It’s another Trump affair—this time without the allegations of sexual harassment (and worse), the charges and counter-charges, the lawsuits, and all the rest. So it hasn’t gotten the sort of headlines that Stormy Daniels has garnered, but when it comes to influence, American foreign policy, and issues of peace and war, it couldn’t matter more or be a bigger story (or have more money or lobbyists involved in it). Think of it as the great love affair of the age of Trump, the one between The Donald and the Saudi royals. And if there’s any place to start laying out the story, it’s naturally at a wedding, in this case in a tragic ceremony that happened to take place in Yemen, not Washington.
On Sunday, April 22, planes from a Saudi Arabian–led coalition dropped two bombs on a wedding in Yemen. The groom was injured and the bride killed, along with at least 32 other civilians, many of them children.
In response, the Saudis didn’t admit fault or express condolences to the victims’ families. Instead, they emphasized that their “coalition continues to take all the precautionary and preventative measures” to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen. This disconnect between Saudi rhetoric and the realities on the ground isn’t an anomaly—it’s been the norm. For four years, the Saudis and their allies have been conducting air strikes with reckless abandon there, contributing to a staggering civilian death toll that now reportedly tops 10,000.
The Saudis and their close ally the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have repeatedly reassured American policymakers that they’re doing everything imaginable to prevent civilian casualties, only to launch yet more air strikes against civilian targets, including schools, hospitals, funerals, and marketplaces.
For example, last May when Trump landed in Saudi Arabia on his first overseas visit as president, Saudi lobbyists distributed a “fact sheet” about the efforts of the country’s military to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen. Five days after Trump landed in Riyadh, however, an air strike killed 24 civilians at a Yemeni market. In December, such strikes killed more than 100 Yemeni civilians in 10 days. The Saudi response: condemning the United Nations for its criticisms of such attacks and then offering yet more empty promises.