As the Saudi crown prince visits Washington today, Jan Egeland and David Miliband remind us what the Saudi government and its allies have done to Yemen with U.S. and other Western backing:
Saudi Arabia’s de facto and longstanding blockade of Yemen’s main Hodeidah port is, in spite of recent modifications, still preventing large quantities of food, fuel and medicine from reaching millions of people. Commercial flights to the country’s main Sana’a airport have been similarly blocked for over 18 months.
In a country that imports almost 90% of its food and the majority of its medicine, the result has been 8.4 million people pushed to the brink of famine. The resurgence of deadly but preventable diseases, like a million suspected cases of cholera and a frightening diphtheria outbreak, have already reached 22 of Yemen’s 23 governorates.
A UN panel of experts recently accused Saudi Arabia of using the threat of starvation as a weapon of war.
The coalition blockade of Yemen is the single most destructive part of the war on Yemen. It threatens the lives of millions upon millions of innocent civilians, and yet it is probably one of the least covered aspects of the conflict over the last three years. The countless victims of starvation and preventable disease that the blockade has caused remain largely invisible to the outside world, and the lives cruelly and prematurely ended by the man-made humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Yemen are usually left out of descriptions of the war’s true costs. It is certain that the blockade has silently claimed thousands and thousands of innocent lives, and it threatens to claim far more if the coalition continues to interfere with and block commercial and humanitarian shipments. This is the principal cause of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and it is one that could be removed fairly easily if the coalition’s Western patrons demanded it and stopped helping them.
Instead of pressing Mohammed bin Salman to end the blockade, Western governments are only too happy to sell his government more weapons while ignoring the deliberate starvation of Yemen. Because he is the Saudi heir to the throne and a U.S. client, he is warmly received at the White House, many of our media outlets go out of their way to conceal his crimes from the American public, and he is feted as a “reformer” and modernizer. If the de facto ruler responsible for these outrages wasn’t considered an “ally” in Washington, he would most likely be facing sanctions, travel bans, and regular condemnation by U.S. officials. He would rightly be regarded as a war criminal and international pariah. The problem isn’t just that the U.S. holds its clients to a very different, lower standard than it holds other governments, but that when it comes to its clients it seems to have absolutely no standards at all.