Thursday, October 13, 2016

GCC and Saudi have to stop discriminatory Air Strikes

It is easy to drop bombs from air; especially over countries which don’t have any good air force, powerful anti-aircraft guns or SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). Aggressors don’t have to worry about anything, as they are not going to lose anything – soldiers won’t come back in body bags; don’t have to engage in high causality ground/city warfare; no need to maintain attack prone lengthy ground supply chains etc. Everything is perfect if there is another humanitarian crisis going on; Saudi got Syria for the same. This is exactly what is happening in Saudi led strikes in Yamen.

Explaining a little background,
Houthis began waging a low-level insurgency against Yemeni government in 2004. Multiple peace agreements were signed and later disregarded. During 2011 Yemani revolution, Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi declared their support for it and asked for then President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation.

Conflict was going on between Houthis and Sunni tribes in northern Yemen; by September 2014 Houthi’s finally captured Sana’a (capital city) from government and forced President Hadi to negotiate an agreement. This led to the resignation of Hadi government.

A sequence of events happened. By end of 2015 January, Houthi’s seized Presidential compound. Later they dissolved parliament and formed a committee to govern the country. During this time, Hadi was able to slip out of Sana’a and traveled to his home town - Aden. From Aden he declared Houthi takeover as illegal and indicated his plan to remain as constitutional president of Yemen.

March 2015's suicide attacks on Sana'a Houthi mosques (four suicide attacks during mid-day prayer killed 142 people) changed the course of civil war. Houthi's renewed their campaign. It is believed that IS (Islamic State) carried out the bombing.

While this civil war is going on one side, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) made significant territorial gains in Yamen. IS also started gaining territory in Yeman.

For Hadi's part, he declared Aden to be Yemen's temporary capital.

Houthi’s and pro-Saleh army almost took over Aden. This caused Hadi to fled to Riyadh and met powerful Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman. Later, forces loyal to Hadi recaptured Aden with support from Saudi Arabian government, airstrikes and shelling by Egyptian navy from sea.

Saudi led alliance accuse Iran of supporting Houthis. On the other side, United States was also a major weapon supplier to Yemeni government. Although weapons worth millions of dollars were missing after delivery.

As per news reports, Saudis along with eight other middle eastern countries - Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, with logistical support from US are engaged in an air campaign against Houthi’s. Apparently Pakistan declined to join the bombing campaign (though they dispatched warships to enforce an arms embargo against Houthis). Alliance kept on striking positions in Sana’a which often led to massive civilian casualties.

This low profile but high causality war didn’t get much global attention due to ongoing high profile civil war in Syria. Due to humanitarian crisis in European borders and high decibel ‘US – Russia’ peace talks (other than the name nothing is peaceful) world is focused on Syria. As an enforceable peace agreement for Syrian war is nowhere in sight; and Assad and his allies started final assault to take full control of Syria’s largest city – Aleppo – world may not look in to Yemen any time soon.

Attack on Funeral prayers

Unlike previous air strikes this one on funeral prayers was a big disaster. Continuous strike on the building resulted in more than 100 civilian casualties. Saudi led alliance first denied the strike and later promised an investigation to it. I don’t think those kind of internal investigations will reach anywhere.

As per news reports, "Fighter jets from a Saudi-led military coalition repeatedly bombed a crowded reception hall in Sana where mourners were gathered after a funeral on Saturday, killing 140 people and wounding hundreds of others, according to Yemeni health officials and witnesses.... Tamim al-Shami, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at least 104 people had been killed and 550 wounded" - NYT

This attack might be result of wrong intelligence and targeting information. But this is not the first time they are making mistakes; earlier they hit a hospital which have connections with Doctors without Borders; then a food processing factory. All these mistakes are causing human lives, which makes it more important to stop air strikes. These type of attacks on unarmed people even amounts to war crime.

If Saudi’s want to defeat Houthi’s and truly believe in nation building (which even US failed to do in Both Afghanistan and Iraq) then they should not solely relay on airstrikes. There is point after which Saudi led GCC has to put boots on the ground and try to gain territories and stabilize the country. Anyone can bomb a poor country from air and push them to stone age combined by famine and lawlessness. I hope Saudi led GCC will realize this mistake. If they can’t go all the way, then don’t try to destroy whatever left in Yamen.

I agree that UN have little tooth left; but that is the only agency we got. Let the matter go to UN and let UN decide what the next step should be.


PS: “The crew of a guided-missile destroyer fired three missiles to defend themselves and another ship after being attacked on Sunday in the Red Sea by two presumed cruise missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi-forces” - USNI News


2.       Wikipedia – Yemen Strike, Civil war history related articles.

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