In an editorial, the Financial Times says: The civil war in Yemen, which descended into a new circle of hell after Saudi Arabia committed its air force to defeating Houthi rebels in March 2015, is fast destroying what is left of the poorest of Arab nations. Eclipsed by the ostensibly greater geopolitical stakes of the carnage in Iraq and Syria, this ancient country has been largely ignored by the world as its people face catastrophe. Time is running out.
A harrowing report in the Financial Times this week describes the depth of the crisis. The UN says two-thirds of the 28m population face shortages of food and clean water, while a quarter are on the brink of famine. A cholera epidemic is raging. The war itself has killed an estimated 10,000 people.
Saudi Arabia, under Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince and the power behind the throne, launched its air war to deter Iran from trying to expand the Shia axis it has forged across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Riyadh exaggerates Iranian support for Yemen’s heterodox Shia Houthi, although Tehran is happy to accept the Sunni kingdom’s inflated estimate of Iran’s political reach.
The Saudis, backed by a United Arab Emirates expeditionary force on the ground, and with episodic US support, have failed to reinstate their client regime, led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. They have not retaken the capital Sana’a from the rag-tag Houthi movement. They have regularly hit hospitals and schools, weddings and funerals, mosques and marketplaces — as well as creating more space for al-Qaeda’s franchise in the Arabian peninsula. While the impetuousness of the Prince is part of the problem, the ruling House of Saud’s historical record with Yemen is comparably disastrous.
The Saudis have used their oil wealth to divide a shifting constellation of actors and tribes, wracked by sectarian and secessionist tensions. Despite the presence of many common tribal links, the Saudis have done little to help the Yemenis build a nation, preferring to finance Wahhabi mosques than modern infrastructure — this, in a country running out of water but awash with guns. [Continue reading…]