Former UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, has given an undiplomatic assessment of the crisis in that country, in which he rhetorically explodes Saudi myths “justifying” the US-backed aerial bombing campaign. The Moroccan diplomat told media at the weekend that the ongoing conflict was a direct result of Houthi rebels having been excluded from the political process last year.
Furthermore, Benomar went on to say unequivocally that during his tenure as UN envoy in Yemen he saw no evidence of Iranian involvement stirring the country’s strife.
That testimony debunks the Western media-contrived whitewash of the continuing Saudi slaughter in Yemen – a slaughter that is being aided and abetted, politically and militarily, by Washington.
Benomar resigned from his diplomatic post last week after three years of being charged with facilitating political talks between Yemeni rebels and the US, Saudi-backed regime of now-ousted president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Benomar’s task had always been a futile one because the foreign sponsors of the Hadi regime were never interested in a genuine transition to a more democratic, representative government in the Arab Peninsula country.
The US, Saudi-backed puppet-president Hadi, who was elected in an uncontested ballot in February 2012, was only ever supposed to hold a transitional office for a year, while in theory overseeing the formation of an elected, fully representative government.
For three years, Hadi under the tutelage of Washington reneged on promises to hand over power to a more democratic constitution. Among those shut out from the transition were the northern-based Houthis. When Hadi and his ruling clique refused to fulfil promises, the Houthis took over government institutions by force and deposed the so-called caretaker president at the beginning of this year.
That account of events has now been substantiated by the former UN envoy, who more than anyone is best-placed to make a call, having had a ringside seat in Yemen for three years.
Benomar’s more recent diplomatic task of trying to re-engage Yemeni opponents in talks was again made impossible because the Gulf Arab backers of the Hadi regime – in particular Saudi Arabia – refused to countenance engagement of the Houthi rebels. This is because the Arab dictators are implacably opposed to allowing a wider franchise in the formation of a new government in Yemen, one that would have genuine democratic participation. Benomar’s resignation last week was prompted by muted antagonism from the Saudi and Qatari rulers.
Saudi Arabia launched an aerial bombing campaign on Yemen on March 26, along with support from other Arab dictatorships, including Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf monarchies of Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The United States has given full political backing to the bombing campaign along with supply of munitions and logistical targeting of air strikes.
The constant air strikes on Yemen for more than three weeks has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths. Last week, eight civilians, including a mother and three children, were killed when a school in Malahidh region near the Saudi border was hit in an air strike. The true death toll of the Saudi-led bombing campaign may be several thousand, much more than official UN figures, according to Yemeni military and medical sources.
The military intervention has been denounced by Russia, China and Iran, with all three countries calling for an immediate halt to the violence. A Russian draft resolution put to the UN Security Council last week calling for a humanitarian ceasefire was rejected by the US and its Arab allies. But an alternative resolution was passed, despite Russia’s abstention, that imposes an arms embargo on the Yemeni rebels.
Washington and its Arab allies have claimed that the Houthis illegally overthrew the Hadi “government”. Their justification for the all-out bombing campaign is that they are responding to the “legitimate requests for assistance” from “President Hadi” who last month fled to Saudi Arabia. Last week, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, a “deputy president” of Yemen was sworn into office and continues to reside in the Saudi capital, along with Hadi. This remnant regime in exile can therefore hardly be construed as a “legitimate government”.
Moreover, there are clear double standards over the way Washington in particular has tried to uphold the Hadi regime compared with the way it immediately delegitimised the deposed president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. At least Yanukovych was constitutionally elected and had a democratic mandate from a large section of the Ukrainian population. The ousted Yemeni nominal president can make no such claims.
Former UN envoy Jamal Benomar clearly makes the US and Saudi “justifications” for their actions in Yemen untenable. Hadi was an unscrupulous, dishonest broker who had long abused his transitional office for the purpose of obstructing democratic transition, in accordance with the geopolitical wishes of his foreign masters.
The other disclosure by Benomar that Iran has conducted no covert interference in Yemen is equally significant. The alleged subversive role of Iran trying go expand Shia influence in the region has also been held up by the Saudis and the US-coordinated bombing coalition as another “justification”. That rationale never posited an acceptable legal argument anyway, even if there had been some Iranian involvement in supporting the popular uprising spearheaded by the Houthis. But what Benomar is saying is that there is not a scintilla of Iranian malfeasance.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran over allegedly “destabilising the region” and he used the claim to rationalise American support for the bombing of Yemen. Kerry claimed without citing specific evidence that Iran was flying in weapons to Houthi rebels. How the Iranians could carry out such a mission while hundreds of Arab warplanes have imposed a no-fly zone over Yemen was not explained by the imaginative Kerry.
Besides, the Iranian government and the Houthi rebels have both strenuously denied any such military connection. Several other independent monitors have also rejected the notion that Iran had infiltrated the country with “fifth columnists” and military supplies.
With the Iranian “bogeyman” factor nullified, that strips the US, Saudi bombing of Yemen down to what it is: criminal foreign aggression.
The broad swathe of Yemeni public have from the outset denounced the foreign coalition as foreign aggression. A Yemeni Army Colonel Sharaf Luqman was quoted by Al Manar news agency as calling the US-Arab bombing a “war crime”. He listed the civilian infrastructure destroyed so far to include government buildings, power plants and fuel depots, hospitals, schools, family residences, mosques, markets and businesses.
“Saudi Arabia is the international supporter of terrorism. It is hiring foreign armies because its troops cannot dare to fight in Yemen,” noted Colonel Luqman.
Another Yemeni Army source, Colonel Adel Sattar al Boushali, said that Saudi Arabia had recently sent up to 5,000 Takfiri Al Qaeda mercenaries into Yemen to step up the ground war. The mercenaries, he said, had been relocated from Syria, where they have been waging a covert war on behalf of Western and Arab allies to topple the government of Bashar al Assad.
The US, Saudi criminality in Yemen is thus emerging as both egregious and transparent. There is not a shred of justification for their military operations. Civilians are being mass murdered and a country – the poorest in the region – is being destroyed simply because the foreign powers are refusing to give way to a democratic uprising. These powers are trying to bludgeon the democratic will of the Yemeni people in order to reinstall a discredited, unelected regime that serves to suppress democracy.
Meanwhile over the weekend, the “benevolent” Saudi rulers announced that they were pledging $275 million in “humanitarian aid” to Yemen. How depraved is that? Bombing and massacring with one hand, and then with the other handing out bandages and analgesics to mutilated children.
Surely, a day of judgement is urgently needed whereby Washington and its despotic Arab allies are prosecuted for war crimes in Yemen.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.