UN Report on Yemen: US, UK and French Accomplices to Atrocities, While Inaction of the International Community Continues (video)
By RNN - 04. September 2019
Prof. Asad Abukhalil argues that the UN Human Rights Council's report on Yemen acknowledges US and UK complicity in the war crimes being committed, but it still soft-pedals them because the US dominates the world body
GREG WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert.
In what is considered the deadliest airstrike of the year, Saudi-led forces bombed a detention facility in the western city of Dhamar in Western Yemen, killing about 100 people on Sunday. The prison was under control of the Houthi rebels. Senator Bernie Sanders condemned the attack via Twitter, reminding his followers that the US is deeply involved in the war in Yemen. Sanders wrote, “U.S. bombs, logistical support and intelligence for the Saudi dictatorship’s airstrike make us complicit in this nightmare. The U.S. Congress has declared this war unconstitutional. We must now stand up to Trump and defund all U.S. Involvement in these horrors.”
The deadly bombing in Yemen took place shortly before the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report on Tuesday, which condemned US, French and British complicity in the atrocities being committed by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen. The 274-page report says that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the conflict in Yemen are responsible for an array of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. Some of these violations are likely to amount to war crimes.” Here’s a clip from the video that the UN Human Rights Council released to accompany the report.
UN-HRC YEMEN CLIP: [slow music]
GREG WILPERT: Joining me now to discuss the latest developments in Yemen and the UN HRC report is As’ad AbuKhalil. He is professor of Political Acience at California State University at Stanislaus. Thanks for joining us again, As’ad.
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Thank you for inviting me.
GREG WILPERT: Let’s start with the increasingly complicated situation in Yemen. Just when we thought the war in Yemen could not get any worse, a new front of fighting has opened up when the United Arab Emirates threw its support behind a separatist movement in Southern Yemen. The separatists recently took control of the port city of Aden. And last week Emirati jets bombed convoys of government forces, preventing them from retaking Aden. Previously, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were fighting the Houthis and rebels together. Tell us what is going on. What is the UAE doing and why are they backing a separatist movement at this time?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: I think it’s very important to comment first on the intro regarding the United Nations report. I’m not holding my breath, and the audience should not, regarding what the United Nations may do or may not do. We know that the UN is subject to one, the imposition of the will of the United States, and two, financial power and clout of Saudi Arabia, which can erase its listing on countries which violate children’s rights and so on. We’ve seen a history of that, so I think justice should be served somewhere else. Second point about what Bernie Sanders said, and I think we should add beyond what he said, that this is true of all the wars in the Middle East. The US is an accomplice in Israeli war crimes and Saudi war crimes and all the crimes that occur in the region because the US is the sponsor of almost all the despots of the region.
The third point about Bernie Sanders’s comment is that we cannot lay this on the doorsteps of Trump alone. We know that this should also be blamed on the administration which inaugurated its intervention in Yemen on the side of these Gulf despots. That is the Obama administration, Samantha Power, and all these liberals who are now critical of the war in Yemen only after Obama left office.
On the regional conflict going there, we should remember that there is no harmony between Saudi Arabia and UAE. They are together if there is a project they can work on together. They are united along with the Israeli state in order to oppose Iran because they have their own agenda and they want to fight Palestinian and Arab resistance movements throughout the Middle East. On that, they agree, but on many others they disagree. They disagree about the regional conflict, about OPEC policies, about how to handle Iran and many of these issues, there is no complete agreement. Of course, the UAE has not been happy about Saudi domination in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is a council established by the United States to counter Iran after the Iranian revolution.
Within Yemen itself, there is also a rivalry between the two sides, I mean before this war and after, and the complicity of US and Britain and Israel. We need to mention Israel in this role because it was left out of the UN report. The war in Yemen has been going on, on and off since the 1960s. Ever since, there was a progressive agenda pushed by the Nasser regime and leftists of the Arab world to establish a progressive foothold in the darkness of Arabia. It is dark by virtue of the Saudi regional hegemony, which does not want any progress, woman’s rights, and social justice in that region.
We have to remember that the only Marxist state ever established in the Arab world was in South Yemen, and it was brought down by the cooperative forces of Israel, US, Europeans and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia invested heavily to bring down that regime and ever since this investment, first, in the Yemeni War of the 1960s, which Israel was also involved, and in this Yemeni conflict, we see that the Yemeni people have been manipulated, exploited by Saudi Arabia and by its allies and sponsors in the West. In the recent flare-up, since 2011 with the rise of Arab uprisings— I don’t want to call them the so-called Arab Spring, because that’s an insult to the innocent people who were killed throughout the region— there has been an Arab counter-revolution. The Arab counter-revolution is basically comprised of the United States, Western Europeans, Israel and Saudi Arabia and UAE and Qatar. Although, these three countries, the last three Gulf countries, are not always in harmony. They disagree.
UAE and Qatar disagree on who to support in Libya. Saudi Arabia and UAE disagree on who to support in Yemen. For example, the Saudis have been willing to work with Al-Islah, the Muslim Brotherhood faction inside Yemen, but the UAE is adamantly opposed to any alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, so they support a different side. The fact that there are regional and tribal divisions in Yemen is a legacy of Saudi policies in that country, how they have exploited tribes and clans there in order to undermine any attempt to bring unification to Yemen and to undermine any efforts of progressiveness to take a foothold inside that country.
It seems to me that UAE for the last three years is the basically not less famous regional hegemon of the Middle East. We hear a lot about MBS, Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, but we hear less of a less flamboyant ruler, despot, Mohammad bin Zayed of the UAE, who, while pursuing policies as destructive and as war-mongering as MBS, but he keeps a lower profile. On many files, he has been a champion of MBS in Saudi Arabia, but up to a point because he has his regional ambitions.
His regional ambitions has took him to fight with the Americans in Afghanistan, to send troops to Libya, to invest in a coup d’état in Egypt against a democratically-elected president, and now we’re seeing they are trying to divide the spoils of war before a peaceful settlement is imposed by the outside. I think the Americans have realized, despite their own largesse and the willingness to allow the Saudis and the UAE to commit as many war crimes as they wish, that it’s not going anywhere and they have not been able to bring the Houthis down. If anything, the Houthis have become more defined. It’s for those reasons there is a fight between the two sides.
GREG WILPERT: I wanted to return to the UN report in a moment, but first, I actually want to address what you just said about the peace talks and the possibility of a settlement. They’ve been going on for a while and there has been a ceasefire agreement for the port city of Hodeidah to allow in humanitarian aid. What’s the status of these talks and do you think that they have any prospects of really resulting in an agreement, given this increasingly complicated moment that we’ve been talking about?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: I think that Americans have realized that no matter how many war crimes the Saudis and the UAE are allowed to commit in Yemen, it is not going anywhere and they have not been able to decrease the zone of dominance of the Houthis. It’s for that reason the Americans have given up and I think they may be pushing the two sides in order to reach an agreement with the Houthis, and there has been even a Wall Street Journal article about possible talks between the Houthis and the Americans. There is some movement and I think the recent flare-up could be related to the news of a possible settlement and the UAE want to be the dominant factor replacing Saudi Arabia.
This is rather new because UAE and other Gulf countries have ceded the Yemeni zone for the Saudis to do there what they wish, but it seems that UAE is exploiting a moment of weakness for MBS, because he has his own troubles inside the country. He has his reputation, image abroad in the West and so on. He is trying to rise as the new regional hegemon. This is why the Saudis have not been taking kindly to what’s happening. For the first time, I would say, in many years, you can read in the Saudi press grumblings and complaints about what the UAE is doing.
GREG WILPERT: Let’s turn to the UN HCR report. The report says that war crimes are probably being committed in Yemen and that Western powers— particularly the US, UK, France, and also actually Iran— bare shared responsibility for these crimes. Tens of thousands have been killed since the war began in 2014, with millions facing famine and cholera, as we saw in that brief video clip. The report addresses the governments that are supporting the Saudi war efforts stating, “Considering the prevailing risk that arms provided to parties to the conflict in Yemen may be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, states should prohibit the authorization of transfers and refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict to such parties.”
