Yemen: the two faces of British imperialism

Funeral in Yemen for people killed in an airstrike

‘Britain sending aid does not change the tragic reality of its arms sales. Jeremy Hunt cannot promote peace while at the same time acting as an arms salesman.’- Mohamed Ali Al Houthi, leader of Ansar Allah coalition (The Guardian 29 March)

On 1 March British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt became the first western foreign minister to visit Yemen since the Saudi-led war began in 2015. As Britain is currently the ‘pen-holder’ for Yemen in the UN, with responsibility for drafting statements and motions on the war, Hunt stated that his visit was intended to put pressure on the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthi-led rebel forces to reach a peace agreement. However, just days before his visit, Hunt was secretly lobbying the German government to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia on behalf of British arms companies. Three weeks later, the Daily Mail revealed that five British soldiers from the Special Boat Service (SBS) had been injured whilst on operations supporting Saudi troops fighting the Houthi resistance in north west Yemen, amid allegations that British troops were training child soldiers (23 March). In the face of building opposition to the war, the representatives of British imperialism are working hard to publicly appear interested in achieving a fair and peaceful resolution. But in reality they are doing all they can to support Britain’s strategic regional interests and the profits of British arms companies. Toby Harbertson reports.


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Yemen: Who are the Houthis?

The Houthis lead a broadly-based movement for the national sovereignty of Yemen

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

In November 2018, the US government announced it was considering designating the Ansar Allah coalition in Yemen – commonly known as the Houthis – as a terrorist group. Imperialist politicians and much of the bourgeois media uncritically follow this approach of seeking to present the Houthi-led opposition as the villains in the ongoing war in Yemen. Accusations that the Houthis are Iranian proxies and that they are being armed by Iran are parroted in line with the foreign policy objectives of the brutal Saudi-led coalition which has been making war on Yemen since 2015. However, the truth is that the Houthi-led movement is a broadly-backed resistance movement fighting for national sovereignty against attempts by Saudi Arabia and its regional and imperialist backers to loot, plunder and subdue Yemen.


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Yemen: still no victory for Saudi Arabia

Supporters of the Houthi-led resistance in Sana'a protest against the Saudi bombing of their country

Following increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia, a ceasefire agreement and plans for peace talks brought a pause in the war on the people of Yemen at the end of November 2018.

More than three years into the Saudi-led coalition’s war, the tenacious resistance of its Houthi-led opponents has prevented any decisive progress. Ansar Allah – the Houthi-led movement – still controls most of the country’s populous and strategically important areas. The western media and their opponents continually assert that the movement is funded and armed by Iran – however there is no evidence of this. Attempts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other coalition partners to defeat the Houthis and reinstall their hand-picked President – Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi – have devastated the country. This war, largely neglected from media and political attention since it began in March 2015, attracted new attention after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is widely held responsible for the killing, and the war in Yemen has also been one of his projects. Khashoggi’s death coincided with an intense assault on the important Yemeni Red Sea port city of Hodeidah. Saudi Arabia’s economic and social crisis, and its fear of a declining role in the region at the expense of rivals such as Iran and Turkey, are at the heart of its drive to war and will not be solved by a ceasefire.


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Yemen: devastated by imperialist arms deals

‘Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation...and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.’

President Trump during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to the White House in March 2018

On 9 August, a bus carrying school children on a field trip in northern Yemen was hit by a US-made missile, killing 40 children and 11 adults, injuring 79 more. This airstrike was launched by the Saudi-led coalition making war on Yemen and was one of more than 50 which have hit civilian vehicles this year. The war in Yemen was declared the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by the UN in March 2017, but every month the statistics get more shocking. A UN report released in August declares that 22.2 million people in Yemen, out of a population of 29.3 million, were in need of humanitarian assistance. 11.3 million of these were judged as in acute need. US and British imperialism continue to back the war, selling huge quantities of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other antagonists, and sending military advisers to direct their use. Despite this worsening crisis, the war on Yemen has been labelled ‘the forgotten war’, with imperialist-sponsored slaughter always being overshadowed in the media by other more ‘newsworthy’ events.


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Yemen: two-faced leaders offer aid and arms sales

20 December 2017 marked the 1,000th day of the brutal war on Yemen. The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has launched millions of pounds worth of advanced weaponry against the Houthi insurgency in the west of the country since the war began in 2015. Despite major military asymmetry, it has failed to make decisive progress. In November 2017, several missiles were launched by the Houthis at the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh. Following this, the coalition launched a total blockade to attempt to starve the Houthis and their allies into submission. The country has been devastated by this war, with the UN calling the situation ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ and charities and NGOs increasingly speaking out against the coalition’s actions. Despite some empty words condemning the blockade and promising aid, the war continues to have the full support of British and US imperialism. Arms sales, military support, and diplomatic invitations continue to flow to Saudi Arabia, one of British and US imperialism’s primary partners in the war to reshape the Middle East and fight the rising influence of Iran.


