Saudi Arabia Wants Out of Yemeni War, Fears Int’l Backlash

By Staff, Reuters

A military drawdown by the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Saudi Arabia in Yemen is building momentum for a nationwide truce this year, bolstering efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to end a war that has tarnished the image of US-allied Gulf states.

Two diplomatic sources said talks could start by autumn on expanding a UN-led truce already in place in the port city of Hudaydah to a broad ceasefire.

This could pave the way for negotiations on a political framework to end the war, they said.

The UAE has concluded that the four-year-old war cannot be won militarily while it is under close scrutiny by the West, a conviction shared by Riyadh, according to two diplomats and a regional source familiar with the situation.

There is now “real momentum” for a cessation of hostilities by December, a source in the region familiar with the matter said, though “a million things could still go wrong”.

“They [the UAE] don’t want to keep getting beaten up over a war they can’t win,” said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The war has been in a military stalemate for years. The Saudi-led coalition has air supremacy but has been criticized for attacks that have martyred thousands of civilians.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

In a similar notion, a Gulf official said, “The Saudis are on the same page [as the UAE]. They want to see an end [to the war], but they are understandably concerned about every attack on them”.

Abu Dhabi said its decision to remove troops and hardware deployed for an offensive last year on Hudaydah was taken more than a year ago in coordination with Riyadh.

Regional analysts said any fresh talks would require Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Ansarullah revolutionaries to reduce mutual tension after recent operations on Saudi oil installations.

Meanwhile, Western criticism of the Yemen war has also intensified, impacting strategic ties and arms deals, several diplomats said.

US lawmakers are pushing through legislation to curb arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, although US President Donald Trump has said he will veto the moves.

Some countries including Germany and Sweden have restricted arms sales to coalition members over the war, which has spawned an urgent humanitarian crisis in the long-impoverished country where more than three-quarters of the population need aid.

“This is the beginning of the end of the Saudi-led coalition phase in Yemen,” the first diplomat said.


New Drone Attack Knocks Airport In Southern Saudi Arabia Out Of Service

New Drone Attack Knocks Airport In Southern Saudi Arabia Out Of Service

Illustrative image, source: the Houthis media wing

A new drone attack by the Houthis has knocked Abha International Airport in southern Saudi Arabia out of service, Brig. Gen. Yahya Sari, a spokesman for the Houthis, claimed in a statement release in the late hours of July 25.

According to the spokesman, several Qasef-2K suicide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) targeted warplanes’ shelters and other military targets in the airport in response to recent Saudi airstrikes on Yemen.

“Our operations will continue as long as the aggression and the siege are ongoing … We repeat our calls to the civilians and companies to stay away from airports and military sites as they have become legitimate targets for us,” Brig. Gen. Sari said in the statement.

The Saudi-led coalition has not commented on the Houthis’ claims, so far. However, several Arabian outlets confirmed that Abha International Airport was placed out of service as a result of the drone attack.

This was the second drone attack by the Houthis in the last 24 hours. The first attack targeted King Khalid airbase in the southern Saudi province of ‘Asir. The Saudi-led coalition claimed that the attack was a failure.

Since last June, the Houthis have stepped up their attacks on key targets in southern Arabia. Drones, ballistic missiles and even cruise missiles were successfully used by the Yemeni group.

Related Videos

Related News


Houthi forces seize important city in southern Yemen as they make new push towards coast

BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:00 A.M.) – The Houthi forces scored an imperative advance this week when their troops captured the provincial capital of Dhale in southern Yemen.

Backed by heavy artillery and missiles, the Houthi forces were able to expel the UAE-backed troops in Qatbah city on Friday, putting an end to their reign over the provincial capital in Dhale.

Following the capture of Qatbah, the Houthi forces pushed their way south to the town of  Sabah, where they are now involved in a fierce battle with the UAE-backed troops.

The Houthi forces are making a new push towards the southern coast of Yemen in a bid to alleviate the pressure on their troops in the northern part of the country.

With the ongoing ceasefire in the coastal city of Hodeidah, the war in Yemen has shifted to the northern and southern parts of the country.

