Yemen | Saudi-led intervention putting Yemen in a blind alley

Saudi-led intervention putting Yemen in a blind alley

Salman Rafi Sheikh December 19, 2016 3:32 AM (UTC+8)
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In a recently given statement, the Saudi king ruled out the possibility of ‘foreign intervention’ in Yemen and linked the crisis to the national security of the kingdom itself.  While defending his own country’s intervention, the Saudi monarch said that the kingdom would not accept Yemen becoming “a base or a point of passage for whatever state or party to menace the security or the stability of the kingdom and of the region”.

While king Salman did not explicitly mention the kingdom’s regional rival Iran, it is quite obvious that Saudi Arabia and Iran have locked horns in Yemen just as they are in a state of military entanglement in Syria, fighting for establishing and countering each other’s goals of regional supremacy.

King Salman’s statement has, ironically enough, come at a time when the kingdom, leading the Arab coalition, has been accused of indiscriminate bombing of Yemen and war crimes and when a humanitarian crisis is knocking hard on the doors of the war-torn country.

A recent UNICEF report, published on last Monday, claimed that, with one child dying in Yemen every 10 minutes, the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition is 200-percent higher than in 2014.

Clearly, this is an indication of the fact that the crisis is not nearing an end; it is escalating to a point where it will soon be hit by a major food crisis, wide and intense enough to turn into a famine.

Were a famine to break out in Yemen, this would imply, according to a Reuters calculation, two people dying per day for every 10,000 in the population, or about 5,500 deaths per day across a country of Yemen’s size.

The situation will deteriorate if the parties, primarily the Arab coalition, continue to follow the military path.

A look at the kingdom’s defense spending and the extent of it currently being spent on Yemen campaign would suggest that the kingdom’s leadership doesn’t have any other solution in sight other than that of killing the Houthis to the very end.

Needless to say, the US-brokered seventh truce has already failed to hold and fighting continues there unabated.

What has contributed to this exacerbation and political and economic deterioration is that the war has split Yemen into two zones, each being controlled by the Houthis and the forces loyal to the Arab coalition.

While the former is controlling a lot of territory, the latter has established its control over key institutions, such as the Central Bank.

For example, in July, the Houthis and allied forces formed the Supreme Political Council to run the state authorities in areas under their control. Then late last month, the Houthis and Saleh announced that they had formed a “national salvation” government.

On the other hand, in September, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government decided to relocate Yemen’s Central Bank from Houthi-held Sanaa to Aden, used by the government as the temporary capital.

This development has directly contributed to a complete halt of food, especially wheat imports, leading to massive starvation in the Houthis controlled region.

While the unilateralism, resulting into split of the country, being practiced by both parties is contributing to the persistence, geographical spread and indiscriminate deaths of civilian, another key factor is the military support the US continues to extend to the kingdom’s campaign.

While officially, Washington has cut arms sale to Saudi Arabia due to potential “flaws” in the way air strikes are being conducted, the fact remains that many strikes are actually carried out by Saudi pilots who have received their training from the US and who fly US-made jets that are refueled in the air by American planes.

And Yemenis often find the remains of American-made munitions, as they did in the ruins after a strike that killed more than 100 mourners at a funeral in October.

Graffiti on walls across Sana reads: “America is killing the Yemeni people.” To the US’ disappointment, no graffiti reads “America is brokering peace in Yemen,” or that “America, is protecting the Yemenis from brutal bombing.”

Therefore, the US’ role in facilitating negotiations notwithstanding, it continues to provide support in other various categories.

Consider this: while the Obama administration has proposed a cut in arms sale, the same statement said that the US will continue to provide Saudi Arabia with intelligence focused on border security. It will also provide training for pilots involved in the Saudi-led air campaign, to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible, the official said.

Despite the fact that the US has found “flaws” in the Saudia led strikes, other defense contracts are expected to go ahead such as a deal worth more than US$3 billion to supply military helicopters.

Given the magnitude of the crisis and the way the US continues to support its Arab ally, it is ironical that the US is aiding a war that may come to haunt its immediate precipitator i.e., Saudi Arabia itself sooner than later.

Therefore, with the crisis all ready to exacerbate into mayhem, the question is not if other nations will or should be allowed to intervene in Yemen, as the Saudi king contested, the question is: will Saudi Arabia be able to insulate itself against this crisis and prevent it from spilling over into its own territory?

While Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest spenders on military hardware in the world, it still does not have enough military capability to tackle the crisis. Continued support from the US is, therefore, of vital importance for its survival, and continued projection of the war as a “defensive action” is necessary to achieve the cardinal objective i.e., installation of a puppet regime.

The objective has so far survived the fact that the kingdom’s campaign has already backfired, hit its territory more than once and is provoking its Shia minority tribes into joining the Houthi alliance.

By putting Yemen into a blind alley of “defensive-offense”, the kingdom has imperceptibly put itself on the path that is nothing but another blind alley that can best be described as a ‘self-destructive action.’

Salman Rafi Sheikh
Salman Rafi Sheikh is an independent journalist and a research analyst of international relations and Pakistan affairs. His area of interest is South and West Asian Geo-politics, the foreign policies of major powers, and Pakistani politics. He can be reached at salmansheikh.ss11.sr@gmail.com
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