The rocket blasts will stop—at least for now—and the Shia muslims that comprise the Houthi coalition are expressing an interest in a broader cease fire agreement with the Saudi forces that they have been pitted against in bloody and desperate battles that have brought the already impoverished nation to its knees.
The announcement comes following demands from the United Nations, and Houthi rebels have agreed to stop shelling Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in response. But it remains to be seen whether the Saudi crown will relent in its efforts to transform Yemen into a docile puppet state. Already, Saudi Arabia is responsible for numerous documented war crimes, many doled out in official orders. On at least three occasions they attacked Doctors Without Borders, threatening the lives of Western aid workers.
But there are some signs of progress. Despite a round of negotiations failing in September with Houthis refusing to attend, both parties seem willing to come to the table this time.
Speaking to the UN Security Council, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths had this to say:
“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”
Senator Rand Paul calls for Saudi arms deals to be rescinded
“Really, the only thing they understand over there is strength. I think they will see sanctions as weakness on the part of the president and if the president wants to act strongly he should cut off the arms sale,” Senator Paul said.
Last week, Secretary Pompeo warned the Saudi government to stop bombing civilians. There have been 200 bombing campaign on residential areas since then according to Paul.
The war crimes of Saudi Arabia
Yemen has faced one of the worst famines in years and the Saudis are largely responsible for causing it. Saudi forces had blockaded all Yemeni ports and the result was devastating. Human rights groups reported that 78% of Yemen’s population was struggling to eat, find clean water, and medical supplies.
While aid ships have been allowed to pass through the blockade, there’s simply not enough supplies on these boats to furnish all of the noncombatants with what they need. Since the blockade has restricted refined fuel from entering the region, these people have little recourse other than to tough it out during the struggle. Fleeing is not an option.
On at least one occasion, Saudi forces bombed an airport to prevent NGOs from using it to provide aid. Severe shortages of food have resulted in 13 million people living in conditions of famine and the severe shortage of potable water has caused a cholera outbreak. According to UNICEF, every 10 minutes a child dies in Yemen as a result of preventable diseases that are left untreated due to the blockade and war.
Saudi forces have repeatedly and explicitly engaged in war crimes that violate the laws of war including targeting, in official orders, the entire city of Sa’dah rather than pinpointing separate legitimate military targets.
From an American perspective, this is perhaps the most horrendous feature of the conflict. It isn’t Saudi-made bombs that are being used for this purpose, but arms that they purchased from the United States. By no means did we intend for these weapons to be used with such complete disregard for human life and the Saudi atrocities violate the most basic human principles of honor. The Trump administration is on record condemning the use of our weapons to wreak such chaos to noncombatants.
Following an airstrike that struck an ambulance being operated by Doctors Without Borders, the French NGO issued the following statement:
“The way war is being waged in Yemen is causing enormous suffering and shows that the warring parties do not recognise or respect the protected status of hospitals and medical facilities. We witness the devastating consequences of this on people trapped in conflict zones on a daily basis. Nothing has been spared – not even hospitals, even though medical facilities are explicitly protected by international humanitarian law.”
In response, Saudi Arabia told aid workers to leave the region.
Secret prison facilities have been set up throughout the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi coalition has spirited away religious scholars for detention and torture. In one instance, a video of a dead torture victim was leaked to the press.
More migrants or more effort, the West must decide
This is another Middle East dispute that we decided to dip our toes in foolishly, and maybe we’ll never learn. But if the United States and the Western coalition that has been providing arms to Saudi Arabia don’t figure out a plan to stop this behavior from the House of Saud, there’s no telling what happens when Saudi Arabia gets bored with their new toy. In the worst case, an openly armed conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia might not be too far off. The Middle East is a powderkeg and these conflicts are just a sideshow at present.
Rather than repeatedly sparking the match, its time for Western leaders to douse the flames.