By Prarthana Mitra
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence chief Jim Mattis on Tuesday demanded that the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen stop air-striking populated areas, calling for an end to the bloody war that has displaced and endangered the lives of millions, over the last four years.
US intervention comes at the highest point of crisis
Asking the Houthi rebel forces and supporters of the internationally recognised Yemeni government (including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the West) to arrive at a ceasefire, Pompeo voiced support for the resumption of UN’s peacekeeping effort in Yemen, urging them to begin negotiations by November.
“We’ve got to move toward a peace effort here. And we can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days,” Pompeo said in a direct address to Saudi Arabia, right in the midst of the Khashoggi crisis.
Talks aimed at “confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders, and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation” could ease the crisis, he believed. Meanwhile, Mattis reported in a Washington forum on Tuesday, that the Saudis and Emiratis appeared ready to embrace efforts by U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, to resolve the conflict.
Shrapnel from bombs that blew up a school bus in August, however, was revealed to be US-made, after Pompeo pledged to end military aid to the coalition forces, thus throwing the sincerity of America’s peace campaign into question. France too has supplied arms to the forces according to media reports; Britain is also being held complicit in Yemen’s undoing, that now holds the world in rapt attention and prayers.
All you need to know about the war in Yemen
Pompeo’s intervention at this point, however, is crucial, when hostilities over the last four years have given way to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the most economically impoverished country in the region. Children are dying of hunger or air raids, and a famine that could wipe out the 8.4 million of the country’s population is imminent.
The war between the Houthis and the government has waged since 2004 due to differences between the Shia and Sunni communities, but it exacerbated in 2014 when the rebels occupied Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and proceeded southwards to claim Aden, another important city.
The state, military with help from foreign governments launched a brutal campaign against the Houthis the following year and things have never been the same ever since. This marked the inception of the coalition with Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal, which have taken turns to send troops or lead air strikes on Yemeni soil over the last three years. On the other hand, arms shipments from Iran were intercepted before they reached Houthi rebels multiple times during this period.
Some figures to put the direness in perspective
According to Al Jazeera, over 40,000 Yemeni civilians died as casualties of war by March 2018, while 10,000 died fighting. A record of at least 50,000 children were killed in 2017, mostly by Saudi-led air strikes. The war is also believed to have displaced 3 million Yemenis, who have emigrated within the country and now suffer from hunger, homelessness and epidemics, while 280,000 of Yemeni immigrants have sought asylum in African countries.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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