In March 2015 when Adel al-Jubeir was still the Saudi ambassador to Washington (currently he is the kingdom’s foreign minister), he might have argued that Riyadh’s war on Yemen was a “necessity” — a just cause to be fought in the name of the greater good. The ravages caused in Yemen paint a very different picture.
Despite Riyadh’s best efforts, and in view of the Saudis buying the silence of news outlets over their atrocities in Yemen, some segments of the global media have been unable to keep the lid on the ever-increasing and sickening war crimes the Kingdom has perpetrated in the name of freedom and so-called democracy. The narrative of the war on Yemen was flawed from the beginning. To even imagine that Saudi Arabia, the most violent and repressive theocracy and the most absolutist of all monarchies in the world, could ever consider promoting democracy was ludicrous.
Saudi Arabia is certainly not qualified to sponsor democracy building — not in Yemen, not anywhere, not ever — at least not as a long as its own people are persecuted merely for asking that their civil rights be respected. How could a regime that viciously lashes bloggers or people who demand their rights ever claim to fight oppression? The Saudi regime has declared exposure of corruption in the Kingdom as “illegal” and punishable by three to ten years in prison!
How could a regime that preaches the worst kind of sectarianism and projects tribalism as a form of nationalism while relying on nepotism to run state affairs ever project itself as a champion of democracy abroad? Yet many governments, especially in the West, have stood silently by while missiles and bombs rain down on the people of Yemen. They have refused to hear the agonizing cries of young children and women and have turned a blind eye to the agony of an entire population under foreign military occupation. The primary reason is that the Saudi regime has held Western rulers under thrall with its checkbook diplomacy.
Last month, several international rights groups finally broke their silence, ringing alarm bells on what many experts have called the Saudi war on Yemen: genocide. Lebanese TV personality and analyst Marwa Osman labeled the Kingdom’s war on Yemen “…a genocide against Yemen’s Zaydi population and heritage.”
Although rights groups have confined their criticism to Saudi Arabia’s war crimes and aggravated human rights violations in Yemen, the extent of Riyadh’s ire against its neighbor is beginning to make even some US officials uncomfortable — especially when Riyadh has openly professed its desire to “hunt down all Houthi militants” until they are buried and destroyed. The revolutionary Islamic movement, Ansarullah, and their allies in Yemen have refused to surrender to the Najdi Bedouins’ onslaught. Instead, an ever-increasing number of Yemenis belonging to different tribes and of all political persuasions have come to see the Najdi Bedouins as mass murderers and war criminals. They do not have to wait for statistics to know about the suffering of the Yemeni people. They are victims and witnesses to Saudi crimes.
According to official UNICEF figures, there have been more than 1,000 child casualties as a result of the unrelenting aerial bombardment by coalition jets and fierce fighting between Ansarallah and allied fighters and foreign-backed forces opposing them on the ground. Since March 26, at least 398 children have been killed by bombs and bullets, with a further 605 wounded. Children account for one-quarter of the officially counted casualties so far.
Several months of airstrikes and missile strikes have devastated much of the country’s infrastructure. The uncouth Najdi Bedouins that have no history and have not known civilization are busy destroying 7,000-year-old Sana‘a, the Yemeni capital. Only savages can indulge in such behavior. The Najdis and their allies have also killed more than 4,000 people, and plunged tens of millions into a dire humanitarian crisis. Ten million children, approximately 80% of the country’s population under the age of 18, are in urgent need of some form of humanitarian aid. With at least one quarter of health facilities no longer providing vaccinations, at least 2.5 million children are at risk of contracting measles, a highly contagious and often deadly disease.
Moreover, with power plants knocked out in many places causing prolonged blackouts and severe fuel shortages, at least 20.4 million Yemenis lack access to clean drinking water, thus putting increased pressure on the civilian population. Without clean drinking water, 2.5 million children are at risk of diarrheal diseases and another 1.5 million could fall victim to acute respiratory tract infections.
UNICEF has also reported that at least 1.8 million children are falling behind in their education, as nearly 400 school buildings have been damaged or destroyed by airstrikes, missiles, and artillery shelling. Another 346 school facilities are being used as shelters for displaced families or have been requisitioned by armed militias. To put it in simple terms, under Saudi Arabia’s suffocating grip, Yemen is being subjected to a slow and painful death.
Condemned to suffer Riyadh’s wrath because they dared dream of freedom and democracy that was within their reach, the Yemenis have been unable to escape the Kingdom’s vengeful wrath. Not even in death do Saudi officials show mercy. In the name of control, Riyadh has spared Yemen no humiliations or atrocities.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last month that it was “extremely concerned” by the growing number of corpses being abandoned in the war zones of Yemen. “With escalation in fighting, more casualties are being left behind owing to the increased danger associated with retrieving the wounded and the dead,” said Nourane Houas, head of ICRC’s Protection Department in war-ravaged Yemen. “International humanitarian law requires that dead bodies be treated properly and with respect,” the ICRC said in its statement. Houas also urged all sides in the conflict “to respect the dignity of the dead and to allow their swift recovery, while taking all feasible measures to ensure their proper identification and their handover to the families.”
Five months into this illegitimate war of aggression, Yemen’s state institutions have been systematically laid to waste, eroded and sabotaged to ensure that only Bani Saud’s agents will rise from the rubble. Intent on imposing itself as the master of Yemen, Riyadh has leaned on Yemeni politicians’ raw ambitions and is exploiting their greed to claim “legitimacy.” In this plot to enslave Yemen, twice-runaway-once-resigned former President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi has acted as a willing tool. A president without a presidency and without a political party, Hadi has nevertheless kept up all presidential pretences, gleefully calling for war on his own people while he sits in a Riyadh palace.
But if the House of Saud nominally heads Saudi Arabia, America has played a much more decisive role in providing tactical support to the aggressors. The Obama administration has made it possible by providing midair refueling for coalition jets as well as intelligence to identify targets and the bombs necessary to carry them out. The coalition has deployed American-made laser-guided bombs as well as internationally banned cluster munitions.
Within this context it has become clear that Yemen’s war is in fact an attempt at colonization, run and engineered by imperial powers, to force southern Arabia to bow to its new masters. Will the people of Yemen led by Ansarullah whose revolutionary credentials have been tested and proven on the battlefield, allow such a scenario to come to fruition? They more than make up in willpower and commitment what they lack in guns and bullets. And often, the outcome of battle is determined not by guns but by the determination of the man behind the gun. In this context, the Saudis and their pleasure-loving allies are no match for the revolutionary fighters of Ansarullah.