US weighs giving Saudis more military aid for Yemen efforts

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 20, 2017

Meanwhile, the Coalition Forces said in a statement Tuesday that a Black Hawk helicopter of the Saudi Armed Forces crashed while on a mission in Maarib.

At least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 3 million displaced in the war in Yemen, now in its third year.

RIYADH: Iranian supplied missiles being fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia must be brought to an end, Jim Mattis said on Tuesday as he made his first trip as U.S. defense secretary to Saudi Arabia.

Officials said USA support for the Saudi-led coalition was discussed including what more assistance the United States could provide, including potential intelligence support, saying they were weighing boosting the same type of support already being given.

The coalition of mostly Arab Sunni countries has waged a campaign to dislodge Yemeni Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognized government to flee the country.

In September 2015, a rebel missile strike on a coalition base in Marib killed 67 coalition soldiers, a lot of them Emiratis. Dozens of Saudi soldiers have been killed in cross-border attacks from Yemen. Bahrain also lost five soldiers, though it was not clear if they were killed in the same incident.

In a related development, the Yemeni government welcomed the statements of the US Secretary of Defense concerning the efforts conducted through UN-brokered negotiations to resolve the conflict in Yemen.

"The Houthis realize that a peaceful solution will mean an end to the Iranian expansionist project in Yemen and the region", he told Arab News.

He also echoed past Saudi accusations that Houthis have been receiving arms from Iran, saying that the Iranians have supplied Houthis with missiles they use to fire on Saudi Arabia.

The Trump administration could, for example, lift a freeze on the delivery of precision guided bombs to the kingdom.

As he met Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, Mattis appeared to allude to deteriorated relations during the Obama administration, which spearheaded a seven-nation nuclear deal with Iran that deeply upset the Saudis.

The Saudi-led coalition has recently made gains against the Houthis in western Yemen but fighting on other fronts, including Marib, has been static, with little ground changing hands.

Options include the kingdom intensifying its aerial operations or its humanitarian aid, the American defence official said, describing the fight against ISIS as "our number one concern".

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