Mattis: US to Increase Support for Saudis in Yemen

Says Backing Saudis Key to 'Overcoming Iran'

Visiting Riyadh, Defense Secretary James Mattis continued to play up the idea of deeper US involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen, suggesting the US would substantially increase aide to Saudi Arabia, while playing up the idea that the deeper US involvement would be against Iran.

Saudi officials have presented the war in Yemen, against a Shi’ite faction, as amounting to a proxy war against Iran, and Mattis played this up, accusing Iran of having created “another militia in the image of Lebanese Hezbollah” with the Shi’ite Houthis.

Which of course is not true. The Houthi movement was primarily a political movement in northern Yemen, which follows a form of Shi’a Islam distinct from Iran’s. They never had more than very tentative ties with the Iranian government, though Iran has become keen to back them since the Saudi war, primarily to spite the Saudis.

US officials are eager to play up the idea of action against Iran, and with no obvious opportunities to do so in any real way, they may have decided that attacking a random Shi’ite faction in Yemen and spinning that as an attack on Iran is in the cards.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of