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The U.S. and Its Clients Are Destroying Yemen

Yemen continues to be stalked by the specter of famine.
yemen sana'a air strike

Sharif Abdel Kouddous has written an outstanding and extensive report on the war on Yemen for Public Radio International. Here is a sample:

While human rights groups and the UN have repeatedly warned of atrocities in Yemen, the conflict shows no signs of relenting. The exiled president has lost credibility across the political spectrum and Saudi Arabia’s stated goal of returning his government to rule is unrealistic at best [bold mine-DL].

The coalition has forced the Houthis to retreat from some southern areas, including the port city of Aden. But fierce ground fighting is ongoing in cities like Taiz and elsewhere. Neither the Houthis nor the Saudis appear capable of securing a clear military victory over the whole country. In the mean time, groups like al-Qaeda and the nascent Islamic State are taking advantage of the power vacuum. Al-Qaeda now controls Yemen’s fifth-largest city.

With no obvious exit strategy, the coalition continues its heavy bombing. Yemenis feel the international community has forsaken them. They say the world’s media has largely ignored them.

Restoring Hadi never seemed all that likely, but because he has been a vocal supporter of the coalition’s bombing campaign and blockade he lost whatever domestic support he might have had at the start of the year. The Saudis’ stated goals were always unrealistic, and their bombing campaign was never going to achieve them in any case. This was all fairly clear at the start of the intervention, but the Saudis and their allies blundered ahead anyway. It was a measure of how mindlessly the U.S. sided with the Saudis that our government didn’t understand what the coalition was trying to do but still aided their war effort.

As bad as the bombing campaign has been, Yemen continues to be stalked by the specter of famine on account of the coalition’s blockade. Al Jazeera reported earlier this week:

Peter Salisbury, a journalist and analyst with Chatham House who specialises in the Yemen conflict, said the situation has become dire for many Yemenis.

“A big chunk of the population is now on the verge of starvation,” Salisbury told Al Jazeera. “The international community has been trying to bring aid in, but the bigger issue has been getting commercial volumes of food and fuel into the country.”

Amid an arms embargo, some large commercial ships have been blocked from entering Yemen, Salisbury said, even as the United Nations and others have attempted to speed up the inspection process.

“If the war continues, as looks likely, and the inward flow of trade doesn’t improve, it can only get badly worse,” he said. “We are talking about famine among the poorest and least accessible people in the country, and a huge population of internally displaced people [bold mine-DL]. That also means huge long-term consequences for the health and economic prospects of Yemenis… Malnutrition slows down kids’ mental and physical development and Yemen has a very young population.”

In addition to all this, jihadists are now taking over even more of southern Yemen. Just this week, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized two more cities in southern Yemen from forces loyal to the deposed president. The coalition has been so fixated on fighting the Houthis that they neglected the threats from jihadist groups, and in some cases have tacitly cooperated with them. The Saudi-led intervention has been an enormous boon for AQAP and for the local ISIS affiliate, and both groups are thriving in the areas that the coalition has “liberated.”

The U.S. and its clients are steadily destroying Yemen, and worst of all they have been doing it for nothing. Even if the coalition eventually achieves some of its goals, which still seems unlikely, it will have come at an extraordinary and indefensible cost to the civilian population. Yemen has been ruined simply to satisfy the irrational fears of a handful of despots and their overindulgent American patron.