04.04.2022 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Yemen: Cheap Demagoguery and Huge Profits for London


Situated on the distant east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen and our neighboring Ukraine share a common fate. Both countries, at the will of the West, have become embroiled in conflicts desired by Western rulers.

Instigation of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi rulers against Russia by the West, above all the United States’ “empire of lies and terror”, as the facts clearly demonstrate, has been going on for years. It was for 8 years that the Ukrainian army, whose main task is to protect the borders of their country, had been methodically destroying the civilian population of Donbass with Western weapons at the behest of the rulers in Washington and London. But even this did not seem enough to strategists in European capitals, who constantly pressed the situation in Ukraine militarily, economically and financially with the intention not only to isolate Russia but also to destroy it. Incidentally, this is a 400-year-old dream of the rulers of Great Britain.

It is quite understandable that the West has always preferred to fight only with foreign hands, and it is now supplying Ukrainian neo-Nazis with huge quantities of high-tech weapons, as UK and US planes deliver weapons to Kiev in a race against time.  Weapons, including US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, are arriving in Ukraine, yet Western governments claim at every corner that the West is supposedly not directly engaged in conflict with Russia. Why? This time they have found cheap cannon fodder on Ukrainian territory, who will now die by the thousands and then by the tens of thousands and millions in the name of the West who commands them.

The same is happening in far away Yemen, where Western rulers have waged a fratricidal war with the hands of the Saudis in the name of their mercenary financial interests.

On the one hand, it may seem that the West, especially the US and the UK, first intervened in Ukraine, defending so-called human rights and the right of non-interference of one country in the affairs of another. But one can remember how Washington and London “defended” the rights of Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and Yemenis. While much is known about the “deeds” of the United States, less is known about the “deeds” of Britain, for example in destroying the Yemeni people by supplying huge quantities of arms to Saudi Arabia.

It has been some seven years since Saudi Arabia assembled its coalition of Arab states to attack Yemen with the active support of the West and, above all, Great Britain. Since then, according to official figures alone, which give an underestimated number, more than 230,000 people have died, 24 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and more than 13 million are on the brink of starvation – in other words, extinction. The United Nations says Yemen has become “the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis”. While there are many reasons for the suffering, the most visible and devastating have been the British bombing of towns, villages, infrastructure, hospitals and markets, led by Saudi Arabia, with which London has had excellent relations for many years.

From the outset, these murderous attacks were sanctioned by the British rulers. Cameron’s government backed Saudi King Salman when he declared war in March 2015, with then foreign secretary Philip Hammond saying Britain would “support the Saudis in every practical way”. Despite the mountain of evidence of war crimes committed since then, Great Britain has repeatedly stated that there is no serious evidence that the Saudis are violating international humanitarian law in Yemen. Indeed, Britain has been at the forefront of extending diplomatic protection to the Saudis, critically blocking various international initiatives to independently investigate war crimes.

So why was Britain, which constantly boasts of its support for human rights, willing to do such damage to its international credibility by unconditionally supporting Saudi Arabia in this murderous conflict? One compelling reason is the lucrative sale of arms: there is fresh evidence of how closely embedded arms dealers are in the British military and diplomatic machine when it comes to Yemen. The website Declassified UK with an impressive amount of content has just published details of a secret meeting between the director of a major arms company and British defense and foreign ministers in January 2016, during the peak of Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen. There appears to be no official record of what was discussed at the meeting, which was attended by then Defense Procurement Minister Philip Dunne and then Junior Foreign Secretary Tobias Ellwood. According to the declassified document, neither minister “declared the session on their departmental transparency logs of external meetings where ministers are required to record contacts with arms dealers”. In other words, the deal went unnoticed by official agencies and the huge profits were secretly deposited in the pockets of private individuals.

What is typical is that the meeting would never have come to light had it not been for the diaries of Alan Duncan, the former Conservative minister who left in the last election, to be published this year. Duncan said the meeting was organized by the Defense Ministry’s “Gulf Advisory Committee” to discuss oil prices and future visits to Saudi Arabia by then Prime Minister David Cameron and others. The declassified data shows that ministers initially denied the existence of the committee, but later admitted there was a “Gulf Advisory Group” – yet the government claims there is no record of the 2016 meeting minutes. He acknowledged that Richard Paniguian – then director of the US arms firm Raytheon – had been invited to the meeting, but said he allegedly did not have the records from that meeting and therefore could not give details.

Six months after the meeting, Middle East Eye published incontrovertible evidence that the Saudi-led coalition, backed by Great Britain, had stepped up its attacks on Yemeni civilians in flagrant violation of the rules of war. The world has also witnessed the ruthless destruction of Yemeni homes, while doctors have confirmed that Yemen’s illegitimate blockade prevents vital medicines and medical equipment from entering the country.

This gloomy situation has not changed under the Trump administration, but there is compelling evidence that the belated international mood is changing nonetheless. One of US President Joe Biden’s first steps after his inauguration was to stop selling all weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used for “offensive operations”. Other countries, such as Italy and Germany, have also stopped selling their arms.

Nevertheless, to this day, the British government, using its special ties to Washington, continues to export arms en masse and support Saudi Arabia in its murderous war against the Yemeni people. There is a discrepancy here. When Great Britain ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014, it insisted that arms should not be sold to countries where there was an overriding risk that their use would be contrary to international humanitarian law. But there is plenty of evidence of this with the Saudis and Yemen, and as the Biden administration’s decision shows, even if Britain won’t admit it.

Incidentally, London does not recognize this treaty it has signed, supplying increasing quantities of modern weaponry to the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev and instigating it against Russia. It might also be recalled that Great Britain has for the last 400 years sought to “make a mess” of Russia wherever possible.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni war continues, causing untold suffering. With severe malnutrition rising in the midst of a global pandemic, UN projections for 2022 for Yemen are staggering. At least 400,000 children under 5 could die of starvation, while 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and 2.3 million children under 5s are expected to suffer acute malnutrition. Nevertheless, Britain has announced that it is cutting humanitarian aid to Yemen by more than half in 2021-22, while billions of pounds worth of arms sales continue. Britain’s Oxfam recently accused the British government of prolonging the war in Yemen by allowing the export of air-to-air refueling equipment that could be used to help the Saudi air force conduct indiscriminate bombing in the country.

To combine these two roles, even by Western standards, is immoral, wrong and a betrayal of everything Britain claims on the international stage. There is a very worrying contradiction here. Since the beginning of the Yemeni conflict, Britain has played the role of “pen holder”, i.e. representative and defender of Yemen’s interests in the UN Security Council. Minister for Middle East James Cleverly recently boasted about this in parliament, demagogically stating that Great Britain had used this role “to help move the Yemen peace process forward, working with our partners and allies at the United Nations to ensure that Yemen continues to be a top priority for the international community”.  But Britain has a significant conflict of interest. On the one hand, its massive arms trade benefits from the war and, as declassified documents show, plays a role in the construction of Yemeni politics. On the other hand, as a “pen holder”, Britain plays a central role for the UN in “promoting the peace process”.

If the international community really wants peace in Yemen, it is time to send Britain a message: either stop selling arms to the Saudis, or give up your role as “pen holder” for Yemen. Putting them together is immoral!

But that is the British logic: say one thing and do another – what is in Great Britain’s interests, even if it is at odds with international law and morality. But for London ministers and businessmen this is commonplace. And the ever-increasing supply of modern weapons to neo-Nazis in Kiev and instigation them against Russia is a prime example, as is London’s policy away from resolving the protracted conflict in Yemen.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.