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Saudi Targeting of Yemen Is Worse Than Khashoggi's Disappearance
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The plot to supposedly murder Jamal Khashoggi, as apparently proved by Turkish audio and video evidence shown to US officials, is a grizzly mixture of savagery and stupidity: Jack the Ripper meets Inspector Clouseau. Neither element is surprising because violent overreaction to minor threats is a traditional feature of dictatorial rule. As seems to be the case with Saudi Arabia today, Iraq under Saddam Hussein made immense efforts to eliminate exiled critics who posed no danger to the regime.

It is the purpose of such alleged assassinations and kidnappings to not only silence dissident voices however obscure, but to also intimidate all opponents at home and abroad by showing that even a hint of criticism will be suppressed with maximum force. But it is in the nature of dictators that their judgement is unbalanced because they never hear opinions contrary to their own. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990 with disastrous results. Saudi Arabia started its war in Yemen in 2015, with similarly catastrophic results, and now appears to think that it can get away with brazenly assassinating Khashoggi, as apparently proved by Turkish investigators. Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and says he left the consulate safely that afternoon.

It is important to watch how long the torrent of criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia will last. President Trump has been muted in his comments, emphasising the need to keep on terms with the Saudis because of the $110bn contract to sell them arms. Some of those most accustomed to kowtowing to Gulf monarchs, like Tony Blair, are comically reluctant to criticise Saudi Arabia despite the compelling evidence of the murder produced by Turkey. The best Blair can do is to say that the issue should be investigated and explained by Saudi Arabia “because otherwise it runs completely contrary to the process of modernisation”. Even for Blair this is surely a new low, and it could also be a dispiriting straw in the wind, suggesting that political elites in the US and UK will not be shocked for long and criticism will be confined to the alleged killing of Khashoggi.

This is an important point because the killing (as suggested by the Turkish investigators) is by no means the worst act carried out by Saudi Arabia since 2015, though it is much the best publicised. Anybody doubting this should read a report just published which shows that bombing and other military activities by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is deliberately targeting food supplies and distribution in a bid to win the war by starving millions of civilians on the other side.

There is nothing collateral or accidental about the attacks according to the report. Civilian food supplies are the intended target with the horrendous results spelled out by the UN at the end of September: some 22.2 million Yemenis or three quarters of the population are in need of assistance, 8.4 million of whom are not getting enough food to eat, a number which may increase by 10 million by the end of the year. “It is bleak,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council. “We are losing the fight against famine.”

But there are those in Saudi Arabia, UAE and their allies in Washington, London and Paris who evidently do not feel any regret and are intent on creating conditions for a man-made famine as the best way of winning the war against the Houthis who still hold the capital Sana’a and the most highly populated parts of the country. This is the conclusion of the highly detailed report called “The Strategies of the Coalition in the Yemen War: Aerial Bombardment and Food War” written by Professor Martha Mundy for the World Peace Foundation affiliated to the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

The report concludes that “if one places the damage to the resources of food producers (farmers, herders, and fishers) alongside the targeting of food processing, storage and transport in urban areas and the wider economic war, there is strong evidence that the coalition strategy has aimed to destroy food production and distribution in the areas under the control of Sanaʿaʾ.” It adds that the bombing campaign aimed directly at food supplies appears to have begun in 2016 and is continuing and becoming more effective.

Some aspects of the food war are easy to chronicle: on Yemen’s Red Sea coast no less than 220 fishing boats have been destroyed and the fish catch is down by 50 per cent according to the report. It cites one particular incident on 16 September when 18 fisherman from the district of Al Khawkhah were seized, interrogated and released by a coalition naval vessel which then fired a rocket at “the departing boat carrying the fishermen, killing all but one of them”. The report of this incident has been denied by the coalition.

The Saudi-led coalition began its intervention in the Yemeni civil war in March 2015 on the side of the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and against the “Houthi rebels” whom the coalition claims are backed by Iran. As Saudi defence minister at the time, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the driving force behind the intervention code named “Decisive Storm”. The coalition air campaign is aided by US aerial refuelling and logistic support while UK military personnel are stationed in command and control centres.

At first, the targets were largely military, but this changed when the coalition failed to win the quick military success its members had expected. Professor Mundy says that “from August 2015 there appears a shift from military and governmental to civilian and economic targets, including water and transport infrastructure, food production and distribution, roads and transport, schools, cultural monuments, clinics and hospitals, and houses, fields and flocks.”


Copiously illustrated with maps and charts, the report shows the impact of bombing and other military activities on the production and availability of food to the civilian population. Lack of electricity to pump water and fuel for farm vehicles have all been exacerbated by the airstrikes. Mundy says that “livestock production has been devastated as families in need sold animals and also found it increasingly difficult to access markets”.

