SAUDI ARABIA'S ASSAULT ON YEMEN: HOW CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY PROFIT THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD

WRITTEN BY ZANAB J.S.


The Coalition and Conflict

On March 26th, 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Sunni Arab States commenced an aerial assault on Yemen in reaction to the culmination of the Yemeni Civil War, initiating the currently ongoing Yemen-Saudi War. The Houthis, a Shia muslim religious-political movement were responsible for the forced removal of Yemen's President Abd Rubbuh Mansur Hadi, who then requested military action against the state. President Hadi, loyal to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fled the country the night prior to the beginning of the attacks. The Houthis, allied with the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, fight alongside the Yemeni Republican Guard and the Yemeni Airforce against the Saudi coalition, the pro-Hadi military and other supporting factions. The coalition includes Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Sudan, Senegal, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and, until recently, the UAE. In a non-combat capacity, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Djibouti, Somalia, Turkey and the United States have offered their support to the Saudi coalition. 

Saudi Arabia's Crimes Against Humanity

Since the beginning of the aerial campaign launched by Saudi, up to 4200 Yemeni civilians have been killed by airstrikes alone. Of this number, upwards of 800 civilian deaths are comprised by children under the age of 17. Saudi Arabia was named as the topmost offender in the United Nations' 2015 report on "Children and Armed Conflicts". The Saudi coalition was recognized as the leading cause of child death in the world, accredited with over 60% of violent child deaths caused by armed forces in Yemen. The report explains the coalition's intentional actions in bombing hospitals, schools, bazaars, residential sites and civilian areas where the volume of children, unarmed peoples and non-fighters was known to be high. The list was released earlier this year in June, only to be retracted and rewritten following immense diplomatic pressure from Riyadh 72 hours later.

Ban Ki Moon, the current secretary general of the U.N. condemned Saudi Arabia for the immense pressure placed on the secretariat to remove Saudi Arabia and its Arab counterparts from the blacklist. According to Moon, the coalition, the U.S, and the KSA threatened to defund several U.N. programs that desperately need monetary sustainment, and it was for the sake of those programs the blacklist was rewritten. The public testimony of the secretary general against the political pressures and threats of financial withdrawal introduced by Saudi Arabia and its allies served as the basis for international criticism directed at Saudi Arabia's pattern of void accountability for humanitarian offences. 

“The report describes horrors no child should have to face...At the same time, I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many U.N. programs. Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and so many other places would fall further into despair...It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure. Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the work of the United Nations”
-- Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon at a press conference in Marseilles. 

Moon went on to describe the decision as "one of the most painful decisions I have had to make." 

Saudi Arabia's assault on Yemen has not dwindled since the initial release of the report, and incidents wherein civilians are maimed or killed has remained steadfast.

Only one incident of mass civilian casualties has been considered for investigation by the U.S. and Saudi goverment; last October, the Saudi Coalition attacked a hospital staffed and supported by Medicines Sans Frontrieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders), killing Yemeni civilians and several staff members. The hospital, which served as the only medical resource centre for 200 000 people in Haydan, was completely unusable following the attack.

Since then, several other attacks on hospitals, schools and marketplaces have occurred.

Following the attack in October, another MSF facility was destroyed in December in Taiz; doctors were in the midst of treating civilians suffering from an airstrike on a public park. Another airstrike on an MSF facility occurred in January, destroying the hospital in Yemen's Razeh district and killing an ambulance driver from MSF. One of the most recent assault on civilians took place in August of this year when a coalition aircraft attacked a U.N. school, killing 10 Yemeni children attending class. 

Perhaps one of the most shocking assaults was the destruction of Sanaa's Oxfam bridge, which is described as the primary gateway for humanitarian assistance into the region. According to UNICEF, this combined with Saudi Arabia's blockade of Yemeni import routes has left nearly 21 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 

Aside from MSF testimony, the International Red Cross has reported upwards of 150 attacks on their facilities, and attacks on Yemeni-administered hospitals is estimated to be even greater than those funded by international charities. 

In addition to the targeting of recognizable "safe spaces" (hospitals, schools, markets), the Saudi coalition has been reported to use weapons and methods of destruction internationally recognized as the subject of war crimes. Human rights groups have documented and provided evidence of Saudi Arabia's continued use of cluster bombs, a type of detonable container that releases smaller, finer explosives once reaching its target. 

The most recent attack against Yemeni civilians occurred only days ago on October 8th in Sana'a when aerial explosives were dropped over a building where funeral processions were taking place. The attack resulted in the death of over 100 people, and wounded nearly 600. The attack has been labeled a warcrime by HRW and other international bodies. 

Silence from Saudi Allies and Financiers

Despite the numerous documented civilian attacks, attributable war crimes, and use of illegal weapons and methods of warfare, powerful countries that are allied with the KSA have remained silent on the subject of Saudi's crimes. 

John Kerry, the secretary of state, dismissed the U.N's analysis of civilian casualties caused by Saudi Arabia, citing responsibility to Houthi rebels, the recipient of Saudi airstrikes, instead. 

