17.06.2016 Author: Pogos Anastasov

Saudi Arabia and Yemenite tragedy

435345345345A global scandal is unfolding around Saudi Arabia and the coalition that it created in 2015 to fight against Houthis rebels. On June 3, the United Nations Secretary, General Ban Ki-moon, included the coalition in the black list of countries and groups violating the rights of children in connection with the murders of minors in the fighting in Yemen. According to UN estimates, the coalition is responsible for the death of 510 children, which is 60% of the total number of children that died during the conflict. Another 667 children suffered from the direct actions of the coalition.

The Saudis responded at once and launched a vast campaign to exclude themselves from this shameful list, having accused the UNO of publishing unreliable information. The UN Secretary-General gave in and within a week, removed the reference to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the document. However, he stated that the decision to remove Saudi Arabia from the black list of countries that are guilty of the violation of the rights of children, as well as their death caused by air raids by the anti-Houthis coalition in Yemen, was taken under stiff pressure from Riyadh supporters. Ban Ki-moon clarified that Saudi Arabia and its supporters intimidated the UNO by threatening to respond by stopping the financing of a number of programs that directly fall under the global organization.

These statements by the UN General-Secretary only added fuel to the flames and caused a propaganda attack by the Saudi Arabia representative at the UNO, Abdullah Al Muallem, who issued a rebuttal and denied the allegations that his country was imposing some pressure tactics on the international organizations, and called the authors of the report “amateurs who are trying to catch fish in muddy waters.” He was outrages that the authors of the report were associating all the victims of the conflict with Saudi Arabia…

Admittedly, the coalition’s track record of using arms against civilians in Yemen, including children, was overgrown with all sorts of accusations against the coalition, headed by Saudis, for a long time. However, it became a massive thing in 2016, which from the most closest allies of Riyadh in the West, the Saudi royal family obviously did not expect.

The UNO was the first to sound the alarm. On January 5, 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concerns about statements from Yemen on the use of cluster bombs by the coalition armed forces headed by Saudi Arabia. “During a visit to the village of El Odeyr in Haradh district, a group of OHCHR employees found remnants of 29 cluster bombs close to some banana fields,” stated a representative of the OHCHR, R. Kolvill. At that time, it was known that the British advisers helped the coalition aircraft to aim at the target, while the USA sold bombs to Saudi Arabians.

Despite the criticism of the UNO officials, the coalition air raids on Yemen territory were continued actively in January-February, affecting the residential area of Sana, the country’s capital.

A great number of victims among civilians forced the European Parliament to adopt a resolution on February 25, which urged to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Canada opposed arms delivery to the Saudi regime and accused the Prime Minister, J. Trudeau, of going against the opinion of the majority of the Canadians. The Canadian Parliament also urged the government to disclose information on the arrangements. The main matter lied in the supply of 1,000 fighting vehicles with machine and anti-tank guns to Riyadh.

It was impossible to stop a wave of criticism. Representatives of the major human rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, appealed to the governments of the EU and the USA to stop delivering arms to the Saudi regime that was “committing war crimes in Yemen.” On March 11, news broke out that the British Parliament had initiated an investigation into the delivery of arms to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after which the Parliament of the Netherlands approved a draft law that callse on the government to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia due to the constant violation of human rights in Yemen.

Apparently, this growing criticism, along with the failure of the military campaign, forced the KSA to negotiate, and on March 7, Saudi Arabia held a secret meeting between the KSA government and Houthis that allowed to launch the negotiation process in Kuwait a month later. In fact, the entire coalition and its Saudi leaders do not consider this campaign to be a failure. According to them, they managed to free a significant territory of Yemen from Houthis rebels, including the southern capital of the country, Aden, and expelled Al-Qaeda and ISIS from Mukalla province, and most importantly, they forced Houthis to cut its special relations with Teheran, which were the major reason of the conflict. Riyadh believes that Iran received a powerful signal not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Arab Peninsula countries.

According to available information, currently during the regular contacts with the Yemen government and Houthis in Kuwait, the Saudi Arabians proposed their plan to strengthen armistice (creation of an administrative body to coordinate the activities of the committees that oversee the regulation, creation of filed-type committees in each province, creation of safe areas around each conflict district, etc.) that should lead the parties to reach a political settlement.

However, if we take a loot at the backstage of this bloody conflict, we begin to think that Western countries needed it at some stage. Is it no mere chance that during the conflict, the USA, France, Britain, Germany and Canada actively supplied weapons to Saudi Arabians and its allies, including the same cluster bombs? It cannot be ruled out that through purposeful provision of intelligence information, they arouse concerns of Riyadh about Iran influence in Yemen (it actually took place, but was its scale so great to start a war?). Meanwhile, the KSA and and its allies were pushed in this carnage at the moment (early 2015), when the entire Western countries came to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program and began to normalize relations with it.

However, the conflict, which was aimed at causing a clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran, drifted out of control by late 2016, and started to threaten the Saudi regime – the major ally of the USA in the Middle East. But Washington had no plans regarding this. The USA, like other Anglo-Saxons, used this regional war to implement a classic scheme – divide and rule – and to sell new multibillion weapons consignment to its satellites, rather than undermine positions of the allied ruling Saudi family. Such a threat occurred. They had to attract all the powers of human rights advocacy organization and the UNO to return the Saudis to a more positive approach in Yemen affairs.

Pogos Anastasov, political analyst, Orientalist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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