tv Brookings Institution on Conflict in Yemen CSPAN October 25, 2018 10:03am-11:37am EDT
>> here at the brookings institution for discussion on yemen. a live coverage later today will include president trump speaking about prescription drug pricing. is tweeting i look forward to hearing from the president later today on the administration's efforts to address the high cost of prescription drugs. the president will be at hhs this afternoon. we will have it here on c-span. >> good morning.
welcome to everyone here. welcome to everyone watching us on c-span. this is an event we discussed having quite a while ago for the extreme importance of the issue. receivesn yemen attention for its magnitude and the human cost involved, and yet it is an important policy question, something central for us in u.s. policy. we have a full hall. the tragic and heinous murder of jamal khashoggi changed dramatically. we have seen questions in the press of why the murder of one man made a whole set of issues more prominent than a huge war. it is a fair question. there is no real contradiction. jamal khashoggi was part of the community in washington. he was in this fall at many
events at the brookings institution. he probably would have been here today to discuss this issue. his last fees was about the war in yemen. -- his last piece was about the war in yemen. i think we can turn to an issue that affects a country that most -- is bigger than most people think. then is a small place at edge of the middle east. it is not. it is a large country, with many people affected. i can think of no better lineup of people than the ones we have here. we are honored to have a couple , fatima aboh us alasrar from the arabia foundation. she is from yemen. she has family from north and south. she has worked at the you many embassy here in
washington. she has worked with the foundation. -- arabia foundation. rand, nowto dr. dafna the vice president of care -- the vicel president of research at mercy corps, not at care. that implements a set of on the ground efforts in many countries, including in our region. has an illustrious career here in washington. she has worked at the senate, in the state department, including as deputy assistant secretary three at she has worked on planning staff and has spent time at the white house. she spent time on this issue in the obama administration, when policy decisions were made. it is a pleasure to have you
here. thank you to mercy corps. my colleague has been ample -- an important voice on these issues, including bruce riedel. us at the fellow with center for middle east policy and is the director of our intelligence program and comes with experience on this. he spent 30 years in the central intelligence agency, working in overseas assignments. he worked in the white house under four presidents from both parties. he was a daily briefer. he spent time at camp david. 2009, president obama asked him to write a report on afghanistan and what united states must do. he is someone who has been in all of these decisions. is "kings andk presidents: saudi arabia and the
."ited states since fdr byman, istor, daniel a senior fellow with us. he is an associate dean with georgetown university and one of the experts on counterterrorism. he spent time on the 9/11 commission before congress and has written extensively on all issues of counterterrorism and yemen. i will turn it over to them. please join me in thanking our panelists and welcoming them for debate. [applause]
about what is probably the worst humanitarian tragedy in the world today and increasingly a strategic disaster for many countries in the middle east and beyond. what we are going to do this morning is begin as a dialogue, where i am going to ask the speakers some questions. me and oneespond to another. as our morning goes on, i will open it to the audience. i would like to begin with learning more about yemen. something i would like to ask you to start us off is could you give us a lay of the land about the main players in yemen? regional dynamics that occupy so much attention in washington, but the tragedy and enemies.born by the could use lane to us what we should be thinking about? -- explain to us what we should be thinking about? >> i am honored to be here. thank you for that question.
there has been so much focused on the international or regional aspect of this conflict without looking at the local dynamics in yemen. which really starts on yemen's sovereignty. without which, we cannot solve yemen's issues. portrayingas been the war in yemen as a two-sided war between saudi arabia and local rebels, but the situation is more complex than that. i think it is useful to give the audience some context. as the, a group known with alliee allied sale -- ali abdullah saleh. the alliance was peculiar. we were baffled by it. not only were the houthis our main adversaries and.
as enemies, but ali abdullah saleh had killed the leader of the houthi movement. them wereint, both of seasoned fighters. the houthis are one of the fiercest fighters and yemen. no one was able to stop their influence. political parties. they overthrew the government of yemen and placed the cabinet under house arrest. 2014, iny, in september, they took large amounts of land in the capital, the seaport on the west coast. aidan was seeing fights in the south. was seeing fights in the
south. it was brutal. within six months of the houthi -saleh alliance, about 7000 people died. this was before the saudi coalition intervened. these are local statistics from credible organizations and yemen. -- in yemen. usually, the media does not report on them, not because of but because no one is interested in telling that part of the story. interventionition probably has been one of the most horrific or catastrophic for yemen. in march 2015 and it was based on the government of yemen's request from saudi arabia and others to remove the houthi militia. it ended up being a quagmire, as we all know.
