While the latest UN report on Yemen hasn’t been released to the public, it wrongfully faults Iran for not preventing weapons transfers to Yemen. Sadly, this appears to have glossed over much of the document, focused on the harm done to civilians by the Saudi-led coalition.
The 79-page report warns that Yemen is rapidly disintegrating into a collection of warring statelets, and warns it would be difficult for them to ever reunite after this conflict. It heavily faults Saudi Arabia for its airstrikes, killing thousands of civilians. The panel estimates some 8 million Yemenis, about a third of the population, are facing famine conditions, and notes that around one million Yemenis are victims of a cholera epidemic which has been called the worst in human history. Now the question is what next?
Well, by UN’s own accounts, a solution is urgently needed. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres must spearhead a new initiative to force the Saudis end the unnecessary conflict. An immediate cessation of hostilities is indeed required in order to provide long overdue assistance and relief in what is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. The route to sustained stability requires active engagement of all stakeholders in the conflict in talks.
The unlawful invasion by Saudi Arabia and its allies – a blatant violation of international law and a catalyst for the significant civilian death toll – should be a trigger for swift action by the UN Security Council as well. The Council has demonstrated its failure to date in this regard, but still has ample opportunity to prove its effectiveness.
In addition, it is wrong to inaccurately speculate that the conflict in Yemen is mostly the result of a proxy geopolitical war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the broader Middle East. Iran’s role and influence in the conflict have been greatly exaggerated. In reality, Iran’s role manifests itself more in the form of political, media and humanitarian support and not military aid. This is to be contrasted with Riyadh’s robust engagement in the Yemeni conflict that is fully backed by the United States and Britain.
That said, the protracted war on Yemen can still be resolved. A key move to this end involves Western countries ending their military and diplomatic support of the Saudi military campaign, and also increased pressure on the Saudi regime to understand the necessity of ending its failed military aggression. Riyadh must accept the fact that Yemen cannot return to its pre-war conditions with a puppet regime serving Saudi Arabia.
Most observers agree that there is no military solution to the conflict. After nearly three years of war, the Saudi-backed forces have failed to penetrate the populous western highlands of Yemen where the capital is located – although they have air superiority and have blockaded all of Yemen’s ports. Even if the warmongers succeed in retaking the capital by force, those aligned with the Ansarullah movement (the Houthis) will retain control of much of the highlands, and will not trust any Saudi puppet government. Yemen would therefore remain ungovernable.
On the other hand, the Trump administration will likely agree with the Saudis to continue with the military pressure, but it is clear that their military pressure has failed to force the Ansarullah movement to negotiate a settlement.
Last but not least, the Saudis and their allies must listen and heed the calls of the Yemeni people demanding peace and the right to self-determination. History will not judge kindly those who have used the illegal war to increase their regional influence (Saudi Arabia) or profit (US and UK) from lucrative arms sales.
This is a US-backed, Saudi-made crisis, and the sheer scale of humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people is a direct result of their illegal war and blockade, and serious violations of international law. Humanity simply cannot continue to lose out to the Saudi-American politics without holding them to account.
To prevent this atrocity, this horrible affair, the illegal war must end and the warmongers must be held to account. That is now a consensus position among the international humanitarian community. Arms sales by the US and the UK must be stopped, and UN pressure on Saudi Arabia and its closest allies must then increase. The lives of millions of Yemeni civilians are stake.