The United States has had a dismal track record managing conflicts in the Middle East in recent years, but in Yemen, it is currently abetting a humanitarian disaster that could ultimately rival Syria and Iraq in its destabilizing impact on the region and the world.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the intractable war over the past three years...
Over the weekend, international aid agencies warned that some 20 million people were imminently at risk of dying of starvation or poverty-related diseases in Yemen and a number of African countries, all of which are facing critical food shortages.
In Yemen alone, Save the Children counts 20.7 million people, half of them children, in dire need of aid. Meanwhile, a cholera epidemic is raging through the parts of Yemen hit hardest by the war, with at least 360,000 suspected cases and perhaps as many as 425,000. Some 2,000 people have already died in the epidemic, and the number of cases is rising by some 7,000 a day.
The famine in Yemen is not a consequence of drought or crop failure... Rather, the famine is the intentional result of a two-year blockade imposed on the country by Saudi Arabia, with the help of its allies, including the US, in a deliberate effort to starve Yemeni areas into submission. The ruthless siege tactics of the Saudi-led coalition are also directly to blame for the cholera outbreak. Saudi Arabia has targeted civilian areas with its bombs, destroying vital infrastructure like hospitals and water systems. Dr. Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, says we are witnessing the "weaponization of disease" in Yemen, as well as in Syria.
The US cannot sidestep its own complicity in this carnage. After belatedly realizing that the Saudis were bombing Yemeni civilians with American-made weapons, the Obama administration blocked sales of cluster bombs and precision munitions to Riyadh last year. The Trump administration, however, sought to resume precision weapons sales back in March, and the Senate signed off on a new $500 million deal by a narrow margin in June. Since March, the administration has been considering expanding US involvement in the Yemen conflict - which the Saudis surely encouraged during Trump's visit there in May.
Meanwhile, the general US foreign policy is: As long as the Saudis buy their guns and bombs from us, we're not too concerned about how they end up using them, whether it's to besiege Yemen, threaten Qatar, brutally suppress protests in Bahrain, or intimidate their own citizens into quiescence. Given Trump's single-minded obsession with making deals and goosing US manufacturing jobs, as well as his susceptibility to Saudi flattery, his administration is unlikely to stand up to our most troublesome ally anytime soon.
Part of what allows the United States to be an accessory to these atrocities is the fact that though Yemen bleeds, it doesn't lead. Coverage of Yemen in the Western media, where it exists at all, tends to be one-dimensional "parachute journalism," produced by non-expert reporters and focusing solely on the Sunni-Shiite war dimension of the conflict.
What really makes the war in Yemen frightening is that the country was already in a fragile state: The poorest country in the Arab region, overpopulated and heavily dependent on imports, the country's biggest problem is that it is drying up. A population boom and the rise of a cash crop economy has led to overexploitation of scarce resources, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, and Yemen is now one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. Some experts believe Sanaa could become the world's first capital city to run out of water entirely - not decades from now, but by 2025 - and what little water the city has left is now contaminated with cholera.
If nothing is done to alleviate Yemen's water crisis, and especially if war continues to degrade infrastructure and make repairs impossible, Yemen is a strong candidate for the world's first major climate refugee crisis. Between war, famine, disease, climate change, and the indifference of the world, the land known to the Greeks and Romans as "Happy Arabia" is well on its way to becoming ungovernable, if not uninhabitable.
Source: New York Magazine, Edited by website team