Saudi Efforts to Avoid Yemen Criticism Likely to Backfire

Heavy-Handed Efforts to Skirt Blame Bringing Even More Attention

15 months into the conflict and with an embarrassingly large number of civilian casualties, Saudi Arabia has gotten a pass on the Yemen War to a virtually unprecedented level. It’s been a lot of hard work for Saudi diplomats to threaten and coerce their way to relative blamelessness.

It’s working too, at least on paper, as they forced the UN General Assembly to drop calls for an investigation into civilian deaths last year, and more recently got the UN Security Council to remove them from the blacklist of nations involved in killing children, despite all the children they killed.

The extreme levels they’re willing to go to to avoid criticism, however, seem to be starting to backfire, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reporting that the Saudis threatened to defund programs involved in feeding children elsewhere, and that it was a “painful and difficult” decision to remove them, made primarily out of fear of more children dying from the lack of Saudi funding.

Ban’s comments got at least as much attention as the inclusion of the Saudis in the report did in the first place, and sparked a new round of condemnation from human rights groups, with many expressing concern that the Saudi success in bullying themselves off the list means other nations will do the same thing in the future.

Yemen’s comparative isolation and the lack of a real media presence there has meant that the Saudis were able to fly mostly under the radar on their war crimes, but in being so heavy-handed in acting against the rare public criticism they do get, they’re liable to open the floodgates and bring real attention to their actions, which given their track record in Yemen, is only going to make them look far, far worse.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of