by Azza Rojbi, published on Fire This Time, March 26, 2023
March 26, 2023, marks 8 years since the start of the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen. The coalition airstrikes have destroyed houses, schools, roads, markets, hospitals, water tanks, sanitation facilities, mosques, and other vital infrastructure in the country. Almost 400,000 people have been killed because of the war. Those that were fortunate to survive are living amid a humanitarian catastrophe. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), around 23.7 million Yemenis, 77% women and children, need humanitarian assistance. Of those, 7.4 million – some 25% of the population – suffer from malnutrition, including 2 million children.
The suffering and destruction are shared by millions of Yemeni families who have been mourning loved ones and struggling to survive. Since the start of the Saudi-led U.S.-backed coalition-led war in 2015, Yemen has only seen death and destruction. The United Nations (UN) referred to the situation in the country as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
The Saudi-led coalition also imposes a naval, aerial, and land blockade on Yemen. The blockade has caused medicine, fuel, and food shortages, aggravating an already disastrous situation. Despite the loosening of some restrictions by Saudi Arabia, the blockade continues to persist, impeding the flow of goods to Yemen.
On January 6, 2023, mass rallies took place across Yemen under the slogan “siege is war”. Protesters carried signs against the Saudi-led military intervention in their country and demanded the full lifting of the blockade. A statement released by the protesters reads, “The Coalition is preventing the entry of goods through the port of Hodeidah, and whatever oil we receive is only small quantities deliberately doubled in price with long and unnecessary inspection procedures. The Saudi-American Coalition seeks to impose dire living conditions upon the Yemeni people to make our lives harder. To prevent us from travelling abroad and to strangle us.”
Who’s behind the war?
Since the first day of the start of the military intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and their primary accomplice, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), enjoyed full political and military support from the United States. In addition, the U.S. and their imperialist allies, such as the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Canada, made billions of dollars in arms sales and training contracts with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Armed and trained by the U.S. and their allies, the Saudi-led coalition intervened in an internal dispute in Yemen to serve their interests and the interests of their imperialist masters. Yemen occupies a very strategic location in the Middle East. Yemen’s coast borders the Bab el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. This narrow strategic waterway represents one of the world’s most active and important maritime shipping routes. Dominating Yemen is vital for the United States and imperialists to expand their military and economic hegemony of the region, including East Africa, the Indian Ocean, and West Asia.
After 8 years of wars and destruction, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition has failed to crush the Yemeni resistance to foreign domination and impose a puppet regime on the country. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have funnelled billions of dollars, weapons and foreign mercenaries to fight their dirty war in Yemen and serve their regional interests.
The Emiratis have established a military presence on Socotra island in the Indian Ocean, which was occupied by UAE in 2015. And, as reported in Responsible Statecraft, “according to a recent article in Breaking Defense, they are considering expanding that presence by putting missile defense sensors on the island, which would support a nascent, U.S.-led alliance made up of Israel and several Arab states.”
Saudi Arabia is also pursuing a strategy to establish its own direct military presence on Yemeni soil. An article published on the Huffington Post on February 23, 2023, titled “Americans Are Quietly Supporting A Saudi Land Grab In Yemen,” uncovers a “Saudi takeover of strategic transport facilities in Yemen’s eastern Al-Mahra province, and the establishment of a string of Saudi military bases there”.
Al-Mahra is the second largest province in Yemen by size, it borders Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the north. In the past few months, several U.S. and British military personnel visited Al-Mahra under the pretext of coordinating to combat smuggling and fight terrorism. The latest visit was that of Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the U.S. Navy’s top commander in the Middle East, on March 2, 2023. Controlling Al-Mahra would give Saudi Arabia and their imperialist masters direct access to the Indian Ocean and further expands their hegemonic control of maritime shipping routes in the region.
Canada’s complicity & hypocrisy in the war
Since the start of the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen, Canada has increased their sales of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia is the largest non-U.S. export destination of Canadian military goods. As reported by Project Ploughshares, “in 2022, Canada exported a further $709 million in Light Armoured Vehicles to Saudi Arabia.” This is a small portion of Canada’s $15 billion agreement to export these armoured vehicles to the Kingdom.
According to the 2021 Exports of Military Goods Report, Canada also exported rifles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The report also shows that in addition to selling weapons directly to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the government of Canada has been issuing brokering permits for selling them arms through other countries such as Brazil, the United States, and the Netherlands. Canada was named twice in a list of countries fueling the war on Yemen by continuing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by a United Nations’ panel of independent experts. The Trudeau government has no shame in continuing to profit from the brutal war and destruction against the Yemeni people.
The Trudeau government claims to be a champion of Human Rights but quietly continues to expand its economic and political relationships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE while disregarding the suffering and plight of the Yemeni people. Once a year, Canada ceremonially contributes to the United Nations’ fundraising efforts for humanitarian relief in Yemen to wash off some of the blood that’s on its hands. According to the government website, Global Affairs Canada, since the start of the war in 2015, Canada has committed over $411 million in humanitarian funding to Yemen. In contrast, only in one year, in 2022, Canada made $709 million in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia!
The Trudeau government has recently shown that it can implement quick resources to welcome and help settle refugees when it opened the door for Ukrainian refugees and created the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel. One wonders why Yemeni refugees aren’t welcomed in such a way! Where are the resources to help the millions of Yemenis internally displaced inside of Yemen and the hundreds of thousands stranded in transit countries?
Canada is ignoring the misery of Yemenis and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen while continuing to profit from fueling the war in Yemen. This is Canadian human rights, Trudeau style!
Enough is enough! As peace-loving people in Canada, the U.S. and around the world, it’s imperative that we continue educating, organizing and mobilizing against the imperialists’ war on Yemen and call for the full lifting of the land, sea, and air blockade on Yemen by the Saudis, UAE and the U.S. We need to continue exposing and protesting the complicity of our respective governments and holding them accountable for continuing to fuel the war. We need to keep fighting and demanding that they end all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and that they open the borders to Yemeni refugees.
We must build a united front to organize, educate and mobilize against imperialist meddling in Yemen and defend the self-determination of the Yemeni people. The first step is to demand all foreign troops end their occupation and leave Yemen immediately. Let’s join the brave Yemeni people in fighting for peace, freedom, and sovereignty without imperialist military interventions, occupation, and war.
*Featured Image: Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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