it was catastrophic because it added another layer to the conflict on top of the local one. now you have compounded conflicts and yemen taking place. houthishought that the were going to be intimidated by this. thes -- -- who houthis made a mockery of yemen's army. old hadt were six years hand grenades and tanks on the battlefield. warfareirty guerrilla and they spared no ugly tactic in this war. on the outset, saudi arabia always claims they are helping do a lot surely they of aspects come in economic and
political, but the military campaign for them is about their national security. the houthis are supported by iran economically, financially, through the media. haveve seen the houthis increased in their use of .ophisticated weaponry you wonder where would they have access to these weaponry. a have been able to attack -- they have been able to attack the u.s.. they have planted sea mines. they have had a destructive role based on iranian sponsorship. 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%. that 30% is heavily controlled population centers. this is where you are seeing a lot of mismanagement, corruption, images of famine, disease is that are happening -- diseases that are happening. they are mostly happening in both the areas. in liberated areas, situation depends. it is not prosperity. haveareas in the north been a success story. millione over a internally displaced people from yemen, including their own population. the economy has been booming. they have been doing well since they were able to get rid of the militia. the saudi's are playing a constructive role in that area, not only economically but through stopping the ballistic
houthis which the launch on a daily basis. these areas in the north are aligned with the government of yemen. with that comes the benefit of that alliance. the south is a different story. it is liberated. ,hey do not have the houthis but they have terrible economic conditions and they are suffering from government neglect. -- detests the government of yemen because they are succession its -- successionist. to be two countries, north and south, and they united in 1990. in 1993, the south wanted theession because they felt
treaty of unity did not respect them. they felt exploited. the problem in the south is that you have the southern transitional council. you have elements in the south that are confronting the state. i think this is a ticking time bomb. if we are going to have peace between the international level, between saudi arabia and the government and the houthis, the south has a huge the stabilization effect. in 1986, there was a brief civil war, south civil war, that claimed the lives of 10,000 people in three months. constructive role played by the coalition because
the southerners are more aligned with the coalition than with their own government. they also found it interesting dynamic with the rule -- role of the united arab emirates in the south. they have cultivated a special relationship based on the disdain for the islam park, which is affiliated with the muslim brotherhood. they fight isis and al qaeda, which has been active in the south. it made the relationship between the yemeni government go sour. it is an interesting dynamic to watch and it brought theories that the uae is interested in the south and secession for its own interests because of the
ports in the south and economic resources. i was mentioning to bruce earlier on that there is another element that often we do not think about is that there are close familial ties between the united arab emirates and the southerners. many southerners in the 70's migrated to uae. some of the fighters are in yemen are uae fighters that have families elsewhere. region, off the yemen, is closely aligned with the gulf allies. finally, i want to talk about the booth -- who the -- houthis and living conditions under could the controlled areas -- controlledhouthi
areas. they have a strong grip on the areas where they control. there are checkpoints every mile. the reason is that they are becoming more of a totalitarian police state. i had a friend who was visiting sanaa and she was visiting her family and at night someone knocked on her door and says who lives on the third floor? nothing goes without people knowing about it. there is a culture of fear. faminethe images of the and destruction and cholera, while the houthi leadership are living a privileged lifestyle. this is heartbreaking. i want to mention as well that there is no consent for the houthi. there is some consent.
there are some popularity. by large, the with the -- who have a limited their supporters. --y killed president caeli caeli -- saleh. they wanted to completely control the government and state institutions. one thing that i feel is missing from or misunderstood about yemen and the who the -- could role is that their doctrine is based on genealogical supremacy. they believe that only the arele of the household
allowed through yemen. this is the tragedy in yemen. there is an indoctrination. i do not know if i should call it coercion because it is so narrowed on the issue. i think this is dangerous. phenomenon,in this this religious phenomena and selective miss -- selectiveness as like the handmaid's tale. they called in the is a nubby enobiates in yemen. these women would storm homes of people and look into the women's cell phones to make sure they are not saying anything bad against the houthis, to make
sure they are in check. i know during a demonstration october 6, which was on famine and hunger, one of the girls who was from the university of sanaa got arrested. she told is privately the story of how one of these women just violated her as she tried to process the woman that her cheek and arm. we are seeing things we have not , and unprecedented moral decay to the social fabric. this goes on as long as there is this lawlessness permeating around. to justted -- i wanted say that the truth -- the houthi portrayed as militant actors or indigenous minorities and i think that this
is a huge mischaracterization. they did have a little bit of a grievance, but they allied with their cheap violator. what does that tell you about chief violator. what does that tell you about them? there has been a lot of mischaracterization. saudi arabia should not have intervened. a lot of inaccuracies have been reported in the media. what has been frustrating for me as a yemeni watching this conflict is that the has beenonal community focused on houthi violation -- silent on houthi violations. the most recent was the human -- in august where there
was no mention to the fact that the houthis have killed thousands of people. there was no mention that the houthis have landmines in bed -- biggestne of the landmine operations since world war ii. it will affect generations for years to come. this is why, when the associated press reported on the violations and tortures of the prisoners in uae-backed prisons, they fell to mention that there are 7000 yemeni prisoners in houthi militia prisons. 2500 are journalists. people are afraid of speaking up. they are not really vocal and we are trying to, maybe through giving you this alternative view of the conflict and the local dynamic, understand the inplexity of the houthi
