Yemen – peace or not?

The aftermath of a Saudi-led airstrike in Hodeidah, Yemen

By Sammy Barker

On Monday 19 November, the British government issued a draft resolution on Yemen for the UN Security Council. The resolution proposes a two week deadline for the Saudi coalition and Ansarallah to remove all barriers to the delivery of humanitarian aid. It calls for a ceasefire and for all parties to cooperate with the UN peace talks. For the past two years the Tory government has been the “pen holder” at the UN on Yemen. It had refused to draft a resolution, instead supporting the Saudi attempts to achieve a military solution. The change may be welcome, yet it is entirely a result of the crisis in US/Saudi relations following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

At the time of writing, there is no date for the resolution to be debated. But there is evidently turmoil inside both the US government, and the Saudi regime over the conflict. Also on Monday, King Salman issued a statement which included support for UN efforts to end the conflict. Yet CNN reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “threw a fit” when he saw the draft. Given the latter’s control over the Saudi military, and his influence generally, it is obvious he has many opportunities to derail a peace process.

These will be considerably increased by the serious differences inside the US ruling class, and the ruling party. The CIA has concluded that the Crown Prince is involved in the Khashoggi murder. The Washington Post is publishing a series of extraordinary articles opposing the war – these include articles from Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, Head of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee; and Tawakkol Karman who represents the section of Al-Islah which supports military resistance to the Saudi Coalition. Bloomberg News has published material calling for the Crown Prince to be sidelined. Inside the Republican Party, Senators Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul, usually on opposite sides on policy differences, are calling for Trump to levy heavy penalties against the Crown Prince. Senator Bob Corkar, Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said “We have a Crown Prince that I believe ordered the killing of a journalist”.

Against this, President Trump issued a statement making it absolutely clear that he intends to stand by the Crown Prince. According to Trump, “Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t”. The statement prefers to highlight the economic value of the Saudi connection, and the stance of the Crown Prince on Iran. Whether this will lead to Trump actively undermining the UN process is far from clear, but certainly wouldn’t be surprising.

Meanwhile the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Save the Children have issued a report that 85,000 children, under the age of five, have starved to death in Yemen in the past three years. This is a direct result of the Saudi siege. There has been no drought, no climate change event, or natural disaster in this time.

Further clarification of the Crown Prince’s domestic “reforms” was provided by Human Rights watch and Amnesty International who reported that the women detained in Saudi Arabia, for supporting the right to drive, have been tortured, including being flogged, electrocuted and sexually harassed.

There is no sign that continued Saudi military action will lead to a breakthrough. On Tuesday in Yemen there were enormous mass demonstrations in Sana’a, Thamar, Taiz, Sadaa, Ibb and Al Hodeida to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday and show continued opposition to the Saudi assault. Ansarallah has announced an offer to end missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in support of a peace process. They have released prisoners in Sana’a. They have previously offered to have Hodeida port, which they control, placed under UN supervision to secure aid provision.

It is vital for the anti-war movement to keep up the pressure. The debates taking place in the British parliament and the US Congress highlight the dependency of the Saudi regime on imperialist support. Saudi Arabia’s military infrastructure, hardware, software, training and logistics are built on US and European systems. The entire air force is made up of British and US built planes. A just peace is possible for the Yemeni people, but international solidarity is necessary to ensure that they can achieve it.