A Saudi Arabian diplomat said last weekend that 19 oil tankers were seized by rebel forces off the coast of Yemen. Then, the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, repeated the story. But based on interviews and research conducted by PRI, there is no hostage situation at all.
It isn’t surprising that the Saudi government is fabricating stories like this about Yemen. Supporters of the war have been eager to portray the coalition’s enemies as threats to international shipping, but the only party to the conflict that has been interfering with shipping in and around Yemen is the Saudi coalition with their blockade. Since there is nothing to back up their warnings about threats to international shipping from Yemen, the Saudis are reduced to making things up out of thin air.
The Saudi coalition blockade is responsible for delaying and diverting the delivery of essential goods to the ports that serve the vast majority of the population in Yemen, and they have been doing this since their intervention began in 2015. The blockade is the primary cause of the starvation of millions of Yemenis, more than eight million of whom are on the brink of famine. It was the coalition that bombed the cranes at the main port of Hodeidah, and it was the coalition that shut down all commercial traffic into the port last fall. Some ships are being allowed in now, but they are far too few to provide for the basic needs of millions of Yemenis. There is not enough food or fuel being brought in, and that makes basic necessities prohibitively expensive for an impoverished country whose economy has been devastated by the ongoing war and whose infrastructrue has been destroyed by the coalition bombing campaign. The Saudi coalition needs to fully lift its blockade instead of concocting bogus stories to distract attention from their cruel policy of collective punishment.