Civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the imperialist coalition, go home!

May 2, 2019 | Africa, Asia and Oceania

The intervention of Operation Decisive Storm that, led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain and the United States, attempts to defeat the Yemeni Houthi rebels and to turn the civil war in favor of the pro-imperialist government of al-Hadi, is causing the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world.

Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, located in the south of the Arabian Peninsula on the border of the strategic Bab-El-Mandeb straight that links the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, is a product of the unification of the Arabian Republic of North Yemen and the Popular Republic of South Yemen in 1990.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh was shaken in 2011 by that enormous democratic wave that caused the Arab Spring. Tens of thousands flooded the streets to demand the resignation of the dictator that spent 33 years in power. The protests were brutally repressed, causing over 800 deaths. Despite this, a few months later, Saleh had to resign in favor of his vice president Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, who was ratified in his position in 2012 through an agreement reached under imperialist supervision and an election in which he was the only candidate.

The constitutional reforms made by al-Hadi confronted him with the Houthi minority, a people of the Shia religion, located in the north of Yemen and linked to Iran. The government, on the contrary, is part of the Sunni branch of Islam and has strong relations with Saudi Arabia. This sparked an armed conflict in which Saleh, the displaced governor, joined the Houthi rebellion, contributing his control over a great part of the army.

Slowly, al-Hadi lost control of the situation, and in 2014 his government was overthrown. The Houthi, who supported the rebellion of 2011, were joined by important sectors of the Sunni people who were at odds with the government and took over the capital city, Sana’a. Al-Hadi escaped to Aden in the South, where he tried to form a parallel government.

The Houthi rebels advanced until dominating great areas of the South of the country, adding them to their control over the northern provinces, which forced al-Hadi to exile himself in Saudi Arabia, where he seeks to lead his parallel government, which is the only one that has international recognition.

In the middle of 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the participation of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan and Egypt, and the support of England, the United States and France, launched Operation Decisive Storm, an enormous military deployment destined to quickly finish off the Houthi rebellion.

They failed. The civil war has been going on for five years and these days it seems to be worsening, as shown by the launching of missiles from the Houthi side to Saudi Arabia and the recent meeting in London of secretaries and foreign relations ministers of the United States, Great Britain, Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in which they “condemned” the attacks of Ansarola (the Houthi movement).

The Yemeni civil war is not isolated from the regional conflict. In 2011, Saudi Arabia did not doubt sending a thousand soldiers to Bahrain to suffocate the revolts that the Arab spring caused in that country and save the monarchy. Now that the Houthi rebels control a great part of the Yemeni territory, it reacts to impede its independence and to avoid Iran, which has a strong bond with the rebels, making base in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula. (2)

The imperialist intervention causes the greatest humanitarian disaster of the planet

The coalition led by Saudi Arabia has not broken the Houthi resistance. Although it managed to stop its expansion and avoided the defeat of the government, the result of its actions is a high number of civilian casualties due to the bombings, and a greater number of deaths due to hunger and all kinds of diseases, in a country where the basic health infrastructure has been destroyed. There are now strong tendencies towards national disintegration, with areas controlled by local powers, some territories in which there have been strong formations of Al Qaeda and ISIS, or separatists like the Southern Movement that favors the partition of the country.

The numbers of the humanitarian catastrophe are overwhelming. In a projection for the end of the year, the UN states that “of the estimated 233,000 deaths in Yemen, 102,000 will be related to the fighting and another 131,000 will occur due to malnutrition, cholera and the shortage of medicines resulting from the Saudi blockade. (…) In another shocking statistic, the report of the international organization warns that 140,000 Yemeni children will have been killed since the beginning of the Saudi war in 2015”. (HISPANTV 04/19/2019). Out of its 27 million inhabitants, three quarters live below the poverty line.

The naval blockade and attack by the imperialist coalition on the port of Hodeida, through which most of the trade of a country that imports 80% of its food circulates, has taken the humanitarian crisis to such lengths that international organizations maintain that 8 million people could die of hunger in the short term. This has led to a negotiation between the Houthis and the “government” of al-Hadi, called the “Stockholm Accord” for the exchange of prisoners, to relocate the troops from Hodeida and “easing” the battle of the city of Taiz. Several months after this agreement, it seems to be about to fall apart, with mutual recriminations of violating the ceasefire.

Saudi Arabia and the imperialist intervention, out of Yemen

Mohamed bin Salman, the young king of Saudi Arabia, who ordered the assassination and dismemberment of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey, is responsible, along with the imperialist powers and their local partners, for this humanitarian catastrophe, for the greatest famine in the last 100 years, for cholera having invaded the country with hundreds of thousands of patients, because they blocked, among other things, the entrance of chlorine. They are responsible for massacres of the civilian population with indiscriminate bombings. The support of the United States to Saudi Arabia has never been as unconditional as it is with Trump, who quickly forgot the incident of the dismembered journalist and has just vetoed a congressional resolution demanding him to cut off Yemen’s military support.

As in Syria, the imperialist counter-revolution has not hesitated to use a scorched earth policy when it has not been able to break the resistance of militias and the people. It shows the worst face of decadence and capitalist barbarism that does not think twice before generating a humanitarian catastrophe to satisfy their thirst for profit. From all points of the planet, the defenders of the most basic right to self-determination must demand the immediate withdrawal of the imperialist intervention in Yemen. Let the Yemeni people decide their destiny. Something that can only be achieved by defeating all who want to keep this country prisoner of imperialism.

The Houthis, who profess the Zaidi variant of Shiism, shared by a third of Yemen, became strong in political life by confronting the penetration of salafism, close to the Saudi far right. They lead an anti-imperialist struggle. They deny that they want to impose an imanate while claiming to be democratic and republican. They are looking for a bourgeois democratic republic. They do not want to end the capitalist system and advance to socialism. This raises the need to build, in the midst of resistance to imperial intervention, a revolutionary socialist political alternative, which aims to remove the capitalist bases of the country and rebuild Yemen on socialist bases.

  1. Saleh was later murdered by he Houthies in 2017, accused of preparing a betrayal to join the Saudi side.

Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for control over the region and are associated to different branches of Islam. Sunni Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey ally with the Saudi. The Syrian government, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels of Yemen, associated to the Shia branch, are allied

Gustavo Gimenez