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The Deliberate Starvation of Yemen

Scott Paul condemns the Saudi stranglehold on Yemen:

What makes this situation all the more disgusting is the patent uselessness of the blockade to achieve its stated purpose [bold mine-DL]. It will not improve the security of Saudi Arabia one iota, because it is not in any way oriented to prevent the trafficking of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebels.

Large, international container ships, bulk carriers, and fuel tankers are screened by the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), a special, Saudi- and US-funded organization set up expressly to prevent weapons shipments through Houthi-controlled Red Sea ports. UNVIM carries out rigorous, intelligence-based interdiction, sometimes using x-ray technology, to prevent weapons smuggling. In fact, even Saudi Arabia has not alleged that any of these ships, or any humanitarian flights, have ever been used to smuggle weapons to the Houthis. But rather than step up its focus on the small ships it suspects may carry weapons, Saudi Arabia has elected to ban ships and planes that it knows do not – at great cost to the civilian population [bold mine-DL].

It has been apparent for a long time that the coalition blockade is is intended to create harsher conditions in Yemen and especially in rebel-held areas. Preventing weapons shipments has become little more than a pretext, and the tightening of the blockade two weeks ago has shown just how flimsy that pretext really is. Paul excoriates the “international community” for how badly it has failed Yemen, and he’s absolutely right. I would just add that the U.S., Britain, France, and other Western states that have armed and supported this atrocious war bear a large share of the blame for the failed international response. They have not merely failed to act, but have made a point of enabling a war on Yemen that may end up claiming millions of lives. The reason that Yemen’s plight has become so severe is not just that the governments of the world are ignoring it, but that many of them have been knowing accomplices in creating the disaster unfolding there.

Paul summed up the situation at the beginning of his article:

Absent a rapid turnaround, we are likely to witness in Yemen an extraordinary level of devastation, the likes of which most of us have never lived through.

The deliberate starvation of Yemen is the most important story in the world, and it has been that for the last two years, but until very recently it was probably the most neglected major story. It is encouraging that this is beginning to change and more attention is finally being paid to what has been done to Yemen’s civilian population, but it is almost too late. The crisis demands an urgent, coordinated international response to put intense pressure on the coalition and to stave off massive loss of life, but there is no sign that there is sufficient political will or pressure to make that happen in time. The greatest crime of the twenty-first century is being perpetrated in front of us, and it is happening with Washington’s approval and the indifference of most of the world.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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