Yemen should be making headline news globally for the sheer brutality inflicted upon its people. A month ago, the Saudis bombed a bus murdering 29 school children in Hodeida with a missile manufactured by weapons corporation Lockheed Martin that many Australian universities invest in and partner with. Recently Spain cancelled arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the Spanish defense ministry condemned the Saudi-led coalition for inflicting such a heavy civilian death-toll, but it seems unlikely this current Australian government will let their conscience get in the way of business.
Last year in November, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs Mark Lowcock went on record saying that unless the blockade were lifted, all the disturbing news and images coming out of Yemen could amount to “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims”. If conditions don’t improve then the number of Yemenis on the brink of starvation will jump from 8.4 to 18.4 million by the year’s end, says the UN.
The reason this war, between the wealthiest Arab monarchies and the poorest Arab republic, doesn’t get the coverage it deserves is because there is no conceivable let alone marketable humanitarian pretext for, why Saudi Arabia must have 150,000 troops deployed against Yemen, or for why the Anglo-American powers (including Canada and Australia) have been training the Saudi navy to enforce this genocidal blockade, or why these countries, and France, have sold weapons to Saudi Arabia?
Any public discussion about Yemen therefore would soon lead to the question, why are the richest and most powerful states on earth inflicting collective punishment on a nation of 27 million people that even prior to the conflict was one of the poorest nations on earth? Earlier this year over a million Yemenis had gathered in Sabaeen square in the capital Sana’a for the funeral procession of Saleh Ali al Sammad, the President of Yemen’s National Salvation Government (NSG) based in the capital Sana’a, who was assassinated by a Saudi airstrike on April 19.
While the procession was going on, Saudi warplanes flew over the crowds to drop bombs on mourners, many of them just ordinary Yemeni citizens who support the revolutionary government that was formed after the Ansarullah movement (often called “the Houthi rebels”) seized the capital Sana’a in September 2014. Just a week earlier the Saudis had bombed a wedding killing twenty people for no other possible reason than to demonstrate their willingness to punish the Yemeni population for refusing to accept Saudi Arabia’s choice for who rules their country.
To that end Saudi Arabia also imposes a blockade on Yemen which is starving a nation that even prior to this war was already one of the poorest countries on earth, one that relies on imports for 90 percent of its food.
To its supporters, the September 21 Revolution, marking the bloodless takeover of Sana’a in 2014 by Ansarullah, which in turn sparked the Saudi-led war in March the following year, was in opposition to Hadi presiding over plans to “federalise” Yemen thereby weakening the autonomy of the central government, something Saudi Arabia has always preferred.
More broadly it represents a rejection of Yemen’s subordination to Saudi interests that had prevailed since the assassination of President Ibrahim al Hamdi in 1977 (of North Yemen). His modernising reforms threatened the old tribal order, while his insistence on improved relations with then socialist South Yemen, eventually led to the open secret that the Saudis masterminded his murder, especially since it paved the way for the 34-year reign of Ali Abdalleh Saleh, during which Saudi influence, especially that of Wahhabism, grew rapidly.
In Yemen during the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 people took to the streets protesting the worsening economic pressures on their living conditions which they blamed on greed and corruption at the highest levels of government. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood were in the best position to take advantage of mass discontent in Egypt, in Yemen, the main challenger to President Saleh’s power was Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, one of the founding members of the Islah party, Yemen’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar).
Saudi Arabia claim they are acting on behalf of “the officially recognised government of Yemen” and its “President” Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, against “Houthi rebels backed by Iran” however what’s rarely mentioned is that this “President” has been completely silent ever since he was placed under house arrest in Saudi Arabia. His own political party, the General People’s Congress, has revoked his leadership over the party meaning therefore that Hadi doesn’t even have the support of the Yemeni parliament, and for allowing foreign powers to use his title to wage total war on Yemen, he was sentenced to death in absentia for high treason by a court in Sana’a in March 2017.
Saudi Arabia are joined in this war by a coalition of some 20 other nations including some of the wealthiest countries in the world, let alone the region, namely their fellow monarchist dictatorships UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar (until it was kicked out of the alliance last year in June because of its diplomatic conflict with Saudi Arabia), all of which have a history of being established and militarily protected both from internal and external threats by the Anglo-American alliance who are arming them to the teeth.
The Saudi ability to buy influence in the region can be the only possible reason why Arab states like Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, and Morocco have all sent troops to join the coalition. Many of the countries in that coalition have sent soldiers to “defend the Two Holy Mosques” for the simple reason that if the Al Saud family loses control of these sites while deploying the bulk of their army to fight in Yemen, then that could spell the end of their dynasty.