Cutting ties with Saudi Arabia won't stop the war in Yemen, says expert

After dozens of children were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen, scrutiny of the West's support for the Kingdom has been renewed.

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An injured child in hospital after an airstrike hit a bus in Yemen's Saada province, on Aug. 9, 2018. (Kareem al-Mrrany/Associated Press)
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The West must work with Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict in Yemen because the violence could get worse if the Kingdom pulls out, according to an expert in international relations.

"If Saudi Arabia is going to go, the war is not going to stop," said Fatima Alasrar, a senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank.

"It's even going to be, you know, scarier in some parts for a lot of people," she told The Current's guest host Ioanna Roumeliotis.

"Saudi Arabia can go away, the coalition can go away, but ultimately, the conflict is going to remain in Yemen, and it's brutal."

The conflict in Yemen started when Houthi rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa and much of the north in 2015, pushing the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition of regional powers has been fighting those Iranian-backed rebels for three years, with millions of Yemeni civilians caught in the middle.

The mangled remains of the bus hit by an airstrike in Yemen's Saada province, on Aug. 9, 2018. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

On Aug. 9, a coalition airstrike killed dozens of civilians when it hit a bus in a marketplace in Yemen's Saada province. The International Committee of the Red Cross tweeted that there were 29 children among the dead.

Alasrar, a Yemeni national living in the U.S., argued that cutting ties would not stop Saudi Arabia from turning to China or Russia for support.

She said that the West should focus on "having that dialogue with Saudi Arabia, as opposed to saying: 'OK, no we're going to stop talking to them … it's all going to be stick, stick, stick, and no carrot.'"

Calling Saudi Arabia's record in Yemen "abysmal," Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, called for the West to review its own involvement in the conflict.

"The world needs to denounce Saudi Arabia, and denounce it strongly," he told Roumeliotis.

Victims, including children, rushed to hospital after attack by Saudi coalition forces 1:01

The U.S. and U.K. are the biggest supplier of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition, while Canada has approved the sale of $15-billion worth of combat vehicles to the Kingdom.

"A strong stand on human rights needs to be backed up by solid actions," he said.

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Julie Crysler, Danielle Carr and Noushin Ziafati.