot of freedom for maneuver because no one is really watching back in washington what they are doing.
since there are no political appointees to want to become ambassadors of sana'a we end up with real passion diplomat who know what they are doing. but there are a lot of downsides of this and the biggest downside is essential whatever saudi arabia wants to do in jamaica the united states supports. there have been some rare exceptions to this john f. kennedy in 1962, 1962 refused to support the saudi inspired insurgency against the republican government. told the saudi that they need to reform. he actually set the ball and train for some modest reforms. bill clinton had a brief moment and not listening to the sound is during the southern civil war in the early 1990s, but as a general american presidents have endorsed whatever stoutest want to do. since 2015 and the start of the saudi-led coalition war that was been supporting the coalition
warfare effort. dafna has artie mentioned the kind of book assistance we provide, enter into everythingm some intelligence support but the most important is not new arms sale. it is the continuation of existing arms sales. the saudi air force most get spare parts, technical upgrades, maintenance, expertise, you name it, jet tires from the united states every single day in order to operate. if that look of spare parts came to a close tonight, the royal saudi air force would be grounded tomorrow morning, at least those aircraft that are american supply. the other aircraft was supplied by the united kingdom. the u.s. and united kingdom have tremendous leverage if you want to do it. but it was more than military support and more than the ongoing logistics supply light. the united states also endorsed saudi diplomacy and in particular supported the u.n. security council resolution 2216
which guides the u.n. mediation effort and which handsets the international tone for what is proper in yemen. u.n. security council resolution 2216 is completely unbalanced. it is basically written by the saudi government and then presented to the council by one of its partners in the work at the time, then jordan. jordan has more or less dropped out of the war since then. the resolution has essentially the saudi indictment of the houthi coalition. sanctions the houthis, sanctions ali saleh figures so on the house that in my judgment it's a barrier to peace, not a pathway to peace. i think it is safe to say that the u.n. people involved in the negotiations also recognize this today, although they are very careful not to say that in public. the resolution passed 14 to nothing the only one country of state and that was russia. rarely can you point to the russians being a wise choice of
international diplomacy but in this case i think russians probably had it right. it's fun to be very, very hard to pull this back. if the obama administration supported the collision i think it's safe to say that it did so with a great deal of reluctance and that was a real desire to see if we can't somehow adjust the course come up to 2016 to minimize the damage caused by this pic in the end they didn't. there were some important is to control the munitions flow but in the end those didn't really stop the war. there are complex reasons why the obama administration supported the southeast. they fit -- saudi. i think a lot to do with the rent. if the obama negotiation was reluctant kept hoping maybe he could find aware trump has shown that he is double down on the debt. he has endorsed the stout is completely and a consequent yes endorsed the war completely.
there is a fantasy in the trump administration that somehow if the saudi are able to defeat the houthis, this will be a mortal blow to the government of iran. this is a complete fantasy. for iran, yemen is a magnificent strategic opportunity to bog down the number one and number two in a come saudi arabia and the united arab emirates in a quagmire that they hope will go on forever. for good reason. it costs the saudi at least $50 billion figure to continue the war there fighting in yemen. you want to know why i do read is the third-largest defense budget in the world? because of sin of war and given the cost of 40. the amount iran provides to the houthis is an unknown quantity but it's safe to say it's a pittance in characterization to the $50 billion. to give you another example, one that jamal khashoggi brought up, the houthis are firing ballistic
missiles basically made in automotive shop repair factories in sana'a, cost maybe a few tens of thousands of the most with assistance from hezbollah and iran. they have all been successfully shut down by patriot missiles since this began. each patriot missile costs $3 million to fire at a houthi ballistic missile. if you're the ceo of any corporation in the world you would say get me out of this mess. but so far that hasn't happened. the main reason for that i think it is safe to say is mohammad md bin salman. the saudi were in yemen is his signature policy initiative. he embarked upon shortly after he became defense minister. i think it is safe to say that the saudis panicked when he saw the houthis advancing when they saw the houthis doing some really foolish things, like
announcing they're going to be there so strike between transit and tehran. not that there's is this all that bad but it was sticking into the stoutest right at the point they would be most likely to react. the panic resulted anymore effort that has no strategy, that is no achievable and state, was supposed to operation decisive storm in order to attract all of you your desert storm supporters. it was changed from decisive storm pretty quickly when it became clear there was not anything decisive about it or if you go back and look at the videos in the news coverage of the war in its first month, mohammad bin salman picture was everything that he was everywhere. now nothing to do with. he has nothing to do with. he is everything to do with it. his prestige is linked to the outcome of this war, and he needs some kind of victory, whenever that is to be done.
now of course it is also tied up in the whole question of what happened to jamal khashoggi and the istanbul murder investigation. probably the murder investigation of the century that we are looking at. there is an opportunity in all of this i think for the united states, and the opportunity is to refocus attention on yemen and focus attention on ending the war in yemen as quickly as possible. jamal anderson laptop called for a very simple solution to saudi arabia and its allies to announce a unilateral cease-fire to halt all airstrikes on the activity on the ground, lift the blockade immediately, not partially it absolutely immediately, and convene he suggested in saudi arabia at a conference all the yemeni parties, houthis, secessionist, everyone to try to come up with a new solution.
the odds that this would necessary result in an agreement among the yemeni parties, i think you've laid out pretty clearly, is not good but at least it would get us off the battlefield and into the negotiating table. i don't see much chance that the top administration is going to do this. they haven't shown much interest in trying to find a political solution or as i said i think they live in a fantasy world that some of this is going to strike a blow to iran, that it will be mortal and crippling. but if you think the congress of the united states has an opportunity and i think, as nicely laid out what caucasus look at, now is a time for the congress to take a big step and cut that spare parts logistical line and compel an end to this war. thank you very much. >> thank you, bruce. i want to begin asking questions really by highly what if you look at a different emphases that you and fatima have in terms of upset powers relation to the yemeni players themselves.
and fatima, my sense is from user concerned about the houthis and the authoritarian rules and the barbarities, that you are very concerned about their victory and thus perhaps they want the saudi and judy intervention to continue in order to ensure that victory does not happen. bruce, the opposite question, which is if outside powers do draw does it mean the houthis, does it mean iran wins? how should we think about both of those? fatima, if i could ask you to start. >> look. i do agree with bruce on a lot of things, surprisingly actually. >> not surprisingly. [laughing] >> and so, for example, in thinking about the way this war was conducted, the airstrikes, i'm really not a a huge fan. i mean, with the pentagon, maybe a month for two months ago
releasing about what, 6000 civilian casualties in syria ass a result of its air campaign with isis, it just does not give me in the hope and bombs or anybody's targeting capacity. so i don't think that's the solution. but i think that come listen to it bruce said in terms of how it is for iran to make the houthis antagonist saudi arabia and provoke it, and how disproportion of response is, how much money is being spent to exhaust its image. it's at its worst. there's nothing that can fix saudi our babies image with what's going on. all they need is one school bus for the death of a child for this to bring back the role of saudi arabia as a huge violator.
they are not boy scouts. the houthis and iranians are just doing a lot of mouse in yemen but doing it very strategically and the united states and the saudis have got, and yemen because it does have some agency, they practice it together and figure out how to strategically combat this, the way that iran is doing it. so, i mean, 5 a.m. this doesn't cost them a thing. it's not their major issue but it's a card they play. they are i believe effectively stalling peace. ..
>> i suspect it's on orders fromiran . what do they have to lose? they control heavily populated centers for the coalition, our rainy government cannot take over without it being bloodied and they know this. that's a huge card that they play in this hand . so the arab coalition, to liberate the data or somehow it would be synonymous if they do it within the campaign. this is why i somewhat support the data attacks because we hope there were not going to be air campaigns and because there was a huge fighting force that developed in the past few years to not only just the southern brigade but also to respective elements of the
president who have been fighting alongside the houthis so that's a clever strategy. use the fighting forces to just weaken the houthis who are already weekend, they have no alliances at the moment. the houthis have no alliance with the general people's congress, no alliance with that party, the biggest party we haven't ran , the tribes around sanaa have all been violated by the houthis and they want the opportunity to just siphon away from their and the people are just really simple and nice people . they don't want to see the houthis there and in the areas you've mentioned, a wsb truck was delivering around the drain me, delivering food assistance to areas that work arrived from food and health
and emergency situations and what we saw with the video of the houthis militia while chanting death to america so this is killing their own population under their control and this is an element again in talks about the humanitarian catastrophe that is generated in yemen, they are using famine. the houthis are using famine, i'm not saying the coalition is not, has not restricted access, the blockade was a one-month blockade but it generated much more than actually what happened but the market in yemen is, i mean, i had a friend who went to yemen and she says food is
all around so what are you talking about a famine? it was not a matter of access to food as the purchasing power. and here not humanitarian organizations but we ought to rethink the way we are doing aid. no one is interested in development in yemen. no one is interested in economic development because they think that's a step that comes after the war ends but we don't know when the war is going to end. there are so many ways we could try to help the local populations and where not even getting that right at the moment . people are being employed in the army's both for the houthis militia and the arab coalition because that's becoming the biggest sort of employment in yemen and if we give them an economic opportunity perhaps they will turn away from using the gun but i don't think people here in the united states or policymakers think the houthis would be defeated.
the houthis think if they have one soldier left they will be victors. they think they're holding the political process and they realize their power in holding this politicalprocess . i think we need to be aware of this, we need to hold them responsible just as we are holding the saudi coalition responsible for a lot of things happening. just remain vigilant because ultimately this is sad but maybe the intervention has been a mixed blessing because if the saudi's hadn't intervened we wouldn't have heard about yemen and this stuff with such passion today, wanting to see a better outcome. i want to see peace. i worry if piece is going to be just a document that people find and worry about the consequences later.
the thousands of people dying from guerrilla warfare or street warfare don't generate the same amount of press in the news, so this is really terrifying what's going on in yemen . >> if i could ask you to think about this question as well and if there were to be some success in rebuilding the saudi goal, would this be an iranian victory? how do we think about iraq winning? >> at that point it's public opinion. a random oneness for three years ago. the saudi's have become the bad guys and the houthis are not goodguys . they are ruthless thugs who want to create a dictatorship for a very small minority of people . but the saudi's have given them a pass. the united states has very
little focus on thewar at all . and you rarely see a story on yemen but when you do, what's it all about? saudi bombing, saudi blockade, it's not about the intricacies of yemen politics. it's about whether hoppe is a legitimate government, it's all about the bombings and the iranians have been telling the houthis for a while now fight to the last. fight to the last yemeni, we are all for it. keepdoing this for another 20 years, saudi arabia will be broke . the saudi's have mistakenly maneuvered themselves into the position where all the blame is on them and very little blame is onanyone else . that's not the mark of a very astute strategy and policy. that's a mark of recklessness and frankly stupidity.
there's a lot of stupidity involved in how they got into this mess . this is a critical moment, they can pin it out. they could topic away from what happened to stumble foreclosure. will the end of the coalition warfare lead to peace in yemen? of course not. it's hard to see how peace in yemen can come in terms of an agreement between all the parties. i personally think the most likely outcome that works long term is to go back to two yemen's or three yemen's. i like yemen so much i'd like to have three. it's going to take an awful long time to get there in a peaceful way. saudi's are making anotherbig mistake . they think that lobbying campaigns in the united states can persuade americans to like saudi arabia and i've got bad news, americans don't like saudi arabia, they may not like iran but they don't
like saudi arabia a lot. overwhelming majority of americans believe saudi arabia and something to do with 9/11 and all the protestations since then haven't convinced them. the sword of damocles is hanging over their relationship in new york . just as the sponsors of terrorism act allows the survivors and victims of 9/11 to sue thegovernment . it's well worth reading the indictment , they've got some good lawyers. they don't make claims like and wife funded it or silly things like that, they make is to claims saudi arabia allowed funding to go to al qaeda up to and including the day of september 11 and therefore are responsible for negligence. i cannot imagine a jury in the city of new york that isn't going to find saudi arabia guilty so if you have a crisis now,, donald trump
is not in a good position to say i want to do something about this, he supported java so and so did hillary clinton. >> but there's an important point there, saudi arabia does not antagonize the united states as it ran does. it does not perceive it asan enemy . there has been mistakes that saudi arabia has committed in the past so i think about it like a game of thrones where the states have risen unintentionally, searcy wanted to manipulate them and then realized that she can necessarily control them and i think something similar to that happened in saudi arabia. i know there's a lot of blame to go around. it's really interesting but what is the positive in saudi arabia, they initially saw him as a member who is aligned with them whose bringing things and i used
the complain about saying okay, the yemenis are better, we have freedoms here and women can drive they can drive in saudi arabia and where jealous that there's a war in my country now women can drive in saudi arabia but saudi arabia has a long way to go with things like again, the other women activists or or i think there are so many ways where they can perform culturally but as a yemeni citizen, where i find that i have different values, and the ones that saudi arabia has, because he grew up in yemen believing in a pluralistic system. one of the things we realized to is that yemen could not have survived without economic support for saudi arabia throughout the years and as you mentioned, the war
in 1962 when the revolutionaries in yemen overthrew the mom system and it's funny because the saudi's have supported the monarchs backing so around that time, after eight years of a bloodied conflict the saudi's withdrew and the revolutionaries took over and despite the fact that they were fighting each otherfor eight years , two years later the yemeni government went to saudi arabia and asked for that because they believed they could not survive without it. so there are things that are important to i think if yemen is to survive the famine, it cannot happen without support from the saudi's and the humanitarian conference, both the saudi's and iraqis pledged $1 billion and there
