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The Saudi war on Yemen is the real outrage

SAUDI ARABIA might slam a Houthi drone attack on its oil-producing facilities as “terrorist aggression” and find sympathetic echoes in Foreign Office statements from European and Gulf governments.

It can be confident that Western governments will ape its pretence that the drone assault was some kind of unprovoked outrage, just as they have done with previous Houthi missile attacks.

This is nonsense. No particular sympathy with the Houthi cause is required to acknowledge that the drone attack is part of a war — and a war in which the devastation wrought by Saudi Arabia in its bid to crush Yemen’s Houthi movement is the real outrage.

In four years of brutal aerial bombardment, the Saudi-led coalition has launched more than 18,000 bombing raids over Yemen.

Its war was estimated by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project to have killed 56,000 Yemenis between January 2016 and October 2018, a number that will be far higher a year on.

The United Nations announced last December that Yemen would face the worst humanitarian emergency on Earth in 2019 as a result of the Saudi war and blockade, with 24 million people or 74 per cent of the entire population in need of humanitarian assistance.

Bombing raids have targeted hospitals and blown up infrastructure including water treatment and sanitation facilities and supply pipes. The cholera outbreak that has infected well over a million Yemenis in the last three years and killed well over 2,500, around 60 per cent of whom were children, is described by the executive directors of Unicef and the World Health Organisation as “the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict. 

“Collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread. 

“Rising rates of malnutrition have weakened children’s health and made them more vulnerable to disease.”

The military results of this horrendous onslaught have been negligible. Saudi forces have not displaced the Houthi movement from any significant territory. Yet the conflict continues, Riyadh’s deep pockets ensuring it can continue to drop bombs on its victims indefinitely.

Some of the standout massacres of the conflict — such as the bombing of a warehouse in a residential area in May that killed 15 children according to Human Rights Watch, or the bomb dropped on a schoolbus on August 9 2018 that put an end to the lives of 40 six-to-11-year-olds on a school trip and the 11 adults accompanying them — have led to brief international condemnation of Saudi Arabia. 

The discovery that the bomb that killed the schoolchildren had been sold to the Saudis by the United States, combined with the backlash to the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, almost certainly on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, led the US Senate to pass a resolution against any further role in the conflict.

It shames Britain’s government that, like that of France, it continues not only to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in these killing fields but provides Riyadh with active logistical and targeting support.

So far, few countries have echoed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unsubstantiated claim that the Houthi drone strike on Saudi Arabia was actually the work of Iran, though Boris Johnson’s record of fawning on the Donald Trump administration means we must be ready to resist any push to exploit this incident to ignite the new Middle East conflagration Washington seems so set on.

Our immediate priority is more urgent still: to demand a complete halt to British support for this murderous war and an end to all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and to build a peace movement strong enough to deliver on those demands.

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