US certifies Saudi, UAE actions in Yemen despite civilian casualties

Yemeni child stands next to destroyed bus day after Saudi-led coalition air strike (AFP/file photo)

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SULAIMANI — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he had certified to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are working to avoid harming civilians in Yemen, clearing the way for continued US help to Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo said in a statement he had advised Congress on Tuesday that “the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments,” according to Reuters.

The three-year-old war in Yemen is widely seen as a proxy battle between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.S. lawmakers concerned about the ensuring humanitarian crisis included a measure in the spending bill that required Pompeo to certify by Wednesday whether Saudis and UAE are taking meaningful measures to reduce civilian casualties and allow humanitarian aid.

Without the certification, the law would prohibit the United States from refueling ally Saudi Arabia’s planes.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis said he backed Pompeo’s finding that Saudi Arabia and UAE “are making every effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage to civilian infrastructure resulting from their military operations to end the civil war in Yemen.”

The war in Yemen pits the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, based in the south and backed by Saudi Arabia, against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the north including the capital Sanaa.