is some statistic out there that it's over $15 billion of savings that has come fromthe saudi's . is this even effective? i think it could be better. >> let me ask this with this question which is we've seen a lot of talk and we've seen a lot of talk from recent governments in the united states and the kind of highlight issue that both doing their race which is even if there's brilliant diplomacy in the next year or two, this war is not going away so we've seen this war and who knows how long this administration will be in office but it's possible in two years or six years this war will be going on. ask someone who has served in a different administration what are some of the issues that have come up that you
feel are eternal to us policy as opposed to particular this administration. >> i would note that this is an interesting conversation and it's important for deliberation of yemen's recognize there are two different issues, what is the end goal and what will bring peace , how to resolve this very complicated topic that the experts of yemen, that we could debate, the second question which were dancing around but is to be expected is what should be the us role in the civil conflict as opposed to other us affecting yemen in the region so to differentiate between these two points that i think that leads to answering your question backwards in time and bruce is right that this is an ambivalent, contested life decision. no one ever felt 100 percent comfortable with this halfway decision. it was aresponsive decision , both partners came and said was port are offensive, we are going ahead and they said
what you think but they said how can you sign up to support us? that was the way it came about. and the banking at the time and i'm way above my pay grade as a secretary of state thinking at the time was there was a deep critique by these partners in the us support for them after four or five years of the arab spring where there was a sense that the us had advocated traditional alliances in the middle east, the trail was on the tip of the tongue every time we had means with these partners, the first 10 minutes was hearing that deep sense of betrayal after, in the context of the jcpoa. this was in the context of the discussion of us policy where the us is trying to make the case that it was only negotiating over nuclear
file as opposed to iran's other treacherous behavior so there was a concerted effort to make it clear to allies also particularly in the gulf that the us was only deliberating over the nuclear issue so in all that context then presented with a request by the gulf partners to support the response was yes, but in a limited fashion and i believe that was the original mistake, the stuff that you can support in a campaign in a kind of sort of way , the us did not join the coalition, there were eight of them or nine states that joined it and the us did not. us 40 limited military support, that's been written about. and then subsequently from 2015 until today, the obama appointees left the buildings we were in, there was a effort to copy off that support and condition them and spend months evading the ammunitions trials and the
obama ministration pause on that sale so it was contested , it was always thought of as kind of a limited sense of support but the mistake was really in setting the limits and the partners and said that the attempt to retake saddam was six weeks and there could have been a action to say you have your support but there could have been a time you limit support for this offensive so the lesson for us foreign policy is is this supporting a coalition that goes to war in the middle east, us credibility is immediately on the line, the argument by the partner was we need to show us credibility and credible commitment to your partners . but the counterargument is when you go in support a war, your credibility globally is associated with the conduct, the strategy and policy decisions associated with it
and there was never a thoughtful discussion of how it ends for the strategy down to the targeting question , etc. so that was the question that you can't do that halfway and i think that's an incredibly important lesson for us national securitygoing forward . >> i'm going to open it up to audience discussion and a few notes, were going to have microphones going around. and you get one question, no one question into parts or anything like that. if you persist in asking more than one question, i'm going to choose the question and i might be bored and choose a completely different question like urge you not to do that. i'm going to take the questions and go to what we can get onthe table . >> okay. thank you so much, this has been an interesting panel. so saudi arabia and in my
opinion seems like a bad actor and based on agricultural sectors in yemen and i'm wondering, there is a bill in the house right now 138 to end us involvement in the saudi arabian war and i'm wondering if the panelists can talk about that as a vehicle for pulling us support. >> thank you hassan. >> my name is jim, i'm just curious what's iran's geopolitical ambitions are in yemen. i agree there's definitely an element to the quagmire in saudi arabia. and there's political and moral and religious dimensions as well and of course high religious minorities being secured in yemen.
