Yemeni Civil War: a bleak adventure

by Hervé Pugi.

It is behind closed doors but especially faced with shocking indifference that Yemen has been at war for more than a year. The Sunni coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, seems to have reached a deadlock and, as always, it is the civilians who pay the high price for this macabre adventure. Far from restoring any sort of legitimacy, above all this military expedition will have led to a major humanitarian crisis.

Without a care in the world, the Sunni coalition that stormed Yemen in March 2015 certainly did not expect to find itself stuck in this way one year later. It is interesting to note that the Operation “Decisive Storm” was not that at all! It also very quickly turned into Operation “Restoring Hope”. Hope to bring peace or to get out of this hell as quickly as possible? The question certainly arises…

The Yemeni people no longer have much hope in the face of the chaotic situation in their country. Especially as the liberators, sure of their strength, increase the number of problems. Or crimes, some maintain. How many civilians have been killed in the process of bringing down some Houthis rebels? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at the end of July, of the 6500 citizens who lost their lives, 3700 of these would be ordinary civilians. More than 30,000 injured people must be added to this figure. If the concept of “surgical strike” has never really existed, those fighting in Yemen appear to be great butchers.

Witnesses on the ground can testify that when the coalition bombs, it is done indiscriminately. 600 hospitals and health facilities have gone up in smoke, while 1600 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed. This collateral damage has never dampened the fervour of the Saudi generals and their supporters. 2.7 million people (of a population of 14.1 million, half of whom have been affected by a food shortage) have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 180,000 Yemeni people have fled to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.   Somalia, despite being in the grip of serious violence, is one of those destinations…

All of this for what? Aden has been taken over. It is the only trophy for the moment for King Salman, who sees his troop’s efforts encountering relentless resistance, to such an extent that many experts claim that Saudi Arabia and its comrades in arms cannot militarily win this tug of war against the large Zaidi minority, concentrated in the north of the country. The Houthis would also be directly supported by Iran. This sheds light on another day on the issues of the ongoing battle…

The admission of failure is such that the United States, who have followed this venture from a distance while feeding intelligence to its Gulf allies, was forced to take over diplomatic control. “This war must end (…) as soon as possible” thundered John Kerry during a visit to Jeddah on 25 August last year. The US Secretary of State announced that a new initiative for peace for Yemen would soon be launched.

The US official’s proposal envisages rebel participation in a “national unity government ». A measure that was rightly called for by the Houthis for months but completely rejected thus far by UN envoys and various negotiators, especially during the three months of fruitless talks that were held in the Kuwait this year. In return, the Houthis are asked to “withdraw from Sana’a and other areas », and to transfer all heavy weapons, including ballistic missiles, to a third party. The discussions promise to be bitter…

The United States may have to work even harder to allow the Sunni coalition to leave this hazardous expedition with its head held high. In fact, Washington will have to use all its influence to prevent the United Nations from investigating the alleged human rights violations in Yemen. Many voices are actually calling for an independent international body to seriously scrutinise what they describe as “war crimes” in a conflict that, more so than any other, is without a winner.

 

Background:

In March 2015, Riyadh heads the Sunni military coalition to halt the advance of the Houthis rebels, allied with supporters of the ousted former president Ali Abdallah Saleh. After having conquered the capital Sana’a, these militias pushed for President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee. The Iranian shadow behind this action will have been one of things that pushed Saudi Arabia into action.

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