yemen. there is so much to say about the humanitarian aid and the way it is being delivered and saudi arabia, but i will leave some of that for my -- the other speakers. >> that is a fantastic foundation for us to build our conversation. i want to extend your last point. i could ask you about the military and situation, which was always difficult in the best of times and is now off the cliff. if i could ask you not just about the humanitarian situation, or what might be done about it, not just by the u.s. government, or by other governments, by u.s. congress, by humanitarian organizations? thank you for posting the panel and inviting me. maybe i will start with statistics and that answer your
question by analyzing some of the solutions. this week, the undersecretary for humanitarian affairs at the u.n., mark wilcox, dave his briefing on yemen and provided the most up-to-date rigors -- figures the u.n. holds. let me share some of these two not hyperbola is how to -- hyperbolize. 19 million of the population lack clean water. 1.2 million cases of cholera. i believe that is a low estimate. 16.4 million people lack access to health care. that is examination of there are no doctors and they cannot physically access the hospitals. the third reason is that the medical sites have been destroyed. i want to emphasize that the situation has decreased dramatically this year, since
2018. this is a humanitarian catastrophe shaped by a market situation. while there might be food available, there is no money to purchase the food and the cost of food is high. situationnear famine cannot you imagine no food, there is some food, but no one can afford it. the number of people at risk of famine is a category under the about to enter a famine. it used to be a .4 million. as of september or august -- it used to be 8.4 million. as of september or august, he revised it to upwards. i will explain what has maybe situation deteriorate. -- made the situation deteriorate. increase inen a 35%
food prices in the past 10 months. seven is asking corpsfood basket at mercy , the food basket consists of wheat, dry beans, oil, sugar, and salt. that is it for seven people. the price of that has increased in the past seven months. a lot of the price increase is correlated with the price of fuel. the two are affecting each other. the price of fuel has skyrocketed. let's talk about what has happened in the past six months to affect these figures. in july, there was beginning of the offensive in hodeida. although there was a pause in the fighting in hodeida city in the port area, and the media has been correct in analyzing that, the fighting continued. port isnow the hodeida
one of the main humanitarian access points. 80% of all humanitarian goods get through those ports. the fighting in the transit areas has cut off access between the port city, even if the fighting has subsided, to the rest of yemen, including northern yemen, where a majority of the population is. that explains a lot of the new figures from the past six to eight weeks. i would also offer that the sanaa airport is a key transit point for humanitarian aid. solution, tovious reopen that airport. that is a solution that the u.n. has called for and is part of negotiations with the special envoy. governorate,o the the fighting in the governorate,
there is the deterioration of the humanitarian situation at large. since the fighting began in hodeida,+ -- they are fleeing everywhere. that gives you a flavor for the humanitarian situation. i want to answer the second part of the question, solutions. to command the u.n. and the u.n. special envoy and the humanitarian organizers who have and the many donors around the world, including the u.s. government. unfortunately, the humanitarian aid, the donations of food and fuel and water is not sufficient. the issue is the access. 2017,ear in november of there was a complete blockade of hodeida report through international pressure -- port.
through international pressure, that was alleviated. in 11 months, there has been a decrease in the coalition's ability to get ships into that port of hodeida. that increase the ability of the port. those are the solutions for the humanitarian crisis. access, in addition to food aid. -- threehas three's basic responses. oversight, engagement, and levels of discussion in congress have been unprecedented. i would argue that yemen now features foreign affairs issues across the desk of many in -- members of congress and senate. it is a bipartisan issue. let me offer three ways congress has responded. the three main lines of oversight have been responding to the humanitarian, but also to
u.s. engagement in the war and support for the saudi-led coalition. it has been to focus on the war powers authorization of force, which congress has a number of bills. the question has been in congress. silver -- civil conflict as separate from u.s. operations against al qaeda and other counterterrorism issues. that question is rising. it will continue to rise through the next period politically. the second question is about discrete arms sales. the department will notify the senate on foreign military sales. usually these are boring. this is not a big deal. there is a guy or couple of men and women in the senate who look at it. over the past two or three years, this has become a huge place for oversight, particularly items sold through
foreign militaries to members of the coalition. ofre have been votes disapproval on discrete items sold to members of the coalition where there is believe that the item has an effect on the war in yemen. that has been a line of oversight and leverage that has gained a lot of congressional attention and will continue to do so. the third is the most recent legislative activity around the department of defense and logistical support for the coalition. is in real time, the refueling and let slate of support -- legislative support. this is conditional on better behavior by the coalition. is conditionality argument that if congress forces the executive branch pressure on the allies in the coalition to increase humanitarian access, to
be more careful on the civilian and targeting of civilians in air operations and ground offensives and to press harder towards negotiation, towards political settlements, then the leverage afforded by u.s. --port for the coalition, it this leverage will change behavior. the certification language and the national defense authorization act of last year exquisitely requested that the secretary of state certified that there has in progress allowing all three lines. humanitarian access, civilian casualties, more care and regard and it -- a decrease in civilian casualties and at -- effort towards resolution. there has been progress towards all three. noting and -- end by that the legislative oversight offers executive branch -- or
demands that the executive branch will have to report every three months. there will be at least two more rounds of these certifications. query, whether given deterioration of the situation in the past six to eight weeks, if anyone can make the case about, especially the humanitarian access and the decrease in civilian casualties, with the caveat that august was the deadliest month in terms of civilian casualties. including a tragedy with the school bus in northern yemen. i would end with that. certification is due back to congress in three months. >> that is painfully sobering for all of us. bruce, i wanted to turn to you all of this in mind. can you explain u.s. policy towards yemen?