and anecdotal reports from people within the government that this is coming directly from around. and i want to know what sort of ambitions are making this happen in yemen because if this were purely a political question there would be such an interesting supporting a campaign of persecution. >> i'm vivian moshier, a reporter with events daily. on this question i asked hassan earlier i was wondering if you could address any of the bills that you see, either in the house or senate to then weapon sales or withdraw us support for the sally coalition if you haven't seen any that seem like they're worthwhile or they would make a difference, what yousuggest congress should be doing in that regard . >> that's an explanation to
begin a discussion. i'm going to ask you to start off by talking about the various congressional proposals and which ones you think should happen most likes . >> i would note that we are not an advocacy group. so i want to have analyzed some of these bills but i cannot advocate but i can explain toyou . >> i know that sort of i sat there with three different topics ofcongressional oversight . that's the one that's themost advanced right now , there's this move that seems after the election on the web powers issue and there's the language that seems to say that congress did a 2001 authorization that authorized us operations of the anti-terrorism variety against al qaeda and associated but that doesn't authorize engagement militarily. so it's essentially saying there's no congressional authorization and therefore are the war powers it's
unconstitutional. there is some debate i am told by people who are constitutional law experts about whether this will have an effective, will it be able to be interpreted as unconstitutional for the military to do the refueling. there's some debate actually along as far as i understand about what will happen to this past it's fair to say this is a very clear signal should it pass of what congress and on the second question was being debated which is material support for the civil conflict. >> thank you. where do to get some bots on other aspects of the iranian dimension that should be discussed when wethink about yemen . the iranians are up to nogood . they have found an obscure conflict that is in an area where saudi arabia heals is
very much its turf. saudi's think about yemen much as americans think about terrorism which is they are very much confused. saudi's think yemen is its backyard, and other things other people think it should be aboutthat. the iranians are playing a simple game . fortunately what the war is doing is pushing the who these more and more into the iranian. when the war began, the level of iranian support as far as can be measured is very hard to measure was at the margins. some expertise, a little bit ofmoney . ballistic missile technology. a lot of it was outsourced to hezbollah because the houthis and hezbollah have a longer relationship together . as time goes along and the transcends become more and more desperate, they're
naturally trying to be the only party that'swilling to give assistance . and that's likely to continue . i said it before, these alliances are happy to fight the last yemeni or the last lebanese. and unfortunately we seem to be now letting them do all of that. in the obama administration, largely because of the joint comprehensive plan of action and the dialogue that created between secretary kerry and is rainy and counterparts, there was at least some wayto have a dialogue . by violating the jcpoa unilaterally and seizing that dialogue, the us is pushing the iranians to create a more nefariousplayer in the region . i think on that count, iranians are at least playing the smart game . i think they count the months
until 2020. they have maybe exaggerated faith in the american electorate and i think they think the end is in sight if they can get it, the americans will go back to two things. you can leave the saudi's for the apparatus, they're very happy to be found. it cost them virtually nothing. look at the situation we have today. iranian supplies ballistic missiles from being fired at the capital of saudi arabia. they also attempted to fire them at abu dhabi, the way you keep saying nothings ever happening here, i don't know. iranians are effectively using the capitals of their two most vibrant hated enemies under attack by ballistic missiles . what are the saudi doing about it?$3 million a shot
to knock them down. they're not firing missiles to deter iran which leads us to something to worry about in the future.in the gulf war in 1991 the patriot system was remarkably effective and it shot down almost every shot was fired at tel aviv. at the very end of the war, one of them hit camp that three dozen american soldiers were killed. sooner or later one of these houthis is going to hit a target in riyadh. or abu dhabi and kill a lot of people. and then what are we going to do? what are the saudi's going to do but more importantly what is the trump administration going to do . it's going to have to put something behind this rhetoric to do something about iran and we can get into a very dangerous situation. that's another way to find a way to bring this regional conflict to a halt as quickly
