Going Global: The U.S. is Enabling the Yemen Civil War

A child walks among rubble in Yemen (Flickr)

Yemen is to Saudi Arabia and Iran as Vietnam was to the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in the Cold War. Although there are differences between these conflicts, both saw seemingly endless humanitarian crises with children as prominent victims—all in the name of politics.

Despite years of conflicts, not much has changed for Yemen in the last few years. The western region is still controlled mostly by the Houthis, believed to be supported by Iran and Russia, while the rest of the country is largely controlled by US-supported Hadi forces. Other areas are controlled by the likes of Daesh and al-Qaeda.

Yemen was only reunited in 1990, after existing as “North Yemen” and “South Yemen” for decades. The South was a self-described Marxist state supported by Russia, while North Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire and was a monarchy until 1970. After reunification, there was a civil war in 1994 which lasted only a few months. The current conflict in Yemen has been going on for the past three years.

With the United States selling billions of dollars worth of weapons and providing military support to Saudi Arabia in the form of aircraft refuelling, strikes, and logistics, one needs to examine their role in the violence taking place in Yemen. The U.S. could likely contribute to a ceasefire by pulling its support, but this would also mean giving up a geopolitical ally in the Middle East, leaving holes to be filled by Russia, a country that is even less ashamed of playing both sides.

Whether or not western nations should support Saudi Arabia has been a hotly debated topic for a while now. Germany has withdrawn all weapons sales to the country, but it was never a majority merchant. As for Canada, it looks good when Trudeau criticizes Saudi Arabia out loud for a variety of reasons, but in the end we still sold them a few billion dollars worth of hardware.

There is no shortage of evidence that U.S.-made munitions are being used in the war, and many of them are killing children. Children and other innocent civilians are still in the crossfire, and many countries remain hesitant to accept refugees. The simple-minded will try to handwave the war in Yemen as an example of “conflict inherent to the Middle East” or “religion causing all wars,” but it’s most more depressing than that.

War in Yemen is the symptom of complex socio-political relationships and deeply rooted historical conflicts, but overall, it’s caused by powerful people who don’t want the friend of their enemy as their neighbour.


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