The 'secret' war in Yemen

Friday, August 17, 2018

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Dear Editor,

America is heavily involved in the civil war in the poorest country in the Arab peninsula, Yemen.

The war is between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition backed by America, which is trying to restore a Sunni Government deposed by the Shia Houthis backed by Iran.

The Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations have reportedly supported Saudi Arabia's campaign with weapons and intelligence. The US has admitted to having deployed a small number of troops on the ground together with regular air attacks, allegedly against al-Qaeda and ISIS targets. Congress has never approved any such involvement.

The Saudis have dropped thousands of bombs on Yemen, including the bombing of a school bus last week which killed 51 people, including 40 children, and injuring 79. Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade to prevent the import of food, water and medical supplies and, with widespread famine and strong international outrage, the blockade was partly lifted in December 2017.

The war has been bloody and costly in terms of human life. As of March 26, 2018 at least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed by the fighting, with more than 40,000 casualties overall. Some 50,000 children died in 2017 alone (Save the Children) and two-thirds of the civilian deaths were caused by Saudi bombing, according to the UN high commissioner for human rights.

The number of displaced is phenomenal. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than three million Yemenis have fled their homes and 280,000 have sought asylum in other countries.

Legal and human rights organisations describe the civil war in the Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history. The killing of thousands of civilians and deprivation of humanitarian aid is blamed on Saudi Arabia and are war crimes in which the US is essentially complicit.

Yemen's war is more complex than a Saudi-Iranian, Sunni-Shia conflict and does not lend itself to a military resolution. The situation cries out for an independently brokered deal between the local tribes and the injection of economic development and basic infrastructure which are so badly needed. The Houthis demand economic and political reforms such as a new constitution and a federal system of government, which is a step in the right direction, but first requires the cessation of outside interference which is what is fuelling the crisis.

Victor A Dixon

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