Geoff Hoon makes a bizarre and embarrassing argument in support of Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ahead of his visit to London:
So the real question for the protesters this week is: what are you asking Mohammed bin Salman to do, actually? Do you want the Saudi-led coalition to withdraw from Yemen unilaterally? The immediate consequences of this would be catastrophic for the country, Gulf region and perhaps wider world. Iran would build its Houthi clients into the predominant force in the country, turning them into a Hezbollah-style group with missiles lined up along Saudi’s long border with Yemen.
The Saudis and their allies should at a minimum halt their bombing campaign and lift their blockade. Full withdrawal would be ideal, but the core demands being made of the Saudi-led coalition are quite simple: stop starving the civilian population, stop preventing the delivery of aid and commercial imports, stop bombing civilian targets, and finally stop all hostilities so that a diplomatic solution might be found. Hoon must know this is what critics of the war are demanding, so his “question” is just a weak attempt to shut down criticism. The Houthis have not been and still are not an Iranian proxy, but the longer the war goes on the more incentive they have to deepen their relationship with Iran. The Saudis have been using the specter of Iranian “expansionism” as an excuse for their disastrous intervention for the last three years, and that propaganda is no more credible now than it was before.
It is hard to imagine how the consequences of coalition withdrawal could be more catastrophic for Yemen than their continued intervention and blockade have been. More than eight million Yemenis are on the verge of famine, millions more are malnourished, and the vast majority of the population is in need of some humanitarian assistance. As long as the Saudi-led coalition keeps waging its failed war, millions of Yemenis will continue to be deprived of basic necessities, famine and preventable disease will claim countless lives, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the local ISIS affiliate will continue to flourish. Hoon disingenuously claims that coalition withdrawal would give Al Qaeda “a de-facto country the size of Switzerland in the Middle East,” but that isn’t true. It is the coalition’s intervention that has been a boon for AQAP, and it is the coalition that has been waging war against the Yemeni forces that have been most effective in opposing AQAP. The coalition’s intervention has further fractured and destabilized Yemen, and as long as that intervention continues the harm done to Yemen and the surrounding region will grow.
Hoon is counting on public ignorance to make the war on Yemen seem like something other than the unmitigated disaster that it is. Dishonest pro-Saudi commentary in the West like this is another reason why protests against Mohammed bin Salman’s visit are so important and necessary.