Following the 9/11 bill that has increased the tension between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the relationship between the two countries has strained over Yemen after the attack targeted the funeral of the father of Houthi Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan in capital Sanaa on Saturday evening.
The Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Sunday promised an immediate investigation into an airstrike on a funeral that killed more than 140 people. In a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency, the coalition said the probe would be conducted with U.S. experts. “Our troops have clear and explicit instructions not to target civilians and to spare no efforts to avoid such dangers,” the statement said. Saudi Arabia earlier denied claims from the Houthi rebels that the coalition was responsible.
Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally of the Houthi rebels, called for an escalation of attacks against Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The U.S. said Saturday it was reviewing its “already significantly reduced” support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The latest incident came after the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) law was passed by the U.S. Congress. The bill allowed families of victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia warned the U.S. of “disastrous consequences” in a major spike in tension between the longstanding allies.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee the country. A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been conducting an extensive air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015 that has pushed the rebels out of southern Yemen. The United Nations says the conflict has killed more than 6,600 people and displaced at least 3 million.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Muslim countries, backed by the U.S., U.K. and France in a war in neighboring Yemen. The campaign, aimed at restoring a government ousted by a militia allied with Iran, is part of a more assertive effort by Riyadh since last year to counter Iran’s influence. A Saudi-led coalition, including naval forces, is operating a blockade of Yemen as part of efforts to prevent weapons reaching Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, who overran much of Saudi Arabia’s neighbor.
Yemen is of crucial importance for the U.S., as the country is home to one of their worst enemies, al-Qaida’s deadliest franchise, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has orchestrated numerous high-profile terrorist attacks and claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Since 2002, the US has been conducting counterterror strikes and operations against radical militants as part of U.S. national security policy. The U.S.’s “targeted-killing policy” and practices by the Obama administration have raised serious laws-of-war concerns regarding the human cost of the U.S. security policy in Yemen.