Home/Daniel Larison/Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe: The Most Important Story in the World

Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe: The Most Important Story in the World

The New York Timescalls on the Trump administration to pressure the Saudis and their allies to lift their blockade and support a cease-fire:

For starters, the Saudis could fully lift the blockade and challenge the Houthis and the Iranians to join in an immediate unconditional cease-fire. This is just the sort of opening Mr. Trump could be urging; if he has the kind of relationship with the Saudis that he boasts about, he might get them to listen — and save countless Yemini lives in the bargain.

Western governments have been making more noise about the blockade lately, but there is no hint that any of them intends to reduce support for the war on Yemen in the meantime. That support continues to enable indiscriminate coalition attacks that kill civilians. Just this week, dozens more civilians were killed by coalition bombing. Earlier this month, another ten women and girls in wedding procession were killed when they were hit by a coalition air strike. These attacks are part of a pattern of striking civilian targets, and they are just some of the war crimes that the Saudi-led coalition has committed over the last two and a half years.

The NYT editorial rightly chides the Trump administration for its failure to criticize the Saudis and their allies for their serious crimes in Yemen, but as long as the U.S. continues to enable those crimes any criticism Washington makes will have little effect. The Saudi-led coalition takes for granted that it can act with impunity in Yemen, and thus far Trump has given them every reason to believe that they will be allowed to continue indefinitely. The administration’s fixation on alleged Iranian missiles tells Riyadh that our officials are going to ignore the coalition’s much worse crimes just as Washington has done since the intervention began.

Conditions in Yemen have worsened significantly with every passing year. The country’s humanitarian crisis was already one of the world’s worst by the end of 2015, and by this time last year it had eclipsed every other catastrophe on the planet. Today the multiple, overlapping disasters of mass starvation and a record-setting cholera epidemic easily make the suffering of Yemen’s civilian population the largest crisis and most important story in the world. More than eight million people are on the verge of famine, and at least another nine million don’t have enough to eat. Over one million have contracted cholera, and that number will keep rising if things remain as they are. All of this has come about in large part because of the deliberate choices of the Saudi-led coalition and their Western patrons, including the U.S., and much of it could still be remedied if the same governments changed their policies toward Yemen. The fact that the crisis only keeps getting worse with the active, knowing participation of many of the world’s leading governments is an indelible stain on their records and a mark of lasting shame for the whole 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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