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u.s.-saudi relations
June 18, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to ignore experts' findings and keep Saudi Arabia off a U.S. list of countries that recruit children as soldiers, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Although experts from the State Department recommended including Saudi Arabia the list based off news reports and assessments from human rights organizations which found that a Saudi-led coalition has hired children from Sudan to fight in Yemen's civil war, Pompeo decided to overrule them. The decision sparked immediate criticism, Reuters reports, from human rights activists and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Trump administration has received criticism for prioritizing its own security and economic interests through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, while allegedly overlooking the kingdom's human rights record, and it's likely the latest news will compound that stance.

The argument against including Saudi Arabia on the list was reportedly because it was not clear whether the children recruited from Sudan to fight in Yemen were under the command of Sudanese officers or the Saudi-led coalition. In December, The New York Times reported that Sudanese fighters in Yemen said they took orders from Saudi and United Arab Emirates commanders. The Saudi-led coalition has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused its foes of recruiting children as soldiers. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

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