the international crisis group did a report that called u.s. policy a yellow light of trying to stop some of the actions and being permissive. i would like to your take on how to think about what the united states is trying to achieve or what has been going on over the years. if u.s. policy was a yellow light two years ago, it is a green light now. rule.s. has had general since 1946, when harry truman sent a delegation to northern yemen. we do not have a yemen policy. we have a saudi policy. focuses on including the president. yemen is a subset of that. there are advantages of this. yemenmbassadors in usually tend to have freedom for maneuver because no one is watching back in washington what
they are doing since there are wantlitical appointees to to become ambassadors in sanaa. we end up with professional diplomats who know what they are doing. there are a lot of ballot -- downsides. whateverst is that saudi arabia wants to do to yemen, the united states supports. there have been rare exceptions. 1962, 1963,edy in refused to support the saudi-inspired insurgency against a republican government. he told the saudi's they needed to reform. bill clinton had a brief moment of not listening to the saudis during the southern civil war in the early 1990's. as a general rule, american presidents have endorsed whatever the saudis want to do. since 2015 and the start of the that has coalition,
meant supporting the coalition warfare effort. has alreadyafna mentioned the military systems we provide. some intelligence support. the most important is not new arms sales. it is the continuation of existing arms sales. if the saudi air force must get ,pare parts, technical upgrades maintenance, expertise, checked tires, from the united states every day in order to operate. if that flow of spare parts came to a close tonight, the royal saudi air force would be leasted tomorrow, or at those aircraft that are american-bought. the others were supplied by the united kingdom. the u.s. and the united kingdom have tremendous leverage. it was more than military support and the ongoing logistics of violence. united states also endorsed saudi diplomacy and the un security council resolution
2216, which guides the u.n. mediation efforts and set the international tone for what is proper in yemen. the u.n. security council resolution 2216 is unbalanced. it is written by the saudi government and presented to the council i one of its partners in the war at the time, jordan. jordan has dropped out since then. the resolution is the saudi indictment of the houthi coalition. it sanctions the houthis, is sanctioned saleh. it is so imbalanced -- unbalanced that it is a barrier to peace. is safe to say the u.n. people involved in the negotiations also recognize this today. the resolution passed 14 to nothing. only one country abstained, russia.
rarely can you point to the russians as the wise voice of international diplomacy, but in this case i think they got it right. it is going to be hard to pull this back. the obama administration supported the coalition, i think it is safe to say it did so with reluctance. there was a desire to see we could somehow adjust the course coming into 2016 to minimize the damage caused by this. in the end, they did not. there were some important moves to control the munitions flow, but in the end, those did not stop the war. complex reasons why the obama administration supported the saudis. the almost all have to do with iran. washe obama administration reluctant and hope they could , donald trump has shown no reluctance. he has sold down -- double down. he has endorsed the saudis
completely and endorsed the war completely. there is a fantasy in the trump administration that somehow if the saudis are able to defeat the houthis this will be a mortal blow to the government of iran. this is a fantasy. for iran, yemen is a magnificent strategic opportunity to bog down their number one and number two enemies, saudi arabia, united arab emirates, in a quagmire they hope will go on forever. $50 billion saudis a year to continue the war they are fighting in yemen. you want to know why saudi arabia has the third largest defense budget in the ward -- world? it is the war in yemen. what iran provides to the houthis is an unknown quantity. to give you another example, one
that jamal khashoggi brought up, the houthis are firing ballistic missiles made in automotive shop repair factories in sanaa. they cost thousands of dollars at most. successfully been shot down by patriot missiles. each picture missile costs $3 million to fire at a houthi ballistic missile. you were the ceo of any corporation in the world, you would say get me out of this mess. so far, that has not happened. is main reason for that mohammad bin salman. it is his signature policy initiative. he embarked on it shortly after he became defense minister. it is safe to say the saudis panicked when they saw the houthis advancing.
doinghey saw the houthis foolish things like announcing betweene going to be tehran. not that air service is that bad. it was sticking it into the saudis at the point they were going to the most likely to react. -- a war effort that has no strategy, no achievable and state. -- indie state. it was supposed to be operation decisive storm. it was changed from decisive storm when it became clear that there was not going to be anything decisive about it. if you look at the videos and news coverage of the war in its first month, mohammad bin salman's picture was in everything. now, nothing to do with it. but he is everything to do with it. his perceived as linked to the outcome of this war and he needs
some kind of victory, whatever that is. up in the tied question of what happened to jamal khashoggi and the istanbul murder investigation. probably the murder investigation of the century. there is an opportunity and all of this 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. his last op-ed, called for a simple solution. for saudi arabia and its allies to announce a cease-fire, to halt all airstrikes, all military activity, lift the blockade immediately, with ally, and convene the yemeni parties to try to come up with a new solution.
the odds that this would necessarily result in it -- an , but att is not good least it would get us off the battlefield and into a negotiating table. i do not see much chance of the trump administration doing this. they have not shown much interest in trying to find a political solution. i think they live in the fantasy world that this is going to strike a blow to iran that will be mortal and crippling. i think the congress of the united states has an opportunity. now is the time for the congress to take a big step and cut that spare parts which is the goal line -- logistical line. begin asking questions by highlighting what i feel are different emphasises that you and fatima have.
