Yemen: Amid growing bloodshed, Saudi war enters third year

Unicef estimates that 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen.
March 25, 2017

This month marks two years since the start of the Saudi-led, US-supported war on Yemen. Involving a blockade of Yemen and the consequent collapse of the nation’s economy, the war has made the prospect of famine very real.

The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that Yemen is currently only a few months away from a famine. Food, medical supplies, electricity — the Yemeni population is facing critical shortages of basic necessities.

Earlier in March, the United Nations warned that Yemen, along with Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and the Horn of Africa, faces famine-conditions that affect the lives of 20 million people.

Without a collective and coordinated effort, millions face the likelihood of starvation and malnutrition, with all the consequent humanitarian problems that those conditions produce.

US-backed war

Let us be clear: this tragic situation is a direct consequence of the Saudi offensive against the country of Yemen, and this military campaign is fully supported by the United States and Britain.

In an article for Dissident Voice elaborating on the human-made famine in Yemen, Kathy Kelly writes that: “After years of U.S. support for dictator Ali Adullah Saleh, civil war has wracked Yemen since 2014.

“Its neighbour Saudi Arabia, itself among the region’s cruellest dictatorships and a staunch US ally, became nervous in 2015 about the outcome and, with support from nine regional allies, began subjecting the country to a punishing barrage of airstrikes, and also imposed a blockade that ended the inflow of food and supplies to Yemen through a major port.

“This was accomplished with massive, ongoing weapons shipments from the US, which has also waged independent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.”

Kelly writes that Unicef estimates 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen. Pregnant and lactating women, themselves bearing the consequences of malnutrition, cannot adequately provide the necessary nutrition for their children, thus increasing the likelihood of malnutrition-induced diseases and conditions in the succeeding generation.

It is relevant to remember that the Saudi offensive, which involves the heavy aerial bombardment of Yemen, has escalated in recent months.

Saudi Arabia and the associated Gulf petro-monarchies, have been waging a military campaign in Yemen to support their preferred politician, Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The Saudi-led coalition, with the full backing of Washington and London, has been carrying out this war to suppress the rebel Houthi movement, a militarised Shia politico-military force that has seized much of the country.

The US has assisted this war, since former US President Barack Obama threw in his lot with the Saudi kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has received a constant supply of weapons and munitions from the US.

In fact, Obama has the dubious distinction of actually increasing weapons sales to the monarchist dictatorship in Riyadh, thus ensuring that the Wahhabist kingdom could launch and continue its offensive in Yemen.

The naval blockade of Yemen, enforced with the assistance of the US Navy, has contributed to bringing that nation to the brink of famine.

The support for Saudi Arabia from the United States, in the form of logistics, intelligence-gathering, aerial refuelling and military resupply, exposes the predatory aims and ambitions of US finance capital and undermines its claims to be a force for peace in the world.

Drone strikes

The US began its own war on Yemen in 2009, when Obama authorised the use of aerial drone strikes in the country.

This drone warfare was notionally launched to combat the presence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); however, the main targets have been Yemeni civilians.

Obama escalated and perfected the tactic of drone strikes during his administration, and he gave himself the right to order the assassination of anyone he deemed to be a member of, or associated with, AQAP.

In 2011, Obama ordered the killing of US citizen and Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, on the basis of Awlaki’s alleged affiliation with al Qaeda.

The US, when attacking targets in Yemen, routinely dismiss civilian casualties and victims of US drone attacks as “al Qaeda militants”. This drone program is now in the hands of current US President Donald Trump.

Patrick Cockburn, veteran foreign correspondent for The Independentwrites that Trump has escalated America’s involvement in the Yemen war, carrying out multiple air strikes across the country over the past month.

Increasing its military support for Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration is continuing where Obama left off.

Trump

While the United Nations has been warning that Yemen, along with countries in the Horn of Africa, constitute the gravest humanitarian crisis faced by the world since 1945, Trump has increased US support for the Saudi war.

Cockburn writes: “At the very moment that the UN is warning about the calamity facing Yemen, the US State Department has given permission for a resumption of the supply of precision guided weapons to Saudi Arabia.

“These sales were suspended last October by President Obama after Saudi aircraft bombed a funeral in the capital Sana’a, killing more than 100 mourners.

“Ever since Saudi Arabia started its bombing campaign in March 2015, the US has been refuelling its aircraft and has advisors in the Saudi operational headquarters.

“For the weapons sales to go ahead all that is needed is White House permission.”

This bombardment is part of the as-yet undeclared US war on Yemen, in addition to the January Navy SEAL attack that killed the eight-year old daughter of the late Anwar al Awlaki.

The January raid, ostensibly undertaken to attack an AQAP training camp, resulted in a fire fight, the deaths of at least 25 Yemeni civilians, the destruction of an American aircraft, and the death of a US Navy SEAL.

During his address to Congress, Trump cynically exploited the death of Owens, using the grief of Owen’s widow to drum up support for this illegal and criminal Yemen war. The cameras focused on Carryn Owens, and media commentators gushed with feigned sympathy for her grief.

No mention was made of the tears of the Yemeni civilians, who have to endure this war in their daily lives.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Intercept: “This is standard fare in US war propaganda: We fixate on the Americans killed, learning their names and life stories and the plight of their spouses and parents, but steadfastly ignore the innocent people the US government kills, whose numbers are always far greater.

“There is thus a sprawling, moving monument in the centre of Washington, DC, commemorating the 58,000 US soldiers who died in Vietnam, but not the (at least2 million Vietnamese civilians killed by that war.”

Australia’s role

Australia’s studious silence about the US-supported destruction of Yemen has to be broken — the Malcolm Turnbull government, through the person of foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, has been a cheerleader for Saudi Arabia for far too long.

The false equivalence of condemning both the Saudi regime and the Houthi rebel opponents must also be abandoned.

The Shia Houthi movement — the Ansar Allah — have been dishonestly stigmatised as proxies of Iran. The Houthi rebels have received support from Tehran, but it has been largely rhetorical.

The culpability of Riyadh, Washington and London for bringing Yemen to the brink of famine cannot be disguised by allegations of Iranian perfidy.

The role of Australian mercenaries fighting in support of the Saudi military cannot be ignored. Sent by the United Arab Emirates to Yemen, Australian mercenaries have actively assisted the Saudi-American offensive.

While the activities of Australians fighting in Syria in support of Jabhat Al-Nusra or ISIS have received extensive media scrutiny, the role of Australians in Yemen has barely been mentioned.

Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIS are terrorist groups. But do     the military actions of the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen amount to an act of collective terrorism?

[Rupen Savoulian runs the Antipodean Atheist blog.]

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