Related Videos

Related News

Ansarullah Leader Threatens to Attack Saudi Arabia, UAE in case of Escalation in Yemen’s Hudaydah

By Staff

The Leader of Ansarullah revolutionary movement Sayyed Abdul Malik Al-Houthi stressed that the Saudi regime has failed in its deadly campaign against Yemen to achieve its objectives despite enjoying support provided by Washington and other allies. 

Delivering a speech on the fourth anniversary of the Yemeni nation’s resistance against Riyadh’s aggression, Al-Houthi said Saudi Arabia’s “unprecedented oppression” aimed to divide the Yemeni people and control them in order to serve the aggressors’ interests.

“The campaign is also aimed at occupying Yemen and looting it oil resources,” he said.

The Ansarullah leader said it was a religious and national duty to keep confronting Saudi Arabia’s agressive behavior.

He also condemned the stance of traitors and those irresponsible people who act in support of Riyadh.

Referring to Yemen’s former President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Al-Houthi said no one has the right to sell his country and to waste the blood of his people.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he said, are facing economic challenges due to the campaign against Yemen. Houthi did not elaborate on the matter.

“We warn of any military escalation in Hudaydah. The response will extend to the depth of the countries’ capital cities involved in the escalation,” Al-Houthi warned in his speech aired through television and radio stations.

In parallel, he stated: “We are coming into the fifth year of resisting the foreign military aggression with a much more developed long-range ballistic missile arsenal.”

“Enemy seeks to fail the Sweden Agreement to occupy our land … but we will fight until the end,” the leader added.

Al-Houthi called on his supporters to mass on Tuesday at the largest square in the capital Sanaa to celebrate their steadfastness over the past four years of war.

Related Videos

Related News



Yemeni Surprises That Exhausted the Forces of Aggression

Ismail Al-Maharqi

As 2018 draws to a close and Yemen is set to usher in a new year, the invaders’ dreams of seizing the capital Sana’a have not come true. The illusion of occupying the city of Hodeida and its main ports has faded. They have failed despite their preparations as well as the equipment and fighters funneled in by their international and regional backers in the hope of a battlefield resolution that would result in significant changes on the map of control and geopolitical influence in favor of the regional American project.

Defiance Along The West Coast And Desperation Along The Rest of the Battlefronts

Following the failure to topple the government in the capital Sana’a from within after the unsuccessful December sedition and the subsequent demise of the leader of treachery and treason, former President Ali Saleh, in late 2017, the UAE quickly rearranged its cards and opened camps in Aden to receive and regroup its mercenaries led by Tariq Saleh. The militias were unleashed to carry on with their military operations against Hodeida – this time with the participation of all of its armed formations.

With the exception of some incursions along the coastline, all military attacks against Hodeida and the outskirts of the city failed, inflicting unprecedented losses on the enemy’s ranks. Estimates put the number of armored vehicles and machineries destroyed or damaged in the hundreds while thousands of attackers were killed and wounded.

Even though the invaders showed resilience and achieved gains on the battlefield along the coast, the results were counterproductive. This prompted Washington to utilize the deteriorating humanitarian situation to its benefit. And so where they failed militarily, they turned to politics.

Along the other fronts, the winds did not blow as the Saudis had hoped. Along the Saudi border, thousands of mercenaries and Sudanese soldiers were overwhelmed with heavy losses, as was the case along Yemen’s frontlines.

The army and the popular committees reinforced their presence there by restoring strategic areas in Sirwah Marib, Jawf, Nehm, Taiz and Lahij. They also maintained their near-complete control over al-Bayda despite a series of military campaigns to capture it.

The Year of Ballistic Missiles

The first days of 2018 showed the extent of frustration within the aggression’s camp. It committed more war crimes, including genocide, in more than one Yemeni province. The alliance of aggression was not counting on the surprises the other side was planning.

By separating the rocketry force from the new locally-made ballistic missiles system, the list of targets inside Saudi Arabia expanded.

The number of attacks against the Kingdom’s southern border increased. Short-range ballistic missiles, including Badr-1 and Qaher 2M missiles as well as other systems were used. The missiles targeted economic and military zones such as oil refineries, airports and military bases.

This confirmed martyr Saleh Sammad’s equation that the fourth year of aggression will be a year of ballistic missiles par excellence, no matter how many defensive systems the enemy mobilizes to limit it.