As Sanders’s tweet stated, Congress has already tried to halt US support for the war, but the Trump administration vetoed the legislation. Just how great do you think is the US, UK, French and Iranian responsibility for what is happening, and why are they continuing to support the Saudi war effort?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: I think that, two comments on that. First, as usual with all Western human rights organizations, and as usual with the United Nations reports when it comes to war crimes and human rights violation by countries that are loyal to the US, notice the qualified language. If this is Iran or Syria, you would find countries that are not aligned with the US. You would find the categorical language about certain war crimes have occurred in this region and that conflict and so on. We find here a very mild language that is not certified. The second point about that is, as usual in, again, Western human rights organizations as well as UN reports about human rights violations by countries that are allied with the US and Israel, we find that the propensity is always to blame both sides. The victims have to be blamed.
The victims here are the people of Yemen. First of all, if you go to WikiLeaks, the Houthis is an own Indigenous movement in South Yemen. They have their own agenda. They did not have any regional ambitions or even associations. In WikiLeaks, it said that all of the news in Gulf countries regarding this association with Iran are highly exaggerated. It is fair to say that it is the war of aggression by Saudi Arabia and UAE and the US on Yemen, that it has pushed the Houthis into the lap of Iran. They felt they had no choice.
In that context, if you want to argue who has been responsible, first for the ignition of this war, and two, for the prolongation of this war, there is no question why there are two sides fighting and why there have been human rights violations by the Houthis. The responsibility, the bulk of responsibility, should be laid on the blame of those who started the war and who have prolonged the war, and that is Saudi Arabia, UAE and the sponsors in the West, along with Israel on their side.
GREG WILPERT: We’re going to leave it there for now. I was speaking to As’ad AbuKhalil, Professor of Political science at Cal State Stanislaus. Thanks again, As’ad, for having joined us today.
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Thank you very much. Have a good day.
GREG WILPERT: Thank you for joining The Real News Network.
UN: UK, France and US may be complicit in Yemen war crimes – UN report
The United Nations announced that the findings from a report on the conflict in Yemen indicate that the United States, Britain and France may have been indirectly complicit in potential war crimes, as announced during a press conference on the report in Geneva on Tuesday.
"In summary, our conclusions are as follows; the parties to the conflict in Yemen are responsible for an array of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, some of these violations are likely to amount to war crimes," International Expert on Yemen Melissa Parke said at the press briefing.
Parke also stated that the report called on those indirectly involved in the conflict or 'third states' to prohibit the supply of arms to all sides of the conflict as these could be used to commit human rights violations and possible war crimes.
"There are certain states who are well known to be supplying weapons, that includes the United States, it includes the United Kingdom and it includes France to name but three," added International Expert on Yemen Charles Garraway. Garraway also stated that a confidential list of the names of those suspected of committing human rights violations during the Yemen conflict will be handed to the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet who will decide upon further action. mandatory credit: untv
UN blames US, UK, France for Yemen crisis
In the FULL SHOW: UN blames US, UK, France for Yemen crisisUN experts have flagged the United States, the United Kingdom and France for human-rights abuses in the Saudi-led campaign that has crippled Yemen (5:28).
By Maj. Danny Sjursen -
Yemen is a nightmare, a catastrophe, a mess—and the United States is highly complicit in the whole disaster. Refueling Saudi aircraft in-flight, providing targeting intelligence to the kingdom and selling the requisite bombs that have been dropped for years now on Yemeni civilians places the 100,000-plus deaths, millions of refugees, and (still) starving children squarely on the American conscience. If, that is, Washington can still claim to have a conscience.
The back story in Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country, is relevant. Briefly, the cataclysm went something like this: Protests against the U.S.-backed dictator during the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. After a bit, an indecisive and hesitant President Obama called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. A Saudi-backed transitional government took over but governed (surprise, surprise) poorly. Then, from 2014 to 2015, a vaguely Shiite militia from Yemen’s north swarmed southward and seized the capital, along with half the country. At that point, rather than broker a peace, the U.S. quietly went along with, and militarily supported, a Saudi terror-bombing campaign, starvation blockade and mercenary invasion that mainly affected Yemeni civilians. At that point, Yemen had broken in two.
Now, as the Saudi campaign has clearly faltered—despite killing tens of thousands of civilians and starving at least 85,000 children to death along the way—stalemate reigns. Until this past week, that is, when southern separatists (there was once, before 1990, a South and North Yemen) seized the major port city of Yemen, backed by the Saudis’ ostensible partners in crime, the United Arab Emirates. So it was that there were then three Yemens, and ever more fracture. In the last few days, the Saudi-backed transitional government retook Aden, but southern separatism seems stronger than ever in the region.