The U.S. State Department and White House have historically remained silent on human rights violations commandeered by the Saudi government, and with regards to the Saudi-led coalition, the rules seem to remain the same. Requests for comments and discussion regarding the illegal use of war weaponry, illegal civilian targeting, the destruction of hospitals, schools, safe spaces, and humanitarian resource centres, has been repeatedly redirected to the government of Saudi Arabia in place of an actual response. Regarding condemnation of the destruction of the Oxfam bridge, Elizabeth Trudeau, a representative for the White House emphasized American officials meet with their Saudi counterparts to discuss the reduction of civilian casualties regularly. 

Similar tactics have been employed by representatives in France, whose government has provided continuous support for the coalition in the form of military equipment and logistical guidance since the commencement of the assault. 

British and Canadian governments, also responsible for military and logistical support, have followed suit in muted dialogue regarding Saudi's crimes against humanity and their financial backing for the coalition. 

The minimal response from the State Department raises many questions regarding America's role in the assault on Yemen; how do the interest of the United States align with the progression of this conflict? Why is the support for Saudi Arabia's assault seemingly unconditional? How can the White House elucidate the carte blanche policy being applied to Saudi Arabia's warcrimes? 

Several former American diplomats have come forward to express concerns and discontent with the handling of the assault on Yemen and the decisions made to support it. 

"The American press hasn’t paid that much attention to it. But it’s been a disaster particularly as a result of the bombing and … the lack of outside humanitarian assistance as a result of the fighting. It’s really been tragic for the Yemeni people. The country’s always been very poor but to have your hospitals and your schools and your civilian population bombed and killed and injured on a large scale has added to their tragedy"
Bill Rugh, former ambassador to Yemen 1984-1987
"The Saudis have been implicated, according to U.N. special panels, in war crimes...Given what we in the United States have been doing to support the war effort, we are implicated as well. I think it’s really urgent that we pull back on the support to put pressure on the Saudis to come to terms with the Houthis and to facilitate a Yemeni-Yemeni agreement. I think that would be the best course.”
Nabeel Khoury, Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen 2004-2007

Furthermore, the aforementioned diplomats interviewed by the Intercept earlier this year went on to deny rhetoric supplied by the White House regarding Saudi's assault against Yemen as necessary for the prevention of terrorism. Diplomats who were interviewed argued that al-Qaeda's presence has only grown stronger since the assault began, allowing AQ to gain more ground in Yemen than ever before. 

“No question about that, no question whatsoever, that the war has turned everyone’s attention away from what concerns us most, and that’s violent extremism and terrorist groups...Al Qaeda has grown in strength, and in numbers, and in resources, and that’s directly related to the turning of attention to the internal instability and ultimately the war in Yemen.”
Gary Grappo, former deputy chief of mission in Saudi Arabia. 

In fact, AQ seized 100 million dollars worth of land and tax assets in Mukalla with zero resistance from Saudi forces in the region. 

Profiting From Crimes Against Humanity

Amongst the HR violations, blatant civilian bloodshed, and silence from Saudi partners, there lies a disturbing reality: non-combatant allies of the coalition, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France and Turkey have accrued tens of billions of dollars as a result of the war against Yemen. 

The Liberal Canadian government, prior to coming to power in early 2016, promised to make null a 15 billion dollar arms deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia engineered by the previous Conservative administration. However, Justin Trudeau's first days in office were marked by a reversal of this promise and a stamp of approval for the billion-dollar weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. These weapons and equipment are being utilized in attacks on hospitals and civilian zones without restraint or condemnation from the government that decided to sell them. 

Similarly, and without comment, the U.K. has provided nearly 3 billion pounds in weaponry and military equipment to the Saudi coalition since the beginning of the assault last spring. 

France was able to sell 12 billion dollars in weaponry and military equipment to the coalition since June, 2015, providing assets such as fighter jets, artillery, detonable explosives, mines and assault rifles. 

Spain, an unlikely contributor, through Navantia, will sell 2200 navy ships to the KSA by the end of this year, gaining 3.3 billion dollars in the process. 

Ultimately, the United States remains Saudi Arabia's greatest financier and material supporter by selling nearly 20 billion dollars worth in weapons, vehicles, fighter jets, artillery and explosives since 2015 to the coalition. 

The commercial deals and arms sales made by these countries involves them as complicit in the crimes committed by Saudi Arabia. Since the commencement of the assault, over 100 illegal airstrikes have been recorded by HRW. The HR group confirms that Saudi Arabia has not taken any measures to reduce civilian casualties in the region, rather, the coalition intentionally attacks civilian areas. As a result, an arms embargo proposed by HRW has been echoed by several governments in the international community. Directed primarily at Canada, France, the U.K., and U.S., the embargo has been almost completely ignored by Saudi allies. 

While the conflict in Yemen approaches the end of its 2nd year, 4200 Yemeni civilians have been killed with a further 21 000 severely injured. As a country, Yemen has struggled to remain intact while combatting acts of terrorism, insurgency, and crippling poverty. Ignored for years in its decades of humanitarian need, Yemen has become the focal point of generation for hundreds of billions of dollars for western world powers. Stable nations from the "first-world" originally unresponsive to the suffering of Yemeni people now stand to make a fortune through their demise.