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Four years of hell: to crush Yemen’s independence, US-Saudi war created world’s worst humanitarian crisis

On the fourth anniversary of the US-Saudi war on Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest nation suffers from the worst humanitarian catastrophe on Earth. But the Houthi movement — and Yemeni people — remain unbroken.

by Ben Norton

Part 4 - Failed attempt to crush Yemeni uprising

Beyond the stomach churning statistics, there is a key question: Why have the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE spent the past four years waging such a cruel war on the poorest country in the Middle East?

This question is almost never asked, yet alone answered, in corporate media. When they have rarely reported on Yemen, corporate media have endlessly repeated the myth that war is an “Iran-Saudi proxy war” or a “Sunni-Shia conflict.” This is a false narrative designed to obscure the real motives behind the assault.

To understand the war on Yemen, historical and political context is crucial.

This war was conceived to prevent Yemen from ever enjoying the capacity to rebel, wage a revolution, or govern itself as an independent state. Yemeni nationalists have tried for decades to forge a path independent of the US and Saudi Arabia, and have been ruthlessly punished for it.

Since the overthrow of the Soviet Union and the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, the country has increasingly come under the control of Washington and its allies.

With the collapse of South Yemen’s Soviet-aligned socialist government and the move toward pro-American neoliberalism by North Yemen’s nationalist government, Saudi influence began to spread throughout the country.

With increased Saudi investment in the country came Wahhabi doctrine. As Yemen fell under Saudi domination, right-wing sectarian Islamism spread in the south of the country.

In the north, a grassroots movement emerged in the community of mostly Zaidi Muslims, who are often described as Shia but share more in common with mainstream Sunni Islam. The Houthi movement was formed, to resist Saudi influence and Wahhabism.

As the Houthi movement began fighting against Yemen’s US-backed, Saudi-allied central government, it became increasingly political. The Houthis, who refer to themselves as Ansar Allah, preached against oppression and corruption. Eventually they developed a pronounced anti-imperialist ideology, vociferously condemning the US war on Iraq and Israeli war on Lebanon, even adopting the slogan “Death to America, Death to Israel.”

As Ansar Allah grew stronger and began to take over more territory, it formed a coalition with Yemeni nationalists loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Both of these forces opposed the regime of President Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a corrupt autocrat with no democratic legitimacy, whom they referred to as a Saudi puppet (a designation Hadi later confirmed when he fled to Riyadh, where he has remained for nearly all of the war).

By late 2014, Ansar Allah and the nationalists captured Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, seizing control of the state and carrying out what they described as the September 21 Revolution.

This is what so terrified the Saudi monarchy and its protectors in Western capitals: A revolt against a faithful US-Saudi puppet, led by an anti-imperialist political force that chants “Death to America, Death to Israel” — along with the prospects of an independent state in a strategically important area in the Arabian peninsula, near important trade routes on the Red Sea through which flow 4.8 million barrels of oil per day.

Riyadh launched its bombing campaign on March 26, 2015 with the express intention of reversing the September 21 Revolution, ousting Ansar Allah, and reasserting control over Yemen.

Because the Houthi movement has politically expressed support for Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Palestinian resistance groups, along with other anti-imperialist states like Venezuela and Cuba, Western governments and corporate media have portrayed it as a cat’s paw for foreign interests, a “proxy of Iran.” But this misleading myth is used to obscure how Ansar Allah and its allies are organic political forces that developed in the grassroots of Yemeni society to resist foreign domination.

In a way, the fact that the Houthi movement still governs northern Yemen, including the most populated areas of the country, is a sign that the US-Saudi war has failed.

When they announced their military intervention, Saudi officials said confidently that it would be over within a few weeks, that Ansar Allah would quickly surrender.

After four years, there is still no end in sight to the war. Several past attempts at peace talks have failed, largely because the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE will not tolerate an independent government allied with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.

In December 2018 there was a slight breakthrough, with the signing of the Stockholm agreement. But these provisions only delivered a partial ceasefire, and deadlines for the accord have already been missed — while US-Saudi airstrikes have continued, relentlessly.

The war has slowed in 2019, but it is far from over. And the suffering of the Yemeni people has shown no sign of abating.

Despite the enormous international onslaught, hundreds of thousands of deaths, widespread famine-like conditions, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on war — despite all of this, the US-UK-Saudi-UAE coalition has been unable to crush the will of the Yemeni people, who continue to fight for independence and sovereignty.

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