Tactical Transformation in Launching the Ballistic Missiles

Through steady development of its capabilities, the missile force made a tactical transformation – whether in terms of doubling its momentum and revealing underground platforms for launching or in terms of announcing the possession of smart missile technology as well as the announcement that the Yemeni missiles reached the capital Riyadh and bombed King Khaled Airport again in February. Instead of launching individual missiles, it launched rockets in batches.

As the aggression entered its fourth year, the missile force also initiated a new phase by launching attacks against the Saudi Defense Ministry and other economic targets using Burkan-2H missiles. The attacks were repeated on more than one occasion throughout the year. They targeted military bases, vital installations as well as mercenaries’ camps and command and control centers inside Yemen and along its west coast. The strikes were also concentrated on Riyadh, Jeddah, Yanbu, Najran, Asir, and Jizan.

Yemen Has Its Own Military Capabilities That Broke the Siege

Defying the siege, which was imposed by the coalition to force the Yemeni people into submission and surrender, the military manufacturing unit at the Ministry of Defense intensified its efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and to provide the fighters along the battlefronts with sufficient quantities of ammunition and cannons. The unit revealed the country’s capabilities in manufacturing missiles of various kinds, including a 120-caliber mortar called “Rojoum” as well as mortar and artillery shells, at the end of last April in the presence of President Saleh al-Sammad – days before his martyrdom.

This affirmed a declaration by the leader of the revolution Abdulmalik Badreddin al-Houthi about drawing strategic war equations. He stressed that Yemen is capable of military industrialization with purely Yemeni expertise. The Houthi leader vowed to produce large quantities of projectiles, enabling rocket attacks to cover wider areas in the Kingdom.

Air Force And Air Defense Are Actively Participating

The year 2018 also saw the Air Force and Air Defense announce the introduction of a surface-to-air missile system, which was locally developed using national expertise. The announcement came after a Tornado drone was shot down in Saada and an F15 fighter jet in Sana’a. The coalition considered the announcement a dangerous development since simultaneous strikes hit modern warplanes, a Chinese-made fighter jet with no pilot and a large number of different kinds of reconnaissance drones. Saudi and Emirati F16 planes were also forced to leave Yemeni airspace several times.

Drones Consolidate A Strategic Deterrence Formula

Parallel to the ballistic missiles and their achievements on the battlefield, the drone air force has also proved its effectiveness in 2018 with unparalleled success in striking targets and vital installations inside and outside Yemen. Drones revealed Yemen’s military production capabilities and strength factors despite the land, sea and areal siege.

More than one qualitative operation was carried out by UAVs across battlefields inside Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The Qassif-1 drone attacks from a distance of no more than 150 kilometers. During the first half of 2018, the Qassif-1 attacked the Emirates’ Patriot PAC-3 system in Mukha. In February, the drone along with the rocketry force targeted the invaders’ command and control center in Marib. A series of operations targeting Saudi airports and installations in Jizan and Asir and often the camps along the west coast and frontlines inside Yemen followed.

Sammad 3 Drone Penetrates Emirati Airspace and Changes the Balance of Power

The second and third generation drones – named after martyr al-Sammad – were first used on the frontline on July 18. They were more effective and were able to travel longer distances as promised by Sayyed Abdulmalik Badreddin al-Houthi, the leader of the revolution. The drone covered more than a thousand kilometers and penetrated the US monitoring and sensing systems. The Sammad 2 drone bombed the Aramco refinery in Riyadh.

In August, the drone air force had the UAE in its crosshairs. One of its first missions was targeting the Abu Dhabi airport using a Sammad 3 drone. The escalation was both sudden and shocking for the Emiratis due to the impact on their economic security.

The drone air force reinforced its presence in the strategic deterrence formula by bombing Dubai airport – one of the world’s largest airports – at the end of August. The Emirati regime was forced to deny the attack and release misleading information.

When the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi sought new defensive means to curb these attacks and their aftermath, the drone air force targeted Dubai airport once again at the end of September. All vital Saudi and UAE bases and facilities were thus placed on the target list of the drones and before that the ballistic missiles.

The Surprises of the Naval Force

In recent years, coordination between the army and the popular committees in reinforcing the factors of strength and limiting the enemy’s options and abilities as well as its air and sea superiority has been successful.

The naval forces and the coastal defense played a pivotal role in terminating military campaigns and landing attempts to capture Yemen’s west coast. They carried out qualitative operations that at times paralyzed the enemy and at other times forced it to change its plans and priorities.

A few days after the United Arab Emirates declared the start of the US/UK-backed military campaign that involved the French and was aimed at occupying the city of Hodeida as well as other Yemeni ports starting from Mukha, the naval force foiled a landing attempt. On June 3 and days before foiling a landing attempt using sophisticated boats along the west coast, the force targeted a warship with two missiles.

From the sea, the naval force launched an offensive on a concentration of invaders and occupiers in the port of Mukha in July. Their equipment was bombed at the dock. Also in July, Saudi Arabia’s Dammam battleship was targeted off the west coast by a missile. The attack shocked the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia was surprised by a special naval operation near the port of Jizan that resulted in the striking of a military target and the killing and wounding of Saudi soldiers.

The operation was followed by the targeting of a Saudi warship off the coast of Jizan in early September.

The operations of the naval force and attempts by the Saudi regime to involve international forces in the coastal war by announcing the suspension of oil exports under the pretext of protecting maritime navigation, summarizes the coalition’s failure over nearly four years.

The Sweden Consultations End a Year of Surprises and Pave the Way for a New International Resolution

2018 did not end according to the calculations and plans of the Saudi-led coalition.  Following its failure to run southern Yemen and occupy its north, the coalition’s international backers were forced to search for practical solutions to rescue it from the Yemeni quagmire, especially after it has brought the country to the brink of famine and caused the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

In Sweden, under the auspices of the United Nations, the national delegation from Sana’a reached a humanitarian agreement with the Riyadh delegation to immediately cease-fire in Hodeida and its port, followed by a withdrawal of the invaders and mercenaries from the south of the city. In exchange, the army and the popular committees put away their arms inside Hodeida. Meanwhile, the current authorities will take over all the administrative and security responsibilities. The United Nations will supervise the port’s revenues, including those from oil and gas while revenues from ports under the control of the Hadi regime will also be supervised. The revenues will contribute to alleviating the suffering of the people and be used to for salaries.

Bypassing the Security Council resolution 2216, which secured political cover for the forces of aggression, the Council voted on a new draft resolution. The new draft supports the Sweden consultations and paves the way for a comprehensive political solution, provided there are sincere intentions and the UN observer team remains neutral in overseeing this agreement away from Saudi and Emirati pressures and dictations.

Member of the Sana’a negotiating delegation, Abd al-Malik al-Ajri, described the resolution 2451 as “progressive compared to previous positions”. He said it was “an implicit violation of the content of resolution 2216.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Ansarullah movement and the head of the national negotiating team, Mohamed Abdel Salam, views the resolution as a positive and important step towards stopping the aggression, lifting the siege and paving the way towards a comprehensive political solution.

Source: Al-Ahed News – Yemen

Related Videos

Related Articles

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 16.11.2018 |

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

At first glance, it may seem like a positive move. The Trump administration and London are both putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to implement a ceasefire in Yemen’s atrocious war. Washington and London are also calling for warring sides to enter into peace negotiations within a month.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, as Houthi rebels who took over Yemen at the end of 2014 are saying, the country has been under aggression for the past three years from a Saudi-led coalition supported militarily by the US, Britain and France. The unrelenting war on the poorest country in the Middle East has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades, with over half of the population – some 14 million people – at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

Therefore, the appropriate legal and moral course of action now is not merely a ceasefire or talks. It is for the Western-backed Saudi, Emirati coalition to immediately halt its criminal aggression against Yemen. In short, stop the foreign interference in Yemen’s sovereign affairs.

US Secretary of State James Mattis and Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt appear to be impelled by humanitarian concern for the massive human suffering in Yemen with their recent calls for cessation of hostilities.

But a more nuanced reading of their exhortations suggest that the real concern is to burnish the blood-soaked image of the Saudi coalition that their governments support, and, secondly, to inveigle the Houthis into a negotiations framework that will result in undue foreign influence over Yemen’s politics.