fatima, my sense is that you are concerned about the houthis as the authoritarian nature of their rule, you are concerned about their victory. uaeaps you want saudi and intervention to continue. bruce, the opposite question. --does that mean the houthi does that mean that iran wins? how should we think about those? ms. abo alasrar: i do agree with bruce with a lot of things, surprisingly. mr. riedel: not surprisingly. example, inrar: for thinking about the way that this airstrikenducted, the , i am not a huge fan. , maybe a monthon
or two months ago releasing that -- about 6000 civilian casualties in syria as a result of its campaign with isis -- it ins not give me any hope bombs or anybody's targeting capacity. i do not think that is the solution. listen to what bruce said in terms of how cheap it is for iran to make the houthis antagonized saudi arabia and provoke it and how disproportionate, how much money for saudi arabia to even exhaust its image. there is nothing that can fix saudi arabia's image. busthey need is one school or the death of a child for this to bring back saudi arabia as a
huge violator. they are not boy scouts, though. and iranians are doing malice strategically. saudi's --es and the saudis have got to sit together and figure out how to strategically combat this area the way that -- this. the way that iran is doing it. it is not their major issue. it is a card they play. foiling effectively piece. -- peace. the you and envoy, martin --ffith, had initially put got agreement from everybody to sit together for a piece talk in
september --september -- peace n september and the houthis do not want to participate. what do they have to lose? they control heavily populated centers. yemeni cannot take these back without it being bloody. that is a hughes -- cute card they play. -- the coalition to liberate or sanaa would be synonymous with destroying the data or sanaa if they do it with -- co-data or sanaa if they do it deida or sans if they do it with an air campaign. there is a huge force that has developed through the last three years through elements of former --sident sally -- celine
saleh. that is a clever strategy. thethe forces to weaken houthis. they have no alliances with the general people's congress. they have no alliance with the biggest party that we have in yemen. zero sympathies in the south of yemen. around sanaa have all been violated by the who the -- houthis and they want the opportunity to drive them away. hodeida, the people are nice people. the do not want to see houthis there. mentioned,s you have foodck was delivering assistance to areas that were
deprived from food, just to help , and what we saw was a video of the houthi militia striking the truck while shouting death to america. this is killing their own population. element -- and talking about the humanitarian catastrophe that is generated in yemen, they are using famine. houthis are effectively using famine. i'm not saying the coalition is not -- has not restricted access. the blockade was a one-month blockade. it generated muchnot than what happens. -- happened.
the market andthe market and yea friend who went to yemen and she is like the food is all around. what are you talking about, a famine? it was not a matter of access to food as -- so much as purchasing power. humanitarian organizations -- we ought to rethink the way we are doing aid. no one is interested in development. no one is interested in economic empowerment because they think that is a step that should come after the war ends. we do not know when the war is going to end. there are so many ways we can try to help the local populations. we are not even getting that right. employed in the armies, both for the who the militia -- houthi militia and the air of coalition because that is becoming the biggest source of employment in yemen. an economichem opportunity, perhaps they will turn away from using the guns. i do not think people here in the united states or policymakers think that the houthis could be defeated.
i think the houthis think if they have one single soldier left they are still victorious. they think that they are holding the political process and they realize their power in holding this clinical process. -- political process. responsibleold them , just as we are holding the saudi coalition responsible. remain vigilant. maybe the intervention has been a mixed blessing. had notif the saudis intervened, you would not have heard of yemen and discussed it with such passion today. peace.to see i worry if peace is going to be just a document that people sign and then worry about the consequences later.
there are thousands of people die in from grillo -- dieting from guerrilla warfare or street warfare. that does not demonstrate the same amount of press. this is terrifying. bruce, if i could ask you to think about this question as well. if there were to be success in removing the saudi and uae role, would this be a houthi and iranian victory? from the standpoint of international public opinion, iran won this war three years ago. the saudis have become the bad guys. i agree with fatima. the houthis are not good guys. they are ruthless thugs who want to create a dictatorship for a small minority of people. saudis have given them the past. in the united states am a there
is very little focus on the war at all. states, there is very little focus on the war at all. you rarely see a focus. when you do, what is it about? blockade.king, saudi beennk the iranians have telling the houthis to fight to the last houthi, the last yemeni. if you keep doing this for another 20 years, saudi arabia will be broke. have maneuvered themselves into the position where all the blame is on them and little is on anyone else. of greatot the mark strategy and policy. that is the mark of recklessness and stupidity. there is a lot of stupidity involved. this is a critical moment.
they could pivot out. obey what happened in istanbul. will the end of the coalition warfare lead to peace and yemen? no. it is hard to see how peace and yemen can come in terms of an agreement between all the parties. i personally think the most likely outcome that works in the two-term is to go back to yemen's or three yemens. i like yemen so much i would like to have three. that is going to take a long time to get there in a peaceful way. are also making another big mistake. they think that lobbying campaigns in the united states can persuade americans to like saudi arabia. i have bad news for you. americans do not like saudi arabia.
they may not like iran, but they do not like saudi arabia. the majority of americans believe that saudi arabia had something to do with 9/11. damocles -- sort of -- sword of damocles is hanging over saudi arabia. -- it is worth reading the indictment. they have got some good lawyers. they do not make claims like that his wife funded it or things like that. they make claims that saudi arabia allowed funding to go to al qaeda, including the day of september 11, and therefore are responsible for negligence. i cannot imagine a jury in the city of new york that is not going to find saudi arabia guilty. a crisisink you have
and relations now, let that day come. if donald trump says he wants to do something about this, he has supported -- and so as hillary clinton. not perceive it as an enemy. there has been, you know, mistakes that saudi arabia has committed in the past. so, i think, i think about it the game of thrones where -- has risen. when she wanted to manipulate them and that -- she realized that she can't control them. i think something similar to that happened in saudi arabia. you know, i know there is a lot of blame to go around. it is really interesting. what is the polls of the student in saudi arabia? they saw him as a young member who is aligned with them.
who is, you know, bringing things. i used to complain a lot about saying yemenis are better. we have freedoms here in yemen. and the capive drive in saudi arabia. i felt jealous. there is a word my country. now, women can drive in saudi arabia. saudi arabia has a long way to go. again, the like imprisonment of -- or the other women activists. or you know, i think there are so many ways where they can reform culturally. as a yemeni citizen, you know, where i find that i have different values, then the ones that saudi arabia has, because be grew up in yemen leaving in a pluralistic system. one of the things we realize, i realize is that yemen could not have survived without economic support. of saudi arabia. throughout the years.
