Yemen Is Starving, and We’re Partly to Blame

By Chris Toensing | (Foreign Policy in Focus) | – –

80 percent of people in the Arab world’s poorest country are in danger of starving to death under a U.S.-backed blockade and bombing campaign.

Twenty million people in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, are at risk of dying from hunger or thirst. That’s 80 percent of the country’s population, which according to UN agencies badly needs emergency supplies of food and water, along with fuel and medicine.

This almost unimaginable crisis sounds like something out of a disaster movie. But the cause isn’t an earthquake or a tsunami.

The main reason for all this suffering is months of merciless bombardment and blockade led by the richest Arab countries — Saudi Arabia and its neighboring petro-princedoms — and backed by the United States. Washington’s providing the attackers with technical assistance, intelligence, and top-shelf armaments.

The countries bombing Yemen are targeting a rebel group they claim is a proxy for Iran. The evidence for that is very thin.

In fact, the conflict in Yemen is rooted in internal disputes. Try to stay with me…

In 2011, a nationwide uprising akin to those in Tunisia and Egypt deposed the country’s autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. There was no democratic election before his successor, the Saudi- and U.S.-backed Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, took over — he ran unopposed. And there was no relief from the terrible poverty, unemployment, and government corruption that brought about the popular revolt.

So a few months ago, a reformist movement and militia called the Houthis — which had launched a handful of rebellions against Saleh in the past — took advantage of widespread discontent to conquer the capital, Sanaa. Hadi fled into exile, and the Saudis started bombing shortly thereafter.

Since then, local militias in central and southern Yemen have fiercely resisted the Houthis and army units still loyal to Saleh, who is now allied with his former foes. Meanwhile, a local franchise of al-Qaeda is fighting everybody.

In short, it’s terribly complicated, and the bombs aren’t helping.

The Yemenis caught in this crossfire were already thirsty and hungry before the war — unlike their Saudi neighbors, they don’t have a lucrative oil supply. Now, with Yemen’s borders closed, its airports shut down, and Arab navies enforcing an embargo at sea, the situation is breathtaking in its desperation.

Saudi Arabia and its friends, including the United States, support Hadi. Yet they have no discernible plan for winning beyond reducing Yemen to rubble and besieging civilians in the hope of securing the Houthis’ surrender.

The Obama administration probably doesn’t believe the Saudis’ nonsense about the Houthis and Iran, but it’s shown no interest in stopping the war.

In fact, the United States has even announced a full suspension of aid to Yemen for a year, undercutting its occasional murmurs of humanitarian concern. By endorsing this Saudi-led shooting match, Washington may hope to calm the Saudis’ nerves about the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, which Saudi Arabia opposes.

Is that what it’s come to, soothing a bully’s nerves just because it pumps a lot of oil?

Instead, the Obama administration should withdraw its support for the bombing, lift the blockade, and broker a power-sharing agreement between Yemen’s competing factions. For the people of Yemen, it’s beyond urgent.

Chris Toensing is editor of Middle East Report, published by the Middle East Research and Information Project in Washington, DC.

This commentary is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and OtherWords.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus


AFP: “Clashes, strikes kill 21 in Yemen’s Aden”

3 Responses

  1. Call the staff at the State Department to ask them directly why they are doing this. If you google “State department phone list” all their direct lines come up. call them and ask. I did and they pretended they had no idea what I was talking about.

    Please do call them and your senators, if you don’t you can consider yourself complicit. Do not email me to blame me for the dreams you will have about Cambodia if you do not raise your voice today about Yemen. US goal should not be to create an Al Qaeda stronghold. This is like Vietnam folks, and I have to tell Quan I tried or he is going to throw a sausage at me. A Thai sausage after all, so help me please or the sausages will fly. I will eat it as long as it meets the five second rule, but the Yemeni’s have no food and are not having a Cream Puff War.. That is onhold for the time being.

    Ask them why they want Al Qaeda to win?
    call now help Yemen this is just like the Loas or Cambodia situation.

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