US Considers Supporting Saudi-Led Coalition Plan to Capture Yemeni Port of Hodeidah

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The Pentagon may support a plan of the Saudi-led coalition on seizing a Red Sea port in Yemen in order to cut off supplies of the Houthi-Saleh alliance.

US Considers Supporting Saudi-Led Coalition Plan to Capture Yemeni Port of Hodeidah

James Mattis, then commander of the US Central Command, appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2011 (Photo: AFP)

The Pentagon considers an opportunity to support a plan of the Saudi-led coalition on capturing the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, located in the southwestern part of the country, the Washington Post newspaper reported, citing US military officials. Reportedly, the move should become part of a new stance, adopted by the US president Donald Trump’s administration in order to deepen ties with its partners in the Middle East.

According to the newspaper, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has asked the White House to lift Obama’s restrictions on US military support to the coalition. As Mattis noted, it would help to combat a “common threat.”

In addition, the Mattis’s memo also addresses whether US should provide support for the coalition’s plan to capture Hodeidah port that would allow cutting off rebel supplies. The Mattis’s request does not include deploying of the US Special Forces in the country, however, it would reportedly allow providing US military support to military operations of the Saudi-led coalition in the form of surveillance, intelligence and refueling capabilities.

Senior officials of the Trump’s administration have also criticized former US president Barack Obama for his tight controls measures, placed on supplying arms and training of the US partners in the Middle East.

As the Washington Post noted, last year, a similar request was rejected on the grounds that the rebels had tight control of Hodeidah and any effort to capture the town might worsen the humanitarian situation.

Earlier this month, Trump’s deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka noted that the US administration wanted to ensure partners with a better opportunity to fight their own wars.

“We are serious about the livelihoods and futures of our partners in the Middle East, whether it is Israel or Jordan, whether it is the Emirates or Egypt,” Gorka told the National newspaper. “We are going to allow them – with our help – to do what needs to be done. Only some of that will be about weapons. This is about friendship and commitment.”

The Trump’s administration has already signaled its change in the course. Recently, the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in a deal worth about $390 million was approved by the US State Department. The move reversed the last year’s decision to halt supplies due to concerns about civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, a senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation research centre, Michael Wahid Hanna, noted that if the US increased its engagement in the Yemeni war, Iran would do the same. “The Houthis aren’t a proxy – they aren’t Hizbollah – but they do get training and support from the Iranians and that support has deepened and grown as the conflict has escalated,” the expert said.

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