War in Yemen, Partly Supported by US, a Humanitarian Crisis


Composite image by the author.

Riley Landowski, Political Animal

The U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have resulted in extensive strikes on civilians in Yemen by coalition forces. A total of 20,000 civilians have been killed according to Amnesty International.

 Should the US stop approving arms sales to Saudi Arabia to prevent continued strikes on civilian structures? Or should the US stand by its ally and continue to approve the sales of these arms? The US has already been questioned for its part, and war crimes have been proposed to the US; the US instead gave Saudi Arabia a “No Strike List” to help curb the growing civilian casualties.

From then Saudi Arabia has repeatedly ignored the list and continues to strike civilian centers, much to the dismay of international observers.

After the Arab Spring in 2011, where many Arab dictators were thrown out of power. The then president / dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, stepped down from power and handed it over to his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Hadi then took control but failed to improve Yemen’s economic and food problems and coup rose up against him to reinstall Ali Abdullah Saleh, heavily supplied by Iran (another Shia Muslim country).  Two factions are fighting as of now. The Houthi faction, backed by its Shia Muslim supporter Iran; and the Yemeni government, backed by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the United States.

The US is (still) approving the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia which are then being used in strikes against Houthi-held territory by the Saudis. This has caused mass civilian casualties as well as the bombing of a major port, preventing humanitarian aid (like food and medicine) from reaching those affected by the war. 

According to Mercy Corps, 17 million people are in desperate need of food. Since march of 2015 Saudi Arabia and the UAE have conducted numerous indiscriminate airstrikes on civilian centers and structures; breaking the laws of war according to Human Rights Watch. 

US perspective –

The most recent sales between Saudi Arabia and the US consisted of $110 billion immediately and $35 billion a year for the next ten years (1). This to anyone is a large sum of money, and a great incentive to further business with Saudi Arabia. With this transaction the US has no clear sign of stopping the supply of the Saudi Arabian Military, for a good reason, a large amount of money. However, because of this the US has been questioned for its role in the atrocities being committed in Yemen. The US has not been directly charged with a war crime, as the US is not directly associated with the crimes; stretching some definitions the US can be charged with “devastation not justified by military necessity”

Saudi Arabia’s perspective –

Saudi Arabia has a very high interest in Yemen as it’s one of its next door neighbors. However the geopolitics go further than that. Iran is currently attempting to become the dominant power in the middle east, a spot currently held by Saudi Arabia. For years Saudi Arabia and Iran have been each other’s antagonist. With the civil war in Yemen a new front in this conflict has been open to Saudi Arabia. The Houthi fighters are a majority Shia Muslims, because of this the Shia Islamic state of Iran is invested in a Houthi success and government being established, so Iran may have a direct border with Saudi Arabia and give Iran more power in the region. Saudi Arabia is inclined to prevent Iran from gaining such a strategic location and is currently backing the internationally recognized government of Yemen in fighting the Houthi through strategic airstrikes.

Yemen’s perspective

Before the outbreak of war in 2015, Yemen was still a struggling nation. Being the poorest middle eastern country according to the worldbank.org.  During the Arab spring in 2011 like most other countries Yemenis demanded change. But with the failed transition of power; due to continued economic failures and famine, a coup was attempted.

On top of the war, Yemenis are facing more famine and a failing economy, and with the north of the country; that controlled by the Houthis, they fail to manage sewage and garbage according to a short documentary by Al Jazeera. This has led to an increase in diseases in the northern part of Yemen. As of time of that documentary, ⅔ of Yemenis don’t have access to clean water. Today, little ground has been gained by either side, and both show no sign of stopping anytime soon.