The Saudi-Led Coalition’s Crimes in Yemen
Colum Lynch reports on the maneuvering by the Saudis and their GCC allies to avoid investigations into their crimes in the war on Yemen:
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are carrying out a vigorous diplomatic campaign to prevent international scrutiny of its conduct during a six-month air war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, according to diplomatic sources and confidential documents obtained by Foreign Policy.
The Saudis and their allies are doing this to try to conceal the fact that “the vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries are the result of airstrikes by the U.S.-backed Gulf coalition,” and they will likely be successful. While the war crimes of the Saudi-led coalition are no secret to anyone paying close attention to the conflict, there seems to be scant interest from other governments to hold them accountable for their wrongdoing. The U.S. and Britain have no incentive to draw attention to the crimes they are enabling, and it is doubtful that France would want to offend potential buyers for their weapons by scrutinizing how the Saudis and the other Gulf states use the weapons they acquire.
An independent investigation into abuses and crimes in this war would find that both sides in the conflict have been attacking civilian areas and launching indiscriminate attacks, but it would also show that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for most of the civilian deaths and is responsible for serious violations of international law. It would also very likely confirm that the Saudis and their allies have been engaging in a policy of collective punishment against the civilian population of those areas under Houthi control. It is no wonder that the Saudis and their allies want to stymie an investigation, because contrary to their blanket denials they know very well the damage they are daily inflicting on the people of Yemen with their air campaign and their blockade.
This part of Lynch’s report was grimly amusing:
“The United States, which has provided extensive support to the Saudi-led coalition, has been surprisingly discreet on whether a U.N. mission should be dispatched to investigate crimes in Yemen,” said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. and crisis advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This stands in sharp contrast to U.S. support for international inquiries and missions in Syria, North Korea, Libya, Sri Lanka, and Eritrea.”
I appreciate the point Mr. Bolopion is making here, but I doubt that he is actually surprised by U.S. reluctance to investigate the crimes of its own clients. It is typical for the patron of abusive client regimes to want to avoid scrutiny of their conduct because the patron already suspects what an investigation will turn up, and the patron wants to avoid the embarrassment of having its clients’ wrongdoing publicized. Elsewhere in the report, the reason for the shameful U.S. position is clarified:
One senior U.N.-based official said the American delegation is “deeply skeptical about what the Saudis are doing in Yemen.” But “they will not piss them off” because of concerns that it will drive the longtime allies even further apart.
Having already indulged the Saudis and most of the GCC states in their unnecessary war on Yemen, the U.S. isn’t going to drive a wedge between Washington and its reckless clients by holding them to account for their excesses. There is a certain appalling consistency here, which just makes the supposed “skepticism” of U.S. officials about the campaign even harder to take seriously. The U.S. position is essentially that we know the Saudi-led war is folly, but we’re not going to risk the good opinion of our despotic friends by saying so. U.S. support for this war becomes more disgraceful by the day.
Lynch’s report concludes this way:
The members of the humanitarian aid community “are very angry,” said a senior U.N. official. “A population of 25 million people [is] being starved, and no one cares.”
Six months since the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed intervention began, Yemen is facing a man-made famine that threatens the lives of millions of people. It certainly appears that no one cares about this, or at least no one in any position to do something about it cares.