Starving children with haunting eyes and emaciated bodies. Bombed-out hospitals and homes. A cholera epidemic that is the largest and fastest-spreading in modern history. These scenes have sparked outrage and a flurry of denunciations of the U.S.-backed war in Yemen, which is led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
But that’s not to say the war has no defenders in the United States. In fact, a public relations consultant and former U.S. diplomat enlisted by the UAE has worked to discredit U.S.-based groups raising awareness of atrocities in Yemen.
Hagar Chemali previously served as a top spokesperson for Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Now, she is paid six figures to shape the debate about the war at the U.N., including by discrediting NGOs that advance evidence of human rights violations in Yemen, according to public disclosures and emails obtained by The Intercept.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched a military intervention in March 2015 against the Houthi rebels, who are allied with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and backed by Iran. The Saudi-led coalition, which aims to reinstate ousted president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, blockaded the country and has indiscriminately bombed civilian centers such as markets, hospitals, and children’s schools.
Last week, Power weighed in on the conflict, condemning American support for the coalition. But during her time at the U.N., Power maintained a code of silence on what U.S. allies were doing in Yemen. She is now criticizing a Trump administration policy that is largely a continuation of her former boss’s approach.
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