Last week, Washington announced that it was suspending mid-air refueling flights for Saudi and Emirati warplanes that have been pounding Yemen since March 2015, which has resulted in a horrendous death toll among civilians. The indiscriminate killing of the Saudis and Emirati air strikes has been amply documented, albeit downplayed by Western media. The latter keep repeating a figure of 10,000 dead in Yemen – a figure which has bizarrely remained unchanged for at least the past two years. The real death toll from air strikes is unknown but likely to be near 50,000.

American, British and French military support for the murderous operations in Yemen should have stopped months, even years ago, if official humanitarian concerns were genuine.

The question is: why the sudden effort by Washington and London, as well as Paris, to call for a ceasefire and follow-on political talks?

One factor, no doubt, is the barbaric murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by assassins linked to the House of Saud. Turkish authorities believe that Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, his body hacked to pieces and dissolved in industrial-strength acid. Audiotapes obtained by the Turkish authorities have implicated the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder plot against the dissident journalist.

The gruesome details of Khashoggi’s killing and the blatant lies that the Saudi rulers have issued to cover up their barbarity have heaped immense pressure on Washington, London and Paris over their close ties with the House of Saud. Public outrage has demanded that sanctions be imposed on Riyadh, such as cancelling multi-billion-dollar arms deals.

It seems significant that the acute disgrace over the appalling Khashoggi affair and the association of the US, British and French governments with such a despotic Saudi regime has in turn prompted these Western powers to mount a damage-limitation exercise in public relations.

This is where the Yemen war provides an opportunity for the Western powers and their Saudi clients to salvage their tarnished public image.

By pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, Washington, London and Paris can claim to be “getting tough” with the Saudis for the sake of alleviating “humanitarian suffering”. By appearing to respond to the Western calls for a ceasefire, the Saudis can then also claim they are relenting out of humane concern.

However, such pleas have not stopped Saudi and Emirati-backed militia on the ground besieging the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea, for which 80-90 per cent of the entire population in the country rely on for food and other vital supplies. In other words, the Western-backed Saudi coalition is using starvation tactics to bring the Houthi rebels and the wider Yemeni population to their knees. That is a monstrous war crime.

What Mattis is calling for in terms of ceasefire is for all heavy weapons in Yemen to be put under the control of United Nations peacekeepers. Washington is also demanding that the Houthis rebels withdraw from the country’s border with Saudi Arabia, from where the rebels have mounted missile attacks which have gravely harassed the Saudis, including in the capital Riyadh. The Houthis have struck Saudi territory in response to the air strikes.

So, what the Americans, British and French are striving for is, firstly, a respite from the sordid publicity over the Khashoggi killing. If the “humanitarian appeal” over Yemen succeeds to placate Western public outrage, then these governments will be able to continue business-as-usual selling the Saudi regime lucrative weapons contracts.

Secondly, by drawing the Houthi rebels into “peace negotiations” that will also burnish the Western and Saudi public image, as well as – equally importantly – forcing the rebels into accepting a compromise on their revolutionary government. By entering negotiations with the Saudi-backed remnants of the exiled Yemeni leader Mansour Hadi, the Houthis will inevitably have to accept making concessions and allowing an accommodation with the ousted, discredited regime.

Mansour Hadi, who has been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since the Houthis seized power, was reviled by most Yemenis for his corruption and being a puppet of the Saudis and Americans. His exiled clique is routinely and mendaciously referred to by Western media as the “internationally recognized government of Yemen”.

When he fled the country in ignominy in early 2015, the Houthi rebels had succeeded in spearheading a popular revolt. The rebels profess a branch of Shia Islam, but there was every indication that they had a relatively democratic program for pluralist governance.

The Saudi and American sponsors of the ousted Mansour Hadi reacted to the overthrow of their puppet by launching an air war on Yemen in late March 2015 – a war which has continued unremittingly ever since, with Britain and France also joining the profitable slaughter by suppling warplanes and missiles.

Another lie told by Western media is that the rebels are proxies of Iran, a lie which is used to “justify” the Western-backed criminal war against the country. Iran supports the Houthis diplomatically, but there is no evidence of arms supplies. Even if there was, so what? That wouldn’t justify aerial bombardment of the country and its people.

The devastation inflicted on Yemen and its people has largely been ignored by Western news media. Despite the lack of coverage, the Western public have nevertheless become aware of the horror and their governments’ complicity. Harrowing images of skeletal children dying from starvation and lack of basic medicines have shamed Washington, London and Paris into taking some action, however despicably inadequate and long overdue.

The recent impetus for a ceasefire and talks in Yemen coming from the US and its Western allies is not due to humanitarianism. It’s a cynical PR exercise to whitewash bloodied images – both theirs and that of their Saudi client regime. The Yemen war has been shown to be a sickening charnel house in a futile bid for Western regime change against the Houthi revolution. By forcing the Houthis into negotiations, the Western powers hope to achieve their regime change objective by another tactic – and gain PR capital at the same time.

If Washington, London and Paris were really serious about ending the suffering in Yemen, they would simply demand that the aggression stops immediately, so that the Yemenis are allowed to determine their own political future without foreign interference. But the Western powers will not do that because their interference in Yemen, along with the Saudis, is the very reason why this criminal war of aggression started and grinds on.


On November 3, the Saudi-UAE-led coalition kicked off a new large-scale military operation to capture the port city of al-Hudaydah from the Houthis and their allies. Prior to that the coalition had concentrated several tens of thousands of troops and a few thousands of various military equipment on frontlines near the city.

Additionally, coalition warplanes started a massive bombing campaign pounding Houthi positions as well as the city’s infrastructure.

Using their advantage in manpower, military equipment and firepower, coalition forces had reached the eastern, western and southern entrances of al-Hudaydah by November 8. However, coalition-led troops were not able to capture the al-Hudaydah airport, which remains a key strongpoint fr the Houthis.

According to Sky News Arabia, over 70 Houthi fighters and commanders have been killed since the start of the offensive. Pro-Houthi sources say that about 200 coalition fighters were killed and up to 300 were injured during the same period. Additionally, the Houthis reportedly destroyed up to 20 vehicles.

It’s interesting to note that Brigadier General Yahya Sari, a spokesman of the Yemeni Armed Forces, which are allied with the Houthis, stated that the coalition advance to capture al-Hudaydah had been repelled. However, this is a kind of wishful thinking given the current situation.

The coalition front east of the city is overstretched and vulnerable to attacks. Nonetheless, al-Hudaydah is at least partly encircled and while coalition forces maintain their positions east and southwest of the city, they pose a significant threat to the Houthis and can develop their advance further.

If the coalition were to capture al-Hudaydah, it would be the first major coalition success since the start of the year. The port city is a key logistical hub allowing the government to supply the Houthi-controlled area with food and medicine as well as other supplies.


Related Videos

Related Articles

The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War on Yemen

The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War on Yemen

Declan Walsh

Chest heaving and eyes fluttering, the 3-year-old boy lay silently on a hospital bed in the highland town of Hajjah, a bag of bones fighting for breath.

His father, Ali al-Hajaji, stood anxiously over him. Mr. Hajaji had already lost one son three weeks earlier to the epidemic of hunger sweeping across Yemen. Now he feared that a second was slipping away.

It wasn’t for a lack of food in the area: The stores outside the hospital gate were filled with goods and the markets were bustling. But Mr. Hajaji couldn’t afford any of it because prices were rising too fast.

“I can barely buy a piece of stale bread,” he said. “That’s why my children are dying before my eyes.”

The devastating war in Yemen has gotten more attention recently as outrage over the killing of a Saudi dissident in Istanbul has turned a spotlight on Saudi actions elsewhere. The harshest criticism of the Saudi-led war has focused on the airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians at weddings, funerals and on school buses, aided by American-supplied bombs and intelligence.

But aid experts and United Nations officials say a more insidious form of warfare is also being waged in Yemen, an economic war that is exacting a far greater toll on civilians and now risks tipping the country into a famine of catastrophic proportions.

Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi-led coalition and its Yemeni allies have imposed a raft of punitive economic measures aimed at undercutting the Ansarullah revolutionaries. But these actions — including periodic blockades, stringent import restrictions and withholding the salaries of about a million civil servants — have landed on the backs of civilians, laying the economy to waste and driving millions deeper into poverty.

Those measures have inflicted a slow-burn toll: infrastructure destroyed, jobs lost, a weakening currency and soaring prices. But in recent weeks the economic collapse has gathered pace at alarming speed, causing top United Nations officials to revise their predictions of famine.

