The United States is accelerating arms shipments and strengthening intelligence sharing with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which began airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen late last month, a senior U.S. government official said Tuesday.
According to Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. government has also set up a coordination center in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia that had formed an alliance with its Arab allies to halt the advances of Yemen’s Houthis and return the country’s exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power.
“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Reuters quoted Blinken as saying in Riyadh. “As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center.”
However, Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the delivery of arms was part of the government’s efforts to speed up orders that had already been made. “It's a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions,” Al Jazeera quoted Warren as saying.
More than 60 percent of arms sales under the Obama administration are estimated to have gone to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia being the top recipient of the U.S. weapons at $46 billion new agreements, Sputnik reported, citing a recent report by William D. Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
“In addition, over $500 million in U.S weaponry destined for Yemeni security forces has gone missing, and may have found its way to Houthi forces or even to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” Hartung said in the report. “The faction of the Yemeni army that has joined hands with the Houthi rebellion has ample U.S.-supplied armaments as well.”
— DropsandStrikes (@DropsAndStrikes) April 2, 2015
Blinken’s remarks came at a time when aid workers in Yemen said Tuesday that at least 560 people, including dozens of children, have been killed in the country since the fighting between Houthi rebels and forces supporting the embattled President Hadi intensified.
In addition, more than 1,700 -- many of them civilians -- have been wounded since the Houthis and their allies launched an intensified land grab on March 19, the Associated Press reported, citing the World Health Organization.
Unicef also said in a report Monday that at least 74 children have been killed and 44 have been wounded in the conflict so far. The agency estimated that more than 100,000 people had to leave their homes in search of safer places.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it had sent medical personnel for the first time to Yemen to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the country amid delays of medical aid and sanitation equipment.
— Dominik Stillhart (@DStillhartICRC) April 7, 2015
According to Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the ICRC, the first flight was a small passenger plane carrying medical staff. In addition, a cargo plane with medical supplies will reach the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday, he said.