Vigil for Yemen. Photograph Source: Felton Davis – CC BY 2.0
What keeps the war in Yemen going? Borzou Daragahi of the UK Independent observes:
The greatest tragedy of the five-year war in Yemen may be that of the numerous conflicts in the region it is the most easily resolved, if the international community had the will to rein it in rather than to largely ignore it, or serve as its enabler.
Iran enables Yemen’s Houthi rebels by providing them with weapons. Iran’s provision of arms to the Houthis is mirrored by arms sales the US, UK, and France make to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, who inhabit one of the world’s richest countries, have been conducting a genocidal war on Yemen, the world’s fifth-poorest country, since 2015.
Saudi Arabia kills civilians in Yemen thanks to US weapons. The Saudis used a smart bomb manufactured by Lockheed Martin to kill 40 Yemeni children on a school bus. Two Saudi airstrikes on the Yemeni village of Mastaba in March 2016 left 97 civilians dead, 25 of them children. The bombs used were 2,000-pound MK-84s from General Dynamics with components manufactured by Boeing and Raytheon.
The Saudis deliberately target civilians, and attack hospitals, schools, weddings, and funerals. Kemal Jendoubi, one of the authors of a report on Yemen to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in August, 2018 that “There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties.”
President Donald Trump betrays no sign that he is troubled by the thousands of civilians he is helping kill in Yemen. Trump is positively boastful about US arms sales to the Saudis. During a meeting at the White House with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, on March 20, 2018, Trump crowed about a $110 billion US arms sale to the Saudis (the bulk of which was negotiated under President Barack Obama). Trump told reporters: “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”
Trump wildly exaggerates the number of American jobs that rely on arms sales, and the numbers Trump spews only keep going up. The last time I checked, Trump was claiming that one million American jobs relied on US arms sales. (Glenn Kessler, “Trump’s Claim of Jobs from Saudi Deals Grows by Leaps and Bounds,” WASHINGTON POST, Oct. 22, 2018.) Even a million jobs can’t justify the hell the US is creating in Yemen, but Trump’s claims aren’t even true. Vox‘s Alexis Fernández Campbell concludes that few of the jobs in the US defense sector “depend directly on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and it’s also unlikely that those jobs would vanish if Saudi money disappeared.” The jobs created are a fantasy. What’s not a fantasy is the vast profits US defense contractors rake in.
If Trump is so concerned about Americans in the defense sector losing their jobs, then why is he outsourcing those jobs? The New York Times reported last June that the Trump Administration had granted an emergency authorization to “Raytheon Company, a top American defense firm, to team with the Saudis to build high-tech bomb parts in Saudi Arabia.” (Trump’s latest Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, is a former Raytheon executive.) Recall that Trump ran for the presidency on his opposition to outsourcing American manufacturing. I guess Trump makes an exception for outsourcing murder.
The move has raised concerns about the transfer of sensitive American technology overseas. Trump, however, is remarkably blasé about transferring sensitive US technology to the Saudis—including nuclear technology. Since its earliest days, the Trump Administration has been negotiating the sale of two nuclear reactors to Riyadh. That’s alarming. Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, an NGO in Washington DC, calls nuclear reactors “nuclear bomb starter kits.”
The Saudis maintain that the reactors will be used solely to meet the energy needs of the kingdom’s rapidly growing population, thus freeing up more Saudi oil for export. However, fears of a Saudi bomb were stoked when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, said during an interview which aired on 60 Minutes on March 18, 2018 that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”
Iran is the obvious target for a Saudi nuclear bomb. But the Saudis could choose another target: Yemen. Is that unthinkable? Who would stop them? The international community has done nothing to prevent the deaths of the one hundred thousand people killed during the war. The international community’s response to Yemen’s immolation has been—if not a shrug—nothing more than futile recriminations. Why should we expect a different response if a mushroom cloud blooms over Yemen?