Following a Saudi attack on mourners attending a funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, the US has reviewed its policy of support for the Saudi war.
140 died in the bombing raid on Saturday 8 October, with over 500 injured. The attack was a so-called “double tap”, with a second strike timed to kill rescuers moving to the scene to help the wounded.
The “double tap” is the type of raid that the US and UK have called a “war crime” when carried out by Russia in Aleppo.
The UN estimates that over 7,000 people have now been killed in the conflict — two thirds in Saudi airstrikes. Saudi airpower has also destroyed schools, hospitals and factories. The Saudi-led war began in March 2015 when their preferred President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, fled the country. Hadi had been overthrown by Houthi forces from the north of the country allied to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
None of the contending parties in this war are worth supporting: they are all corrupt and reactionary. The stupid, squalid, bullying Saudi-led military campaign and blockade has left a very poor country broken and over fourteen million “food insecure”, according to the World Food Programme. The Saudis are much more bothered about the possibility of growing Iranian influence in the area —through the Shia Houthi militia — than they are about the human cost of pulverising Yemen. Malnutrition is now very widespread, with at least 370,000 children “acutely malnourished”. 600 health centres have closed due to lack of fuel, staff or from security concerns. One and a half million are internally displaced.
Now the US has acted and pulled the UK into line behind a new diplomatic turn. The governments of the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and UAE issued a joint statement on 16 October calling for a ceasefire. Without any intended irony the US’s John Kerry said, “We cannot emphasise enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen.” If today “ending the violence” is “urgently necessary,” what about last week, or last month? What has changed?
Claims of Saudi war crimes are not new. All that is new is the clear realisation that the Saudi strategy is not working; Iranian influence has grown in the area as the war has ground on; the internal crisis in Yemen is making the area less safe and more unstable than before. How can the US and UK justify what they have been doing, backing the Saudi war since 2015? They can’t. Even on its own terms Western policy has been stupid and shameful. The Tories have prioritised arms sales to the Saudis and the so-called special relationship with the US over the needs of the Yemini people.
The UK should: end political support for the Saudi state; end arms sales to Saudi Arabia; support the lifting of the blockade; provide humanitarian aid to Yemen.