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From bombs to wife beating: The Saudi ambassador's strange joke

Screengrab of a YouTube video showing an American journalist asking the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Abdullah Al-Saud, questions about the war in Yemen.
Screengrab of a YouTube video showing an American journalist asking the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Abdullah Al-Saud, questions about the war in Yemen.

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In order to avoid an uncomfortable question about the bombing campaign led by his country in Yemen, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Abdullah Al-Saud, told a questionable joke.

The scene was caught on camera by a journalist who works for the American magazine The Intercept on October 27 in Washington, D.C. during the 25th annual National Council of US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR).

“Will you continue to use cluster weapons in Yemen?” Zaid Jilani asks the Saudi ambassador.

“This is like the question did you stop beating your wife?” Abdullah Al-Saud responds, before bursting into laughter.

The journalist, unfazed, repeats his question.

“Yes or no? Yes or no? Will you continue to use cluster weapons?”

“You are political operators! I’m not a politician,” the ambassador replies.

Jilani posted the video of this interaction with the Saudi ambassador on YouTube.

Despite awkwardly sidestepping the question, Abdullah Al-Saud went on to proclaim during the NCUSAR conference that his country would continue bombing Yemen “no matter what it takes”, according to The Intercept.

Since March 26, 2015, a coalition of nine Arab states led by Saudi Arabia has been carrying out military operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels. During these operations, Saudi Arabia and its allies have used cluster bombs on numerous occasions.

Cluster bombs are illegal under the Convention on Cluster Munitions adopted in 2010 and signed by 119 countries. However, Saudi Arabia has yet to sign the convention.

Cluster bombs can be dropped from airplanes or fired from ground or sea. They open up in mid-air and release many small bombs which can rain over a space as large as several football fields. Many of these bombs fail to work as designed and do not explode upon impact. They become a long-term risk for civilian populations, who might trigger them by accident.