By Mohammad Mazhari

 Western powers continuing arming S. Arabia: expert

January 1, 2022 - 21:42

TEHRAN - MENA Program Director at the International Crisis Group says that Western powers talk about an end to war on Yemen while they are continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.

 “Western powers say they want a negotiated end to the war, but at the same time some of them, especially the U.S., UK and France, continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Joost R. Hiltermann tells the Tehran Times.

The seven-year-old war in Yemen intensified again on Friday when airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition on northern Yemen killed at least 70 people and knocked out the entire country’s internet, according to international aid groups and the rebels who control the area.

Capping a week in which Ansarollah drones struck as far away as Abu Dhabi and Saudi bombs rained down across Houthi-held northern Yemen, the hostilities were fresh proof of the conflict’s obstinacy a year after President Biden took office vowing to bring the war — and one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters — to an end.

“The problem in many armed conflicts is that, apart from the conflict's origins, they are fuelled by external actors. We have seen in the Libyan war that outside actors must take a step back before local actors can move toward a political process to settle their differences,” he adds.

Following is the text of the interview:

  Q: How do you see attacks by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemeni people? Apparently the coalition tends to target civilians and infrastructures.

A: In this conflict, as in so many others, all fighting sides have engaged in attacks on civilians. International human rights organizations have well documented these practices, which will make negotiating an end to the war more difficult.

Q: In February, President Joe Biden announced that he was ending America’s “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, six years into the conflict that has killed around 230,000 people and triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Do you think Washington has stopped its military aid to Saudi Arabia?

A: The U.S. has largely halted what it refers to as "offensive" military support to Saudi Arabia in a clear signal that it wants the war to end. Beyond that, it has not taken any meaningful practical steps to find a negotiated solution, mainly because the Yemen war is not near the top of its list of policy priorities at the moment.

Q: The American officials say U.S. role is limited to “defensive” operations “to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people. There’s just one problem: The line between “offensive” and “defensive” support is murky, and critics argue even the limited support the U.S. is providing still helps Riyadh carry out its offensive bombing campaign in Yemen. What is your comment?

A: This is indeed a tricky problem. We find this in many conflicts and attempts to establish ceasefires, most recently for example in negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2019-2020. Detail matters. Definitions matter. Precise commitments are required.

Q: How do you see the role of Western powers and Europeans when it comes to Yemen? Western powers apparently have a dark record when they helped Saddam Hussein in producing chemical weapons to target Iranian civilians and today prefer to turn a blind eye on crimes committed against Yemeni women and children by the bin Salman government.

A: Western powers say they want a negotiated end to the war, but at the same time some of them, especially the U.S., UK and France, continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Of course, they argue that the Houthis are receiving outside support as well, including from Iran. The problem in many armed conflicts is that, apart from the conflict's origins, they are fuelled by external actors. We have seen in the Libyan war that outside actors must take a step back before local actors can move toward a political process to settle their differences. The same may well prove true in the Yemeni case.

Q: Is there an international law to force Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the war on Yemen?

A: No, there isn't. I wish there were, not just in the case of Yemen but in all cases.

Q: In February, President Joe Biden announced that he was ending America’s “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, six years into the conflict that has killed around 230,000 people and triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Do you think Washington has stopped its military aid to Saudi Arabia?

A: The U.S. has largely halted what it refers to as "offensive" military support to Saudi Arabia in a clear signal that it wants the war to end. Beyond that, it has not taken any meaningful practical steps to find a negotiated solution, mainly because the Yemen war is not near the top of its list of policy priorities at the moment.

Q: The American officials say U.S. role is limited to “defensive” operations “to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people. There’s just one problem: The line between “offensive” and “defensive” support is murky, and critics argue even the limited support the U.S. is providing still helps Riyadh carry out its offensive bombing campaign in Yemen. What is your comment?

A: This is indeed a tricky problem. We find this in many conflicts and attempts to establish ceasefires, most recently for example in negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2019-2020. Detail matters. Definitions matter. Precise commitments are required.

Q: How do you see the role of Western powers and Europeans when it comes to Yemen? Western powers apparently have a dark record when they helped Saddam Hussein in producing chemical weapons to target Iranian civilians and today prefer to turn a blind eye on crimes committed against Yemeni women and children by the bin Salman government.

A: Western powers say they want a negotiated end to the war, but at the same time some of them, especially the U.S., UK and France, continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Of course, they argue that the Houthis are receiving outside support as well, including from Iran. The problem in many armed conflicts is that, apart from the conflict's origins, they are fuelled by external actors. We have seen in the Libyan war that outside actors must take a step back before local actors can move toward a political process to settle their differences. The same may well prove true in the Yemeni case.

Q: Is there an international law to force Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the war on Yemen?

A: No, there isn't. I wish there were, not just in the case of Yemen but in all cases.

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