Late last Sunday, April 22, the Saudi-led military coalition bombed a wedding party in a small village in northwestern Yemen, killing more than 20 (including the bride). More than 55 others were wounded, 17 of whom were children. Several of the wounded children needed to have limbs amputated.
This was just the latest in a long list of bombings of hospitals, factories, weddings and funerals since the start of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in March of 2015. Yemeni infrastructure is now effectively destroyed, and civilian life in tatters.
For the past three years, a Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with weapons support from the U.S. and Britain, have been bombing Yemen trying to remove the rebel Houthis who are aligned with Iran. In April 2015, however, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan stated: “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen.” Despite that assessment, the conflict is widely considered to be something of a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia (which is Sunni) and Iran (Shiite).
The thousands of Saudi airstrikes have killed more than 10,000 Yemeni civilians, wounded more than 40,000, and left millions internally and externally displaced. More than 60% of the population is at risk of starvation. The Saudis have also imposed a partial blockade on the tiny nation, making it difficult for humanitarian aid to reach the civilian population. The poverty of the country has deepened dramatically, and a cholera epidemic has killed thousands and infected more than half a million. The UN is calling it “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.”
Several member countries of the European Union (including Greece, Finland, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium) have stopped sending arms and have denied arms-related licenses to Saudi and the UAE, citing their inability to guarantee that those munitions would not be used to further the suffering in Yemen. And the new German governing coalition has responded similarly.
But the U.S. and UK continue to provide the Saudis with weapons. On April 24th, the Independent reported that “of 17,000 Saudi-led coalition air strikes, one third have hit non-military targets.” In response to the latest tragedy from the bombings, UK foreign minister Harriet Baldwin said that “we take these reports extremely seriously,” and “our hearts go out to the families of those killed,” but then went on to defend the UK’s ongoing arms trade with Saudi Arabia—worth more than $6 billion since the start of the conflict.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) should require any U.S. military action in the area to target only ISIS and al-Qaeda-related organizations. Far from fighting terrorism in the region, however, the U.S. State Department’s own reports show that the conflict has inflicted unspeakable suffering on civilians, and has also helped ISIS and Al Qaeda to flourish there. This has prompted bi-partisan resolutions in the U.S. Congress to stop support for the Saudi campaign. Although votes in the Congress to stop U.S. support have thus far failed, it was by very slim margins.
Ania Marti (Genova, Italy)