For the past three years, Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war that ties into the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the midst of the conflict, millions of civilians are at risk of famine and disease. The US is supporting this violence, and has largely ignored the human cost of giving help to Saudi Arabia. Coverage of the crisis in the US has also been lacking—both the media and president have stayed clear of the topic. So what is the conflict in Yemen, and why is the US involved?
In 2014, Houthi rebels rose up in northern Yemen due to religious strife and discontentment with elections. They were able to take the capital Sana’a and much of the populated land in the western parts of Yemen. Government forces under President Sadi were initially routed with the president himself being forced to flee the country—however, they eventually retook the port city of Aden, where the government is based now.
Houthi rebels are largely reported to be supplied and supported by Iran. This concerns Saudi Arabia and their allies, as the two countries fight for influence across the Middle East. In 2015, they began a bombing campaign to prop up the Sadi government and harm the Houthi rebels. While fighting up to this point had still been bloody, the bombings led to a new level of casualties. Upwards of 60% of the 50,000+ casualties are from the air strikes, including many civilians. This effort is supported by US intelligence because of the alliance with Saudi Arabia—as a result, the US is aiding the murder of civilians.
Media coverage on this conflict and specifically on US involvement has been limited at best. The government has very little to say regarding the conflict, but refuses to condemn Saudi actions. This isn’t a partisan issue—both Obama and Trump have had the same response. However, the crisis has reached a breaking point, and Yemen is now on the verge of famine.
Yemen imports about 90% of its food, and what food does remain inside of the country is exorbitantly priced. The Saudi bombings have damaged the infrastructure in the country to the point where getting supplies to those who need them is extremely difficult. Also, there is a Saudi blockade of all ships going to Houthi-controlled ports. In one recent case, a United Nations (UN) ship was held for weeks trying to get humanitarian aid and medical supplies into a port. Currently, 17 million of the 27 million people living in Yemen are food insecure. There is a chorea outbreak as well that affects over 600,00, and also severe malnutrition among 400,000 children.
These statistics show more than simple internal strife. There is a potential famine called the worst in modern history by the UN. Not only is the US refusing to speak out against the war, but it actively supports Saudi Arabia. None of this is to say that Houthis are free of blame, as they also have indiscriminately shelled population areas, but the current issue is from devastating bombing that does not let any relief come in for the population of Yemen. The media’s refusal to cover this is truly dangerous, and even if the government refuses to speak, more should be aware of the crisis. Governments should have a moral responsibility to put life ahead of politics, something which the US has certainly not done.