1. Background
  2. Middle East & Iran

Yemen War Emboldens Extremists

The U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen is aiding AQAP and emboldening Iran

By Kate Gould, June 9, 2017


Who benefits from unconditional U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia? Experts caution that the U.S. approach to the Yemen war has given AQAP weapons flows, military support, and fodder for extremism, while emboldening Iran by driving rebel factions under Iranian control.

“By catering to the Saudis in Yemen, the United States has empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, strengthened Iranian influence in Yemen, undermined Saudi security, and brought Yemen closer to the brink of collapse.”

-- Richard Sokolsky and Perry Cammack, Carnegie

Continued US support for Saudis & Hadi government inadvertently aids AQAP:

  • Bruce Reidel, Brookings, former CIA: “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been a beneficiary of the war… As long as the war continues, AQAP will find plenty of ungoverned space to thrive in and plenty of angry Yemeni recruits.”

  • Kate Brannen, Atlantic Council: “In their fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the government of Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and its Saudi backers, have worked with local actors with suspected ties to al Qaeda. Sometimes this means the targets being tracked by the US are actually cutting deals and getting their hands on weapons thanks to connections they have with the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition, to which the US provides support.”

  • AP: “The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said that his militants have often fought alongside Yemeni government factions — remarks that could embarrass the US-backed coalition fighting the impoverished Arab country’s Shi’ite rebels.... Al Qaeda has emerged as a de facto ally of the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, against Houthis in a civil war that has wreaked devastation and killed over 10,000 since late 2014.”

US military escalation in Yemen emboldens Iran:

  • Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Bush Admin: "Saudi Arabia's rival Iran, too, benefits from the prolonged conflict. Iran has provided some support to the Houthis, but far less than Saudi Arabia and its partners have claimed. Iran seems to see the war as a low-cost way to mire Saudi Arabia and its allies in a quagmire in which each day brings fresh military, financial and reputational costs."  

  • Katie Zimmerman, American Enterprise Institute: “Giving more bullets and bombs to the Saudis will make things worse, rather than better, in Yemen, which is now facing a mammoth humanitarian crisis a la Syria. Moreover, it is likely to drive Yemeni rebel factions even further under Iranian control, and enable the Saudis to continue to ignore a growing threat in Yemen from ISIS and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”

Take action to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's Yemen war:

Tell Congress: Block Weapons of Mass Starvation

Will you write a letter to the editor today urging your lawmakers to block bomb sales to Saudi Arabia?

Write an LTE

End U.S. Complicity in Saudi-Led Yemen War

Urge Lawmakers to Cosponsor SJ Res 40

Contact Congress

Learn more:

Update What We're Reading on Yemen 

Lawmakers and advocates call to stop US arms sales to end devastating Yemen war

On the eve on President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, voices opposed to US complicity in the Saudi war in Yemen are multiplying. Sens. Todd Young and Chris Murphy spoke out on the Senate floor, Rep. Pocan spoke up in the pages of the Washington Post, and numerous experts published articles opposing the Saudi arms deals.

Background U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Support Humanitarian - Not Military - Efforts in Yemen 

The Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops penned a powerful letter to Congress on Yemen. He insists that, "Rather than exacerbating the conflict through U.S. military intervention and involvement, the United States should work with regional and international partners to bring a peaceful end to Yemen’s civil war and to provide humanitarian relief to counter the desperation that feeds extremism."

Action Alert 55 Representatives Tell Trump to Put Brakes on Yemen War 

Your calls made a difference! 55 Representatives released a bipartisan letter to President Trump, calling on him to come to Congress before taking military action in Yemen.

Press Release FCNL Applauds 27 Senators Who Voted to Block Saudi Arms Deal 

While Saudi Arabia bombs hospitals, schools, and other civilian areas in Yemen, the U.S. is set to finalize a $1.15 billion arms deal with Riyadh.

Background Trump Administration's $110 Billion Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia 

Forum on the Arms Trade outlines the sale and efforts to block it, including a comprehensive compilation of key resources on this sale and the situation in Yemen.

Background Trump may be helping to create a famine in Yemen. Congress could stop him. 

Representative Mark Pocan writes that U.S. arms sales to and military collaboration with Saudi Arabia are giving Saudi Arabia the green light to continue bombing and starving the Yemeni people. Rep. Pocan assures that "members of Congress will act swiftly, using every tool at our disposal — from blocking weapons shipments to forcing a debate and vote on U.S. military involvement in Yemen — to end this incomprehensible tragedy."

FCNL in the News US politicians grow sceptical of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen 

Kate Gould of FCNL told the Middle East Eye that she expects a much higher vote count in the senate against the U.S. weapons sale to Saudi Arabia this time. House letters and Murphy's bill in the senate are indicative of a shift in how Congress views the Saudi war.

Kate Gould

  • Legislative Representative, Middle East Policy

Kate Gould serves as the Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy. Kate directs FCNL's lobbying on Middle East policy, and is one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working to support diplomatic solutions to disputes between the U.S. and Iran and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel/Palestine.