So many of us in the West have had our attention drawn the recent events in Syria, especially after the death of ISIS found and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There is also curiosity as to what does the future hold for Syria now that the US military has pulled out of the northeast part paving the way for joint Turkish-Russian patrols. While this naturally deserves our attention, one Middle East regional event that continues to be put on the back-end of things is the genocidal war in Yemen and the US role in it.
In what is widely seen as an Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, an estimated 20 million Yemenis, 60 percent of the population, are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition, including 2 million children. According to the United Nations, 14 million people — half the population – face a clear and present danger of imminent famine.
Fighting began in 2015 when Saudi Arabia militarily responded to calls from Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi after he was deposed by the Iranian-backed Houthi movement for his failure to resolve the economic and political grievances. Both sides claim to constitute the official Yemeni government — the Houthis back former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. While the Saudis attacked Houthi strongholds with the aid nine Islamic countries: Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Academi (formerly Blackwater), the United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refueling and search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states.
The Saudi coalition has waged this asymmetrical war of aerial bombardment upon a country with little to no air defense; it could not carry out this assault without the critical aid from the United States in the form of military hardware, including banned cluster bombs; intelligence for targeting of airstrikes; and mid-air refueling. What is more, American complicity — this has been a bipartisan presidential effort, covering both the Obama and Trump administrations — has only assisted the Saudi-led coalition in a direct violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (“Genocide Convention”). While those supporting both warring parties deny that there is a genocide happening in Yemen, they do so by refuting their own approval of the United Nations’ definition and factors of what qualifies as genocide.
A result of the bombardments, according to Oxfam International — a confederation of 19 independent charitable A organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, founded in 1942 — as many as 15 million Yemenis are being cut off from their access to clean drinking water because of the fuel shortage: 11 million people relying on water supplied by piped networks and four million people who depend on water trucked in by private companies have had to drastically reduce their daily consumption since fuel prices soared this past September. In three major cities, Ibb, Dhamar and Al Mahwit, home to around 400,000 people, central water systems have been forced to shut down completely.
Oxfam has had to cut trucked water to thousands of people because of the increase in fuel prices. Piped water systems installed by Oxfam, which supply a quarter of a million people, are running at around 50 percent capacity. Naturally speaking, access to clean water is a matter of life and death in Yemen, particularly for the more than seven million people already weakened by malnourishment, as water-borne diseases are rife. The country has experienced one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history. Since April 2017, there have been over two million suspected cases of cholera and over 3,700 deaths. In addition, one Yemeni child starves to death once every 10 minutes, with about 4,000 dying each month.
The fuel shortage is the latest hardship imposed on the civilian population by the policies of the Hadi government and its Saudi coalition backers. The “legitimate” government has been waging an economic war on the people of Yemen for nearly five years, and this has fueled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Lack of fuel makes it impossible for many people in Yemen to access water because it means they cannot run the pumps needed to bring the water up out of the ground or fuel the trucks to deliver water from elsewhere.
That being said, the US-Saudi coaltion warplanes continue to deliberately target civilian infrastructure — they arbitrarily attack homes, farms, factories, schools, buses, gas stations, government buildings, water treatment facilities, and anything else imaginable. In fact, over the past three-plus years, Saudi airstrikes have produced over 35,000 civilian casualties: over 13,000 killed and over 21,000 injured — many of which are women and children. This figure, recorded by Yemeni monitoring group Legal Center for Rights and Development, only includes stats from the 1,000-day mark of the war in December of 2017; countless others have lost their lives since then.
The fact that the focus of the Saudi attacks are in the north, Saada in particular, is significant since the majority of all northerners in Yemen are Zaydis, a branch of Shi’ite Islam, and this includes, but is not limited to, the Houthis. The coalition also has and air and naval blockade that stops and inspects vessels seeking entry to Yemen’s ports. That allows the coalition to regulate and restrict Yemenis’ access to food, fuel, medical supplies and humanitarian aid. While attacking and starving out northerners it allows some humanitarian aid to the south (where the Sunnis predominate). This is nothing more than religious cleansing, punishing millions for their rejection of Wahabbi branch of Islam in Saudi Arabia. An example of this was the bombardment by Saudi warplanes on August 8, 2019, on school bus in Saudi as it was passing through a crowded marketplace. The Saudis killed 50 civilians, mostly schoolchildren under ten, wounded 77 others — President Trump did not condemn the Saudis saying that they did not have the knowledge on how to use the US-made bombs.
This past May Trump declared a national emergency threatening American security to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Citing tensions with Iran, Trump bypassed the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, in which the State Department must notify Congress 30 days before concluding an arms sale. In a 53-45 bi-partisan vote, the Senate rejected Trump’s claim that an “emergency” situation exists in Saudi Arabia so as to halt American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen; Trump vetoed the legislation.
Trump rightfully wants to curtail Iran’s influence in the region, especially since the Iranian regime has the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. However, as Ron Paul had stated: “We are told that US foreign policy should reflect American values. So how can Washington support Saudi Arabia — a tyrannical state with one of the worst human rights record on earth — as it commits by what any measure is a genocide against the Yemeni people?” Trump, like Obama, could soon have the blood of tens of thousands of children on his hands in light that he is carrying out the exact Obama policy in Yemen. As Theo Horesh, author of The Holocaust We All Deny, express: “How this came about and what it means for the moral integrity of American culture may be the most neglected story of our time.” It is time that the United States cease its support for Saudi Arabia and find other means, which it can, to end the conflict that is exterminating an entire population.