War on Yemen wouldn’t end as long as U.S. funds Saudis: analyst

William Hawes, a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues, voiced doubts over the possibility of an end to the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.
A guard sits on the rubble of the house of Brigadier Fouad al-Emad, an army commander loyal to the Houthis, after Saudi-led coalition air strikes destroyed it in Sanaa, Yemen, June 15, 2015. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

As long as the U.S. funds, organizes, arms, and abets the Saudis, it is doubtful that the war on Yemen will end in the near future, he said.

The following is the full transcript of the interview:

Balkans Post: The U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, has estimated that Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has claimed more than 91,000 lives over the past four and a half years. What’s your take?

William Hawes: That number refers to violent deaths directly linked to warfare. It does not include the many casualties from starvation, disease, and lack of access to adequate health care. The UN just released a study and the combined death toll from war, disease, etc. is upwards of 230,000. As the report states, in Yemen every 12 minutes a child dies from this conflict. Due to import problems fuel has been restricted, leading to water shortages, which has put 15 million at risk of deadly disease such as cholera, and it is estimated 23 million require some form of aid. So, the situation is dire and it is getting worse for the majority of the population.

Balkans Post: Last month, drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s armed forces struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country’s crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies. What is your analysis of this incident?

William Hawes: Well, independent experts have claimed that the Houthis do have the capabilities to launch such attacks. What it absolutely proves is that the Saudi military is absolutely incompetent and does not even have basic air defense. It could be a game changer for the course of the war, because the Saudi economy can be brought to its knees, and another attack would signal to world leaders that this cannot be allowed to continue as it would negatively affect the global economy.

Balkans Post: What has changed since the drone attack? Do you think Riyadh has acknowledged its failure in Yemen?

William Hawes: The drone attack has reiterated Saudi incompetence, certainly. The Houthis have recently reported that they have killed and captured hundreds of Saudi troops in cross-border raids, and although this is very hard to fully verify, if true this is another nail in the coffin for Saudi Arabia’s immoral war. Unfortunately, I do not think Riyadh and Mohammed bin Salman have learned their lesson yet. There was no response to the Houthi offer of a ceasefire of bombing Saudi territory on September 20th, a sign of supreme arrogance.

Balkans Post: According to a report by The American Conservative magazine, senior U.S. officials have known ever since Saudi Arabia began a war of aggression against Yemen that Riyadh would fail in the military campaign. If accurate, why would the U.S. let one of its closest Middle East allies fail so miserably?

William Hawes: There are a number of reasons. First, the Saudis are a U.S. lapdog, but due to their oil supplies and geostrategic location they are allowed a long chain, so to speak. They are permitted by the USA to engage in human rights abuses, to fund terrorism abroad, and to engage in war in Yemen as long as they do not fundamentally disturb Western interests. Second, the U.S. sees the Saudis and the UAE (although they are slowly withdrawing in Yemen as we speak) as being their proxy fighters against Iran’s proxies, the Houthi rebels. It is a ridiculous notion, as the Houthis are an independent force, but the U.S. national security state has boxed itself in with its own propaganda, as their perception is that if the Houthis win, Iran wins, and would gain more leverage, prestige, and soft power in the wider region. So now they’ve convinced themselves it’s better to destroy an entire nation than allow the Houthis the upper hand in the war, a barbaric position. Third, although they are “allies” it is not clear how Washington feels about MBS, and a huge series of blunders and failure in Yemen could be cause to get rid of the tyrant if he is deemed expendable. Last, we must consider that the U.S. tolerates Saudi brutality because it needs a conduit to continue funding international terrorists such as ISIL and al-Nusra. Saudi Arabia is the perfect cut-out for distributing vast sums of money through shadowy banking networks. The U.S. can invoke the plausible deniability argument to their Western allies, by blaming the Saudis even as they use them to continue destabilizing the Middle East. The Saudi government is the perfect cartoon villain, and though it’s not fooling the international community, the U.S. can maintain the illusion of distance from funding and controlling terror groups in Western media, which the Saudis are vilified for.

Balkans Post: Do you see any positive signs showing the war might end soon?

William Hawes: There are glimmers of hope as more fuel and aid is let in and a fragile de-escalation continues around the port city of Hodeidah, but as long as the U.S. funds, organizes, arms, and abets the Saudis, it is doubtful that the war will end in the near future.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents, Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and more. You can email him at [email protected] Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com.

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