US Steps Up Arms Supply to Saudi-Led Coalition Against Yemen

US Steps Up Arms Supply to  Saudi-Led Coalition Against YemenUS Steps Up Arms Supply to  Saudi-Led Coalition Against Yemen

The United States is speeding up the delivery of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition launching airstrikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen and is committed to defending Saudi Arabia, a senior American diplomat said, AP reported on Wednesday.

Speaking Tuesday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed the violence in Yemen on the rebels, known as Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying that they have wrecked the country’s economy and institutions and created instability that al-Qaida seeks to exploit.

“We have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination and planning cell in the Saudi operations center,” he said in a statement to reporters after meeting with Saudi royals and Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his country due to Houthi advances and is currently in Saudi Arabia.

Intelligence sharing includes making available raw aerial imagery the coalition could use to better strike anti-Hadi forces, said a US defense official not authorized to comment publicly. Blinken said the US and the six-nation (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council must coordinate closely and press all parties to seek a political solution.

The fighting in Yemen pits Hadi and his allies against the Houthis and military units loyal to Saleh.

The Saudi-led air campaign supporting Hadi, which began on March 25th, has so far failed to stop the Houthis’ advance on Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city, which was declared the provisional capital by Hadi before he fled the country for Saudi Arabia as the rebels closed in two weeks ago.

  Al-Qaeda Gains

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged Wednesday that Al Qaeda was seizing terrain amid the chaos in Yemen, but vowed that Washington would continue to combat the extremist group despite ongoing fighting there.

“We see them making gains on the ground there as they try to take territory,” said Carter, who was in Japan as part of a visit to Asia for talks with regional allies, AFP reported.

Yemen has descended into violence over recent months, with Houthi rebels seizing power in the capital Sanaa in February.

Late last month Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of air strikes, amid fears Yemen will slip into Houthi control and shift into the orbit of Shiite Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

Observers say Al-Qaeda and other groups are exploiting the instability, in which the World Health Organization says at least 540 people have died since March 19.

“The terrorism threat to the West, including the United States, from AQAP (Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) is a longstanding and serious one (...) that we will keep combating,” he added at a press conference alongside his Japanese counterpart, Gen Nakatani.

Carter expressed hope that peace would be restored “not only for that reason but also (because) there is a lot of suffering in Yemen”.

At the end of last week AQAP, which the US views as the most dangerous wing of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, captured the army headquarters and the southeastern port of Al Mukalla.