The British Foreign Office now admits that Saudi Arabia and its rogue partners are breaching humanitarian laws in Yemen.
Britain’s reversal in its stance only came after a new report by the United Nations found that Saudi forces and their allies fighting in Yemen were responsible for killing more than 500 children.
In a more sensible approach, this admission should be welcome news for the long-suffering people of Yemen. But it should only be so if the British government also does the next best thing: Stop weaponising Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies who are still bombing civilian targets in Yemen in broad violation of International Law and International Humanitarian Law. In this case, evil is not as evil does and evil British thoughts don’t remain just thoughts:
1- It’s no secret that Britain continues to supply arms to Saudi Arabia as well as supporting the regime – whose track record on human rights needs little introduction. Research by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade says the UK has licensed £5.6 billion in sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, and that the Riyadh regime has access to twice as many British-made warplanes as the RAF does.
2- The British government’s involvement in the conflict is more direct than it claims. They are a member of the Saudi-led coalition, British military personnel are directly involved in the operations, personnel are involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations or selecting targets. They are also involved in the Saudi targeting decision making process. British agents are not only training Yemeni spies for US drone strikes, but in addition to a training team in Yemen, British Special Forces are involved in ‘short missions’.
3- Britain is a party to the conflict, making it far from a neutral bystander. As such, part of the blame for the refugees created by the conflict can be placed on the British government. Worse yet, it simultaneously shuts its doors to most of those fleeing the Western-backed war in the poorest country in the Middle East.
4- The Saudi-led airstrikes amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as the illegal offensive has no international legitimacy. The British government makes no secret of its support for ‘Operation Decisive Storm’, nor that it is providing help in terms of intelligence and logistics. This makes them complicit in Saudi war crimes.
5- According to the White House, the US is also coordinating closely with its vassals in the military action. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both argued that the majority of human rights violations and civilian deaths in the conflict have been committed by the Saudi-led coalition, the side receiving support from Britain and US. Meaning, the Americans are also complicit in Saudi war crimes.
6- The US and Britain have turned Yemen into yet another disaster zone, encouraging the fragmentation of the whole country. In the process, they aid and abet the growth of terror outfits. Their support is also a conciliatory gesture towards Riyadh after their nuclear deal with Iran – although it is also entirely consistent with their wider foreign policy, and there is little to mark it as a departure from business as usual.
7- Like the war on Syria, blowback has been inevitable – with disastrous consequences for Riyadh. In the interim, Al-Qaeda has been the big winner. It has taken advantage of the chaos to make inroads into the country, and significantly enrich its terror network after it seized the southeastern port city of Mukalla. As a consequence, Mukalla is to Al-Qaeda what Raqqa is to ISIL: a mini-state now run by a terror organisation.
8- This is not a civil war or a strategic contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional influence. In reality, Iran is not associated with the conflict, and certainly does not ‘mirror’ Saudi Arabia’s direct and primary involvement: Iran actually tried to discourage the Houthis (Ansarullah) from their attempt at a takeover. The rhetoric of a ‘Shiite insurgency’ is an attempt by Riyadh to sectarianise the conflict and control the region – as it did in Bahrain after the 2011 Pearl Revolution.
Caught in this depressing scenario, the Saudis are free to claim their inanity and shortsightedness has the blessing of the US and UK governments. But they are way off the line to assume they can escape the bloody result. Any doubters should ask Turkey.