inyou mentioned, the war 1962, when the revolutionaries the him onerthrew that system society, it is kind of funny because the saudi's have supported the monarchs back then. the, youd the time, know, the saudi's, after eight years of a bloody conflict, the saudi's withdrew. over.volutionaries took despite the fact that they were not fighting each other for eight years, two years later, the yemeni government asked for an economic package. they realized they could not survive without it. things that are important. it cannot happen without support from the saudi's. both the saudi's and a iraqis pledged $1 billion.
there is stumped -- some statistic out there that it is over $15 billion of aid that has come from the 70's. if this aid -- is this aid effective? i think it could be better. then what it is today. this with let me pass this question, right, which is we have seen a lot of talk. we have seen a lot of talk from regional government. a lot of talk from the united states. to kind of highlight an issue that they raised, which is even if there is diplomacy in the next year or two, this war is not going away. we have seen this war proceed the trump administration and who knows how long this administration will be in office. it is possible that in two years or six years this war will still be going on. as someone who has served in a different administration, what are some of the issues that have come up that you feel are
internal to u.s. policy as opposed to a particular to this administration? >> thank you for that question. i would note that this is an inch to an conversation and it is important for a deliberation of yemen to recognize that they are two different issues. what is the end goal, what will bring peace, how to resolve the conflict, very complicated topic that really lead experts would not all agree on. is whatnd question should be the u.s. role in the conflict as opposed to other u.s. interests. differentiate between those two points and i will think that leads to answer your question, looking backwards in time. right, the contested young life decision in 2015, no one ever found 100% comfortable with the halfway decision. it was a responsive decision. the gulf partners came and said
help us support our offensive. we are going ahead. it did not say what do you think, they said can you sign up to support us. that was the phraseology, or the way it came about. we are going ahead anyway, please support us. time, it wasat the way above my pay grade, the thinking at the time was there was deep, deep critique by these partners of the gulf in the u.s. support for them. this was after four or five years of the arab spring. the u.s. had abdicated traditional alliances and partnerships in the middle east. a sense of betrayal was on the tube of the tongue every time we had diplomatic meetings with these partners. -- a real deep sense of betrayal. contextafter -- in the of the jcpoa. the deliberation over the nuclear deal. context of ahe discussion of u.s. policy where the u.s. is trying to make the case where is only negotiation
-- negotiating over the nuclear final. there was a very concerted that the make it clear u.s. was only deliberating -- negotiating a jcpoa. all that context, when presented with a request by the gulf partners to support the response was yes, but in a very limited fashion. i do believe that was the original mistake. a sense that you can support an inoffensive and campaign in a kind of sort of way. the u.s. did not join the coalition, there were eight or nine states that joined. the u.s. did not. the u.s. supported very limited military support. that has been written about. subsequently, from 2015 until today, the obama appointees left the building we were in. caveatas an effort to
that support. to condition it. we spent months debating the precision munitions sales. -- deposit on that sale. caveat that support. to condition it. we spentit was contested. it was always thought of as kind of a limited sense of support. the mistake was in setting the limit. they could have been a time bound to that. the limited support. the lesson that you ask, the general lesson for foreign policy is no such thing as kind of sort of supporting a coalition that goes to war in the middle east. u.s. credibility is immediately on the line. signaling, you know, the argument on the partner was to show u.s. credibility and credible commitments by your partner. is when yourgument go and support of war and put your name to it, the accountability globally is strategy andth the
the policy decisions associated with the offense appeared as he has said, there was never a thoughtful discussion of how it and, with the strategy is. lesson. was the you can't do this halfway. i think it is an incredibly important lesson. toi'm going to open it up the audience discussion. just a few notes. we will have microphones going around. please speak into the microphone. please introduce yourself. also, you get one question. you persist in asking more than one question, i will choose the question and be bored and choose a completely different question. i probably urge you not do that. i will take the question in groups of three so we can get a lot of the table. >> thank you so much. this has been really interesting. has, you know, i,
in my opinion, seems like a bad actor. i am wondering, there is a bill hcon resuse right now 138. i'm wondering if the panelists can talk about that as a vehicle for pulling u.s. support. >> thank you. >> my name is james. iran'sious what geopolitical ambitions are in yemen. i agree that there is definitely an element to the quagmire in saudi arabia. i think there are larger political, moral, religious conventions as well. bahai religious
minorities being persecuted. this is coming directly from a run. i want -- from iran. i want to know what ambitions are making this happen within iran. if this was just a political question then there may not have been an interest in exporting a campaign against a small religious minority. i am vivian. questionto the earlier, i was wondering if you could address any of the bills that you have seen come up either in the house or the senate to either been women's -- weapons sales or withdraw u.s. support for the saudi coalition. and if you have not seen any that seem like they are worthwhile or that they would make a difference, what use it just congress should be doing in that regard? >> some excellent issues to
begin our discussion. i would ask you to start off by talking about the various congressional proposals. which ones you think should have the most life. are not an advocacy space. i can analyze some of these bills but cannot advocate for any make -- any of them. note that. i said there was three different, basically, pockets of congressional oversight. it is the one that is most advanced right now. probably going to move after the term elections. the language seems to say that the 2001 through authorization of the support authorized, potentially, u.s. operations in yemen of the counterterrorism variety. authorizenot engagement militarily in the civil conflict. it is essentially saying there is no congressional authorization.
