In less than a month, the four year anniversary of the Saudi-led war on Yemen takes place, with no real solution in sight or clear hope for a total cease-fire in one of the world’s poorest countries, where atrocities, socio-political instability, diseases, and poverty has spread due to the on-going airstrikes and blockade by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen.
The war that started on the 22nd March 2015 was supposedly, according to Saudi-led coalition speaker Ahmad al-Assiri, “defending the legitimate Yemeni authority” of pro-Saudi Arabia president Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the “coup-d’Ã©tat Houthi militias and their accomplices from pro-former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh” (assassinated in December 2017).
Though the orchestrator of the entire war, crown prince Mohamad bin Salman, never pointed out any specific goal for the war, he was keen to stop the Houthi movement, alongside its allies, from expanding inside Yemen; in other words: all anti-Saudi sentiments, which leaves basically pro-Hadi forces and al-Islah (AKA Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood) out of range of the airstrikes.
Nevertheless, this war had caused the death of 13603 persons by its 1000 day (19th December 2017), and injured 21812 others, while destroying 409356 houses, 15 airports, and 14 harbors, according to the Yemeni Legal Center for Rights and Development and the United Nations.
The total blockade on the country’s life sources has caused the spread of diseases like Cholera, where the World Health Organization confirmed in late December 2017 that over one million Yemenis had the disease across 18 out of 22 governorates; at the time when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ warships patrol near Yemeni coastal lines to ban the entrance of any type of ship to the harbors, in fear that they might be transporting “Iranian military aids to the Houthi militias”, according to the Saudi military command.
These are a few examples of the atrocities that the Yemenis are suffering from, not to mention the terrorist attacks that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are actively doing in the southern governorates, like last week’s attack on a military center in the city of Aden, as well as the recruitment of teenagers into the fighting ranks by both sides.
Nevertheless, the Saudi-led intervention has added fuel to the fire and it has been working hard to legitimize its war on the Yemenis and to promote it as an act of protecting “human rights” to stop the “Iranian influence in the Middle East”. The US and the UK are strongly supportive of these action, though they plead and call for the end of war in Yemen during UN-related meetings such as the Security Council or the Human Rights Council.
For example, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia reached a record 3.8 billion pounds since the beginning of war. In January 2017, ITV reported that UK liaison officers participate in meetings of the Saudi Arabian Air Operations Centre from where the airstrikes on Yemen are launched and coordinated.
In February 2016 the European Parliament voted for an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, a decision that the UK has ignored. In the summer of 2016 rifts were exposed on the issue of arms’ sales to Saudi Arabia in the ranks of the ruling Conservative Party, when two (Conservative Party-dominated) Commons Select Committees – the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the International Development Committee (IDC) – published a joint report which concluded that an arms embargo was needed.
The report (BIS/IDC, 2016, p.13) stated that “the UK government has not responded to allegations of IHL breaches by the Saudi-led coalition in any meaningful way and we are concerned that our support for the coalition, principally through arms sales, is having the effect of conferring legitimacy on its activities”. Furthermore, the report (BIS/IDC, p.31) emphasized that the British state also maintained other, more direct, forms of involvement in the conflict: “Our involvement extends from providing the planes and bombs for airstrikes to UK personnel in the Joint Combined Planning Cell and Saudi Air Operations Centre. This level of involvement without being a party to the conflict is unprecedented and is a result of the privileged relationship the UK has with Saudi Arabia and its armed forces”.
As the report notes, even the Parliamentary Select Committees were not able to get clarity from the government about the scale and precise nature of the activity of British personnel and BAE Systems’ employees involved in joint UK-Saudi military operations in Yemen.
The UK’s political power can be influential on the Yemeni war, where it can put pressure on its Saudi ally to be more serious in supporting Yemen’s peace process, or at least saving the Yemenis from a mass genocide caused by its coalition’s blockade on the vital life roots in the wrecked Arab state.
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This post was written by Mohamad Kleit