“There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great, big famine engulfing Yemen,” Mark Lowcock, the undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council on Tuesday. Eight million Yemenis already depend on emergency food aid to survive, he said, a figure that could soon rise to 14 million, or half Yemen’s population.

“People think famine is just a lack of food,” said Alex de Waal, author of “Mass Starvation” which analyzes recent man-made famines. “But in Yemen it’s about a war on the economy.”

The signs are everywhere, cutting across boundaries of class, tribe and region. Unpaid university professors issue desperate appeals for help on social media. Doctors and teachers are forced to sell their gold, land or cars to feed their families. On the streets of the capital, Sana, an elderly woman begs for alms with a loudspeaker.

“Help me,” the woman, Zahra Bajali, calls out. “I have a sick husband. I have a house for rent. Help.”

And in the hushed hunger wards, ailing infants hover between life and death. Of nearly two million malnourished children in Yemen, 400,000 are considered critically ill — a figure projected to rise by one quarter in the coming months.

“We are being crushed,” said Dr. Mekkia Mahdi at the health clinic in Aslam, an impoverished northwestern town that has been swamped with refugees fleeing the fighting in Hudaydah, an embattled port city 90 miles to the south.

Flitting between the beds at her spartan clinic, she cajoled mothers, dispensed orders to medics and spoon-fed milk to sickly infants. For some it was too late: the night before, an 11-month old boy had died. He weighed five and a half pounds.

Looking around her, Dr. Mahdi could not fathom the Western obsession with the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

“We’re surprised the Khashoggi case is getting so much attention while millions of Yemeni children are suffering,” she said. “Nobody gives a damn about them.”

She tugged on the flaccid skin of a drowsy 7-year-old girl with stick-like arms. “Look,” she said. “No meat. Only bones.”

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington did not respond to questions about the country’s policies in Yemen. But Saudi officials have defended their actions, citing rockets fired across their border by the Ansarullah…

The Saudis point out that they, along with the United Arab Emirates, are among the most “generous donors” to Yemen’s humanitarian relief effort. Last spring, the two allies pledged $1 billion in aid to Yemen. In January, Saudi Arabia deposited $2 billion in Yemen’s central bank to prop up its currency.

But those efforts have been overshadowed by the coalition’s attacks on Yemen’s economy, including the denial of salaries to civil servants, a partial blockade that has driven up food prices, and the printing of vast amounts of bank notes, which caused the currency to plunge.

And the offensive to capture Hudaydah, which started in June, has endangered the main lifeline for imports to northern Yemen, displaced 570,000 people and edged many more closer to starvation.

A famine here, Mr. Lowcock warned, would be “much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.”

When Ali Hajaji’s son fell ill with diarrhea and vomiting, the desperate father turned to extreme measures. Following the advice of village elders, he pushed the red-hot tip of a burning stick into Shaher’s chest, a folk remedy to drain the “black blood” from his son.

“People said burn him in the body and it will be OK,” Mr. Hajaji said. “When you have no money, and your son is sick, you’ll believe anything.”

The burns were a mark of the rudimentary nature of life in Juberia, a cluster of mud-walled houses perched on a rocky ridge. To reach it, you cross a landscape of sandy pastures, camels and beehives, strewn with giant, rust-colored boulders, where women in black cloaks and yellow straw boaters toil in the fields.

In the past, the men of the village worked as migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia, whose border is 80 miles away. They were often treated with disdain by their wealthy Saudi employers but they earned a wage. Mr. Hajaji worked on a suburban construction site in Mecca, the holy city visited by millions of Muslim pilgrims every year.

When the war broke out in 2015, the border closed.

The fighting never reached Juberia, but it still took a toll there.

Last year a young woman died of cholera, part of an epidemic that infected 1.1 million Yemenis. In April, a coalition airstrike hit a wedding party in the district, killing 33 people, including the bride. A local boy who went to fight for the Houthis was killed in an airstrike.

But for Mr. Hajaji, who had five sons under age 7, the deadliest blow was economic.

He watched in dismay as the riyal lost half its value in the past year, causing prices to soar. Suddenly, groceries cost twice as much as they had before the war. Other villagers sold their assets, such as camels or land, to get money for food.

But Mr. Hajaji, whose family lived in a one-room, mud-walled hut, had nothing to sell.

At first he relied on the generosity of neighbors. Then he pared back the family diet, until it consisted only of bread, tea and halas, a vine leaf that had always been a source of food but now occupied a central place in every meal.

Soon his first son to fall ill, Shaadi, was vomiting and had diarrhea, classic symptoms of malnutrition. Mr. Hajaji wanted to take the ailing 4-year-old to the hospital, but that was out of the question: fuel prices had risen by 50 percent over the previous year.

One morning in late September, Mr. Hajaji walked into his house to find Shaadi silent and immobile, with a yellow tinge to his skin. “I knew he was gone,” he said. He kissed his son on the forehead, bundled him up in his arms, and walked along a winding hill path to the village mosque.

That evening, after prayers, the village gathered to bury Shaadi. His grave, marked by a single broken rock, stood under a grove of Sidr trees that, in better times, were famous for their honey.

Shaadi was the first in the village to die from hunger.

A few weeks later, when Shaher took ill, Mr. Hajaji was determined to do something. When burning didn’t work, he carried his son down the stony path to a health clinic, which was ill-equipped for the task. Half of Yemen’s health facilities are closed because of the war.

So his family borrowed $16 for the journey to the hospital in Hajjah.

“All the big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen,” Mr. Hajaji said. “But it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people.”

Yemen’s economic crisis was not some unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of the fighting…

At the Sabeen hospital in Sana, Dr. Huda Rajumi treats the country’s most severely malnourished children. But her own family is suffering, too, as she falls out of Yemen’s vanishing middle class.

In the past year, she has received only a single month’s salary. Her husband, a retired soldier, is no longer getting his pension, and Dr. Rajumi has started to skimp on everyday pleasures, like fruit, meat and taxi rides, to make ends meet.

“We get by because people help each other out,” she said. “But it’s getting hard.”

Economic warfare takes other forms, too. In a recent paper, Martha Mundy, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, analyzed coalition airstrikes in Yemen, finding that their attacks on bridges, factories, fishing boats and even fields suggested that they aimed to destroy food production and distribution in Ansarullah-controlled areas.

Saudi Arabia’s tight control over all air and sea movements into northern Yemen has effectively made the area a prison for those who live there. In September, the World Health Organization brokered the establishment of a humanitarian air bridge to allow the sickest Yemenis — cancer patients and others with life-threatening conditions — to fly to Egypt.

Among those on the waiting list is Maimoona Naji, a 16-year-old girl with a melon-size tumor on her left leg. At a hostel in Sana, her father, Ali Naji, said they had obtained visas and money to travel to India for emergency treatment. Their hopes soared in September when his daughter was told she would be on the first plane out of Sana once the airlift started.

But the agreement has stalled, blocked by the Yemeni government, according to the senior Western official. Maimoona and dozens of other patients have been left stranded, the clock ticking on their illnesses.

“First they told us ‘next week, next week,’” said Mr. Naji, shuffling through reams of documents as tears welled up in his eyes. “Then they said no. Where is the humanity in that? What did we do to deserve this?”

Only two famines have been officially declared by the United Nations in the past 20 years, in Somalia and South Sudan. A United Nations-led assessment due in mid-November will determine how close Yemen is to becoming the third.

To stave it off, aid workers are not appealing for shipments of relief aid but for urgent measures to rescue the battered economy.

“This is an income famine,” said Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen. “The key to stopping it is to ensure that people have enough money to buy what they need to survive.”

The priority should be to stabilize the falling currency, she said, and to ensure that traders and shipping companies can import the food that Yemenis need.

Above all, she added, “the fighting has to stop.”

One hope for Yemenis is that the international fallout from the death of the Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, which has damaged Prince Mohammed’s international standing, might force him to relent in his unyielding prosecution of the war.

Peter Salisbury, a Yemen specialist at Chatham House, said that was unlikely.

“I think the Saudis have learned what they can get away with in Yemen — that western tolerance for pretty bad behavior is quite high,” he said. “If the Khashoggi murder tells us anything, it’s just how reluctant people are to rein the Saudis in.”

Source: NYT, Edited by website team


Related Videos

Related Articles


%d bloggers like this: