Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Wed, Feb 21st, 2018

Nikki Haley’s Uncomfortable Ignorance about Yemen

In Saturday’s New York Times the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, offered what she referred to as “The U.N.’s Uncomfortable Truths about Iran.” Iran is singled out for rebuke as “destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.” What about the U.S., which because of its flawed invasion of Saddam’s Iraq left that country in sectarian disarray and paved the way for the emergence of ISIS? What about Saudi Arabia, which started a bombing campaign that is accused of multiple human rights violations? What about the Saudi and Emirati boycott of Qatar?

Haley seems to have forgotten that the Middle East has been destabilized for some time, largely because of foreign intervention and propping up dictators. Much of the arsenal now in the hands of the Huthis was supplied by the U.S. to the regime of former President Salih, just as ISIS confiscated U.S. military equipment in Iraq. Blaming Iran, an echo of both Israeli and Saudi rhetoric, ignores the fact that no single country has been responsible for destabilizing the region.

It might have helped if she actually reported what the U.N. report said. According to an earlier account of the U.N. finding, “The United Nations panel’s report did not say Iran had supplied missiles to the Houthis.” Instead, Iran is blamed for being in noncompliance for an absurd provision in the flawed Resolution 2216 that each party must “‘take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to’ designated Yemeni combatants including the Houthis.” By this token, of course, the U.S., Britain and a number of other Western countries are just as guilty for supplying Saudi Arabia and the UAE with the bombs that have killed well over 10,000 Yemenis and wreaked havoc on the country.

Haley acknowledges the problem, but places no blame on the Saudi-led coalition which started the war. “Yemen is the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The government has virtually ceased to exist. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are exploiting that lawlessness to pursue their barbaric agendas.” Yes, but the Huthis, who were welcomed into Sanaa in 2014 to replace the corrupt and inept interim government of Hadi, were arch enemies of both ISIS and al-Qaeda. In this war the Saudi coalition has not bombed either ISIS or al-Qaeda, who are in effect their allies against the Huthis.

The Huthis have managed to fire a few missiles into Saudi Arabia, but with hardly any real damage. On the other hand, as of last December 15, 2017, the Saudis had launched almost 15,500 bombing raids over Yemen, most refueled by U.S. aircraft. In addition to the loss of life, property and infrastructure, it is reported that “More than 250 fishing boats have been damaged or destroyed and 152 fishermen have been killed by coalition warships and helicopters in the Red Sea.” If Ambassador Haley does not find this uncomfortable, she has no business serving in the U.N.

Haley notes that “At the same time, the report notes that Saudi restrictions on imports of civilian goods into Yemen worsened the suffering there. Saudi Arabia is now working to address this through a new Yemen humanitarian aid plan.” The suffering was created by the Saudi campaign; the fact that it has gone on for almost three years of course obviously worsens the humanitarian crisis. So why has it taken this long for the Saudis to work with the U.N.? Will she support the effort underway to not renew Saudi participation on the U.N. Human Rights Council?

Perhaps the worst part of her Saudi-lauding commentary is the following statement: “then someday soon, when innocent Saudi civilians are killed by Iranian weapons, the chance for peace will be lost.” No one is wishing for innocent Saudi civilians to be killed, but far more than 10,000 Yemeni men, women and children have been killed by Saudi bombs and ground attacks by their allies. Are their innocent lives not important?

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.