America is complicit in war crimes in Yemen
The following is an article in this regard written by Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University, under the heading "America is complicit in war crimes in Yemen, it's time to hold the US to account." The article was taken from the website of the British daily 'The Guardian.'
Saudi-led forces have deliberately targeted innocent civilians since the Yemen War’s early days – and US officials have done little to stop it. One of the most persistent false arguments and claims advanced by US President Donald Trump administration officials against the efforts to end US involvement in Yemen is that the Saudis need American support and training to prevent even more civilians’ deaths. But the latest UN report belies that argument, showing the Saudis have not done any credible investigations into their attacks on civilians or taken enough measures to minimize casualties, even with US and British training.
Since Saudi Arabia and its allies started their all aggressive war on Yemen in March 2015, the United States gave its full support to a relentless air campaign where Saudi warplanes and bombs hit thousands of targets, including civilian sites and infrastructure, with impunity. From the beginning, US officials claimed that American weapons, training and intelligence assistance would help the Saudis avoid causing even more civilian casualties.
But this was a big lie meant to obscure one of the least understood aspects of US support for Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen: it’s not that Saudi-led forces don’t know how to use American-made weapons or need help in choosing targets. They have deliberately targeted civilians and Yemen’s infrastructure since the war’s early days – and US officials have recognized this since at least 2016 and done little to stop it.
A team of United Nations investigators, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, presented a devastating report in Geneva in early September detailing how the US, along with Britain and France, are complicit in war crimes in Yemen because of continued weapons sales and intelligence support to the Saudis and their allies, especially the United Arab Emirates.
Despite pressure from Saudi Arabia, the Human Rights Council voted recently to extend its investigation.
If the Council pursues an aggressive investigation based on the 274-page report, the world might finally see some accountability for war crimes committed in Yemen over the past five years. The report’s authors submitted a secret list of individuals who are responsible for war crimes to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, but it’s unclear if that list includes any Western officials. The report said third states that have influence on Yemen’s aggressors – including the US, Britain and France– “are responsible for providing aid or assistance for the commission of international law violations”.
American complicity in the Yemen War goes beyond providing training and intelligence support, and selling billions of dollars in weapons to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which has become Washington’s largest weapons buyer. The US is looking the other way while its allies commit war crimes and avoid responsibility for instigating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The full scope of human suffering in Yemen has been partly obscured because the UN stopped updating civilian deaths in January 2017, when the toll reached 10,000. And while the actual death toll is far higher, many news reports still rely on the outdated UN figures.
In June, an independent monitoring group, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, released a report detailing more than 90,000 fatalities since the war began in 2015.
In April, the United Nations Development Programme issued a report warning that the death toll in Yemen could rise to 233,000 by the end of 2019 – far higher than previous estimates. That projection includes deaths from combat as well as 131,000 indirect deaths due to the lack of food, health crises such as a cholera epidemic, and damage to Yemen’s infrastructure.
The Yemen War has created new instability in the wider West Asia, and the US is looking the other way while its allies commit war crimes and avoid responsibility for instigating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
On 14 September, the Ansarullah fighters claimed responsibility for attacks on two major oil installations in Saudi Arabia, saying they were retaliation for the Saudi bombing of Yemen. But Saudi leaders and Donald Trump’s administration blamed Iran for the attacks, without providing any direct evidence. Trump has threatened to carry out military strikes and imposed additional sanctions against Tehran, after he unilaterally withdrew the US from an international nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and the 5+1 group.
For its part, Saudi Arabia quickly invited American and UN experts to help investigate the attacks on its oil facilities. Ironically, Saudi officials have refused to cooperate with most international investigations of their actions in Yemen, including the recent UN report that found the kingdom and its allies committed war crimes.
Like previous investigations by human rights groups and journalists, the UN report documented how the Saudi-led coalition has martyred thousands of innocent civilians in airstrikes; intentionally starved Yemenis as a war tactic; and imposed a naval and air blockade on Ansarullah-controlled areas that has drastically limited deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Despite years of warnings from groups like Human Rights Watch and UN investigations that documented growing evidence of war crimes in Yemen, US officials – first under Barack Obama’s administration and then under Donald Trump – continued to approve weapons sales to the Saudi and Emirati militaries. According to two members of the Obama administration who gave little-noticed testimony before Congress in early March, US officials realized as far back as 2016 that senior Saudi and UAE leaders were not interested in reducing civilian deaths in Yemen.
Speaking to the House Subcommittee on West Asia, North Africa and International Terrorism, the former officials – Dafna Rand, an Ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Jeremy Konyndyk, the former Director of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance – outlined how US officials helped the Saudis choose their targets in Yemen, created “no-strike” lists and sent trainers to supposedly reduce civilian harm.
Rand told the Committee “We came to the conclusion by late 2016 that although there were very many well-meaning and professional generals in the Saudi ministry of defense, there was a lack of political will at the top senior levels to reduce the number of civilian casualties.”
According to the Yemen Data Project, Saudi and allied warplanes have conducted more than 20,000 airstrikes on Yemen since the war began, an average of 12 attacks a day. Only about a third of these attacks are on military targets. The coalition has also bombed hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants.
One of the most persistent false arguments and claims advanced by Trump administration officials against the efforts to end US involvement in Yemen is that the Saudis need American support and training to prevent even more civilians deaths. But the latest UN report belies that argument, showing the Saudis have not done any credible investigations into their attacks on civilians or taken enough measures to minimize casualties, even with US and British training.
In fact, the UN findings reinforce revelations from a recent UK case brought by anti-war campaigners. A UK court of appeal ruled that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were illegal. Documents presented during the case showed that, despite the British government’s claims, Saudi bombings of civilian targets took place within days after the UK provided training to the Saudi air force.
Despite the mounting evidence of war crimes, US President Donald Trump still firmly supports Mohammed bin Salman, the ruthless Saudi crown prince who is an architect of the bloody Yemen War. Since April, Trump has used his veto power four times to prevent Congress from withdrawing US military support and ending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies. Congress could not muster enough votes to override Trump’s vetoes.
The latest UN investigation, which found the US is complicit in war crimes, should give new momentum to the majority in Congress that wants to end American involvement in a disastrous conflict.