I don’t want to spend too much time elaborating on Yemen’s back story and all the nuances of this conflict. In this article, I chose to focus on the current state of things, how western media has utterly failed to cover the crisis in Yemen properly, and the direct role of the United States.
Yemen was a poor country prior to the current conflict and now Yemen is starving. The people of Yemen are hard pressed to find food, clean drinking water or medical care. Many people– especially children– are dying everyday from malnutrition or preventable illnesses like cholera. The photos I’ve seen coming out of Yemen from people on the ground are so stomach-turning that words can’t even do them justice. Saudi-backed fighters have even been terrorizing doctors and patients inside hospitals forcing doctors to work at gunpoint. Aid agencies including Doctors Without Borders have left the country due to the Saudi regime’s relentless bombing campaign which targets civilian infrastructure including hospitals, funerals, homes, airports, and agricultural areas. Thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced.
Unemployment is rampant and the illiteracy rate is climbing. A fractured society coupled with foreign intervention has resulted in a spike of intolerant Islamic extremism; specifically in the form of ansar al-sharia or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. No one has felt these effects more than Yemen’s female population– specifically young women– who are subject to even higher levels of illiteracy and unemployment than their male counterparts. The poorest country in the middle east is also living under an embargo, asset freeze, and air-blockade which makes it very difficult for aid to enter the country and for civilians to flee.
Like usual, western media has completely failed to cover the conflict properly– if at all. Despite high numbers of civilian casualties, Yemen gets virtually no mainstream media coverage. On one hand, this has given independent media outlets the opportunity to control the narrative before readers can be bombarded with pro-western propaganda. As opposed to what we see happening with Syria right now. When they DO cover Yemen however, Western outlets have tried to portray the situation as though a small group of rebels (the Houthis) have overthrown a legitimate government. Let’s break this down a bit. The Houthis may be called “rebels” but the fact of the matter is that portions of the Yemeni Military are also fighting in support of the new Revolutionary Committee– it’s essentially an anti-imperialist alliance. These forces control most of what used to be North Yemen including the country’s capital city of Sana’a. Forces loyal to president Hadi control what used to be South Yemen. Ironically enough, al-Qaeda controls territory in this same area. There has been talk of dividing Yemen once again, but the working class people of Yemen know that this will just result in a prolonged civil war.
Military alliances aside, most of the Yemeni people do not support what western media calls the “internationally recognized” government; in fact they consider president Hadi and his cabinet to be nothing more than a puppet government for Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the only entities who seem to recognize Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate president are the global capitalist powers. Which are broadly known as the “Saudi-led coalition.” This Includes the United States, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and so on.
The United States has come under fire from several human rights groups for supplying arms to Saudi Arabia; which has directly contributed to the violence, devastation, and deteriorating situation in Yemen at least since the Arab Spring. In fact new documents released via Wikileaks show that the Obama administration was arming and training the Yemeni government prior to the start of the civil war we see today. Indeed, the United States and their imperialist allies are directly to blame. As the Obama administration draws to a close, they have tried to save face a bit by announcing that certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia will be halted. At the same time, however, Washington is upping support for the kingdom in other areas including surveillance and border patrol. But most importantly, they have actually increased military support for other countries involved in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen including Qatar, Morocco, and the UAE. Plus, the UK– another important source of weapons– has made no effort to cut-off supplies to Saudi Arabia. It’s just business as usual.
When Donald Trump won the election, I saw Yemenis rejoicing. They knew a Trump presidency would make life harder for Muslims living in America, or Muslims fleeing war in the middle east. But Trump’s isolationist attitude and unfavorable view of Saudi Arabia gave them at least a glimmer of hope. (As opposed to Clinton who has received donations from the Saudi Royal Family and would most definitely continue military support for the monarchy.) At least with Trump, they thought there was a small chance that the bombs might stop. Unfortunately that won’t happen. The Houthis and their allies have recently established a new government called the Revolutionary Committee or Supreme Political Council in Sana’a. At the very least, the United States considers the Houthis to be a proxy army for Iranian interests. (Despite the fact that no evidence exists to back up the claim that the Houthis are puppets acting on Iran’s behalf.)
For one thing, Donald Trump is adamantly against any cooperation with Iran. But most importantly, Donald Trump can’t slow down global capitalist alliances which have caused this conflict, or the global arms trade. This is beyond one person’s control. As I’ve mentioned above, Yemen is very poor– they have little oil and very little resources. However, Aden is an important port city. Resistance control of Aden could drastically alter global trade routes and the flow of capital. But perhaps most importantly, the US and their allies do not want to lose Yemen to an anti-imperialist government as this could threaten the stability of other western-allied Gulf states such as Bahrain– who was not immune to uprisings during the Arab Spring. In fact, the US and their allies are arguably losing control in the region as a whole: not only was Aleppo recently liberated– but allied forces are on the verge of losing control in Iraq as the Iraqi government has been adding more Shia militias to their ranks. Without western-friendly governments in control of Yemen and Iraq, Saudi Arabia will be nearly surrounded by resistance forces. If anyone thinks the Trump administration is going to let the United States lose control of the Middle East to anti-imperialist forces– backtracking on over half a century of foreign policy– they are either naive or simply haven’t been paying attention very closely.
The Yemeni people echo the same attitudes as that of Syrians: if only foreign powers could stay out of our country, us Yemeni people could work this out on our own. They want foreign fighters out and they want the Saudi-led aggression to stop. They also know the west– specifically the United States– is directly to blame.
Founder and editor of Geopolitics Alert, Randi is an American geopolitical analyst and content strategist. She covers US imperialism with a special focus on Yemen and Lebanon.