The US and UK should be demanding that Israel halts its genocide rather than bombing the poorest country in the Middle East writes Lindsey German

You might be tempted to think that the US and UK would learn from their mistakes in the Middle East. This would, however, be an error. The attack on Yemen shows exactly how much they keep repeating the same mistakes in the increasingly forlorn hope that this time the action will succeed.  

Yemen has suffered nearly a decade of war, famine and destruction that claimed more than 377,000 lives, with 60 percent of them the result of hunger, disease and lack of healthcare facilities. It has endured years of bombing from the Western-backed regional power, Saudi Arabia, which was armed and advised militarily by the UK. But the Saudis did not succeed in defeating the Houthis, and there is now a fragile truce, brokered by the UN last year. It is notable that the Saudis are not joining in these attacks and are calling for restraint — realising that the region is at boiling point over what is happening to the Palestinians.   

The airstrikes last week represent a dangerous escalation in a region already made highly unstable by Western interventions and policies. We have seen the terrible consequences of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the bombing of Libya, the growth of ISIS —originally in prisons during the American and British occupation of Iraq — and the interventions in the Syrian war. At every point, the response of the US and its allies has been to double down, sending in more weapons or urging more bombing and conflict. Any country or group which disagrees with its policies is subject to sanctions, military attacks, and targeted assassinations.  

At the heart of US and British policy in the Middle East lies its support for Israel, which is armed, supported politically and financially, and allowed to act with impunity, all under the wing of successive US governments. The attack on Yemen is a direct consequence of the Western powers’ support for Israel’s three-month attack on Gaza and the Palestinian people more generally.  

This support is allowing barbaric and genocidal attacks on the Palestinians. It is also leading to a much greater threat of escalation in the Middle East. The imperialists’ West’s need for strategic control of the region — not least the commodity of oil but also the crucial trade route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal — has dominated the Middle East, going back to the collapse of the Ottoman empire over a century ago.  

Stop the War has argued throughout that support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is likely to lead to wider war throughout the region, and this is now being borne out, not just in Yemen but also in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. The escalation is already here, and conflict between the major regional powers, including Iran, also raises the spectre of the use of nuclear weapons. 

The US has 57,000 military personnel in the Middle East to enforce its interests. It has invaded and occupied Iraq, bombed and organised regime change in Libya, bombed Syria, and intervened repeatedly in the region, which has become ever more unstable as a result. The failure of these interventions, coupled with the determination of a declining US imperialism to use its military power, has created a very dangerous situation.  

The attacks on missile sites used by the Houthis are supposedly an act of self-defence by the US and its British partners. This is simply untenable. It is the US and its allies which have moved warships to the Red Sea in a direct threat to Yemen and Iran. The Houthis have been attacking and disrupting shipping in the Red Sea in support of the Palestinians. They appear to have the broad support of the Yemeni people, as well as more widely across the Middle East, reflecting the immense anger at the genocidal attacks by Israel.  

The Middle East has faced Western imperialist economic and military intervention for over a century. Britain controlled colonies including Yemen and Palestine. Since the Second World War, the US has played a central role in strategic and economic decisions centred around the importance of oil in the region. The people of the Middle East have the right to self-determination and to get the much-resented Western military out.  

The Houthis’ experience of warfare makes them a formidable opponent and they are unlikely to stop their actions in the Red Sea while the war on Gaza continues. They are allied to Iran, and the danger is that war will spread there, with devastating consequences. Already, Israel is gearing up for war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, while Iran is now getting more backing from China and Russia. All this points to greater instability and conflict, not less.  

There is one simple way to prevent this — stop backing and arming Israel and condemn its continuing bombing and punishment of civilians. The Houthis have made clear that they will stop these attacks if there is a ceasefire in Gaza. The US and UK governments should be demanding that Israel halts its genocide and implement a ceasefire, rather than bombing the poorest country in the Middle East. These airstrikes make our protests here even more vital.

Source: Tribune

15 Jan 2024

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