Just the other day, the now battered and wounded state of Yemen has witnessed yet another barbaric act of violence against its people, when a funeral procession that was assembled to give last honors to the father of the sitting Minister of the Interior, General Jalal Al-Rveyshata, was subjected to indiscriminate bombing. As a result of the Saudi coalition airstrikes, a total of 213 people was murdered in broad daylight, with hundreds and hundreds more being seriously injured.
Currently, the Yemeni capital remains under control of the combat wing of the Shia Houthis movement – the organization known as Ansar Allah. The Houthis are being supported by regular troops who remain loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They are opposed by self-exiled Sunni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi who is being actively supported by Saudi Arabia. At the end of March 2015 the Saudi coalition launched military aggression against Yemen, backed by a number of Western countries, especially the US and Britain who are convinced that Saudi soldiers will successfully carry out the dirty work, subjecting Yemen to the rule of Western special interests by proxy.
In just over 18 months the Yemen conflict has claimed the lives of more than 10 thousand people. This was reported by the UN Special Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick, who admitted however that the actual death toll could be much higher, since there’s no operating medical facilities left in a number of Yemeni provinces, therefore nobody can register those deceased.
In August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein demanded that the international community establish an independent civil body to investigate war crimes committed in Yemen. The UN High Commissioner has particularly stressed that continuous attacks on residential areas, marketplaces, medical and educational facilities, and public and private infrastructure, the use of landmines and cluster bombs; sniper attacks against civilians; deprivation of liberty; targeted killings; the recruitment and use of children in hostilities; and forced evictions and displacements have become a routine occurrence in Yemen.
Riyadh has been using all kinds of equipment over the course of its military intervention in Yemen, including American-made cluster bombs (CBU-105). This was stated by a senior Saudi official in his interview with the Japanese Asahi Shimbun, apparently oblivious to the fact that they are prohibited by international law.
Against a backdrop of widespread international condemnation of Saudi Arabia and its accomplices in Yemen, along with a UN report on the role British military contractors and advisers are playing in this crisis, London initiated a parliamentary investigation regarding the use of British arms to commit war crimes against Yemeni citizens.
Both France and Germany have also been subjected to harsh criticism for their continuous arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, which forced the European Parliament to approve a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, even though experts are convinced that such a move is unlikely to prevent the export of arms to the kingdom, since both the European and American military contractors are reluctant to place international law ahead of profits.
In several of the documented military attacks, the report states that the UN Human Rights Office was unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives. “In numerous situations where military targets could be identified, there remain serious concerns as to whether the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects that could be expected from the attack were not excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage apparently sought,” the report states.
As for the combat readiness of Saudi troops, it is clear that it is far behind the technical capabilities Riaydh possesses due to the ongoing purchases of lethal weapons from the US and Europe (including the UK, France, Germany). A chance to serve in the army is more of a privilege for higher ranks of the Saudi population. It allows privileged youth to earn more than they normally would, while occupying socially prestigious positions. It’s no wonder that Saudis are completely unwilling to die amid the battlefield fighting. That is why Saudi Arabia has always preferred to act behind the safety of Washington’s protection. The same pattern is being repeated in Yemen, this time the Saudi-led coalition actively deploying foreign mercenaries including from Colombia, Pakistan and other states that are capable of doing some serious work in the field. However, Riyadh does not fully control its mercenaries which results in additional war crimes being committed.
But concerns about who’s giving orders in Saudi Arabia and who obeys them are of a secondary nature. The important thing is that none other than the United States and Britain have been exploiting Saudi frustration with the rise of Shia Muslims across the region, which allows Washington to continue selling its weapons and starting new conflicts, while paying expenditures with Saudi money.
It’s no wonder that under these circumstances, Washington has once again decided to “immediately reexamine” the support it has been providing to the international coalition led by Riyadh. A spokesman for the US National Security Council (NSC) Ned Price rushed to assure everybody that Washington didn’t sanction the strikes against the funeral ceremony in Sa’ana and that it’s prepared to adjust the support it has been providing to Saudi Arabia. Can we treat this as an admission that all the previous war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia were directly sanctioned by Washington? Yet, one thing is clear – the criminal war against the people of Yemen must be stopped, and it must be stopped now.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”