The Bitter Lessons of the Military Intervention in Yemen

Sana’a, Yemen (NEO) – A full year has passed since the beginning of the Saudi military intervention in Yemen, when warplanes of the so-called “Arab allies” started bombing the capital of Yemen, Sana’a back into the stone age. At the same time the United States and France were providing its Arab parnters with logistical support and weapons, while London went as far as selling 3 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia amid its armed aggression against Yemen. This fact makes UK officials accomplices of Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

Although the formal pretext for the invasion of Yemen was “the restoration to power of the deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi”, the actual aim of Riyadh’s aggression was the suppression of the Houthis rebels who have managed to seize control of the better part of Yemen.

In the very beginning the Yemeni conflict was domestic in nature, but once the Houthis captured Sana’a it gained both regional and religious dimensions. The Houthis deposed the pro-Saudi and pro-American president Mansour Hadi, who came to power only due to the so-called Arab spring movement. The former president chose to flee the country and seek refuge in Saudi Arabia, while the latter decided that the events in Yemen posed a direct threat to the security of the kingdom. After all, the Al-Sauds could not even tolerate the thought that they may share a common border with a Shia state, one that would enjoy the support of Iran.

Washington’s decision to immediately jump atop the Yemeni war bandwagon received no understanding both within the US or abroad. Although the Houthis were not particular fans of the West, their revolt was aimed against the autocrat imposed upon them and against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The primary enemy of the Houthis – AQAP – is also declared to be one of the principal rivals of Americans interests in the region.

Image Source: ibrahem Qasim, Flickr, Creative Commons Air strike in Sana'a 11-5-2015.jpg

Image Source: ibrahem Qasim, Flickr, Creative Commons
Air strike in Sana’a 11-5-2015.jpg

Against the background of the widely recognized poor quality of Saudi regular troops, from the very beginning of its military aggression, Riyadh started hiring foreign mercenaries from among the countries of the so-called coalition it created. For example, Sudan and Qatar both received one billion dollars each for providing its troops. Mauritania received up to 850 million dollars for similar services. Therefore, Saudi authorities have been spending a total of 175 million dollars a month on bombing raids and 500 million dollars on ground operations.

However, the results of the military adventure the Saudi-led coalition embarked on have been a strategic failure for Saudi officials so far. A year into the extremely expensive military campaign, the invading forces are nowhere near their stated objective. In the summer of 2015 the coalition forces managed to bring the runaway President Hadi back to Yemen, in the province of Aden. Now they’ve broken the Houthis blockade, and entered the outskirts of Taiz – the third largest city in the country. But that’s pretty much all Riyadh has to brag about, since the Houthis are still far from yielding.

As it has been announced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein:

“Looking at the figures, it would seem that the Coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes,” adding the air strikes have hit “markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties – and hundreds of private residences in villages, towns and cities including the capital Sana’a.”

For this reason, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the meeting of the UN Security Council that was held at the end of the last year, accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of the deliberate extermination of the civilian population of Yemen, since they are hitting civilian targets most of the time.

Accusations of ongoing war crimes being committed in Yemen intensified even further when on January 25 in an interview with the Japanese newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, the press secretary of the Saudi coalition, Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Ussery, announced that the coalition has been using cluster bombs to suppress the Houthis. At the same time Human Rights Watch accused Washington of turning a blind to the ever increasing number of facts regarding the extensive use of cluster bombs in Yemen by Saudi Arabia.

The Independent would claim that:

“Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs, claim there is no doubt that weapons supplied by the UK and the United States have hit Yemeni civilian targets. One senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legal adviser told The Independent: “The Foreign Secretary has acknowledged that some weapons supplied by the UK have been used by the Saudis in Yemen. Are our reassurances correct – that such sales are within international arms treaty rules? The answer is, sadly, not at all clear.”

Under these circumstances, the most watchful lawyers and diplomats have started warning the US, France and United Kingdom that the sitting governments of these states may be prosecuted for assisting Saudi Arabia in committing war crimes, since there’s an ever growing body of evidence becoming available to the international community.

Therefore, the fact that the UN Security Council decision to investigate the role of the UK in the ongoing war crimes in Yemen came as no surprise to international analysts. The discussion will be based on the 51-page report on the situation in Yemen that was drafted by UN human rights experts.

But it didn’t stop just there, since Reuters would be quick to announce that:

“The European Parliament called on the European Union to impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Britain, France and other EU governments should no longer sell weapons to a country accused of targeting civilians in Yemen.

EU lawmakers, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of an embargo, said Britain had licensed more than $ 3 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since Saudi-led forces began military operations in Yemen in March last year. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since the coalition entered the conflict, almost half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.”

Against the backdrop of the United Nations’ warning of a an impending humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and countless cases of deliberate massacre of civilians by Saudi forces, the UK Parliament Committee for the control of arms exports was forced into starting an investigation into the usage of British weapons during the inhumane military campaign against Yemen. However, it is highly unlikely that this investigation will even be brought to an end, and those responsible punished one day. After all, those guilty of war crimes in Iraq have not been punished yet since the UK is deliberately protracting those investigations.

The continuation of the armed invasion of Yemen has largely been caused by the fact that the UN Security Council has been busy discussing other “hot spots” in the Middle East, while leaving the ongoing genocide of the Yemeni civilian population virtually unchecked. Moreover, it is hardly possible to achieve any positive results in this area, since the better part of international initiatives on Yemen were left to Saudi Arabia’s good will and so far it has demonstrated to possess none.

However, the fate of the Middle East and the Arab World rests on the Yemeni conflict, since its continuation is seriously threatening the stability of the Arabian Peninsula and the oil-producing Gulf monarchies. This war resulted in the strengthening of the Sunni radical movements in the region, namely AQAP, the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Islamic State,” for which Riyadh and all of its accomplices should bear full responsibility.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.