The Shiite Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has taken to criticizing the Saudi-led campaign–which the United States is a part of–against the Houthi militants in Yemen.
While in Washington, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi openly questioned the wisdom of the U.S.-backed Yemen operation. “There is no logic to the operation at all in the first place. Mainly, the problem of Yemen is within Yemen,” said Abadi, who has asked the U.S. taxpayer to help supplement his country’s $21 billion dollar budget deficit.
Abadi said that the Obama administration wants “to stop this conflict [in Yemen] as soon as possible.” He added, “what I understand from this administration, the Saudis are not helpful on this. They don’t want a cease-fire now.”
The White House quickly denied that President Obama had said such things, and restated their commitment to the Yemen campaign, the Times reported. A National Security council spokesman said that “The president did not criticize Saudi or [Gulf Cooperation Council] actions in Yemen.”
Saudi officials fired back at the criticisms, saying that there was “no logic to those remarks,” the New York Times reports.
Analysts have pointed out that Iran has heavy influence upon both the Iraqi government and the Houthi militants. Some have even argued that Tehran has complete de facto control over the aforementioned actors.
Although the United States is backing the Saudi-led effort to oust the Houthis and restore Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, the Obama administration is playing both sides by also supporting forces in Iraq and Syria that remain ideological allies of Tehran. The Times remarked that the strategy of playing both sides created a series of “challenges facing the Obama administration as it tries to hold together a diverse coalition.”
Following Abadi’s remarks, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, held a news conference at his country’s D.C. embassy. Jubeir said that there was “no logic” in Abadi’s critique, and said that the Yemen campaign was achieving progress in countering the Iran-backed Houthis.