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Middle East

Opinion: Yemen's shameful war

Two years ago, a tribal conflict in Yemen widened into a full-scale war after intervention by Saudi Arabia. Today, two-thirds of the population is starving. The world can no longer look away, says DW's Matthias von Hein.

The richest country in the Arab world is bombing the poorest country back into the Stone Age - a situation that's been ongoing for two years now. And Western countries are willing assistants. The United States is helping to refuel fighter jets midair for the Saudi-led coalition. They would otherwise not be able to reach their targets in Yemen. Britain and the US are selling weapons, including internationally outlawed cluster bombs. Since the beginning of the attacks, they've delivered some $5 billion (4.7 billion euros') worth of weapons to the Saudis.

US increasing assistance to Saudi Arabia

The fact that the bombs far too often claim civilian lives appears to be of no concern to the military partners. Just the opposite: The US has now announced plans to strengthen its cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict. The supposed goal is the suppression of Iran's influence in Yemen. But Tehran's influence on the Houthi rebels is not nearly as big as Saudi Arabian propaganda would have us believe. The Houthis in Yemen cannot be compared with Hezbollah in Lebanon; they are not there to carry out Tehran's bidding. If that were true, they would have respected Tehran's warning to stay out of the capital, Sanaa, instead of going in and taking over the city.

The Houthi rebels are getting little more than rhetorical support from Iran. And even if everything else is in short supply in Yemen, there appears to be no shortage of weapons. The Houthis were able to help themselves to supplies at the army's depots, based on their alliance with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He ruled the country for two decades, remains well-connected, and has a lot of friends in the military that have joined the Houthi-Saleh rebellion. The Houthis are not in need of weapons deliveries from Iran. Nor are they even possible: The ports are blocked by the Saudi coalition. And that's also one of the reasons why, according to UN information, there are some 7 million Yemenis who don't know where their next meal is coming from. Half a million children are suffering from severe malnutrition. More than two-thirds of the population is dependent on food aid. These people are deliberately being starved to death.

Read: Yemen conflict all but ignored by the West

Escalation won't bring peace

The current military escalation will not lead to a turnaround in the war, much less bring peace. The experience of the last two years has shown that, aside from the weapons industry, the only groups profiting from the chaos in the country are al Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State." Once again, Western politics seem to be breeding terrorists rather than eliminating them.

What the country needs is a national reconciliation conference - with no prerequisites, and no outside interference. And what the region needs is a security structure that meets the needs of both Saudi Arabia and Iran. That might go some way to alleviating Saudi Arabian politicians' paranoia - bordering on obsession - regarding Iran's supposed growing influence in the region.

Watch video 00:54

Yemen's children pay the price of war

 

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