Yemen's nationwide truce expired on Oct. 2, as warring parties failed to agree on terms for a renewal. With each side blaming the other for the failure and negotiations ongoing to find common ground, there's concern that fighting will erupt once again on familiar front lines, especially in the central province of Marib and the southwestern city of Taiz. While the gunfire and shelling never completely stopped over the past six months—in some places it got worse—the truce did offer some real respite for Yemenis who have suffered through seven and a half years of war.
In a series of brief interviews with vlogger and activist songster Geof Bard, CounterVortex producer Bill Weinberg dissects the sinister "tankie" phenomenon on the contemporary Western "left," which paradoxically supports Russian imperialism in the name of a misguided "anti-imperialism." This absurd double standard is enabled by the so-called "Chomsky Rule," which holds that we are only permitted to protest the crimes of US imperialism—and thereby renders the crimes of rival imperialisms invisible to the activist-left milieu. The pseudo-left betrayal of Ukraine to imperialist aggression actually undermines our moral authority to oppose the crimes of the US and its client states in places like Gaza and Yemen.
Three human rights organizations on June 3 filed a lawsuit in France against three arms manufacturers for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen. The European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights (ECCHR), Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa allege that Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA France, through their military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have enabled the killing of Yemeni civilians. Humanitarian organizations and rights groups have charged that air-strikes from the Saudi-UAE military coalition have targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure since 2015.
Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon's government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it's a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. Oxfam is warning that wheat reserves could run out within weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mercy Corps reports that food prices are up in rebel-held northwest Syria, where food security was already a major concern. Last month Egypt put a cap on unsubsidized bread prices before they could get too high. Yemen, which imports the vast majority of its food, is of particular concern as it already has so many hungry people and is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Last week, UNICEF said that "the number of malnourished children [in the region] is likely to drastically increase."
As the country heads into an eighth year of war, Yemen is considered one of the world's largest and most complex humanitarian crises: debilitated basic services, a collapsed economy, an estimated 20.7 million people (more than two thirds of the population) in need—all amid escalating conflict involving numerous different actors. On March 16, the UN appealed to donor states for $4.3 billion in aid for Yemen. Donors coughed up less than a third of that request, with pledges—mainly from Western states—amounting to $1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—top donors to Yemen in previous years—pledged nothing, while Kuwait pledged a surprisingly low $10 million. The UN's humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, called the result "a disappointment." The outcome is in stark contrast to Ukraine's pledging conference just two weeks prior, considered the "fastest and most generous" response ever to a flash appeal. As the world's attention is fixated on Ukraine, aid workers worry that it could draw resources away from other crises, such as Yemen.
UN agency chiefs on March 14 stated that war-torn Yemen's hunger crisis is "teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe," with more than 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in the coming months. The number experiencing "catastrophic" levels of hunger is projected to increase five times from the current 31,000 to a staggering 161,000, taking the number of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of 2022. "These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions," World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said.
US President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen's Houthi rebels (officially called Ansar Allah) as a terrorist organization, a possibility he mentioned last month after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly missile attack inside the United Arab Emirates. The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead a military coalition that has been fighting the Houthis in Yemen for seven years. Saudi Arabia said its air defense system intercepted a Houthi drone near its southern border on Feb. 10. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have "catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians." Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid at a time when "organizations like ours are already struggling to keep pace with immense and growing needs." Violence is also growing, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months.
A group of United Nations experts have condemned the US Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, calling it a site of "unparalleled notoriety." The statement came on the eve of Jan. 11, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the first terrorism suspects at Guantánamo.