"The world's worst humanitarian crisis," said U.N. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, is in Yemen.
He is not exaggerating. More than 75 percent of the country needs humanitarian aid — a greater percentage than any other nation on Earth. According to the U.S. Department of State, some 18 million Yemenis (out of a total population of 22 million) are hungry, homeless, and increasingly hopeless.
How did the war start? Who is involved?
Yemen has seen decades of war, first with the 1960’s civil war that ended North Yemen's monarchy. Fighting between Marxist South Yemen and the north followed. Yemen unified in 1990, but resentment persisted under 22 years of kleptocratic rule by Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen's 2011 Arab Spring protests ultimately forced Saleh to resign, but he continued to wield power behind the scenes and maintained the loyalty of many armed forces commanders. In 2014 he formed an alliance with a group of Shiite northerners called Houthis — who he had gone to war with in the past — and helped them capture the capital, Sanaa.
The Houthis meanwhile have laid land mines killing and wounding civilians, targeted religious minorities, and imprisoned opponents. They also killed Saleh, who survived an earlier assassination attempt in 2011, in December 2017, when he appeared to have switched sides to back the Saudi-led coalition.
Iran has also been trying to form a "Shi'ite Crescent" across the Middle East, through Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
In addition, Iran has been sponsoring Shia uprisings in Bahrain.
Meanwhile, Iran has been referring to Bahrain as "the 14th province of Iran" in its state-run broadcasts; Saudi Arabia has said Iran was behind Shia uprisings in the oil-rich "Empty Quarter," and the UAE has placed nine Iranian entities and individuals on its terrorism list.
With a common religious bond, Iranian agents built political alliances with Houthi clans with flattery, funds, and strategic marriages.
Their shared goal, according to Reuters, is to "'strengthen their hand in the region," create a Hezbollah-like militia in Yemen, and "encircle the Saudis..., expand its influence and power projection in the region and develop levers of unconventional pressure."
Yemen's neighbors know that if Yemen fell to Iran's allies, uprisings in Shia-majority pockets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states would soon follow. America's allies could suffer civil wars of their own, distracting them from U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.
The war in Yemen has been a disaster for Coalition interests: The Houthis are more militarily sophisticated and better able to strike beyond Yemen’s borders than they were at the start of the war because of the Iranian support; Iranian influence has expanded; and the relationship between the Houthis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah has only deepened.
In October 2018, Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, and James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, both called for an end to the fighting and publicly expressed support for peace talks proposed by the United Nations.
There is no guarantee that the Houthis would respond by agreeing to the cease-fire.
The coalition stands to benefit from ceasing its military operations even if the Houthis respond by continuing to fire missiles across the border: the role reversal would be in the Coalition’s favor. The world would turn its attention to the Houthis as the aggressors and spoilers, and Saudi self-defense would be widely tolerated.
Given the suffering of millions of innocent civilians, the UN — mainly through World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF — have waged a huge, costly, and uphill battle against the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
In early April 2018 in Geneva, a High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, convened by the UN and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland, raised over $2 billion — interestingly, the largest donors by far were the Saudis and the Emiratis, contributing half of the total received. The U.S. pledged nearly $87 million, in addition to its contribution of more than $854 million for Yemen humanitarian assistance since October 1, 2016.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) and Emirates Red Crescent on November 27 announced a joint US$500 million aid initiative to alleviate a food crisis in Yemen. The move will benefit 10 to 12 million Yemenis.
The people of Yemen have suffered quite enough. It's time to have transitional political operation and security arrangements for the withdrawal of all armed groups.
It's time also to Counter Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions, the only way to guarantee stability in the region.
Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan Publisher. He sits on the Board of Directors of The Atlantic Council in Washington and International Councillors at The Center for Strategic and International Studies. He's also on the Board of Trustees of the The Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and member of The National Interest’s Advisory Council. Mr. Charai is a Mid-East policy advisor in Washington whose articles have appeared in the major U.S. media. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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