Will NZ condemn the Saudi bombing of Yemen?


Saudi Arabia’s air strikes in Yemen are killing many innocent people.

Amnesty International

has complained of “high toll of civilian deaths” and

Human Rights Watch

says an attack on a displaced persons camp, killing 29 civilians and wounding 41, “raised concerns about violations of the rules of war.”

As far as I can tell New Zealand (which has a representative on the UN Security Council) has yet to condemn the raids, which constitute illegal aggression against a neighbouring country.

From the news coverage so far it is hard to assess the rights and wrongs of the various factions contesting for power within Yemen. The Houthis, who are now militarily dominant in much of the country, are routinely described as Iranian-backed, but there is

no evidence that Iran has had much to do with the conflict.

The back story is

several decades of rule by the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh

, who stepped down in favour of his vice-president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in 2012 following mass protests against his regime.

Many Yemenis, including the Houthis, were not satisfied that Hadi (also a member of the elite) was facilitating the changes required.

There is no easy way out of the crisis, but we can be sure that Saudi intervention will make things worse. The last thing the Saudi dictatorship wants for its neighbour is a democratic system.

The UN Secretary-General’s representative, Jamal Benomar, has put a lot of effort into mediation, with one all-party agreement being reached in September last year, and another,

for a People’s Transitional Council,

on 22 February this year. These agreements broke down as the Houthis, Hadi and other factions couldn’t agree on where to go next.

The September agreement

has several progressive characteristics

including targeting “people living in poverty and in marginalised areas” with more health, education and social welfare expenditure and better state salaries.

By going along with the Saudi attack on Yemen, America seems to be heading for another Middle East foreign policy disaster. They backed the Saudis arming Syria’s rebels, and ended up with Isis. They backed Saudi troops crushing the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain. And now America is giving new life to Yemen’s Al Qaeda by backing the Saudi bombing of its strongest opponent, the Houthis.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much confidence our government will distance itself from the United States on the Security Council and support a Russian motion (now on the table) for a halt in the Saudi bombing.