Did you hear about the Saudi airstrike last month when a wedding party was struck, killing 131 people? A few days later another wedding was hit killing more than 20 others according to local officials.
These were strikes in Yemen. The site of a massive Saudi air campaign. To refresh your memory back in January Yemen's president was ousted by Houthi rebels. The Saudi royal family panicked because the Houthis are Shiites. And was seen as a proxy force for Saudi Arabia's hated Shiite rival Iran. So Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its allies began punishing airstrikes in March.
The U.S. is part of the effort backing the Saudis with logistical and intelligence support for the strikes. According to the U.N. over 2,000 civilians have been killed since the Saudis joined the fight just a few months ago. The majority of them were allegedly hit by coalition airstrikes. By contrast only 16 percent of civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan were caused by pro-government forces in the first half of 2015. And only 1 percent were caused by international forces.
The Saudis have declared whole cities in Yemen to be its target, Amnesty International says. Their striking non-military targets with great frequency showing an appalling disregard for civilian lives, the group says, and there is damming evidence of war crimes despite Saudi's assertion to the contrary.
The U.S. doesn't say much about the strikes and it even failed to push through an independent U.N. investigation that the Saudis opposed. The result has been a humanitarian nightmare. Nearly 1.5 million Yemenis have been displaced and more than 21 million need humanitarian aid, the U.N. says. That is about 80 percent of the population. Entire cities lie in ruins and much of the country is on the brink of famine, the U.N. says, in part because the Saudis are blockading Yemen's ports.
It's not even clear why the U.S. should be helping the Saudis in the first place. Iran's involvement there is not strong or direct and the Yemeni president the United States hopes to restore to power may have been democratically elected but he was the only candidate on the ballot. In fact, this whole operation might be creating more terrorism.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has gained substantial ground in Yemen, thanks to all of this instability. What's odd is that the Houthis are bitter rivals of al Qaeda in Yemen and historically effective at fighting them. What's more ISIS is also gaining momentum amid this chaos, mounting suicide bombings all over the country. Saudi Arabia's actions are largely shaped by its intensely anti-Shiite and radical world view. One that has fed Sunni extremism for decades.
Why should the United States encourage and affirm a Wahhabi foreign policy?
The following commentary is from Fareed Zakaria on GPS: