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Saudi Oil Refinery Attack Raises Fears of "Wider Regional War" Involving U.S. & Iran

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But the other point to understand here is, all parties have used the economy, have attacked civilians to further their aims, and none have been successful thus far. So, when we talk about pursuing a deeper military path, perhaps deeper U.S. involvement in the conflict, what we're talking about is doubling down on a strategy that simply has not worked up until now. And again, sort of as Crisis Group, as an organization that promotes peace, what we've been saying for some time is, it's time for everyone to talk. It's time for people to sort of rip off the Band-Aid, stop hiding behind U.N. resolutions, and for the U.S., the Saudis to talk to the Houthis and see what can be done to end the conflict. And absent that kind of step, I think we're just going to see things getting worse.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to the UAE, the United Arab Emirates?

PETER SALISBURY: So, the UAE isn't out of the conflict. It announced a drawdown, not a withdrawal, and they're slightly different things. So it's reduced its presence, particularly on the Red Sea coast of Yemen, where we saw sort of the potential for a big battle for a really important port last year, driven by the UAE. They've now drawn down their presence, but they remain in operational control on the Red Sea coast, and they remain sort of bedded with certain allies on the ground. That's complicating in and of itself, because in August we saw UAE-backed forces fighting against loyalists of the Hadi government, which is supported by Saudi Arabia. So, not only do we have this big sort of conflict between the Houthis, on one side, and the government of Yemen, backed by the Saudis, on the other, we now have this sort of subconflict, this civil war within a civil war in Yemen, which further complicates matters and makes peace even harder to achieve.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, just a few weeks ago, U.N. investigators said the U.S., Britain and France may be complicit in war crimes for arming the Saudis in the war in Yemen. Can you lay out what these war crimes are and what you see here as the solution right now and what you fear most at this point, with President Trump talking about "locked and loaded," even as it was suggested he would meet unconditionally with the Iranian leadership, and then he says it's fake news?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, yes, the U.S. has been involved, with other Western powers, of providing the means that the Saudis have used to destroy infrastructure in Yemen, as well as hit marketplaces, weddings, funerals, civilian targets, and these are war crimes, as well as supporting these outside countries that have been involved in the use of torture and in all kinds of activities that have been documented in a very devastating report by the United Nations. I think it is clear that these are war crimes that have been committed with complicity of the outside countries.

But as Peter laid out how it has to move into negotiations in the case of Yemen, the same thing has to happen in the case of Iran. And there are possible solutions on the table, put forth most recently by Emmanuel Macron of France, saying that Europe would extend a $15 billion credit, line of credit, to Iran and is calling on the United States to give waivers to other countries to buy Iranian oil. You know, it's crazy that the United States has the ability to say to the rest of the world, "You can't buy Iranian oil." And there are two countries, China and Syria, that continue to buy that oil. But the United States must lift those waivers. And it has been speculated that Trump is contemplating that, and John Bolton was totally against that, which is one of the reasons that he was fired. But I think lifting those waivers is essential for easing the conflict right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, if you could comment, Medea Benjamin, on the latest Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon? Now, of course, Israel is having its snap elections tomorrow, not clear what will happen out of that, but leading up to it, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he's going to annex a third of the West Bank. But all of that together with what's happening right now?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, that's right. The Israelis have been trying to goad the United States into a military attack on Iran's nuclear research facilities. Let's remember that it is Israel that has nuclear weapons, and Iran does not have nuclear weapons. But this pressure coming from Israel, given how close the Trump administration is to the Israelis, and the Israelis' actual bombing of Iranian forces in these different areas, has really escalated this conflict. I think we should think of this as akin to 1914, before the First World War, where any incident, whether it's provoked by the Israelis, by the Saudis, can drag the United States into a war that will be absolutely catastrophic for the entire region. And we must stop that from happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Of course, we'll continue to follow this story. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, in Iran earlier this year, author of a number of books, including Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her latest, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And Peter Salisbury, International Crisis Group's senior analyst for Yemen.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Covering Climate Now. Two hundred fifty news organizations around the country are focusing on climate this week, leading up to the U.N. climate summit on September 23rd at the United Nations and this week's Global Climate Strike on September 20th. Stay with us.


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