Yemen's Humanitarian Crisis
In 2011, after countless protests against the authoritarian regime of Yemen, which had held power since 1978, then President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in an effort to ease the social and political tensions that were overtaking the already economically deprived region. Yemen had been, and still is, the poorest nation in the Arab world, with its oil and water reserves quickly depleting and unemployment skyrocketing; Saleh’s ineffective and corrupt rule, which spanned over three decades, further divided the already fractured nation, spawning a civil war that continues to this day. Currently, Yemen not only faces internal struggles—with Houthi rebels fighting against the ardent supporters of Saleh’s regime—but their persistent civil war and humanitarian crisis merely serves as a proxy for the US and UK’s ongoing wars in the Middle East. The United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are engaged in a lucrative business in Yemen, profiting off of the lives of innocent Yemeni civilians through arms deals that boost the stock market and create jobs in these nations.
The situation in Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis facing the world since 1945. According to UNICEF, every ten minutes, a child in Yemen dies from starvation, and seven million citizens are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. The Saudi blockade and embargo have prevented Yemeni civilians from receiving life-saving aid, including food, water, and medicine. Not only are Yemen’s citizens deprived of basic sustenance, but they are also experiencing outbreaks of diphtheria, among other illnesses. The United States has asked Saudi Arabia to ease the blockade, yet at the same time, the United States happily agreed to a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia with the full knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s intentions to decimate the population of Yemen. We are complicit in the violation of international humanitarian laws committed by Saudi Arabia through enabling their presence in Yemen’s civil war. The US also has a vested interest in the war; the Houthi rebels, consisting of Shia Muslims who oppose Saleh’s regime, belong to the same Islamic sect as the Iranian government. Saudi Arabia, in their talks with US officials, has convinced our government that the Houthis are backed by the Iranian government, yet no evidence of such support exists. Nonetheless, the United States, fearful of Iran’s potential—yet unsubstantiated—influence in the region, readily signed on to essentially fight a proxy war in Yemen in hopes that Saudi, and subsequently, American, influence dominates the region and the economy.
Participating in such an arms deal, and such a war, has accelerated stock market growth and job creation—this is the narrative the US government and Donald Trump want the American public to hear. Defense stocks reached record highs, and Donald Trump constantly gloats about how he has singlehandedly improved the US economy through deals such as the Saudi arms deal. Regardless of the economic profit defense companies and contractors reap from this arms deal, we cannot minimize the loss of life and hope we are witnessing in Yemen today. The airstrikes, bombings, and perpetuation of famine in the region may be the worst humanitarian crisis we are witnessing today, but it is not the first time in the past 20 years that we have seen situations like this, albeit at a smaller scale. Yemen is yet another country in the Middle East the West is attempting to destabilize in order to gain power in the region. We have seen this in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Yemen, where the US and other governments take part in disputes between tribal factions of a nation, propping one faction while labeling the others as puppets of an opposing force. In the 20th century, the opposing force was the Soviet Union. Today, it is Iran. The United States and the United Kingdom must cease repeating the actions of their respective pasts, which are marked by the nations and societies each has destroyed as a result of political ambition and fear. Unfortunately, Yemen appears to be a continuation of the foreign policies and cowardly tactics of past US administrations which feared the loss of US dominance in the world. The United States must withdraw from this atrocious arms deal with Saudi Arabia because the economic gains that corporations involved in the defense market receive do not outweigh the loss of human life and the violation of international humanitarian laws. Saudi Arabia’s blockade of aid going to Yemen is a gross display of blatant disregard for human life, and the United States must demand Saudi Arabia to cease the war it is waging on the Yemeni people. Politely asking the Saudi government to not bomb and starve Yemen will not suffice. It is time for the US to forgo the failed foreign policy initiatives of its past by withdrawing its financial and political support of the Saudi government.