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Yemeni tragedy

Updated February 01, 2017

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THE nearly two-year-old Saudi-led assault on Yemen has been an unmitigated disaster. Riyadh has roundly failed in its objective of ejecting the Houthi rebels from areas under their control and restoring the president Hadi-led government.

Moreover, as a UN report recently observed, a number of air attacks carried out by the Saudi coalition may amount to war crimes. The UN has zeroed in on 10 air strikes in particular, saying that “in eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the air strikes had targeted legitimate military objectives”. The attacks killed nearly 300 civilians, including women and children. The UN also criticised the Houthis for ill treatment of detainees. Indeed, the Yemeni war has been an unrelenting catastrophe for the people of this impoverished nation. Around 10,000 civilians have died. In another report, the UN’s humanitarian chief told the Security Council that Yemen sits on the cusp of a “full-blown famine”, with 63pc of children in the country malnourished. While all parties to this conflict must shoulder the blame for this pathetic situation, the Saudis in particular should reflect on what their destructive campaign has achieved so far. Also, those in the West backing Riyadh’s effort — the US and the UK in particular — must answer for their role in providing the logistical support base for the Saudi campaign.

To end the Yemeni people’s nightmare, a negotiated settlement must be reached through which the bombing is stopped immediately, relief is brought to the population and the belligerents agree to settle their differences peacefully. With an air of uncertainty clouding the West, especially Washington D.C., it is futile to look in that direction for a solution. Instead, it is the nations of the region that must take the initiative to end the Yemeni war. For example, while the Syrian imbroglio is far from solved, the situation has undoubtedly improved through Turkish, Iranian and Russian cooperation. In this case also, Turkey can act as a bridge between the Saudis and Iranians, as the latter are believed to have influence over the Houthis. The good offices of Oman can also be used; not only does the country border Yemen, Muscat also enjoys cordial ties with both Riyadh and Tehran. While political negotiations may well be protracted and difficult, at least all belligerents can be asked to immediately silence their guns and stop raining death from the skies upon Yemen’s people.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2017