US forces attack Yemen, just days after outrage over Saudi war crime

Ed Sykes

The US military just attacked Houthi rebels in Yemen for the first time. And this came only days after Washington’s support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign against the Houthis came into question following a massacre that sparked outrage throughout the world.

Escalation in Yemen?

On 12 October, US forces hit three rebel-held radar stations on the Red Sea coast with cruise missiles. This came as retaliation for a failed attack from Houthi-controlled territory on a US ship three days earlier. Since 2015, the Saudi-led bombing coalition has kept a strict naval blockade in place, and Houthi rebels have attacked coalition ships as a result.

The US Department of Defense said the attack on the Houthis was just part of a series of “limited self-defense strikes”. Houthi forces, meanwhile, denied attacking the American ship.

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Since March 2015, the US has backed the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi militias. The Houthis deposed Yemen’s US- and Saudi-backed dictator Abdu Mansour Hadi in 2014. American support has included refueling missions for Saudi aircraft, the supply of targeting intelligence, and the sale of tens of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

But before this strike, there were serious questions about continued US support for the Saudi-led war.

US support for the Saudi-led coalition in doubt?

On 8 October, just days before the US attack, Saudi-led forces bombed a funeral gathering of a Houthi leader’s father, killing 140 people and injuring over 500 more. There was soon international outrage about what was now one of the worst atrocities since the war began.

Fragments of US-made bombs were allegedly photographed at the scene, and the White House quickly issued a warning to the Saudi-led coalition. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price insisted that US “security cooperation” was “not a blank check”, adding that the Obama Administration was “prepared to adjust [its] support”.

But war crimes and destruction in Yemen are nothing new. So far, the conflict has killed over 4,000 civilians. One Human Rights Watch report from July 2016 details 17 unlawful strikes which killed civilians, while a UN report in January found that Saudi-led forces have launched “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets. And Yemen’s children have apparently suffered the most.

According to Unicef, air strikes have killed as many as 10 children a day. At the same time, 320,000 children are severely malnourished; 10.2 million live without safe drinking water; 2.2 million are in need of urgent aid; 1.2 million have been displaced; and 10,000 under the age of five have died unnecessarily due to the destruction of Yemen’s healthcare systems.

But peace talks are perhaps further away than ever.

The war rumbles on

Critics have slammed both the US and the UK for their support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, citing:

  • Britain’s sale of over £3bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia in the first 12 months of the conflict.
  • The parliamentary whitewashing of calls for investigations into how Saudi-led forces are using UK-made arms.
  • The discovery of UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen.
  • The presence of British military officials in the coalition’s airstrike command centre.

Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, which is also an enemy of the Houthis, has quadrupled its size in Yemen since the Saudi-led campaign began.

The recent US attack on Houthi targets is just another reminder that, if Western citizens don’t demand peace efforts, violence will continue to plague Yemen for the foreseeable future. And part of the blood will be on our hands.

Those who’ll benefit the most will be the masters of war, who are more than happy for destructive Middle Eastern conflicts to rage on. And those who’ll suffer the most will, as always, be innocent civilians.

Get Involved!

– Support Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in their vital work.

– Read The Canary’s other articles on Yemen.

– Write to Theresa May to ask why there is so much British support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

Demand that your MPs take a stand on the issue.

Featured image via Ibrahem Qasim

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