Earlier this month, the United States announced it will be halting some arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns its bombing campaign in Yemen has taken an unprecedented toll on civilians. Reuters quoted an anonymous Obama administration official who said the “systemic, endemic” problems of Saudi’s campaign drove the United States’s decision. While the move was an important development, it does not deal with the root of the problem, which is the bombing campaign itself.
Since March 2015, a coalition of countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have been conducting a vicious and brutal military assault against Yemen, which has been backed by the United States and Britain. The campaign has left the entire country “on the brink of famine.” Human rights groups have warned that coalition forces have committed various war crimes, including by attacking hospitals, funerals, and factories. This blatant disregard for international norms, civilian casualties, and lack of a coherent plan illustrates the feckless nature of the Kingdom’s actions.
A report on Yemen titled “Yemen: A Battle for the Future”, which Franco Galdini wrote about for Muftah, highlights the damage the campaign has done:
[T]he poorest country in the Middle East has endured the destruction of the formal economy, the decimation of its essential infrastructure, and massive commodity price inflation, which has – in turn – precipitated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed, and many thousands more injured since the start of the Coalition intervention; three million people have fled their homes and more than 80% of the 26-million-strong population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
It is true the situation in Yemen is complicated. But, there is nothing complicated about valuing and protecting human life.
In addition to suspending arms sales, there must be an independent investigation by international bodies so the responsible parties are held accountable. Activists in the United States should pressure their governments to push for such investigations. Independent NGOS should be allowed to enter the country, to perform their own investigations, and aid organizations must be allowed to enter areas most in need of humanitarian assistance. On the political side, the situation can and must be resolved diplomatically, with all sides meeting to discuss the distribution of power and reinstituting stability, with a focus on protecting civilians.