Yemeni Civilians Could Only Stand So Much Suffering
War is easy. The hard part is cleaning up the mess afterward. The World Bank estimates that Yemen’s reconstruction needs are around 30 billion US dollars. The World Bank has been conducting this work in cooperation with other multilateral organizations including major donor nations like the US, UK and China.
To this end, Saudi Arabia claims to be willing to help reconstruction. Well if there is any honesty in this offer, they need to end the conflict first. If they fund reconstruction, they shouldn’t politicize aid, or disrupt and centralize the supply of humanitarian assistance, and/or indulge in debt-trap diplomacy and post-war order.
The only way out of the current stalemate is also a renewed call for political negotiations, redemption, and recover. For that call to be effective, the US must back the ongoing ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the country, give up on hosting one-sided political talks, and help the UN in its reconstruction and development efforts in Yemen.
In this man-made crisis, a political process to end the fighting and the humanitarian catastrophe that the world does witness today is a must. Unless there is outside pressure of a substantial kind on the Saudis, civilians will continue to suffer. While airstrikes and bombings are the primary cause of civilian deaths, many more have died from the impact of the blockade, drought, disease, starvation and preventable deaths.
In the grand scheme of things, those who turned Yemen into a failed state are now required under international law to take responsibility for its reconstruction and peace efforts. They must help the UN to improve humanitarian and commercial access into the country, including the full functioning of all ports and airports. They must help the UN to repair public service infrastructure such as schools, water provision and hospitals, which have been damaged.
The importance is to keep in mind that the sun always shines after the storm. No doubt the UAE troop withdrawal creates an opportunity to end the war and a chance for the UN to make peace a reality. This is unsurprising. The world community can facilitate further withdrawal and force the Saudis and their affiliated militias to drop their objections and reverse any policy that might prolong the counterproductive conflict that time forgot.
The bottom line is this: Keeping several thousand troops in Yemen over the long-term is a bad idea. Out of the salvage of their yesterdays, the people of Yemen have lost their patience and are longing for peace and for repairing the losses of the war, including civil status and legal freedom, food, clothes and tools, access to land and help to education.
The blunt reality is that, on this specific question the UAE is doing the right thing. Irrespective of the political theater in Riyadh and its western backers, there is no national-security interest in Yemen for outside players to begin with. Everything else – claiming Iran’s presence, playing peacekeeper between the warring factions, restoring ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power, and pressuring Ansarullah to negotiate their own surrender – are all distractions and counterproductive.