therefore, per the work hours, this is unconstitutional. byre is some debate constitutional law experts about whether this will have an effective -- will it be able to be interpreted as really that it is unconstitutional for the military to do the refueling? amongs some debate lawyers about what will happen to this. it is fair to say this is a clear signal of where congress stands on the second question that was being debated here. what is the u.s. material support for the civil conflict. >> thank you. got ask you to get some thoughts on other aspect of the iranian dimension that should be discussed with a cup of human itself and u.s. policy. the iranians are up to no good. an obscureound conflict that is in an area
where saudi arabia feels is very much it's turf. the saudi's think about yemen much as americans think about cuba. which is not very straight headed about. they are constantly confused about it. think yemen is its backyard. other people should not interfere in that. i think the iranians are playing a very simple game. unfortunately, what the war is doing is pushing the cooties more and more into the iranian cap. when the war began, the level of iranians support, as far as can be measured, was at the margins. some expertise, little bit of money, ballistic missile technology, a lot of it was outsourced to hezbollah. the cooties in has below have a longer relationship together than iran. and 30's have -- s become more and more
desperate, there naturally turning to the only part of it is willing to give them any assistance. that is likely to continue. i've said this before. the iranians are happy to fight the last yemeni. to the last lebanese. the last syrian. we seem to be now letting them do all of those things. and the obama administration, largely because of the comprehensive plan of action and the dialogue that created between secretary and is running counterparts, there was some way to have a dialogue about these issues. by violating the jcpoa unilaterally, and by ceasing that dialogue, the united states has -- is pushing the iranians to be a more nefarious player in the region. i think, on that count, the iranians are playing the smart game. untilount the months
november 2020. they have may exaggerated faith in the american electorate. i think they think the end is in thet if they can just get americans -- maybe the americans will go back to things. in the meantime, if you can , they are very's happy to do so. it costs them virtually nothing. we havethe situation today. iranians supplied ballistic missiles are being fired at the capital of saudi arabia. they have also attempted to fire them at abu dhabi. you keep saying nothing is ever happened here. i don't know. the iranians are effectively taking the capitals of their two most vibrant, most hated enemies under attack by ballistic missiles. one of us -- what are the saudi's doing? sending $3 million a shot to knock them down.
which leads us to something to worry about the future. in 1991, thewar, patriot system was remarkably effective. everyt down almost missile fired at tel aviv. at the very, very end of the ,ar, there was a cap and ahern three dozen american soldiers -- soldiers were killed. sooner or later, one of the missiles is going to hit a target. and kill a lot of people. a lot of people. then, what are we going to do? what is going to be the day after approach. ? what is the trump administration going to do? it will have to put something behind its rhetoric about doing something about iran. a very dangerous situation. that is another reason to find a way to bring the regional
as quickly ashalt possible. recognizing that the internal civil conflict in yemen is not likely to end the regional players. it is likely go on. >> one thing i noticed is that whenever there are bills and resolutions in congress on this issue, people will often treat them most and talk about the most are iranian or pro-iraqi media. it is definitely a victory for iran to scale back their -- the role of saudi arabia and yemen. emotional much upheaval in terms of what is going on. rightly so. 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-term? drop yemen, that is fine. it will have devastating consequences on yemen. that mean for the
strategic relationship between saudi arabia and the united states? i think it is much more of a structural relationship. it depends on saudi for intelligence sharing. stopping crucial threats to the united states. one thing i wanted to mention, briefly, is that there is a that the wareory in yemen continues because the united states wants to extort saudi arabia. it is quite interesting. a lot of arabs feel that this is the u.s. imposing the war in yemen. the --r to get all of out of sabe -- saudi arabia whenever it wishes. the longer the war goes on the more we will be prone to these conspiracy theories. the more it will be a quagmire. it is of use there is no exit strategy. as we are pressuring the saudi's
to reform their role, what do we need to look at the run and how to inform the role within -- when it comes to yemen? they are not negotiating with yemen. the saudi's can claim the same. that is very visible. when they say we are helping yemen, it means, you know, people go like that is not what i saw on the news. that is not how help should look like. when we saw the united states intervention in iraq, it does not look helpful. another intervention does not look helpful anywhere. everybody argues it is a necessity. for me, i worry. i never supported the war in iraq, but when it came to withdrawing troops i was scared. i had felt that something into the is could come later when there is a leadership vacuum in the country.
when there is no real good -- it did -- negotiated political sentiment. are we prepared to see the same in yemen? i don't care about it, what is the strategy that you want to implement going on -- going forward? inecially with huge levels yemen that have been forecasted? >> i would push back and disagree. with the congressional interest, i think it is remarkable because you know, from the most part, deep humanitarian instrument and tight impulse. and both parties we have a former marine in the senate. the sun -- senate will come in and their first issue of business is questioning, you know, what is the iso obligation, etc.. talk to many of these members of congress, the impulses very genuine. it is coming from primarily, a humanitarian place of concern famine.e secondary, a question of u.s. prestige and association with the war.
may become a thoroughly, instead of geopolitical, increasingly so, i geopolitical concern is actually deeply bad for u.s. interests. i would say that would be the even under the obama administration, we were held by members of congress of both parties. what are you doing here and why are -- there was bipartisan briefings asking us what is going on here. other u.s. weapons involved here. it was coming from a deeply humanitarian place. i will take a few more questions please.
