A hopeless war is raging in Yemen, in which civilians are repeatedly dying at the hands of US weapons. Joe Biden wanted to end the war, but the odds are slim.
A breather, nothing more. The guns have been silent in Yemen since April, the reason for the two-month ceasefire is the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. But even if the sky above the battered country is not traversed by fighter bombers these days, there can be no talk of relaxation.
While the humanitarian situation in the civil war country already seemed desperate with an impending famine and more than 20 million people who, according to the UNHCR, depend on humanitarian aid, this year Ukraine is also failing to supply wheat. About a third of the usual stocks of grain will be missing. What is also missing now is the hope that the change of government in the USA and President Joe Biden's promises to end the war could somehow improve the dramatic emergency situation in the country.
As the eyes of the world turn to encircled people in Ukrainian cities, as images of a bombed-out maternity hospital in Mariupol circulate around the world, Yemen's many war crimes are happening below the public radar. And they continue to be done with the support of the United States. This is the conclusion reached by researchers at Columbia Law School in collaboration with the Washington Post.
They assessed how American weapons were - and are - involved in the Saudi-led coalition's brutal airstrikes against the Houthi rebels. One of the results: 19 fighter squadrons with machines designed and manufactured in the USA have definitely been deployed in the air war over Yemen since 2015.
There were a number of bomb attacks that were not flown with precision, in which the soldiers also deliberately accepted civilian casualties. According to the Yemen Data Project, fighter-bombers have killed nearly 9,000 civilians since the war began. There is no perspective in sight other than more innocent deaths when fighting resumes.
In 2021, it looked like there would be a clear policy change in the US government that would have a lasting impact on the course of the war. After Donald Trump maintained a kind of "best buddy" relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and concluded extensive arms deals, his successor announced that he would stop supporting the coalition's "offensive operations" in the fight against the Houthi rebels.
Since then, the US has effectively stopped supplying arms, but US companies continue to fulfill their contracts to maintain the material sold in the past. Training, for example for fighter pilots, continues to take place. It was only in March, according to evaluated photos, videos and other publications, that a new unit from a Saudi squadron took part in an exercise on F-15 SA bombers together with US pilots. And since US support with weapons has been so great since the war began in 2015, the delivery freeze has not resulted in fewer airstrikes being flown than before.
In total, Saudi Arabia and its partner countries have flown more than 25,000 airstrikes in the fight against the Houthi rebels in the past seven years - without getting any closer to the goal of ending the bloody conflict. At the beginning of the war, Riyadh made a mistake similar to that made by the Kremlin when planning the invasion of Ukraine: it underestimated the enemy and counted on its own superiority to lead to a quick victory.
Countless people in Yemen paid for this misjudgment with their lives or are in acute danger of death due to the current supply crisis. Joe Biden also campaigned at the time with the promise to ensure that this bloody war, which began in 2015 and plunged an entire country into misery and poverty, comes to an end.
But the fighting continued unabated until the religious-related ceasefire in April, and the high number of civilian casualties in this war is mainly due to the many airstrikes, which repeatedly hit civilian facilities, including hospitals. "As long as abuses of international human rights by the Saudis and US trade supporting such operations continue, US complicity in Saudi war crimes must be seriously considered," said Oona Hathaway, a law professor at Yale University "Washington Post".
The fact that the contracts for the maintenance of the weapons supplied to the coalition are still valid even after Biden's publicly announced policy change is causing anger among some congressmen. In February, Democrats introduced legislation that would ban US companies from servicing fighter planes that carry out bombing raids in the Yemen war.
Recently, a group of politicians called for participation in this war to be further curtailed. According to a Democratic lawmaker, the Saudi troops have a large stockpile of spare ammunition, but "there is no substitute for maintenance contracts and no way to fly without maintenance."
That sounds as if it were basically easy to force the Saudis to end the bloody war in the medium term. However, the position of the royal family in Riyadh in the international balance of power has improved since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The need many Western countries are feeling to break out of a dependency on Russian energy makes Saudi oil all the more valuable. The United States apparently does not want to afford a complete break with the Arabs either.
Which probably means that the calm in the skies over suffering Yemen will soon be over. The starving people of the country must pin their hope that the international community will be more willing to help than in the past in the face of the sheer scale of human suffering.