Millions more Yemenis are now at risk of starvation because of Pompeo's Houthi terrorist designation, writes Chris Nineham
Mike Pompeo’s decision to designate the Houthi-backed Ansar Allah organisation in Yemen as a “foreign terrorist organisation” is an act of conscious barbarism. Aid agencies involved in the country are warning of catastrophic effects.
David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme puts it bluntly, “The designation is going to be a death sentence to hundreds and thousands if not millions”. This in a country already experiencing the worst humanitarian disaster on earth.
The measure’s main impact will be to make it much harder for food suppliers to coordinate operations in the north of the country, home to the majority of the population. In a country where at least 14 million people are dependent on aid, the result is hardly in doubt.
Even before this move, Yemenis were terrified that no more food would enter the country and were stockpiling whatever they could find. Commercial companies involved in food supply chains are likely now to calculate that the risks of continued involvement involved are too great.
The United States says that it will introduce licences to allow some humanitarian aid and imports to continue, but those licences are not currently available, and they will only be available to aid groups, not commercial companies. Given that the majority of food is not supplied by aid agencies, such a system is simply not going to work.
As well as being murderous, the US government’s move is cynical and hypocritical. The conflict in Yemen is being driven more than anything by the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition of foreign powers who have been supporting forces loyal to President Hadi with mass bombing, arms and blockades for the last five years. Latest estimates suggest 230,000 people have died as a result of the war.
The US is the most important backer of the war outside of the region, with the UK second. Both nations export more weapons to Saudi Arabia than any other country, whilst also both providing direct logistical support and special forces actively involved in combat.
Along with France, Spain, and Canada, the US and the UK have actually increased support for Saudi Arabia since the war began. For them, backing the Saudi-led war is part of a wider strategy of trying to isolate, weaken and if possible, overturn the government of Iran.
Faced with this catastrophe, opposition to the war and the West’s backing for it is growing around the world. On 25 January, more than 260 organisations internationally have called a global day of protest to end the war and the blockade. The protest will be demanding that the new US president Joe Biden comes good on his promises to end US support for the war and that he overturns Mike Pompeo’s decision immediately.
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Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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