>> if the u.s. projections of famine are correct, there could moreur or five, even million yemenis who starts death, this year, if that impact, will there be an on u.s. or saudi coalition policy? >> i was just -- you guys talk a , inabout how effectively terms of public opinion, iran has already lost the war. there has been a lot of dancing does, yourt of, what know, what does winning look like. i just wanted to ask is there a way out of this conflict when iran does not win?
it sounds effectively like they have. wherere a way out of this there is not a total iranian win? >> thank you very much. my name is rosy. i am with the human rights commission. howuestion has to do with the saudi's seem to be backing the government of yemen. seems to be backing the separatists. whether that may lead to conflict between saudi and uae and how that could work out on the ground. >> thank you all. let me start out by asking how to begin. if, as unfortunately may be likely if the worst happens, how does that change how the world
faces yemen? >> so, i said that this week at the u.n. in new york, mike revised his assessment from 8 million to 14 million. i think that is right that means there is a much higher percentage. famineay be actual designated by the international community. i like to think that category changes things. this is too much, we have to stop this. i would like to think about because of a game changer. -- such incredible leaders that, if anyone have the power to
shake the conscience of humanity, it is them. the situation has evolved so quickly. every barrier has been crossed and his past couple of years in terms of what is fair and what is right. the norms of warfare have deteriorated so much in such a quick time. the blockade of last november was such an odd -- you know, it was such a clear moment. so black and white, in terms of just shutting down the port where 80% of all fuel, food, medicine, everything gets into the people of yemen. if that blockade could not stop people and say we have to stop this, you know, these are innocent civilians who are suffering. optimisticess than actualization of the famine protections would -- it is maybe not impossible. the things to be addressed to be the airport. the human system of verification mess -- mechanism. the checking of the ships that are coming in. port access it itself. the final thing that the
transfer from the port city itself and the red sea port to the population centers. >> can i ask you to take on the question on iran? is this just an iranian win and we should accept it as the win column? to the population centers. >> it is an iranian victory in the sense that international public opinion blames saudi arabia for the war. iranian -- it is not an iranian victory in the sense that they have turned yemen into a permanent foothold in the arabian peninsula. there is very little permanence about anything that is happening in yemen. this is a country whose internal politics are baffling to watch. the capacity of groups in yemen to be on alliance with x in the morning and at war with x at lunchtime and back to alliance at dinnertime is astounding.
famously said governing yemen was like dancing on the head of snakes. he was very good at it, sooner or later, he stepped on the wrong snake. the iranian role can be minimized once the war ends. inspectionup an regime to try to ensure that the military supplies don't come into the country. let's be realistic. smugglingt of probably began in yemen 50,000 years ago. you were not going to stop smuggling in yemen. you can certainly make it far more difficult to bring in a ballistic missile through the airport if you had a u.n. inspection regime there. it would at least provide a mechanism to minimize the iranian role of the future. i also think that there is no long-term reason why -- should be in bed with --
i want to start off with a complex discussion of what the theological differences are between them. we could spend hours here doing all bed we would completely befuddled when it was over except maybe one or two of us. are not, inevitably, drawn to each other any more than iraqi shia's are inevitably drawn to be in protein iranian. -- being pro-iranian. what the saudi's have done is otis the option of being the nationalist defenders of yemeni nationalism. a very foolish thing to do. not the they are nationalist heroes of yemen. the war has been portrayed in the media increasingly as the foreigner against the native. natives all the other
who are not pro-iran. who are not pro-saudi. but who are lost in the midst because it has all come down to the foreigner acting here. actually in an inflection moment in u.s. saudi relations. -- this alliance has had many near-death experiences. this is where i plug my book. this is one of those near-death experiences. whether or not the trump administration wants to admit it or not. ,e need to address the question how does the united states and saudi arabia work together for our mutual interests, which is the stability of the region, minimizing the iranian meddling role in things like that. journalists and istanbul is not the way to go forward on that. istanbul is not the way to go on
that. this administration needs to hold the saudi government orpable for that matter -- this relationship cannot go forward. >> can i ask you to take on the their goals are affecting yemen? >> there is not going to be any breakup. go to anyot going to disagreement, maybe this could be the silver lightning -- lining for this session. the session is not in the best interest of saudi arabia.
it might be attractive to the uae, they might move into a federal system and uae may have more leverage with the saudis. there are economic advantages -- couldsaudis to the offer to the uae. that this isd see going to play out in terms of a regional conflict, but there might be a local conflict showed say wethern council -- will do our own thing here. if no one will listen to them, let them be a party in the peace negotiations, we have a ticking time bomb.
i think this would be the next conflict to watch in yemen. this has been a sobering arning as we walked out to beautiful day. please remember the tragedy that is happening before the worlds eyes in not just today but i suspect in the weeks and months and years to calm. we have had an excellent primer on the problems, the disagreements, please thank our panel. [applause] a lot of the discussion about
the killing of the year -- new york times reporter this morning. it was said today do evidence indicated the journalist have been -- that the killing was suggesting another shift in the kingdom's official story. if you would like to see this event again you can see it on c-span. or, type c-span -- type yemen. you talk about the economic policy.and live coverage at 12:15 here on c-span.
president trump is expected to talk about prescription drug prices, later today he will host a ceremony commemorating the 35th anniversary of the bombing of the beirut barracks. the washington post is hosting a mid election preview, speakers are newt gingrich and chris van hollen. that is live at 4 p.m. eastern. more live debate coverage today, at 7 p.m. henry mcmaster debating james smith in the south carolina race. and garyohn barrasso tron. make c-span your primary source for campaign 2018. >> about at about this