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16 July, 2017

Ignoring the human disaster in Yemen

The West’s protestations about human rights sound hollow when one looks at Yemen where the U.S. and U.K. place profits from arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the carnage those weapons are inflicting.

by Alon Ben-Meir

Part 2 - Houthi Grievances

The Houthis have suffered immense discrimination, and their grievances have been addressed neither before nor after the Gulf Cooperation Council’s March 2013 initiative that launched a National Dialogue Conference, which failed to resolve the dispute over the distribution of power.

The Saudis claim Iran is behind the Houthis’ rebellion. Although Iran and the Houthis adhere to a different school of Shiite Islam, they share similar geopolitical interests.

Iran is challenging Saudi Arabia for regional dominance, while the Houthis are the main rival to Hadi and the U.S.-Saudi backed government in Sana’a. For the Saudis, losing Sana’a would allow Iran to exert major influence in the Arabian Peninsula in addition to its alliances with Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

The Saudi coalition is meant to signal to Iran that it will not be allowed to gain any influence in Yemen. The Houthis joined forces with Saleh and expanded their influence in northwestern Yemen, culminating in a major military offensive against the military and a few rival tribes in which they captured the capital Sana’a in September 2014. The Saudis’ bombing against the Houthis has been indiscriminate: schools, hospitals, homes, marketplaces, weddings, and even funeral homes were targeted to maximize casualties, egregiously violating the laws of war and continuing to do so with impunity.

The U.S. along with the United Kingdom have for many years been selling offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, which are now used to attack Houthi-held areas. The UAE, Kuwait, and Jordan received licenses to sell and service American-made military helicopters for Saudi Arabia, which sends a clear message to this unholy coalition that they can kill with impunity.

U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd shamelessly said [selling arms is] “good for our industry” — not an acceptable reason to sell offensive weapons that kill people indiscriminately. Nevertheless, the U.S. does have national security and economic interests in the Arabian Peninsula: particularly, it seeks to ensure free passage in the Bab al-Mandeb, through which 4.7 million barrels of oil pass each day; and the support of a government in Sana’a that would cooperate with US counter-terrorism battles. That said, the U.S.’ direct involvement in the conflict makes it complicit in the coalition’s violation of the laws of war, and top U.S. officials could be subjected to legal liability.

Sadly, the Trump administration has forfeited its moral responsibility by not insisting that Saudi Arabia, over which it exercises tremendous influence, open the ports to ensure that enough food and aid enters the country, without which millions will starve to death.

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