Like Humpty-Dumpty in the nursery rhyme, it’s far from clear that Yemen can ever be put back together again. Add to that the fact that al-Qaida-linked militants have used the chaos of war to carve out some autonomy in the ungoverned southeast of the country and one might plausibly argue that the outcome of U.S.-backed Saudi intervention has been no less than four Yemens.
What makes the situation in the Arabian Peninsula’s south particularly disturbing is that supposed foreign policy “experts” in D.C. have long been hysterically asserting that the top risk to America’s safety are Islamist-occupied “safe havens” or ungoverned spaces. I’m far from convinced that the safe-haven myth carries much water; after all, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and the U.S. as much as in, supposedly, the caves of Afghanistan. Still, for argument’s sake, let’s take the interventionist experts’ assumption at face value. In that case, isn’t it ironic that in Yemen—and (as I’ll demonstrate) countless other countries—U.S. military action has repeatedly created the very state fracture and ungoverned spaces the policymakers and pundits so fear?
Featured image: The guided missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations against a target in Syria while in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2017. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams / U.S. Navy)
Let us take an ever-so-brief tour of Washington’s two-decade history of utterly rupturing Greater Mideast nation-states and splintering an already fractious region. Here goes, from West to East, in an admittedly non comprehensive list.
U.S. airstrikes and regime change policy in Libya has unleashed an ongoing civil war, divided the country between at least two warlords, and enabled arms and militiamen to cross the southern border and destabilize West Africa. Which means that Niger, Libya, Cameroon, Mali, Chad and Nigeria have seen their shared territory around Lake Chad become a disputed region, contested by a newly empowered array of Islamists. That, of course, led the U.S. military to plop a few thousand troops in these countries. That deployment is unlikely to end well.
In Israel/Palestine, decades of reflexive U.S. support for Israel and Donald Trump’s doubling down on that policy—by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and turning a blind eye to Israeli plans to annex much of the West Bank—have ensured, once and for all, that there can be no viable Palestinian state. Which means that the area is divided into at least three (for the Palestinians, at least) noncontiguous entities: Gaza, Israel and the West Bank.
In Syria, American meddling in the civil war, self-destructive support for various Islamists groups there and military intervention on behalf of the Kurds have broken Syria into a mostly jihadi, rebel-held northwest, Assad-regime center and U.S.-backed Kurdish east.
Just over the border in Iraq stands the gold standard of counterproductive U.S. fracture. There, an ill-fated, illegal U.S. invasion in 2003 seems to have forever broken into an autonomous Kurdish north, Shiite-held east and south and Sunni-controlled west. It is in that contested western region that Sunni jihadism has long flourished and where al-Qaida in Iraq, and its more extreme stepchild, Islamic State, metastasized and then unleashed massive bloodletting on both sides of the border.
Finally, in Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion and occupation—as well as any impending peace deal—ensured that this Central Asian basket case of a country will divide, for the foreseeable future, into Taliban-dominated Pashtun south and east and tenuous Tajik/Uzbek/Hazara minorities held north and west.
The point is that the U.S. has irreparably fractured a broad swath of the globe from West Africa to Central Asia. Interventionist pundits in both parties and countless think tanks insist that the U.S. military must remain in place across the region to police dangerous “ungoverned spaces,” yet recent history demonstrates irrefutably that it is the very intervention of Washington and presence of its troops that fragments once (relatively) stable nation-states and empowers separatists and Islamists.
The whole absurd mess boils down to a treacherous math problem of sorts. By my simple accounting, a region from Nigeria to Afghanistan that once counted about 22 state entities has—since the onset of the U.S. “terror wars”—broken into some 37 autonomous, sometimes hardly governed, zones. According to the “experts,” that should mean total disaster and increased danger to the homeland. Yet it’s largely U.S. military policy and intervention itself that’s caused this fracture. So isn’t it high time to quit the American combat missions? Not according to the mainstream policymakers and pundits. For them, the war must (always) go on!
Counterproductivity seems the essence of U.S. military policy in Uncle Sam’s never-ending, post-9/11 wars. Call me crazy, or wildly conspiratorial, but after serving in two hopelessly absurd wars and studying the full scope of American military action, it seems that maybe that was the idea all along.
Maj. Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan…