Saudi Arabia began bombing its neighbor, Yemen, on March 26, responding to a call from the country’s unelected president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for intervention to beat back a military campaign by Houthi rebels — allied with former strongman and erstwhile U.S. ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh — who the Saudi monarchy claims are nothing more than a proxy force backed by Iran in order to destabilizing the Islamic Republic’s foes in the Arabian peninsula. That claim, making a complex power struggle out to be a Iranian proxy war and nothing more, if self-servingly reductionist, the product of Saudi paranoia that its own repressed population might see what’s happening next door and rise up too (which would, of course, be blamed on Iran, just as other actors in region dismiss the idea their own brutality is the root of their problems in order to cast blame entirely on “outside agitators”).
The rebels may not be saints, but even if Iran were providing the Houthis with every bullet they fire (ignoring for argument’s sake that, in fact, many of those bullets were originally provided by the US government to Yemen’s military before the rebels took them, while some weapons were reportedly handed to them directly by US personnel evacuating the country), the reality is that only one party to the conflict is bombing the country from the air with the support of the world’s leading imperialist power. And that’s killing a whole lot of innocent people.
From The Wall Street Journal:
At least 648 civilians have been killed since the intervention began, and Saudi-led strikes have hit hospitals, schools, a refugee camp and neighborhoods, according to U.N. officials.
That works out to be at least 38 civilians killed by U.S.-backed Saudi air strikes each day, on par with Israel’s last bombing run on the densely populated prison of Gaza, which reportedly worries U.S. officials who want the conflict to be over so they can resume killing alleged members of Al Qaeda (and, of course, whoever happens to be in the vicinity). I’d suggest the more powerful, morally defensible argument against the Saudi campaign is that it’s killing 38 civilians a day, but there’s a reason, I guess, that I’m writing on WordPress and not being anonymously quoted in the WSJ.
Relatedly: I’d like to take this moment to caution against suggesting that this war places the war criminals “on the same side” of Al Qaeda, as Glenn Greenwald stated on Twitter in order to score points against the US and the Saudis; it’s a good way to get retweets — and bashing the American government and its awful allies is indeed a worthy endeavor — but Greenwald’s take is, alas, a hot and vulgar one that unfortunately has the effect of erasing the fact many of those fighting the Houthis on the ground in southern Yemen consider themselves socialists. I think these people would probably object to being cast as “on the same side” of a reactionary terrorist organization, whether that organization is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or the Saudi military, just as peace activists objected to the neoconservative smear that they were apologists for jihad because they were “on the same side” as jihadists in opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq. All I am saying is: Give nuance a chance.