When the farmers do reach a market, their troubles are not over. Coalition air strikes have become more lethal with the beginning of the siege of the Red Sea port of Hodeida by Saudi and Emirati-led forces in June. Some 70 per cent of Yemen’s imports enter the country through Hodeida, which has a population of 600,000. On 2 August the main fish market in the city was attacked along with the entrance to the public hospital where many people were gathered. In July, King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a general pardon to all Saudi soldiers fighting in Yemen.

The lack of international protests over the war in Yemen, and the involvement of the US and UK as allies of Saudi Arabia and UAE, helps explain one of the mysteries of the Khashoggi disappearance. If the Saudis murdered Khashoggi, why did they expect to carry out the assassination without producing an international uproar? The explanation probably is that Saudi leaders imagined that, having got away with worse atrocities in Yemen, that any outcry over the death of a single man in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was something they could handle.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Saudi Arabia, Yemen 
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  1. JC says:

    and so is the slaughter of Palestinians by that rouge terror regime Israel now in its 20th year of the dictator netanyaho not to the jews but to the USA

    • Replies: @Anon
  2. Virgile says:

    Saudi Arabia is a repulsive country and the USA is as repulsive to support and allow it to freely perpetrate evil on weaker countries.
    The blood of the Yemenis cannot remain unavenged. The USA and Saudi Arabia should not be surprised when it’ll hit back.

  3. Anita says:

    Deliberate destruction of civilian food supplies is one of the most heinous of war crimes. If Nuremberg could be reconvened there would be a lot of stretched necks.

  4. Would someone please explain to me why the Saudis care so much conquering the Yemenis? I’ve seen an argument that this is to secure the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, ostensibly so that the USA could go to war with Iran without fear of disrupting oil routes should Iran attempt to block the Straight of Hormuz. This shocked me when I read it, since it does seem to me to be the reason.

  5. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Sure, but you know how the media elites think. Khashoggi is one of their own, therefore HE matters more. He was one of their own by profession, connection, and ideology.

    The media and academia have always been this way.

    Why were they more appalled by Stalin’s purges than by the Great Famine? The Great Famine killed millions of peasants. In contrast, the Purge targeted intellectuals. The Purge killed around 500,000, far fewer than the Great Famine. But to the Western Media elites, the victims were closer to their heart.

    Same thing with Red China. The Great Leap Forward killed tens of millions of people, but mostly in the countryside. In contrast, the Cultural Revolution is estimated to have killed around 2 million but mostly in cities. And many victims were intellectuals. And that is why the Western Media cared more about the victims of the Cultural Revolution.

    Same thing with WWII and Cold War. Why were the US media and academia far more sensitive about McCarthyism than about Japanese Internment? The ‘victims’ of McCarythism numbered in the thousands. Many lost jobs and were blacklisted for a few yrs. But most were not arrested or dispossessed.
    In contrast, over 100,000 Japanese in America were dispossessed and put in camps.
    But the ‘victims’ of McCarthyism were intellectuals, artists, and journalists(many of them Jews). Meanwhile, most Japanese in America were just ordinary people. So, naturally, the media and academia cared far more for the ‘victims’ of Red Scare than of the ‘Jap’ Scare.

    It’s all about Professional Courtesy.

    • Replies: @Thomas Knyst
  6. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    These are all the results of Open Borders Policy.

    Open Borders is a state of warfare. When a people/territory cannot defend their borders, they get invaded. Palestine was invaded by Zionist migrants. Syria War was the result of across-border invasions by terrorists funded by Saudis and Turks. Iraq War was the result of US across-border invasion. California turned into a Third World hellhole because of invasion by browns and yellows.
    EU is being invaded by Africans and Muslims. All Open Borders.

  7. Did the cold blooded killing of journalists by American forces in Iraq generate a fraction of the media hyper-reaction we are witnessing with the Khashoggi disappearance? And that despite the Americans being provided with coordinates of the whereabouts of said journalists. Or is it because Khashoggi wrote for the Zionist mouthpieces of NYT and the WP? Where was the outrage of the despicable “international community” and threats of sanctions after the killing of Yemeni school children riding buses? Indeed, the unprecedented cholera epidemic in Yemen is a direct result of the war conducted by the nomadic monarchs with logistical support from their criminals-in-arms, the US and Britain. Where is the outrage? Where was the outrage of the “international community” when Israeli snipers killed dozens of Gazan protesters including women and children? This Khashoggi thing is getting a little tiresome. Sure if the alleged murder is proved, bring the culprits to justice. But so should the killers of other journalists and innocents. But no such luck. Of one thing we can be sure, after the dust settles, normal service and the sale of arms to the Saudi murderers will resume.

  8. @Anon

    As Stalin stated so clearly
    “One man’s death is a tragedy— but a million deaths is a statistic”

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