Making Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe Even Worse

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Washington Post calls on the Trump administration to pressure the Saudi coalition to halt its offensive against the port of Hodeidah:

The world’s worst humanitarian crisis may be about to get much worse. In Yemen, where some 8 million people are on the brink of famine and the worst cholera epidemic in history is raging, the country’s most important port has become the target of a new offensive in the three-year-old civil war. Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are seeking to cut off and eventually capture Hodeida, a city of 700,000 that is the entry point of 70 percent of the aid shipments keeping millions of civilians alive. The United States, which supplies the Saudi-UAE alliance with arms and intelligence, should use its leverage to stop this reckless venture.

The U.S. absolutely should do as the editorial recommends, but the fact that the offensive is happening suggests that the Trump administration supports the coalition’s decision to attack the port or it tells us that the coalition doesn’t think they will face any consequences for doing it anyway. Trump has shown no interest in pressuring the Saudis and their allies, and his administration has fought every Congressional effort to end US support for the war. It would be good news if the administration suddenly changed its position on the war on Yemen, but we have to assume that it won’t.

A coalition attack on Hodeidah would likely make it impossible to use the port for weeks and possibly months to come. That means that the main point of entry for the country’s commercial imports and humanitarian aid would be inoperable while more than eight million are already on the edge of famine. The U.N. just warned that another ten million are at risk of starving to death by the end of the year, and an attack on Hodeidah would hasten that outcome. Even if the coalition were to take the port fairly quickly, that would still be a death sentence for countless Yemeni civilians. Not only can we expect the coalition assault to be as indiscriminate and senselessly destructive as the rest of their war effort, but it is a virtual certainty that the coalition’s attack will cut off most Yemenis from their main source for food and fuel.

The coalition has been blockading Yemen for over three years and deliberately attacking their food production and distribution, so when the crisis worsens as a result of the coalition’s actions it will not be accidental. The coalition has been trying to starve Yemen into submission for years, and this assault is the latest part of that. Even the so-called “liberated” areas of Yemen suffer from a severe lack of food and other basic necessities, so it is bound to be even worse in and around Hodeidah during and after this offensive. As they have for the last three years, Yemen’s civilian population pays the price for an unnecessary and atrocious war waged upon them by the Saudi coalition and its Western backers. If the Trump administration continues to aid and abet the coalition in its war, they will be responsible for making Yemen’s catastrophe even worse than it already was.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

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