Nicholas Kristof, in his editorial in yesterday’s issue of the New York Times is right: The United States war with Iran has already begun and is reaping thousands of victims. The battlefield? Yemen. For years an all-out war has been waging in the area, with Houthi rebels (supported by Teheran) facing government forces (backed by a military coalition led by Riad). “Just a few days ago,” – writes the New York Times – “bombs (perhaps American made) killed four Yemini children. Every 12 minutes, another child in Yemen dies.”
Let’s be clear: in this conflict, as in many others, there are no good and bad parties. The Saudis are bombing from the sky, Houthis are torturing and killing. Civilians are caught in the midst of all this, as the NYT reports: “Here is the bottom line: because of our enmity toward Iran and our bond with Saudi Arabia, we are helping to starve and bomb Yemeni children.”
And this might be just the start as the situation is becoming increasingly tense. Only a few hours ago Al Arabiya announced that the Saudi air defence had intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by Houthi rebels directed toward Mecca, Islam’s sacred city. However involvement in the attack was categorically denied by Houthi rebel spokesmen: “The Saudi regime is trying through these allegations, to rally support for its brutal aggression against our great Yemeni people.”
“They must be hit”
It all began in 2015, when Mohammad bin Salman first embarked on intervention in Yemen. His main objective was to get back at Teheran, guilty – among other things – of having taken the field in Syria, thereby aiding Bashar al Assad to remain in power. For the Saudis such action is unforgivable considering the men and money invested in the Syrian conflict. And now that this plan has been disrupted, the Ayatollahs must be hit somewhere else: in Yemen, precisely.
However, the decision has boomeranged, as the New York Times also points out: “The Saudi intervention resulted in Iran gaining influence in Yemen, while the Saudis have helped cause what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
The Yemeni scenario clearly reminds us what might happen if Washington were to start a war against Teheran. It is no coincidence that the Saudi media have dug out and old expression used by Bin Salman, “They must be hit hard,” in relation to the Iranian scenario. However Donald Trump ought to be very careful, as Yemen has been registered as the first casualty of his era. And, above all, he should bear in mind a lesson which his predecessors did not learn: “Wars are easy to get into, harder to exit.”
“400 children died in 2019”
Numbers released by Save the Children are dramatic. Over 19,000 Saudi raids have hit Yemeni soil, causing the death or injury of over 6500 children. While only during the first months of the year Saudi bombs are said to have caused the death of 400 children. Drops in an ocean of suffering. If we analyze estimates numbers could be about to spiral: “A recent UN study calculated that if the war ends this year it will have claimed 233,000 lives and that if it continues until 2022 it will cause a total of 482,000 lives. If it lasts until 2030, the UN estimated, it will cause 1.8 million deaths.”
The scenarios are alarming. And they could deteriorate should they involve the Iranian chessboard.