Non-ending War In Yemen: Who’s Paying The Price?
The ousting of the veteran autocrat, Ali Abdullah Salah, which supposedly aimed at bringing political and social change, marked the beginning of a non-ending war in Yemen. The Iranian-backed Houthis seized control over Sana’a in 2014, prompting Saudi Arabia, along with other 8 Arab Sunni states, to launch a military campaign that was supposed to last 6 months, not 7 years. It’s noteworthy that the Saudi-led collation received support from the US, UK, and France. According to the United Nations (UN), around 131,000 of the estimated 233,000 deaths in Yemen since 2015 are the result of indirect causes like food insecurity and lack of accessible health services. Nearly twenty-five million Yemenis, moreover, remain in need of assistance.
UN experts on Yemen stated that Saudi Arabia could be held accountable for war crimes. Around 8 million people are facing famine in Yemen, due largely to the Saudi blockade of Yemen’s borders. It is agreed that both sides in the proxy war have breached international humanitarian law.
“Civilians in Yemen are not starving, they are being starved by the parties in the conflict,” Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of a UN group of eminent experts on Yemen said.
All sides of the conflict are reported to have violated human rights and international humanitarian law. Though the US announced last year its decision to withdraw its support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, no real change has happened on the ground. Washington’s latest $500m military contract with Saudi Arabia gives Riyadh the leeway to further its crackdown on the Yemeni population.
“To my mind, this is a direct contradiction to the administration’s policy. This equipment can absolutely be used in offensive operations, so I find this particularly troubling,” said Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.
In addition to that, it has refrained from pushing Saudi Arabia to halt its blockade on the coast of Yemen, which has prevented humanitarian aid to flow into the country. The Houthi movement, on the other hand, is making substantial territorial gains in Marib, the oil reach region that has become one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the war. Meanwhile, they took over the long-contested strategic port of Hodeidah in Yemen, after the withdrawal of the government forces.
In a brief statement, the United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) said: “The withdrawal of the Joint Forces from Hudaydah City, Al Durayhimi, Bayt al-Faqih and parts of At Tuhayta districts and the subsequent takeover by Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces represents a major shift of the frontlines in the Hodeidah governorate. These events warrant discussions between the parties of the agreement first signed in 2018.”
It is important to mention that the Hodeidah agreement, signed in Stockholm, was the first official attempt aimed at bringing all sides of the conflict to the negotiation table. Yet, it did not contain a detailed plan for a mutual withdrawal of the government and the Houthis, leading to an impasse.
700 families (approximately 4,900 people) were displaced to Khokha, over 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Hodeidah, “while 184 other families (about 1,300 people) were displaced further south to the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha”, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, citing Yemeni government sources.
These developments came amid a deep diplomatic crisis between the Gulf and Lebanon because of George Kordahi’s criticism of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. His remarks appalled Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, among others. In addition to recalling its ambassador, Saudi Arabia banned Lebanese imports. In times of economic woes, Lebanon will be deeply affected. Saudi Arabia represents the third-largest importer of Lebanese products, accounting for six percent of the country’s export in 2020. Lebanon is on the brink of economic and political collapse, if not already. Frankly, Saudi Arabia would adopt any measures to make sure its policy in Yemen is not criticized, which further indicates that the intervention is not ending anytime soon.