Oct. 16 — The Navy destroyer USS Nitze fired Tomahawk cruise missiles on Oct. 13 at what Washington claimed were “Houthi-controlled radar sites” in Yemen. This was Washington’s first direct military strike in the escalating U.S.-Saudi war against the impoverished Middle Eastern state.
The U.S. attack was ostensibly in retaliation for missile threats against the USS Mason, as reported Oct. 10 by international news agencies. The Pentagon destroyer was deployed in the southern Red Sea.
The Pentagon quickly blamed these supposed missile threats on the Ansurallah movement (also known as the Houthis), which Washington has targeted as the principal enemy in Yemen since the religious group has taken control of territory in the country’s northern, central and southern regions, near the Gulf of Aden. Saudi-led airstrikes and ground operations have targeted the Supreme Revolutionary Committee, an Ansurallah-led alliance, since U.S. diplomatic and military personnal withdrew in 2015.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, said, “We assess the missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen.” He claimed the U.S. is committed to ensuring “freedom of navigation” everywhere, and “will … take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our ships and our service members.” (Washington Post, Oct. 10)
The war conducted by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council since March 2015 has killed over 10,000 Yemenis. Daily aerial bombardments have sought to neutralize and defeat the Ansurallah movement, which is accused of being politically supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Ansurallah supporters have largely been Shite-oriented adherents of Islam in Yemen who allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Military units still loyal to Saleh have fought a coalition of anti-Houthis forces, including ousted Saudi- and U.S.-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Islamist elements alongside GCC and allied special forces have reinforced Hadi.
Power stations and water supply lines have been deliberately destroyed in a desperate war to reclaim control of the country by political interests allied with Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and Riyadh. Numerous attempts to negotiate a political settlement involving major organizations and religious groups in the Middle East’s most impoverished state have been sabotaged by the Saudi monarchy and supported by the U.S. State Department.
World outcry at funeral attack
Saudi-GCC air forces struck a funeral Oct. 8 in the capital of Sana’a, killing over 140 people. Eyewitnesses said there were at least two bombings. These air strikes follow a pattern since this phase of the war is targeting civilians by bombing residential areas, schools, health facilities, mosques and camps for internally displaced people.
Even the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 10: “With its military campaign in Yemen under renewed international scrutiny, Saudi Arabia said it ‘regretted’ a strike on a funeral that killed 142 mourners but stopped short of accepting responsibility for the attack.” In a letter from its U.N. Mission to the Security Council, Saudi Arabia promised to release its results from an investigation into the airstrike, which “Houthi rebels blamed on the Saudi-led coalition fighting to unseat them.”
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly called the Saudi leadership to express Washington’s “grave concern.” Perhaps this air strike — which received widespread U.S. media coverage — was a potential embarrassment to President Barack Obama’s administration.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented, “Aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have already caused immense carnage and destroyed much of the country’s medical facilities and other vital civilian infrastructure. Bombing people already mourning the loss of loved ones is reprehensible. This latest horrific incident demands a full inquiry. [T]here must be accountability for the appalling conduct of this entire war. … Those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.” (bigstory.ap.org, Oct. 10)
Ban requested the U.N. Human Rights Council establish a team to conduct an independent investigation into the Oct. 8 bombings. He stated that the latest attacks continue a disaster that has left 80 percent of the 20 million people in Yemen in need of humanitarian assistance.
Many Yemenis have fled to other parts of the country and abroad to avoid the conflict. The U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs and other relief organizations have issued reports on this situation.
The World Food Program, a U.N. agency, has reduced monthly food rations to the Yemeni people due to the lack of funds. Agency spokeswoman, Bettina Luescher, said WFP needs another $145 million to complete its work by the end of 2016. “Even before the violence and the war in Yemen, the malnutrition rates of children in Yemen were the highest in the world,” she said. “Half of the children are stunted, meaning they are too short for their age because of chronic malnutrition.” (voanews.com, Oct. 4)
According to the same source, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the bombing and ground war in Yemen have destroyed the country’s economic fabric. Basic services have been destroyed, moving the economy near to total collapse. Children have been the main casualties of the war. He said, “[T]here are 1.5 million [children younger than 5] who are acutely malnourished.” Many others are suffering from moderate malnutrition.
Laerke explained: “Before the war, Yemen was over 90 percent dependent on import of basic food items and medicines. Eighty percent of those imports come through Hudaydah port,” an important lifeline. “What is particularly urgent in the port is … repair of five cranes, which were damaged in an airstrike in August 2015, so they have been partly out of commission for quite some time.” This has made it difficult to import food and other needed supplies through the port.
U.S.-backed war causes death and destruction
This is a genocidal war being waged with Washington’s support. The Obama administration has authorized the use of American-made warplanes, bombs and other destructive weapons against the Yemeni people.
“The U.S., a top Saudi arms supplier, approved a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other military equipment to Riyadh in August,” reported the Oct. 10 Wall Street Journal. “Citing Yemen’s high civilian casualty toll, four senators introduced a resolution on the floor of the Senate in September to block the sale,” but it didn’t pass. The newspaper noted London’s approval of “the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of British jets, bombs and missiles to the country in recent years.”
Without the diplomatic cover provided by the White House, the Saudi-GCC coalition could not have carried out this war for the last 19 months. The disastrous situation in Syria has overshadowed the war in Yemen; yet both are a direct result of U.S. imperialism’s failed policies.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is intensifying its “clandestine war” in Somalia, which also borders the Gulf of Aden. The escalating campaign involves hundreds of U.S. Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and other forces rotating through makeshift bases and creating more imperialist murder and mayhem.
An earlier version of this article appeared in Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalization.