US State Secretary Mike Pompeo has prevented the involvement of Saudi Arabia on a US list of the nations that engage child soldiers, dissolving the findings of his experts that a Saudi-led coalition has been using under-age fighters in Yemen’s civil war, as per to four people familiar with the matter.
The decision, which extracts urgent criticism from human rights activists and a top Democratic legislator, could trigger new charges that US President Donald Trump administration is designating security and economic interests in relations with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a major US ally and arms consumer.
The move of Mike Pompeo pursued in habitual extreme internal debate. It comes amid intensified tensions between the United States and Iran, the bitter regional rival of Saudi.
The US State Department experts suggested including Saudi Arabia to the soon-to-be-released list based in part in news reports and evaluation of human rights group that the desert kingdom has appointed child fighters from Sudan to combat for the US-led alliance in Yemen, according to the four sources.
The recommendation of the expert confronted resistance from some other State Department officials who according to three of the sources, contended that it was not clear whether the Sudanese troops were under the control of Sudanese officers or directed by the Saudi-led coalition.
A report mentioned that Sudanese fighters claiming their Saudi and United Arab Emirates commanders led them at a safe distance from the fighting against the foes of coalitions, Iran-led Houthi militias.
A representative for the Saudi-led coalition, Colonel Turki Al-Malki said, “ the allegations of recruiting child soldiers are completely incorrect and are not based on any evidence or factual findings”. He charged the foes of Saudi for using child fighters in Yemen.