Pentagon and Saudi-GCC airstrikes, ground operations and naval blockades worsen humanitarian crises in region’s most underdeveloped state
United States President Donald Trump paid special tribute to the widow of a Navy Seal, Ryan Owen, who was killed in what many say was a botched military operation in the Yemen highlands village of al-Ghayil in the Bayda province during the first week of his administration.
Calling the slain soldier a hero during his speech to a joint session of Congress, and not mentioning at all the deaths of Yemeni civilians slaughtered by weapons utilized for what many believed was an attempt to assassinate a leader of the Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Sheikh Abdel-Raouf al-Dhahab, the Trump administration signaled its commitment to continuing the genocidal war against this Middle Eastern country.
Contrasting the presence of Owen’s widow at the Trump speech, the father of the Navy Seal, William Owens, strongly disagreed that the raid was a success asking: “Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into [President Trump’s] administration? For two years prior … everything was missiles and drones (in Yemen)….Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?” (NBC News, Feb. 28)
Later White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the purpose of the attack was not to eliminate al-Qaeda leaders. The raid was actually designed to capture electronic equipment held by AQAP in order to gain access to their networks of operatives.
Several days later this same targeted enemy of Washington, al-Dhabab, issued an audio statement mocking the notion that he was murdered during the raid. Even within the Republican-dominated Congress in the U.S., there was sharp criticism of the attack.
Arizona Senator John McCain said the raid was a failure. NBC News noted in an article that others within Congress agreed with McCain’s assessment of the Yemen operation.
According to the report by Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian and Robert Windrem: “The official, and others briefed on the matter who spoke to NBC News, echoed the remarks of Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., that the raid was designed to kill or capture one or more militants — something the military did not initially acknowledge…. In addition to the death of Ryan Owens, six other U.S. service members were wounded. And at least 25 civilians were killed, including nine children under the age of 13, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. One of them was the 8-year-old daughter of U.S.-born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.” (Feb. 28)
Pentagon officials have indicated to media outlets that they do not disagree with the figures on the numbers killed in the operation. In addition, a $70 million U.S. fighter aircraft was destroyed in the clashes. Defense department operatives are saying there are three separate investigations into the raid to determine what actually happened.
Another justification for the war against Yemen is the advances made by the Ansurallah Movement, popularly known as the Houthis. Largely based in the north of the country, the Shiite-based Ansurallah Movement has been targeted for years by Saudi Arabia and its allies. A coalition led by the Ansurallah took the Yemeni capital Sanaa on September 21, 2014 and began to make advances throughout the central and western regions extending to the strategic port city of Aden. Aligned with the Ansurallah are military forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh who resigned from office after mass protests in 2011.
The western corporate media in presenting their approach to the coverage of the situation in Yemen suggests that the Ansurallah are funded and armed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, in an effort to prevent Iran from extending its influence in the Middle East, the Saudi-GCC position is supported by the West.
Even if this was the case, which Tehran has denied, it cannot rise to the level of necessitating the wholesale destruction of societal institutions in the areas of health care, food storage, mass communications, education and the marketplace. Several attempts by the government in Oman and the United Nations to broker a ceasefire between the Ansurallah and the followers of ousted Saudi-based President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is backed by the Saudi-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Coalition, have failed.
The Character of the Yemen War
Since March 2015, the Saudi-GCC Coalition has waged war by air, ground and sea against Yemen. The country is militarily divided between the Ansurallah Movement, which is fighting to remove the Saudi-GCC Coalition and U.S. aggressors along with their allies on the one side, and the forces working in conjunction with the former President Hadi who is being propped-up by Riyadh and Washington, on the opposite.
Other conflicts inside Yemen have been overshadowed due to the outside interference in its internal affairs by imperialist interests. Even the putative role of AQAP is not a critical factor in the overall struggle however it is utilized by Washington to rationalize the ongoing bombing and drone campaigns by the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) along with support for the Saudi-GCC Coalition.
On March 11, the Saudi-GCC Coalition bombed a marketplace in the western Yemeni city of al-Hudayah resulting in the deaths of an estimated 26 people. Many others were injured in an operation which follows a two-year pattern of aerial strikes which aim to maim and kill as many workers, farmers, youth and other non-combatants as possible. This war has dislocated three million Yemenis, killed over 12,000 and left tens of thousands of others suffering from wounds and trauma.
In response to the bombing of al-Hudayah on March 11, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi condemned the escalation of deadly Saudi-GCC bombing missions which hit neighborhoods and commercial districts. Saudi-GCC planes are by and large manufactured in the U.S. which also provides refueling technology and intelligence guidance in the war.
Qassemi emphasized that: “It behooves the United Nations and other international organizations to responsibly address the issue of Yemeni civilians’ carnage through aerial attacks. They should employ all their efforts to immediately stop such attacks and implement the measures required to preserve the health and security of civilians [there], especially women and children.” (Press TV)
Newsreel clips of the impacted area in Hudaydah illustrated the damage which included bodies severely burned and mutilated beyond recognition. The foreign ministry spokesman from Tehran decried the blocking by the U.S.-backed forces of medical supplies, food and other essential items from entering the country.
Humanitarian Crises Worsens Fueling Migration
Consequently, millions of people have been trapped inside Yemen with dwindling food resources, water and medical services. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed on March 10 for the lifting of the blockade and the transport of much needed assistance for the dislocated population. UN officials announced on March 13 that the country faces the possibility of famine if supply channels for essential goods remained blocked.
Reuters news agency on February 28 said of the situation: “Nearly 3.3 million people in Yemen – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished, the U.N. says. They include 460,000 children under age of five with the worst form of malnutrition, who risk dying of pneumonia or diarrhea.”
Just over the last six weeks, more than 62,000 people have been driven from their homes in the central and western regions of the country. As of 2017, the funds needed to address the crises in Yemen have fallen 93 percent short.
UNHCR spokesman William Spindler stressed at a press conference on March 10 held in Geneva that: “A number of those displaced, including many children, have been reported as suffering from malnutrition, while others are distressed and in need of psycho-social assistance. Many of those displaced are in urgent need of food, shelter and medicine and lack adequate water and sanitation facilities. A number of women also reported psychological distress and malnutrition.” (United Nations News Center)
Therefore, this is a deliberate effort on the part of the imperialist states, led by the U.S., to starve and massively kill off the people of Yemen in order to maintain western hegemony. Trump, who some within the U.S. felt would lessen military tensions in the Middle East has done just the opposite. Consequently, the need for a strong anti-imperialist and anti-war position against Washington’s role in the region is needed today more than ever.
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire