After 7 years of war in Yemen, stop the massacres! [Opinion]

The massacres continue in this « little Afghanistan » on the shores of the Red Sea.

Joe Biden’s campaign promise to stop arms sales to his Saudi and Emirati allies has not been kept. On January 17, Houthi rebels struck the United Arab Emirates in the heart: drones hit trucks full of kerosene near Abu Dhabi International Airport, killing 3. The impact was immediate on oil prices and this outburst was followed by a bloody response. Emirati and Saudi allies bombed Yemen twice – first hitting a football stadium and then a prison full of African migrants (at least 80 dead). These latest events bring to light this conflict that Westerners, major arms suppliers to the wealthy Saudis and Emiratis, would like to leave in the shadows. They also reveal the involvement of the Emiratis in this conflict, underlines Doug Bandow, former adviser to the Reagan administration, for The American Conservative (see his article in link).

Seven years ago, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi joined forces to put President Hadi back in power, driven out by the Houthi rebellion. The war was to last only a few weeks. But the legions of mercenaries (mainly Sudanese) supported by state-of-the-art weaponry suffered a humiliating defeat. The rebel movement Ansar Allah, of the mountainous Houthis ethnic group, had been waging war for a decade against the government of President Saleh. The latter was driven out during the “Arab Spring” but, an event showing the complexity of the country, he agreed with his former enemies to take back the capital Sanaa at the end of 2014. The conflict then remained internal to this poor country. But the Saudi and Emirati leaders saw an opportunity to bring back the deposed President, who would become their beholden, with the consent of the international community. The Americans thought they would win the support of their allies on the nuclear “deal” offered to the Iranians. Nothing went as planned and this allowed Tehran to gain influence among the rebels.

The war crimes committed by the coalition, between air raids and maritime blockades, are undeniable. UNICEF estimates that nearly 2.6 million children live in makeshift camps, without access to medical aid or school. Drinking water supply is chaotic. The country’s GDP has collapsed by 40% since 2015 and 21 million people (including nearly 11 million children) depend on humanitarian aid to survive. This situation does not seem to have bothered the American administration, whether under Obama, Trump, or Biden…

Prior to its official withdrawal from ground combat in 2019, Abu Dhabi had allies in southern Yemen. A motley mix of Salafists and southern separatists, the Emirates-backed militiamen have even fought at times against those backed by Riyadh. The Emiratis have pursued a particular strategy: fostering southern separatism. They occupied the strategic island of Socotra and Al Qaeda profited from American weapons through them. After the strike on its soil, Abu Dhabi cried foul, saying its military activities in Yemen were a thing of the past. The Houthis, however, denounce the return of Emiratis to the southern province of Shabwa and have announced that they will repeat their strikes as long as they remain there.

What are the possible consequences of these latest deadly attacks? The worst scenario would be a re-engagement of the Emiratis alongside the Saudis with American support. The rebels would then launch new missiles at the Emirates with reinforced support from the Iranians. They are also threatening to target Israel… But the voice of reason could prevail: it is time for the coalition to find an honorable way out and the Emiratis especially do not want to see Dubai, their sparkling showcase for the world, targeted. by shots. The brutality of the Houthis is well known, and their coup has been condemned by the UN. But they are forced into a fight to the death since the Saudis demand their surrender before any talks. It is up to the coalition to take the initiative, and to let the Yemenis sort out their own affairs, advocates Bandow. This war is a big deal and Joe Biden must keep his word to end the conflict. He holds the levers: Riyadh needs Washington for its security.

Even in Riyadh, Mohammed bin Salman seems to want to stop the massacre, following the partial withdrawal of his ally. It just lacks a bit of political courage on the American side to convince its allies. This would allow a de-escalation of tensions with Iran, which would prefer to renew the dialogue to a headlong rush alongside the Houthis. Above all, it would save millions of innocent civilians, the forgotten victims of a conflict that we prefer to ignore.

Ludovic Lavaucelle

Source: The American Conservative

This article is published from La Sélection du Jour.

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