|Volume 48 Number 16, May 26, 2018||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Recent events have again highlighted the government's continual involvement in the genocidal war in Yemen, in which it is one of the main backers of the Saudi-led coalition of intervention forces.
Earlier this month the Court of Appeal granted activists from Campaigns Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) the right to launch a fresh legal challenge against the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia amidst what even the government acknowledges is an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Activists from CAAT are hoping to overturn a High Court decision last July which ruled export licences to the Gulf state to be lawful. Since 2015 it is estimated that the government has licensed £4.6 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including Typhoon and Tornado aircraft manufactured by BAE Systems.
In the coming months, CAAT campaigners - represented by Leigh Day Solicitors, and supported by various charities and agencies - aim to persuade the courts that the decision to grant licences to British companies selling fighter jets, bombs and other weaponry to Saudi Arabia contravene Britain's arms export policy. This policy is based on the principle that the government should be prevented from granting export licences "if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law".
As early as 2015 Johannes van der Klaauw, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, declared, "The indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law." In 2017 UN Office of the Communication of Humanitarian Affairs reported that since 2015 over 10,000 civilians had lost their lives and 40,000 had been injured, mainly as a result of Saudi-led airstrikes. In the same report the UN claimed that over 460,000 children were severely malnourished in what was already one of the world's poorest countries. It is generally accepted that there are well over 3 million displaced people in Yemen and over 10 million who require immediate humanitarian assistance to maintain their lives. The entire infrastructure of the country has collapsed and Yemen has also been plagued by major epidemics including cholera.
Saudi-led intervention in Yemen is in response to the civil war which resulted in the overthrow of the previous government of that country by the Houthis, a reform movement named after its original leader.The government of Saudi Arabia leads a coalition initially of nine countries including the UAR, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Senegal. This coalition, which aimed to intervene in the civil war and reinstate the overthrown government, is now supported by many other countries including the US, Britain, France, Canada and many others associated with the reactionary NATO. The British government not only allows the sale of weapons to the coalition but is openly involved in the conflict providing intelligence, logistical support to the government of Saudi Arabia and its allies. British and US military personnel have also been deployed in the command and control centre coordinating the air strikes on Yemen. Earlier this year newspaper reports claimed that the British Army was training Saudi forces for deployment in Yemen.
According to Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, "Yemen is a priority for the government." However, what this means is that it continues to support Saudi Arabia which it claims is under attack by missiles fired by the Houthis.
According to Johnson: "The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the legitimate security needs of Saudi Arabia and guarding against the danger of regional escalation. The UK has now agreed to work with the Saudis to mitigate the threat from these missiles. This will involve UK personnel providing information, advice and assistance limited to this particular objective. To be clear, the UK is not a member of the Saudi-Led Coalition. We do not have any role in setting Coalition policy, or in executing air strikes."
In fact, even the BBC was forced to admit that there can be no comparison between the missiles the Houthis may have launched in self-defence and the ongoing devastation caused by Saudi-led air strikes that have continued for years.
The British government must be condemned for its continued intervention and its support for the reactionary coalition which continues to create such death and devastation in Yemen. The pursuit of geo-political advantage in this strategic region, as well as the pursuit of maximum profits for the big monopolies illustrate the urgent need for an anti-war government.