In Yemen, Britain is complicit in the very crimes for which we castigate Assad
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In a region beset by bloody and pointless conflicts, this one is especially disgusting. And yet it has largely escaped our attention, it being in a poorer and smaller and blacker part of the world than Syria, with less of the traditional Cold War appeal.
Sana, YemenI speak of Yemen, which has been engulfed in what is nominally a civil war since early 2015. In fact, and much like Syria, to call it a civil war is to do truth an injustice; it is, rather, a world war in microcosm. Local factions include (but are not limited to) the insurgent Houthi rebels, allies of the corrupt former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, one of the lesser-known ‘victims’ of the Arab Spring; government forces loyal to incumbent President Addrabuh Mansour Hadi; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Islamic State. The Houthi rebels have allied with the forces of the ex-President, and that side allegedly receives support from Iran, and Iran’s allies – principally Eritrea – in North Africa. The government forces are backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which includes Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and others, and that coalition has been lent military, logistical, tactical and financial support by the United States and the United Kingdom. I say that the conflict lacks traditional Cold War appeal, yet in truth it is reminiscent of the worst aspects of that conflict. Whilst Russian influence is subtle and slight when compared to the role it plays in Syria, the Putin regime enjoyed warm relations with Ali Abdullah Saleh, and has been a reliable ally to Iran, often representing its interests on the UN Security Council. It is unwise to put such contrivances down to coincidence, and the support lent by the UK and US to the Saudi-led efforts in support of the incumbent regime complete the homage. Yemen, like so many before it, is being pulled apart by competing imperial interests. That the world is so easily enraged by atrocities and war crimes being committed in Syria is somewhat surreal to those of us who strive to look beyond the headlines, for the people of Yemen can tell many stories of ordeals at least as cruel and vicious as those inflicted upon the people of Idlib. This is not to make the best the enemy of the good; rather, it is a reminder that our hysteria is selective, and that true evil is camera-shy. Some 80% of Yemen’s population are thought to qualify for humanitarian assistance. 17 million people, out of a population of 28 million, are judged by the UN to be one step away from famine, a disaster for which the war is almost certainly the sole cause. As of March this year, the UN’s appeal for relief funding had amassed just £20 million of the estimated £1.6 billion required to redress the crisis. Even if these figures are inflated, as they often are in appeals for charity, it is impossible to underestimate the scale of the disaster; a disaster about which we know little and say nothing.
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