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Saudi Air Strikes in Yemen Are Killing Civilians and Helping al-Qaeda Spread—and the Pentagon Knows It

April 17, 2015 (EIRNS)—Helped by the Saudi airstrikes that are knocking out the positions and supplies of the Houthi forces in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is expanding rapidly. AQAP, which the US military and intelligence services have identified as the most direct immediate terrorist threat to US forces and personnel, seized the Yemeni city of Al Mukalla (about two weeks ago) and on April 16 took control of the Riyan airport—a major airport for that country—and the Dhabah oil export terminal in the southern part of the country, reported the New York Times today.

At the same time, more and more international humanitarian groups are reporting the Saudi crimes against civilians. On April 16, Human Rights Watch joined the call by other groups like Amnesty International for an investigation into airstrikes by the Saudis last month that it said killed 31 civilian workers at a dairy factory outside the city of Hodeida. Also on April 16, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) reported that, in Amran Province in the north, a hospital that DWB administers treated over 30 civilians wounded in airstrikes by the Saudi attacks. In the South, the World Food Program said that it is “struggling to reach people” in Aden, where it is trying to feed 105,000 displaced people in the area. The Times reported that the UN had recorded the deaths of some 364 civilians in the fighting—a figure that is believed to be an overly low estimate, according to Middle East sources.

The refusal of the Saudis and other Gulf Cooperation Council Sunni countries to cooperate with efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement became such an obstacle, that Jamal Benomar, the UN diplomat who had been appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, requested a reassignment, according to the Times. In an interview he gave to the paper on April 15, Benomar said,

“For the first time, al-Qaeda is building a strategic alliance with the tribes” in Yemen. “It is a strengthened and dangerous al-Qaeda. That is what worries everybody.”

On Thursday, Ban Ki Moon, for the first time, reported Reuters, called for a complete ceasefire in Yemen. Previously, UN action has been weighted against the Houthis and their allies—ignoring the Saudi attacks. Ban has appointed a replacement for Benomar, who tried repeatedly—without success, because of Saudi/GCC opposition—to arrange negotiations among the warring parties: the Saudi attackers, the Saudi-backed ex-president Hadi, and the Houthis and their allies among Yemeni tribes and the supporters of former President Saleh.

How the Saudi action is helping al-Qaeda was admitted even by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in an April 8 statement from Tokyo reported by PBS Online. The only “problem” is that Carter would not dare speak the name of the Saudi “ally” and blamed the spread of AQAP on “chaos.” Carter said the United States was observing al-Qaeda in Yemen "making direct gains on the ground there as they try to take territory, seize territory in these battle lines."