Ignored Wars (I)

BERLIN/RIYADH/SANAA | | yemensaudi-arabien

BERLIN/RIYADH/SANAA (Own report) - Berlin persists in its support for Riyadh's ruling clan, despite the Saudi armed forces' ongoing war crimes committed in Yemen. Whereas demands to tighten sanctions against Russia are under consideration - for alleged or actual war crimes in the Syria's Aleppo - Saudi Arabia need fear no consequences even after bombing a funeral service, killing over 140 civilians. The Saudi-led war coalition's air raids in Yemen are already responsible for more than 2,400 civilian casualties, including patients in hospitals run by Doctors Without Borders and children in a Quranic school. Desperately poverty stricken Yemen, which depends on imports for 80 percent of its food, is being cut off from its vital supplies by Riyadh's maritime blockade. More than 1.5 million children are already suffering malnutrition, 370,000 of them acute. Medial care is insufficient, because Saudi Arabia is bombing pharmaceutical factories and limiting the import of medicine. German media hardly report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, for which Riyadh, one of Berlin's most important allies in the Middle East is responsible. Riyadh's war in Yemen against the Houthi insurgents is also aimed at rolling back Iran's influence, thereby also serving the interests of Germany's elite.

Joint Planning Cell

From the outset of their aggression against Yemen, Saudi Arabia and its war coalition [1] have used air raids, causing numerous civilian casualties, some of which were soon classified war crimes. 18 civilian casualties were already reported after the first air raids on March 25, 2015. On the same day, the White House announced that President Barack Obama has authorized "the provision of logistical and intelligence support" to the Saudi war coalition and is establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate the support.[2] In addition, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that US assistance includes military "targeting."[3] However, this was soon officially refuted - for good reason: On April 14, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein felt compelled to sharply criticize the numerous attacks on Yemeni civilians. At least 364 civilians were reported to have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict, a considerable portion due to Saudi war coalition's air raids, according to Al Hussein. Hospitals, schools, mosques and residential areas have been destroyed in the air raids. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for investigations.[4]

"Full Understanding"

Saudi-led air raids on civilian targets and the large number of civilian casualties have not prevented the German government from explicitly approving the war. The day following the first air raids, killing 18 civilians, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared his "full understanding for Saudi operations."[5] The German foreign ministry has issued several statements declaring that Saudi Arabia's attacks on Yemen are "in accordance with international law," and that there is "no doubt that Saudi operations are authorized under international law."[6] While Berlin was busy backing Riyadh, human rights organizations were trying to assess the situation on the ground. May 15 and 16, 2015, Human Rights Watch used a five-day ceasefire to conduct field investigations in Saada. Saada City, a Houthi stronghold, was one of the areas hardest hit by Riyadh's air raids in its war against the Houthi movement. Among other things, the organization documented six attacks on residential houses, one of which killed 27 members of a single family, including 17 children. The airstrikes also hit a school, a crowded gas station and five markets, for which there was no evidence of military activity. According to Human Rights Watch, these attacks appear to have been war crimes.[7]

Blocked in Hunger

Since then, serious allegations have regularly been raised concerning how the Saudi-led war coalition is waging its war in Yemen. Riyadh had already imposed a maritime blockade, on March 26, 2015, immediately following the first bombing raids, which nearly completely halts Yemen's imports, with dire consequences. Before the imposition of the blockade, approx. 80 percent of the country's food needs came from abroad, including 90 percent of its wheat and all of its rice.[8] Only a small share of what is needed reaches the country since the blockade was imposed. In spite of the desperate activities of the United Nations and various relief organizations, there is a serious lack of food, fuel and medicine. Of the approx. 26 million Yemenis, 21.2 million - 82 percent of the population - are now dependent on humanitarian aid; 14.4 million have insufficient food, 7.6 percent are affected by severe food shortages; 1.5 million children are undernourished - 370,000 even acutely. Recently UNICEF sounded the alarm. Despite enormous efforts, relief organizations have only been able to alleviate the misery to a limited extent, announced the agency. Everything must be done to normalize the food supply and the health system. Of course, this would presuppose that Saudi Arabia, one of the West's main Middle East allies, lift its year and a half long blockade.

Bombing Civilian Targets

Just recently, UNICEF again denounced an obvious war crime committed by the Riyadh-led war coalition. On the morning of August 13, 2016, a Quranic school was hit during a bombing raid on Saada in the country's north. At least seven children, ranging in age from six to fourteen were killed; the wounded survivors were taken to the hospital. Just a few days earlier, UNICEF had reported that 1,121 children have been killed during the war. According to the United Nations, 4,125 civilians have been killed in this war, 60 percent of whom - more than 2,400 people - during air raids of the Saudi-led military coalition. In August, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International announced that they "have documented more than 70 unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, that have killed more than 900 civilians, and 19 attacks using internationally banned cluster munitions."[9] Even medicine factories, food storage compounds, and clearly marked hospitals for which Doctors Without Borders previously provided GPS coordinates were bombed.[10] Research indicates that more than one-third of all Saudi-led air raids on Yemen have hit civilian sites.[11] The recent bombing of a building, in which more than a thousand people had gathered for funeral services, adds another Saudi war crime to the list - with more than 140 people killed.

Iran and the Straits

Unlike the alleged or actual war crimes in Aleppo, exploited currently for foreign policy propaganda (german-foreign-policy.com reported [12]), Berlin, whenever possible, turns a blind eye to the alleged Saudi war crimes - for two reasons. The first is that, unlike the Syrian and Russian governments, the ruling clan in Riyadh has been considered a loyal administrator of western interests in the Middle East. The second lies in the constellation of the conflict in Yemen. In early 2015, Yemen's President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, an ally of the Saudis and considered pro-western, was overthrown by the Northern Yemeni Houthi rebel movement, which is considered - even though often exaggeratedly - to be close to Iran, and takes conspicuous anti-western positions. "The prospect that alongside the Straits of Hormuz, Iran - the protecting country for the Houthis - may also gain control of the straits between Yemen and Africa, through which millions of barrels of oil are transported daily, has horrified many" in the West, reported a German Middle East expert in March 2015, at the beginning of the war.[13] Therefore, Berlin raises no obstacles to Riyadh's military action against the Houthis - and thus also against Iran.

Rewarded with Weapons

Far from having to fear consequences for war crimes, such as its bombing of the funeral services in Sanaa, Saudi Arabia continuous to receive German military equipment - including arms it uses in Yemen. Current negotiations on the delivery of additional Eurofighters to the Saudi Air Force are but the latest example. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.

[1] Initially five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) participated in the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco.
[2] Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Situation in Yemen. www.whitehouse.gov 25.03.2015.
[3] Saudi and Arab allies bomb Houthi positions in Yemen. www.aljazeera.com 26.03.2015.
[4] Yemen: Zeid calls for investigations into civilian casualties. www.ohchr.org 14.04.2015.
[5] "Die Lage ist gefährlich, nicht nur für die Golfregion". www.bild.de 27.03.2015. See In Flammen.
[6] Stellungnahmen von Sprechern des Auswärtigen Amts vor der Bundespressekonferenz. See In Flames (II).
[7] Human Rights Watch: Targeting Saada. Unlawful Coalition Airstrikes on Saada City in Yemen. London, June 2015.
[8] Omer Karasapan: Conflict, famine, refugees, and IDPs: A perfect storm in Yemen? www.brookings.edu 14.04.2015.
[9] UN: Create International Inquiry on Yemen. www.hrw.org 26.08.2016.
[10] Priyanka Motaparthy: US Should Stop Making Excuses for Saudi Violations in Yemen. www.hrw.org 06.10.2016.
[11] Ewen MacAskill, Paul Torpey: One in three Saudi air raids on Yemen hit civilian sites, data shows. www.theguardian.com 16.09.2016.
[12] See Spiel mit dem Weltkrieg.
[13] Rainer Hermann: Neues, altes Arabien. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 30.03.2015.