Thursday, August 9, 2018

The United States and Saudi Arabia - Complicity in the Yemeni War

The ongoing Middle East war receives almost no attention from the mainstream media.  What war, you might ask?  The war between Saudi Arabia, America's second-best friend in the Middle East and Yemen, one of the most impoverished nations on earth.  It is most important that you keep in mind that this war is a religious war between two sects of Islam - the Shias which are represented by the Houthis in Yemen (and by Iran) and the Sunnis which are represented by Saudi Arabia in the form of the fundamentalist Wahhabist sect which believes that Shia's are not true Muslims.

Let's open this posting with a map of Yemen for your illumination:

As you can see, Yemen is located on the heel of the Arabian peninsula with borders shared with Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the North. 

According to the United Nations, the conflict which began in 2011, had its roots in a political transition following an "Arab Spring"-type uprising that forced the nation's long-serving president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.  Prior to the transition, hundreds of Yemenis were killed in mass protests which called for an end to corruption and repression which was common during the Saleh presidency.  President Hadi faced a continuation of the ongoing Houthi rebellion which ended up taking over the province of Saada and neighbouring regions.  The Houthi movement began in the 1990s under the leadership of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a Zaidi opposition to former president Saleh as an offshoot of Shia Islam.  Houthi was killed in 2004 by the Yemeni armed forces, an action which has led to the current Houthi war against the nation's leadership.  Here is a map showing how Yemen is divided by religion:

As you can see, Sunnis form the majority of the population and are located along the cost of the nation. Zaidi Shiites predominate in the northern highlands and, despite their differences, intermarriage between the two groups was common until recently.  Thanks to the rise of political Islam, the two groups are now at war with the Houthis being supported by elements of the Yemeni military that are loyal to former President Saleh.  

Another issue facing Yemen is the presence of al-Qaeda as shown on this map:

In March 2015, President Hadi was forced to flee the capital city of Sanaa by the Houthis going into exile in Saudi Arabia and then returning to Yemen on November 17, 2015 where he now governs Yemen from the port city of Aden, located along the coast of the Gulf of Aden.   Here is a map showing the expansion of the Houthi presence since 2012:

On March 25, 2015 a Saudi-led international coalition launched strikes against the Huthis in Yemen.  The coalition consists of the Gulf Cooperation Council States (excluding Oman), Egypt and Sudan and is backed by the United States and the United Kingdom.  As we all know, the United States supplies Saudi Arabia with a very, very significant quantity of military equipment with a 2017 deal for nearly $110 billion worth of arms immediately as shown here and $350 billion worth of arms over the next decade:

Here is a map showing the current areas of military activity:

According to Amnesty International, more than 5900 civilians have been killed during the conflict, 3 million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting and 22.2 million people or 75 percent of the country's people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 

Here are some additional statistics:

1.) 79 percent of the nation is considered poor, up from 49 percent in 2017 

2.) per capita GDP has declined by 61 percent in the last three years

3.) less than 50 percent of health facilities are functioning

4.) 18 million Yemenis do not know how they will obtain their next meal

If you want a more complete background on the early phases of the war in Yemen, please click here.

With that background, let's look at a recent development.  Here is a news release that recently appeared on the Saudi government website:

In case you weren't aware or had forgotten given the imaginative naming of U.S. military operations, Operation Restoring Hope (aka Operation Renewal of Hope) is the rather sanitized name of the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen which is allegedly aimed at protecting Yemeni civilians and fighting the so-called terrorist elements present in Yemen.  This news release from the Saudi government (aka the Saudi royal family) is particularly interesting given the links between the Saudi royal family and the Saudi Wahhabist religious leadership.  This decree suggests that the religious leadership of Saudi Arabia (the custodian of the two holy mosques) will pardon all men taking part in the military operations against Yemen for any infractions (i.e. human rights abuses which I assume includes the killing of women and children and other non-combatants) that they might have incurred during their service to the Saudi royal family.  Islam allows for war in the case of self defense and in the case where Islam is to be defended.  As well, war is to be conducted to avoid injuring non-combatants and according to the principles of Allah's judgement.  Here's a quote from the Qur'an 5:32:

"...whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind."

With all of this background, it is important to keep in mind that Washington unconditionally supports the Saudi royal family and that the royal family and, by extension, the Wahhabi religious leadership of Saudi Arabia, has decreed that all combatants in the Yemeni war are pardoned for any misdeeds that they may have committed.  Given the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in Yemen and the millions of Yemenis that are suffering, this is nothing less than shameful.

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