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Repression and torture: The British Labour Party and the liberation struggle in South Yemen

british troop yemen

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 43 – October 1984

The People's Republic of South Yemen is a small Arab nation of 33,600 sq km on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, and has a population of two million. It was born 17 years ago on 29 and 30 November 1967, following a bloody four-year guerrilla war. 129 years of British colonial rule was ended after a heroic struggle by the people of Aden and the hinterland of South Yemen against the military might and terror of the British armed forces and a succession of British-imposed schemes and manoeuvres designed to deny the people their right to self-determination. The crucial phase of the armed struggle for independence (1963-1967) took place when the British Labour Party government headed by Harold Wilson was in power. It was under this government that the most sustained repression and torture of Adeni and Yemeni patriots fighting for independence took place.


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Yemen: Britain's lucrative arms trade killing civilians

Destroyed house in the south of Sanaa

Saudi-led airstrikes continues to visit death and destruction on the people of western Yemen with British and US support. Figures revealed on 16 September by the Yemen Data Project showed that one in three airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition have hit civilian targets. The UN estimates the death toll as more than 10,000, with almost 40% civilians. Despite this, British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia continue. The importance of Britain's alliance with Saudi Arabia is made consistently clear by British government efforts to block arms embargos or full investigations into the war.


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Britain continues to fuel slaughter in Yemen

The bloody role of British imperialism in the Saudi-led war on Yemen continues to be exposed. Figures revealed in April show that the British government has approved arms sales worth £2.8bn to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the attack in March 2015 - £6.7bn since 2010. This is despite abundant evidence from a UN panel, charities and NGO's of systematic attacks on civilians. In mid April, the Home Office issued guidance to immigration and asylum decision makers that sending Yemeni asylum seekers back to Yemen could be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (Guardian, 4 April).


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Britain continues to fuel slaughter in Yemen

For ten months, a Saudi-Arabian-led coalition has been waging war on Yemen with the full support of Britain and other imperialist powers. It has devastated the country to such an extent that 85% of the population are in need of humanitarian aid. More than 10,000 people have been killed, including 630 children – UNICEF estimates that up to ten children are now being killed every day. 1,000 schools have been destroyed, and 130 hospitals bombed. The UN and NGOs report evidence of systematic war-crimes and the Yemeni branch of the Islamic State group (IS) is thriving in the chaos. British bombs are destroying British-funded aid projects. But despite all this, the murderous leaders of British imperialism remain steadfastly behind their oil-rich dictators in the Gulf.


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Profit, hypocrisy and slaughter: Britain’s role in the war on Yemen

Six months since the beginning of the Saudi Arabian-led war, Yemen faces a critical humanitarian crisis. 84% of the population, 21 million people, are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance – more than anywhere else in the world. 1.5 million people have been made refugees. Almost 5,000 people have been killed. Peter Maurer, the head of the International Red Cross, recently said ‘Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years’. Despite the fact that the onslaught is supporting forces which include Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), it is backed by the major imperialist powers, with Britain among them. This is not a surprise given the British state’s cosy and lucrative relationship with the brutal and tyrannical Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The media in Britain has been largely silent about this slaughter. Toby Harbertson reports.


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US and Saudi war on Yemen

In the face of an unstoppable economic crisis which is causing poverty and instability in the heartlands of global capitalism, the imperialist powers are bringing war and death to the Middle East and North Africa. To save their sinking ship, Britain and the US are turning to old allies like Saudi Arabia to aid in the brutality needed to control global resources and stamp on dissent. Assisting drone strikes on Yemeni villages, channelling arms to rebels in Syria and cracking down on the poor at home, Saudi Arabia is a trusted client of imperialism.


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US and Britain manoeuvre in Yemen


Hundreds of thousands of people continue to join protests across Yemen in opposition to President Saleh's authoritarian and corrupt government. On 15 July at least ten people were killed and many wounded in clashes between government forces and tribes people supporting protestors in Taiz. 7 civilians were killed and 30 wounded when government forces fired mortars in the several neighbourhoods in Taiz.


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Months of protests in Yemen against the government and President Saleh have gained in strength. Many people have been killed and wounded by police, military and pro-Saleh forces, but the demonstrators have succeeding in isolating the President as leading generals and clan leaders turn against him.

Yemen has an unemployment rate of 40%, with 45% of its nearly 20 million people living on $2 a day or less. Recent months of sharp rises in food prices have magnified the poverty suffered in the country. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 32% of Yemenis lack access to sufficient food and around 58% of all children are malnourished. The UN ranks Yemen with the lowest Human Development Index of any Arab country. Illiteracy exceeds 50%.


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British and US imperialism take aim at Yemen

The US and Britain have declared Yemen as the next hotbed of Al Qaida activity and have prepared their military targets. Britain has now imposed a ‘no fly’ ban on the entire Yemeni civilian population. From 1839 southern Yemen was an important geo-strategic colony of the British and later a gateway to the Suez Canal. Today, with the excuse of ‘the war on terror’, Britain and the US once again seek to gain influence on the Arabian peninsula, scrambling for the chance to intervene.


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