By Mike Phipps
Last month, the US government announced it was ending its support for ‘offensive military operations’ in Yemen. This was not a blanket ban on arms sales to the autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia. Nor will the change in policy affect US drone or special forces operations against alleged terrorist targets in Yemen. But it is a small step in the right direction.
There is no such change of line from the UK government. Its latest figures show that the UK approved $1.4 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia between July and September 2020.
British soldiers have operated radar systems in support of the air war. Saudi pilots are trained in Anglesey. If anything, the war has intensified in recent days, notwithstanding President Biden’s announcement and Saudi’s proposal for a new peace plan.
Writing inJacobin, one analyst commented, “Ever since the Obama administration made the ill-advised decision to back the Saudi war effort against Yemen’s Houthi rebels back in 2015, the United States has owned substantial responsibility for what has become the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the world.”
The casualties of the war in Yemen run to more than 100,000 dead with almost as many killed by hunger and disease caused by the Saudi blockade of the country’s ports. As we have reported previously, “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world, with 100,000 children under five years old at risk of dying from acute malnutrition. Almost 50% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and 9.5 million are unable to access safe water, sanitation or hygiene.”
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition continues to bomb water treatment plants and food production facilities, illegal under international law. Half of Yemen’s hospitals and medical clinics have been destroyed or forced to close. Some 13.5 million Yemenis face high levels of acute food insecurity.
Yet earlier this month, the UK government decided to cut – almost by half – its aid to Yemen, a decision condemned by over 100 charities, including the usually cautious Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children and Care International.
Two weeks ago, a donor conference for Yemen raised only half the sum that the UN Secretary-General had called for. Antonio Guterres said cutting aid was a “death sentence” for the Yemeni people.
On Friday, March 26th at 6pm, the Stop the War Coalition is hosting an online event Stop British Support for the War, with speakers that include Jeremy Corbyn MP, CND general secretary Kate Hudson and Zarah Sultana MP.
Mike Phipps is editor of the Iraq Occupation Focus e-newsletter, available at https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus. His book For the Many: Preparing Labour for Power was published by OR Books in 2018.
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