The International Community and Riyadh’s Crimes in Yemen

By Catherine Shakdam

“Better late than never” said the wise man … In Yemen’s case “late” came 10 months into a punishing Saudi-led military campaign waged in the name of political legitimacy and hegemonic superiority.

Earmarked for destruction in March 2015 by belligerent Saudi Arabia, Yemen has suffered and cracked under the weight of a war which has systematically pursued annihilation, to better rise the house of Saud the imperial master over Southern Arabia. And while Yemen’s war was sold to the media as a grand battle against the despotism of the Houthis – this one tribal group, labeled a dissident faction for it dared imagine it could champion popular will against that of a self-appointed Saudi-sponsored oligarchy; it is evident this struggle, pitting oil mighty Saudi Arabia against impoverished Yemen, was always indeed one of control and feudality.

Yemen today stands the new Spartacus against the Empire.

Ten months into relentless bombing, killing, raiding, and droning, notwithstanding an inhuman blockade against Yemen’s Shiite population, a UN panel of experts eventually acknowledged this January the stench of Saudi Arabia’s war crimes, calling on the UN Security Council to “investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations.”

The report reads: “The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.

While this report offers little by way of surprise – Western officials can hardly argue they did not know when it is in fact, their weapons, their intelligence, and their experts which enabled the Kingdom against impoverished Yemen, the mover implies a dramatic change of political strategy vis-a-vis Wahhabi Saudi Arabia.

No longer the untouchable darling of Western capitals, Riyadh was told this January that its immunity no longer stands impenetrable.

Let me be clear here – it is extremely unlikely, if not down-right impossible, the UNSC will issue more than a symbolic slap on al-Saud’s hands, regardless of the horrors its military committed in Yemen. Let us remember that a full acknowledgement of guilt would entail throwing the likes of Britain and the United States under the judiciary bus. Both London and Washington have provided military assistance to Riyadh – to such an extent actually that much of the blood which has flowed under the Kingdom’s impetus also reflects on UK PM David Cameron and US President Barack Obama’s hands.

Saudi Arabia remains the biggest UK and US arm buyers after all, and if Riyadh was able to drop cluster bombs on unsuspecting civilians it is only because the US fulfilled its demands.

Moreover, earlier this month the UK confirmed that British forces have been in the Saudi command and control centre for the strikes on Yemen. Such entanglements and the repercussions they inherently carry, entail that Riyadh’s accountability will be ultimately gagged.

Worse still, if not for the United Nations’ quiet submission to al-Saud’ financial blackmail in regards to aid donations to its agencies, Yemen would never have been put under a humanitarian blockade – its people would not have been made to starve the way they have been if not for such criminal complicity.

Vice News reported in June 2015 that Saudi officials leaned on UN officials to sabotage aid deliveries, threatening to close the kingdom’s checkbook should UN agencies deny Riyadh’s requests.

When it comes to Yemen, few powers can claim the moral high ground, as most actively participated in the killing of a people – all in the name of profit, political scoring and geopolitical hegemony.

But again, no surprise there. I doubt anyone still entertains any such political naivety – world leaders’ propensity to commit abominable crimes in the name of an increasingly elusive “democratic ideal” should have long wiped out such childish complacency.

Rather than ask ourselves how Riyadh will be held accountable, let us instead translate what such political shift implies in the long term – in other words: why is the international community suddenly pointing the fingers at al-Saud? Why now, and to serve which agenda, since knowledge was never a hindrance?

Here is one theory: Saudi Arabia is becoming too much of a political liability, notwithstanding the new Royals’ habits of overstepping political boundaries by acting as the rebellious child against their Western guardians. Riyadh’s lobbying in the US for example did not escape officials – prompting much unease. If al-Saud’s billions bought certain political licenses, Western powers are not exactly keen on becoming Riyadh’s handmaiden.

Another point to carefully weigh in is Iran’s return to the international fold. A superpower in the making, Iran is also an answer to one very American oil conundrum: oil dependency – or rather, Saudi oil dependency.

If the US, and most Western capitals stand trapped by their thirst for Saudi oil, forcing them to put up with Riyadh’s political tantrums, Iran’s vast oil and gas reserves offer the promise of emancipation.

According to the Iran Petroleum Ministry, the proved natural gas reserves of Iran are about 1,046 trillion cubic feet (29.6 trillion cubic meters) or about 15.8 percent of world’s total reserves, of which 33 percent are associated gas and 67 percent is in non-associated gas fields. Iran has the world’s second largest reserves after Russia, and ranks fourth as far as its oil reserves are concerned.

By any standard Iran is an oil and gas juggernaut, a titan which could soon outshine and outrank Saudi Arabia.

If UN experts’ sudden awakening in Yemen offers little more than political posing, the message their statement carries against Riyadh’s despotic rule cannot be ignored.

I would argue that this shift should be credited to Yemen’s resilience before imperialism. If not for the Resistance stubborn determination in the face of aggravated pressure, the world would never have been forced to acknowledge the brutality of al-Saud theocratic absolutism.

Should Yemen had cowered before the Saudi military coalition, time would not have allowed for another political and economic path to be forged.