The awkward camera angle is meant to hide the fact that the owner of the phone is filming, but there is no mistaking the outlines of the heavy cargo being deposited on the dock in the Yemeni port of Aden last week.
The distinctive shape of the US-made Oshkosh armored vehicle stands out in the early morning darkness, a piece of military hardware that is currently at the heart of a standoff between some American lawmakers and President Donald Trump’s administration.
Aden is controlled by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, whose main partners are continuing to ship American-made weapons into the country despite bipartisan outrage in Congress over the way the US is backing Riyadh in this bloody and bitter conflict.
Since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015, the United States gave its full support to a relentless air campaign where Saudi warplanes and bombs hit thousands of targets, including civilian sites and infrastructure, with impunity.
From the beginning, US officials insisted that American weapons, training, and intelligence assistance would help the Saudis avoid causing even more civilian casualties.
But this was a lie meant to obscure one of the least understood aspects of US support for Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen: it’s not that Saudi-led forces don’t know how to use American-made weapons or need help in choosing targets.
They have deliberately targeted civilians and Yemen’s infrastructure since the war’s early days – and US officials have recognized this since at least 2016 and done little to stop it.
The full scope of human suffering in Yemen has been partly obscured because the UN stopped updating civilian deaths in January 2017, when the toll reached 10,000. And while the actual death toll is far higher, many news reports still rely on the outdated UN figures.
A team of United Nations investigators, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, presented a devastating report in Geneva in early September detailing how the US, along with Britain and France, are likely complicit in war crimes in Yemen because of continued weapons sales and intelligence support to the Saudis and their allies, especially the United Arab Emirates.
Despite pressure from Saudi Arabia, the Human Rights Council voted last Thursday to extend its investigation.
The fighting has divided the country’s north from the south. Iranian-backed Houthis rebels control the capital of Sanaa, while the US-supported, Saudi-led anti-Houthi forces hold Aden.
Infighting in the south this summer — between Saudi-supported forces of the internationally recognized government and UAE-backed separatists — further splintered territorial control, threatening to plunge the entire country into a protracted and multi-sided war.
A peace deal between government forces and the separatists was signed on Tuesday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
It aims to end the power struggle around Aden and defer the issue of whether the south will secede until after the battle against the Houthi-controlled north has been won.
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