as possible, recognizing that the internal civil conflict in yemen is not likely to end the date regional players are likely to go on. >> one thing i noticed is that whenever there are bills and evolutions in congress on this issue, people will often tweak them most and talk about the most are pro-iranian media. so it's definitely a victory for iran to scale back the role of saudi arabia and yemen because there's so much emotional upheaval in terms of what is going on and rightly so that we have to think about the intention and what is the overall strategy? what is it that the united states wants to do in the long termif you want to drop yemen like a hot potato it's fine. it's going to have devastating consequences on
yemen . what does that mean for the strategicrelationship between saudi arabia and the united states ? it's more of a structural relationship, the united states depends on saudi or intelligence sharing, stopping crucial threats to the united states. one thing i wanted to mention briefly is that there is a conspiracy theory in the arab world that the war in yemen continues because the united states wants to extort saudi arabia and get the biggest amount ofmoney it can have . and it's quite interesting but a lot of errands feel this is the us imposing the war in yemen in order to get all of these arms sales on saudi arabia. there is i think the longer the war goes on, the more we are going to be prone to these conspiracy theories, the more it's going to be a
quagmire, the more it's going to be obvious there is no exit strategy but as we are pressuring the saudi's to reform their roles, we need to look atiran and how to reform their role in yemen , they are not negotiating with yemen and they claim they have nothing to do with yemen but saudi's can claim the same. that's very visible and when they say we are helping yemen, people go like, that's not really what help should looklike . just like when we saw the united states intervention in iraq, it didn't look helpful and in afghanistan it didn't look helpful . everybody argues it's a necessity and then for me, i worry. i never supported the war in iraq but when it came to withdrawing troops, i was scared because i had thought that that could come later when there's a leadership
vacuum in the country, when there's no political settlement and we saw isis through an actor so are we prepared to see the same in yemen? i don't care about it but what is the strategy that you want to implement going forward and especially with huge levels of famine that have been forecasted? >> i would push back and disagree with the congressional analyzing of it, it's remarkable because it comes for the most part from the humanitarian sympathies with both parties. we have former marines and senate that come in and the first issue of business is questioning what is our obligation etc. so i haven't talked to many of these members of congress and is primarily a humanitarian crisis concern. >> ..
>> we were asked by members of congress of both parties why are you here or after the attack in 2015 there was bipartisan break-ins asking what is going on in is coming from a deeply humanitarian place that is real and reflects americans leadership. >> of take a few more questions, please. yes, sir. >> thank you. thank you to the panel. for an excellent presentation. i'm done with the human peace project. i want to ask the panel if the un projections of famine are
correct? which is there could be four or five or even more million yemenis who started at this ye year. if that happens will there be an effect or impact on either us or saudi coalition? >> inc. you. yes. yes, you. >> hello. my name is bree and i was jus just -- you talked a lot about how effectively in terms of public opinion iran has won the war and there's been a lot of dancing around what does winning look like and i just wanted to ask is there a way out of the conflict for iran and where they do not win? it sounds effectively like they
have. though, is there way out of this where there is not a total iranian win? >> yes. >> thank you very much. my name is rosie and i am with the -- human rights commission. my question has to do with how the saudi's seem to be backing the government in yemen but the uae seems to be packing the separatists and whether that may lead to conflict between saudi and uae and how that could work out on the ground. thank you. >> thank you all. let me start out by asking daphne to begin. unfortunately, it may be likely if the worst happens how does that change how the world faces yemen? >> so, i said this week at the
un in new york mark wilcock revised his -- near famine zone and that's right there's much like the percentage that sometimes in 2019 there may be fan designated by the international community. i like that that category of famine changes things and every human being an individual cares that human dignity and with children and parents to stop and say this is just too much and got to stop this and that would be -- i like to think that would be a game changer on the international, political scene and certainly mark wilcock and martin griffis and individuals who are charged with this response of international system are such an incredible leader that if anyone had the power to take the conscience of humanity it is done.
