Archive photo: Saudi F-15Cs. Photo: Saudi88hawk/CC BY-SA 4.0
An air strike massacres prisoners of the Hadi government, for which the kingdom is fighting. Emirates thwart attack to regain control in Aden. They are also charting their own course in Syria
The recipient of crude weapons shipments from Western arms companies-Saudi Arabia-illustrated anew yesterday, Sunday, how weapons of war are put to use. The coalition led by the Kingdom bombed a prison. According to recent reports, 130 people died. "Seeing this tremendous damage, the bodies among the trumpets, was a real shock", Franz Rauchenstein, head of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, who visited the attack site in Dhamar, is quoted as saying.
In taking stock of the horror, another terrible dimension emerged. The Saudi arms alliance had carried out the massacre against people belonging to the camp for whose side they were fighting. They were government fighters captured by Hutis.
The Saudi Arabian spokesman for the coalition, Turki bin Saleh Al-Malki, had previously described the target of the attack as "legitimate" as, according to him, it was a "military building" act. According to the spokesman, it was believed to be "in reality" was a weapons cache. The Hutis, he said, are known to camouflage such facilities, for example by claiming that it is a secret detention facility.
This "tactics of the Hutis" and not the attack, represents in this representation the violation of the regulation of armed conflicts. He also said that the building was not on a no-strike list the UN has been registered.
It is noteworthy that this statement is reproduced by the British Guardian and is also found in other English-language media, but not in the English-language edition of Arab News. There is no news on the devastating attack this morning on the Arab News website, which is closely tied to the government.
"Disturbing targeting" (Obama)
In 2016, a Saudi airstrike had already targeted a Huti prison in the port city of Hodeida. At that time 58 people were killed. The Saudis’ reasoning was that it was actually a Huti command center.
As a reminder, in December 2016, Trump’s predecessor in the office of the U.S. president, Barack Obama, had stopped the delivery of precision kits for bombs from the company Raytheon to Saudi Arabia, because of the conspicuous casualties of the Saudi military operation in Yemen. He justified this by saying that the targeting of the Saudis is full of errors and is disturbing.
Now, to avoid any misinterpretation, Obama did not stop the war in Yemen, which is causing enormous suffering. The killing was described at the time as "soft" classified. Obama had neither the political will nor the courage nor the ability to stand up to the interests of his close ally Saudi Arabia.
But Obama’s observation at the time, which was that the Saudi conduct of the war was characterized by blind strikes with ultra-expensive war materiel, still has its validity. The target of the latest murderous blow reinforces doubts about the Saudis’ intelligence penetration in the neighboring country (the question is whether the work of the Saudi intelligence services at home in assessing opposition figures is just as precise).
Offensive on Aden thwarted
The overall picture of the situation in Yemen does not look very promising at the moment for the absolutist kingdom with the rough ambitions. The latest offensive by Saudi-backed pro-Hadi forces to regain control of Aden was thwarted by United Arab Emirates airstrikes, according to reports. Pro-Hadi forces were forced to retreat.
The UAE’s support for the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and its affiliated militias puts the two main Gulf states in Yemen at odds with each other in the south, highlighting once again the defeat of the Saudi-backed pro-Hadi fighters, even though both countries have recently placed much emphasis on declaring that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is so close that nothing fits between them. Apparently, however, as far as the south of Yemen is concerned, for example, a whole lot fits in between.
For example, the interests of the separatists in the south, which have a lot to do with the interests of the Emirates in shipping and trade connections, but less to do with the interests of the Saudis in restoring the power of Hadi, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia. Whether it will be possible to involve the STC representatives in talks for a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in Yemen is one of the questions that peace initiatives must address.
Sweden plays an important mediating role here. Margot Wallstrom was in Jordan for talks these days. At the negotiations in Stockholm last December to resolve the crisis over the port city of Hodeida, the separatists of the Southern Transitional Council were not yet on the tableau.
The interests of the emirates
Since January, things have changed (Sud Yemeni separatists conquer half of Aden). Since then, there have been fears that a new "War within a war" could develop. Although the separatist militias are also fighting Hutis, they do not want to join Hadi’s rule when it comes to the south of Yemen. They demand independence.
The Emirates’ support for the separatists also shows that their course in Yemen is not identical to that of Saudi Arabia (United Arab Emirates: Dissenters from the Anti-Iran Front?). A report from Syria also suggests that the Emirates insist on independence.
Despite U.S. warnings that anyone doing business with Syria risked sanctions, many Emirati businessmen were guests at a trade fair in Damascus, where they were discussing the more complex reconstruction tasks. Regional cooperation promises better prospects than threats.