One of the most overlooked conflicts in the Middle East has been the war in Yemen. The media hasn’t been giving Yemen much attention, focusing most of its international news towards the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country, to begin with, and the war isn’t making matters much better. The UN has deemed the crisis in Yemen as the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis, and potentially the most severe case of famine in modern history, and the US is partially at blame.
A Brief History
The conflict can be traced back to the Arab Uprisings in 2011, when Yemenis started protesting the country’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, demanding a change in government. The Houthis, a Shiite militia from the Saada province in Northwest Yemen–named after their former leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi– were the most important protesters, now one of the main forces fighting in the war. The Houthis had been butting heads with Saleh for years, fighting six wars with him from 2004-2010. In 2004, Hussein al-Houthi was killed and replaced by his brother Abdul-Malik.
In 2012, Saleh was abdicated and forced to give power to his Vice President, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. In 2013, tensions flared again when a UN-sponsored national dialogue was established to address the country’s future and agree upon a new federal system. A proposal was made to divide Yemen into six federal regions, and the Houthis and Hiranks (a Southern Separatist movement) objected it, saying that it undermined their interests and vision for the nation.
The Hadi government wasn’t able to maintain order, and groups like AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), ISIS and even the Houthis took advantage of the instability.
The Houthis lacked military power, however, and turned to their once sworn enemy Saleh. The Houthis saw an alliance with Saleh as a chance to gain the military forces still loyal to him, and Saleh saw it as an opportunity to regain power. The two sides joined together, and the Houthis took control of Sana’a (capital of Yemen), They began progressing towards the city of Aden, where President Hadi resided, and when the Houthis took control of an airport in the region, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia
The Houthi advancements had been seen as a threat to Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia) because it showed that Iran was backing the rebel group, and stronger Iranian influence could seep into the country. In response to pleas from Hadi, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition to aid in the fight, assisting through aerial campaigns and sea blockades. The goal of the coalition is to drive the Houthis out and restore the country’s government.
By the end of 2017, tables had turned when President Saleh was seen as a traitor to the Houthis for reaching out to Saudi Arabia and offering to put an end to the fight with the Saudi-led coalition. Within 48 hours of Saleh’s peace offering, he was found dead, and the Houthis had admitted to killing him. Saleh’s supporters that had been fighting with the Houthis had now been turned against them in spite, and the Houthis were facing enemies on all sides.
At the same time, the Hadi government began battling a new enemy – separatist forces in the south backed by the UAE (United Arab Emirates). While the UAE is still a part of the Saudi-led coalition, they are continuing efforts to maintain a strategic foothold in the south, crippling the once united campaign against the Houthis. It is not only the UAE that is doing this, but it is also many members of the conflict that are pursuing personal political agendas and violating humanitarian and international laws.
The US Involvement and War Crimes
The US’s involvement can be linked back to the ending of the Iranian Nuclear Deal in 2015. Saudi Arabia–a Sunni nation– has been fighting a shadow war with Iran–a Shia nation–for years, mainly through proxy wars such as Yemen. Ending the deal gave Iran the chance to obtain far more political power and influence in the region. The US has been helping Saudi Arabia (our involvement in Yemen being one of numerous tactics) in order to intimidate and discourage this new chance at power from threatening the Saudi’s in any way.
Reports show that around ⅓ of Saudi Arabian dropped bombs have targeted areas not related to the conflict. In August, Saudi Arabia targeted a school bus, killing 40 young boys, and injuring 79 people in total. The bombs were linked back to Lockheed Martin.
Saudi Arabia has targeted schools, hospitals, funerals, weddings, and the port of Hudaydah especially. The port of Hudaydah is where over 80% of Yemen’s imports come through, consisting of the majority of Yemen’s foods source. In August, the Saudis went on an air raid in which they severely damaged the port, contributing to the mass famine.
The UN estimates that 22 million people are in need of some form of assistance, 18 million people in Yemen are malnourished (receiving one or fewer meals a day) and 8 million are on the brink of famine. One refugee group even said that the impending famine in Yemen may reach biblical proportions. Not only have the bombings caused mass famine, but the lack of humanitarian aid caused by the bombings and blockades has caused a rampant outbreak of deadly diseases such as cholera; the country’s cholera outbreak has been recorded as the worst in history, affecting over a million people, 600,000 of which are children.
The United States has been aiding Saudi Arabia in all of these endeavors, through a 110 billion-dollar arms deal, inspecting and refueling planes before going on air raids, and assisting in naval blockades. While the US has repeatedly told Saudi Arabia not to target civilians and non-military zones, the Saudis have ignored us. Because of this, the US is complicit in war crimes.
It is no doubt that involvement in foreign policy and war is a risk to our national security. When clusters of bombs are dropped on neighborhoods and civilians look at remains of the bombs and see ‘Made in the USA’ written on it, they are not rooting for America. Our intervention in the Middle East has created many of the enemies that we have today.
The situation has become such an issue, that several humanitarian organizations have said that every humanitarian effort can no longer prevent mass starvation if the war is not brought to an end immediately. Considering that Saudi Arabia and Iran’s shadow fighting and influence in the region has been the main source of why the war has lasted so long, stopping the United States’ arms sales would go to great lengths in reaching an official cease-fire. Efforts have been made by Congress to stop the arms sale, but Trump is the main obstacle, vetoing every bill that pertains to stopping it.
Trump has been an avid supporter of the weapon sales, claiming that it creates too many jobs to get rid of. On Wednesday, November 28th, Congress voted on slashing U.S. involvement in the Yemen War. While Trump has shot down past efforts to slash the involvement in Yemen, as it seems, Congress may have enough votes to override his veto and finally put an end to our involvement in this humanitarian horror.