the situation has evolved so quickly and every norm or barrier has been crossed this past couple of years which is what is fair and right and the norms of warfare have deteriorated so much at a quick time. last november with such an -- it was such a clear moment and so black and white in terms of shutting down the fort where 80% of all food fuel, medicine and every thing gets to the people of yemen. if that blockade cannot stop people and say we got to stop this. in the innocent civilians are suffering and i may be less than optimistic that the actualization of famine protections would -- maybe not impossible but the things that need to be addressed in the air for anyone system of verification mechanism and checking of the ships that come in and put access itself in the final thing is as i mentioned, the transfer from the port city
in the red seaports over land to the population centers. >> would you take the question on iran? should the arians win and is it too late or is there way to flip that? >> it's an iranian victory in the sunset international public opinion blame saudi arabia for the war and it's not an iranian victory in the sunset they have now turned yemen into a permanent foothold in the arabian peninsula. very little permanence about anything that happens in yemen. this is a country whose internal politics are baffling to watch in the capacity of groups in yemen to be on an alliance with x in the morning and at war with ask at lunchtime and back to alliance at dinnertime is astounding. famously said governing yemen
it was like dancing on the head of six. he was good at it but sooner or later he would step on the wrong state. the iranian role can be minimized once the war ends by setting up an inspection regime to try to ensure that military supplies don't come to the country from abroad. let's be realistic. the concept of smuggling probably began in yemen 50000 years ago. you were not going to stop smuggling in yemen but you could certainly make it far more difficult to bring in a ballistic missile through the airport if the un inspection regime was there. at least it would provide a mechanism to minimize the iranian role of the future and i also think that there is no long-term reason why -- should be in fed with 12.
i don't want to start off with a complex discussion of what are the theological differences between -- and tolliver's and get spend hours here doing that and we would all be completely befuddled once it was over except one or two of us. but they are not inevitably onto each other anymore than iraq is or drawn to being pro-iranian. but here is my last point. what the saudis have done is that given the houthi the option of being that nationalist offenders of yemeni nationalism. very foolish thing to do. the houthi are not the nationalist heroes of yemen but the war has been portrayed in the media increasingly as the foreigner against the native. ignoring all the other natives
who are not pro-iranian and were not necessarily pro- saudi but who are lost in the midst because it's all come down to -- did i mislead you. i'm sorry. obviously we are in an inflection moment in the united states and saudi arabia have known what this alliance has had many near-death experiences which is where i plug my book. read about them. this is one of those near-death experiences whether or not the trump imagination wants to believe it or not. we need to address the question how does the united states and saudi arabia were together for our mutual interests which is the stability of the region and minimize them iranian meddling role and things like that. murdering saudi journalists and
in simple is not the way to go forward on that. this administration needs to hold the saudi government accountable for that murder or this relationship cannot move forward. the matter how important it is they need to be an accountable in this example three bucks weeks ago. >> only a minute or two left but could you take on the question of the saudi arabian uae and how their goals are affecting yemen. >> in one word, there is not going to be any breakup between uae and -- so that is a no. that will not happen. they are not going to go certainly to any discreteness. maybe, as i mentioned before, this could be the silver lining for the southern issue as they have been thinking about the session for so long. it's not in the best interest for saudi arabia is they don't want to end up with a houthi state on their southern border.
while it might seem attractive to the uae i think ultimately yemen might move into a federal system in the uae might have a more leverage with yemen giving so many ties and perhaps so many economic advantages that the south can offer to the uae and they could offer something in return. so, i just don't see that this will play out in terms of a regional conflict but there might be a local conflict should the southern transitional council not respect the wishes of the -- and say will do our own thing here. if no one will listen to them and no one will let them be a party in the peace negotiations we definitely will have a ticking time bomb. i think this would be the next
conflict to watch in yemen. >> thank you. >> for me, at least all of us, it's been a sobering morning. as we walk out to enjoy the rest what seems to be a truly beautiful day i ask us all to please remember the tragedy that is happening before the world's eyes. not just today, but i suspect, in the weeks and months to come. we had an excellent premier on how to think about yemen and problems and difficulties and agreements so please join me in thanking our panel for an excellent presentation. [applause] >> book tv will be in prime time here on c-span2 this week for three nights followed by a four
day thinking holiday weekend. we begin with books on the financial world and the economy. >> listen to c-span's the weekly podcast. this week part one of a two-part interview. >> i see him as an andrew johnson like president. meaning, someone who has impeachment swirling around him and someone who is not able to close or heal a racial divide in the country. >> here is a real animosity between the press and president, as early as john adams because he is the person who is pushing
for the sedition acts in 1798. what that does is actually tries to prevent criticism of the government and the president. >> find c-span's, the weekly, on the free c-span radio app under the podcast app or wherever you go for podcasts. >> coast guard commandant admiral carl shorts talk to journalists about you dealing with including maritime securi security, drug interdiction and natural disaster response. he spoke at a conference hosted by the military reporters and editors association for about one hour and ten minutes. [inaudible conversations] >> hello, everybody. we've ironed out a few technical difficulties. take you for your
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN2 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on