Yemen: Imperialist powers twist the knife as COVID-19 worries escalateApril 20, 2020
Image:Felton Davis, Pixabay
With the whole world’s attention turned towards the coronavirus crisis, the western-backed Saudi war on Yemen has continued unabated. The war machine and arms industry, fueling this savagery, have been deemed too essential to shut down during the pandemic.
It is true that last Thursday, Saudi Arabia declared a unilateral two-week ceasefire on what they called ‘humanitarian grounds’. However, hours after the truce began the Houthis alleged the continuation of air strikes. Even so, the move by the Saudis reek of hypocrisy. It has nothing to do with humanitarianism, and everything to do with the fact that they have lost the war and are looking for a way out.
The six-year civil war has been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to the International Rescue Committee, 230,000 have died as an indirect result of this one-sided onslaught. All key infrastructure has been destroyed: roads, the electricity grid, power plants, the water supply, ports, farms, schools and hospitals. Thousands of bombs have thrown the country into utter barbarism.
A recent analysis co-published by Physicians for Human Rights and the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana has shone a spotlight on the effects the war has had on healthcare. It details how attacks on hospitals and clinics have closed more than half of Yemen’s pre-war facilitates.
Today, as the coronavirus begins to spread throughout the country, there are only 500 ventilators left and two testing sites for a population of just under 30 million. How can any serious treatment be carried out in these conditions? Couple this with the anxieties of health professionals being targeted at work, and we can plainly see how underprepared Yemen is for this pandemic.
On top of all of this, last month, the Trump administration cut crucial aid, upon which two thirds of the 28 million population of Yemen depend for survival. Officials have claimed that this was a necessary response to interference by Houthi rebels. This move has exposed the real callousness of the American ruling class; they are willing to exploit this pandemic to increase the pressure on the people of Yemen. Oxfam has warned that these cutbacks may be as much as $200m annually, and will reduce the sanitation schemes among others. The lives that this move unnecessarily puts at risk marks the nadir of an already dire situation.
The Saudi-led coalition forces have carried out a bloody war of attrition not only against the Houthis, but the people of Yemen. Both Britain and the US have done everything short of pulling the trigger.
Our “democratic” British state is complicit in the war, through and through. It licensed some £5.3bn of arms exports to the Saudis since the beginning of the war.
From supplying Typhoon and Tornado jets, Britain has been essential in the Saudi war effort. But the involvement does not end with the export of arms. The constant supply of training, maintenance and technical support has been crucial to Saudi’s operations. Documents presented to the UN showed that Saudi bombing of civilian targets took place in a matter of days after this training. To put it bluntly, British officials are responsible for teaching their counterparts in the dark arts that have torn Yemen asunder.
Whilst Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson would always speak highly of our rigorous arms export controls. In a similar vein, he assured us that “it is a folly and illusion” to suggest the catastrophe has anything to do with Britain. Sadly for Johnson, facts are stubborn things. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer of UK-made arms. Threatening these contracts and sales would threaten the profits of the very corporations that bankroll the party.
Meanwhile, the Tories have quietly drawn up plans for “a new £1bn fund to support overseas buyers of UK defence and security goods and services”. Just as the coronavirus is starting to hit Yemen, the Tories are offering public money in order for the gangsters in Riyadh to ramp up their imperialism. The Department of International Trade even has a specialist team to promote such sales. The crocodile tears of the Tories when pressed on this issue really beggar belief!
The US, just like Britain, had no ‘end plan’ in this conflict from the very beginning. In fact, we can see that their support is always aligned with their permanent objectives within the region: to defend their narrow imperialist interests and profiteer off disasters, of which they are (usually) the architects.
The hypocrisy of western politicians only serves as a thin veil over the crimes that they are carrying out in Yemen. Time and time again, we have seen the ruling class cannot solve the plight of the masses in the region – they are themselves the problem. With the coronavirus on the horizon the situation is only set to get worse. This class and their system are the real disease and the only way forward for humanity is to overthrow it once and for all.
Khaled Malachi Cambridge Marxist Society