How Saudi Arabia's war tactics have fueled Yemen's humanitarian crisis.

Human Rights

2018-12-27 /

At least 130 civilians were killed in September 2015 when the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed a wedding reception near Mokha, Yemen.
...The Saudi coalition dropped American-made bombs on a funeral near Sana in October 2016, killing 155 civilians.
A Saudi general initially said there had been no strikes near the funeral. But days later the Saudi coalition admitted that an aircraft had "wrongly targeted the location."
The Saudi-led coalition bombed a school bus carrying children in August 2018. CNN reported that the bomb was American-made. Forty-four children and 10 adults were killed. The youngest child was 6.
These strikes are part of the broader Saudi-led air war that has killed over 4,600 civilians in Yemen since 2015.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been waging a ruinous war on neighboring Yemen for three years, with support from the United States. Armed with powerful fighter jets and warships, the Saudi-led coalition has employed tactics that minimize risk to its troops. But it has killed thousands of civilians and dealt a crushing blow to Yemen's fragile economy.
The architect of the war, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, initially promised a swift victory against his Houthi foes. But the effort quickly bogged down.
The Saudis and their chief ally, the United Arab Emirates, fight principally from the air. Armed with American-made warplanes and bombs, they have carried out thousands of airstrikes on Houthi targets but also on hospitals, weddings and funerals.
Their pilots typically fly high to avoid enemy fire, which reduces the accuracy of strikes. They regularly ignore a voluminous no-strike list.
The United States backed the coalition from the start with sales of weapons and bombs, midair refueling of warplanes over Yemen, and intelligence. After the funeral attack in 2016 killed 155 people, the Obama administration blocked sales of precision-guided munitions. But the United States continued to refuel coalition warplanes. In May 2017, the Trump administration overturned the missile ban, amid a new weapons deal.
Mr. Trump said he did not want to lose the benefit of multibillion-dollar arms sales for the American economy. But the war was ravaging the economy of Yemen.
Yemen has always been poor, with high rates of malnutrition and disease. But the three-year war has ground its economy into the dust.
Most Yemenis live in the west, between the mountains and the sea. Much of the east is a vast, sparsely populated desert.
Much of the fighting has focused on the port city of Hudaydah, the capital city of Sana, areas around the Saudi border, and Taiz in the south.
Yemen's agriculture cannot support the population so reliance on imports is high: About 70 percent of food is imported. As the war continued, the coalition imposed blockades and restrictions.
Blockades, bombing, currency manipulation and a decision to stop paying public servants in Houthi territory crushed Yemen's economy.

The war pits some of the richest countries in the Middle East against the poorest.
Yemen has modest reserves of oil, unlike Saudi Arabia, whose economy is 38 times larger. But the war sent Yemen spiraling into an economic catastrophe.
Millions are jobless. Factories have been destroyed. This year the currency plunged sharply, causing inflation to soar. The Central Bank of Yemen printed vast amounts of new currency, making things worse.
For ordinary Yemenis, that means soaring food, fuel and medicine prices. The cost of a basket of basic food has doubled since the start of the war. People have exhausted their savings and sold their cars, land or houses. Many are going hungry.
The United Nations estimates that 16 million Yemenis, over half the population, are seriously food deficient - despite international humanitarian assistance.
Yemen's hunger crisis is nearing catastrophic proportions. At least 85,000 children have died. Food insecurity projections show that, without urgent action, a national famine is looming.
Starvation has become a weapon of war. In an effort to isolate Houthi militants, the Saudi-led coalition has bombed farms, fishing boats and factories, according to scholars. Civilians are hit hardest. Dots here show coalition strikes on fishing and agriculture targets.
At least 6,500 civilians have died from airstrikes and other war-related violence, including some likely war crimes. But the greatest threat to most Yemenis is harder to see.
The economic devastation that pushed millions to the brink of famine and created the worst cholera epidemic in living memory is no accident of war: It is the product of deliberate policies by the warring parties.
The Saudi-led coalition, with its warplanes, blockades and vast economic power, bears a large share of the blame. But the Houthis are also at fault. They have manipulated relief aid, recruited child soldiers and planted vast numbers of land mines, according to aid workers and human rights groups.
Peace talks in Sweden in December offered a faint glimmer of hope for an end to the war. A shaky cease-fire in the key port of Hudaydah is holding.
But if politics fails, many fear that Yemen could lapse into even worse fighting. Famine could become a reality. And millions of civilians would pay the heaviest price, yet again.