The recent death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has helped shed more attention on the Saudi war of aggression in Yemen. According to the UN up to 14 million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen. Yet the American and British governments, who have the ability to stop the Saudi war machine in its tracks, continue the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.
Corporate politicians try and defend the military actions of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen by sheer unadulterated lies. UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt in a debate in the House of Commons blithely stated that the Saudi led coalition had not breached any international law.*
Yet evidence of war crimes in Yemen abound. Save The Children, which is feeding starving people in Yemen, has recently released figures showing that the Saudi instigated war in Yemen has caused the deaths of 85,000 children over the last four years.
Tamer Kirolos, Save The Children’s Director in Yemen, has recently said:
“We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began. For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable.’’
The air, sea and land blockade of Yemen that the Saudi and UAE led coalition imposed a year ago has been a key factor in creating the conditions for mass starvation in Yemen. However, that is only part of the story.
In Yemen the Saudi and UAE led coalition has systematically set out to destroy the resources of farmers, herders and fishers alongside the deliberate targeting of food processing, storage, transport and water irrigation.
This falls under the UN definition of genocidal acts. The UN Office Of The Special Advisor On The prevention Of Genocide has an analysis framework that comprises eight categories of factors that it uses to determine whether there may be a risk of genocide in a situation. One of the categories that falls under the category of “Genocidal Acts’ is the deliberate destruction of the food infrastructure:
“Less obvious methods of destruction, such as the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival and which are available to the rest of the population, such as clean water, food and medical services.’’
The Saudi led coalition, unable to achieve any decisive breakthroughs on the battlefield against the Houthi opposition, has resorted to the mass bombing of Yemen’s food infrastructure to try and bring about victory in their illegal war.
A new report by Professor Martha Mundy, The Strategies of the Coalition in the Yemen War: Aerial bombardment and food war, provides a very detailed analysis of the bombing campaigns carried out by the Saudi led coalition in Yemen. This provides clear evidence of the genocidal nature of the military campaign that is supported by the American and British governments. Martha Mundy explains:
“If one places the damage to the resources of food producers (farmers, herders, and fishers) alongside the targeting of food processing, storage and transport in urban areas and the wider economic war, there is strong evidence that Coalition strategy has aimed to destroy food production and distribution in the areas under the control of Sanaʿaʾ.”
In the first phase of the war, March to August 2015, the Saudi coalition focused its bombing primarily upon military targets. However, once their superior fire power failed to crush the Houthi resistance the Saudi led coalition then moved into the realm of deliberate war crimes in the hope of bringing about victory on the battlefield. Professor Mundy, drawing upon data from a wide variety of Yemeni sources, states that the pattern of Saudi bombing moved very early on from military to civilian targets:
“From August 2015 there appears a shift from military and governmental to civilian and economic targets, including water and transport infrastructure, food production and distribution, roads and transport, schools, cultural monuments, clinics and hospitals, and houses, fields and flocks.’’
The map below illustrates the systematic way that the Saudi coalition has set out to destroy Yemen’s food infrastructure in every region of the country.
Alongside the bombing of fields and flocks of animals the Saudi led coalition has deliberately targeted the irrigation system of Yemen in an attempt to destroy the agriculture of the country.
The attacks upon the irrigation system has led to severe shortages of water for farmers whose food production has seen massive declines as a consequence. The Tihama region of Yemen, once known as the breadbasket of the country, has seen a devastating collapse of agriculture. Professor Mundy’s report gives figures for 2017, before the Saudi led siege of the port of Hudadaya made the situation even more catastrophic:
- 51% fall in the amount of land under cultivation
- 43% of people go hungry every night
- crop yields per hectare have declined between 21-60%
Professor Mundy notes the complicity of the US and UK in these war crimes. She states categorically that the Saudi targeting of the irrigation works, provided by the Tihma Development Agency has been facilitated by its Western partners:
“It is inconceivable that the US (and UK) military advisors who give target intelligence to the Coalition did not know the location/s and purpose of the Tihama Development Authority.’’
The other aspect of Yemen’s food infrastructure that the Saudi coalition has systematically targetted is its fishing industry. These attacks have inflicted severe damage upon fishing ports all along Yemen’s Red Sea coast. They have destroyed over 220 fishing boats which has led to a 50% fall in fish catches. The map below illustrates the attacks upon fisherman.
The US and UK along with France are well known for being the major arms sellers to the Saudi coalition and for protecting its more well known war crimes from diplomatic censure. Less well known is their support for the Saudi coalitions economic war against Yemen, a major cause of starvation, and the deliberate destruction of Yemen’s water and food infrastructure.
Professor Mundy’s report, which draws upon a variety of Yemeni sources, adds to the growing body of evidence that reveals how Saudi Arabia and its allies are committing acts of genocide in Yemen. This is with the active complicity of America and its UK ally.
This evidence of the deliberate destruction of the food infrastructure of Yemen, which is designed to create the conditions for mass starvation, is a clear act of genocide. As such, it is the responsibility of ordinary people across the world to pressure their governments into taking action against this genocide.
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*The Saudi Embassy in London was contacted on numeorous occasions for a comment about the issues raised in this article. Not surprisingly, it failed to provide any comment.