Both the Arab League and the United Nations have fully transformed themselves into the ill-fated League of Nations that more than 70 years ago disgraced itself into oblivion when it failed to condemn foreign aggressions that eventually led to the cataclysm of World War Two.
As delegates gathered in Egypt’s resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the Arab League last weekend, nearly half of its member states were at the same time openly engaged in an aerial blitz on one of the League’s weakest countries – Yemen.
Far from issuing any misgiving, or appeal for restraint, the League fully endorsed the onslaught on Yemen and even went on to call for a new «unified military force» to repeat the action in other countries where a «security risk» is deemed. This is a cart blanche for further foreign military interventions bypassing the United Nations Security Council. In other words, it is open season for lawless aggression.
With a population of only 24 million and half of them living in poverty, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab region. It is also one of the founding members of the Arab League, which was formed in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.
Since last week, scores of Yemeni civilians, including children, have been killed in a massive bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia and co-ordinated by the United States. The bombing coalition of 10 countries include Egypt, North Sudan, Morocco and the Persian Gulf Arab states of Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. More than 200 fighter jets from those countries have been reported carrying out air strikes on the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as well as on the southern port city of Aden and surrounding countryside.
Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries claim that the Houthi-led uprising in Yemen is being orchestrated by Iran. But the claims are far from substantiated and most likely trumped-up for self-serving reasons of providing justification for what is otherwise simply criminal aggression toward Yemen. The Washington Post reported: «The Saudis and their allies think [sic] that the Shiite rebels are backed by Iran and that Tehran is trying to exert control over a country [regime] that has been an an ally of Riyadh and Washington.» The latter factual detail about the erstwhile Yemeni regime being an ally of Riyadh and Washington is the real key to the latest Saudi-led offensive, not the speculative hearsay about Iran.
So, Yemen is being bombed and civilians are being massacred merely because the Saudis and their allies «think» that Iran is somehow involved. No proof, no legal case, just bombs away.
The Houthis are a Shia sect and reportedly maintain friendly political, diplomatic relations with Shia Iran. But both parties categorically deny any military involvement. Rather, the Houthis, also known as Ansarullah, appear to be the vanguard of popular rebellion against the ousted Yemeni regime that was long-supported by Saudi Arabia and the US. Last week, the deposed president Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country to take refuge in Saudi Arabia. Even if Iran was supporting the Houthis that still does not legitimise an all-out bombing of Yemen led by a consortium of Arab monarchies armed and guided by the US.
In Sanaa over the past week family homes, shops and offices have been demolished during hundreds of sorties by warplanes as the Saudi-led coalition pounded the city on nightly raids. Yemen’s international airport was so badly hit it is no longer functioning, thus cutting off the country. A naval blockade by Saudi, Egyptian and US warships has also severed Yemen’s access to the Red Sea to its west. While in on the southern coast, in Aden, bodies of civilians were reportedly strewn on streets as hospitals filled up with the wounded, and as US warships patrolled the Gulf of Aden.
Against this background of slaughter, the Arab League endorsed the Saudi-led military attacks. Saudi King Salman told the summit that the bombing campaign would continue until Houthi rebels are defeated. Meaning there is no end in sight to the onslaught. Indeed, it is now anticipated that the extensive aerial bombardment and naval siege is paving the way for a massive ground invasion of 150,000 Saudi troops that were mobilised last week along the northern Yemeni border.
Attending the Arab League convocation, and royally received, was the discredited president of Yemen, Mansour Hadi. He called on the Saudi military coalition to not relent in its strikes against his own country until the Houthi «Iranian stooges» are crushed. The irony is that Mansour Hadi is widely excoriated within Yemen, and not just by the Houthis, as a stooge of Saudi Arabia and Washington. His steadfast refusal to deliver on popular demands for a democratic transition in Yemen over the past three years led to the Houthis seizing the capital and government institutions at the end of 2014.
The latest Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, overseen by Washington, has been condemned by Iran, Russia and China.
But the United Nations has shown lamentable passivity in the face of this foreign aggression on Yemen. Speaking at the Arab League summit, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon failed to make any condemnation of the aerial bombardment of that country.
«It is my fervent hope that at this Arab League summit leaders will lay down clear guidelines to peacefully resolve the crisis in Yemen,» said Ban Ki-Moon with a complacency bordering on cynicism. He urged Arab members to engage in peace talks supposedly brokered by his special envoy, Jamal Benomar. This was said while Saudi Arabia and others were openly vowing to continue their blitzkrieg.
The naked aggression on Yemen, with the complicity of the US and European capitals, is perhaps the nadir for the Arab League and the United Nations. The descent of these organisations into disgraceful irrelevance has been decades in the making. The despicable transformation into tools of aggression is now clear in the eyes of the world.
The UN and the Arab League have remained silent while the US and its allies launched war after war on countries over the past two decades, most notably on Iraq during the 1990s and 2000s, which resulted in over one million dead, mainly civilians. Worse, the UN and the Arab League stand accused of complicity by giving Washington a de facto green light – and on some occasions logistical support – to wage its wars across the Middle East.
In 2011, the Arab League expelled Libya and Syria, even though these countries were being subjected to US-NATO aggression, along with the collusion of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was murdered by NATO-assisted and Gulf-financed extremists in 2011, denounced the Arab League before his death as «finished».
Syria, as with Yemen, was one of the founding members of the Arab League, yet the government of President Bashar al Assad remains to this day suspended from the 22-member organisation. The Syrian government’s seat has been given over to the Western-backed Syrian National Council which is comprised of non-entity exiles who have no popular mandate within Syria.
The League is thus nothing more than a self-serving talking shop dominated by Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Gulf Arab kingdoms. As client regimes of Washington, that in turn makes the League a tool of the US to give a thin cover for its imperial predations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Ironically, one of the founding principles of the Arab League is to protect the «sovereignty and independence» of its members.
Ominously, the lawlessness and outright aggression that has gripped international affairs – with the latest manifestation in the collective bombing of Yemen – is reminiscent of the 1930s.
That perilous period saw a series of international aggressions carried out by fascist powers with impunity. The League of Nations – a forerunner of the United Nations – facilitated these aggressions through its shameful silence and connivance. When Japan annexed large swathes of China’s Manchuria in 1931, the League of Nations, including the US, Britain and France, largely turned a blind eye. As they did when fascist Italy bombed its way into Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935-36, Franco’s Spain subjugated Catalonia in 1938, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany annexed Austria and Czech Sudetenland, also in 1938.
The complete breakdown in any semblance of international law during the 1930s and the rise of state-sponsored gangsterism paved the way for the Second World War.
A similar process of degeneration is also well underway in the present day, led largely by the US and its coterie of allies among the NATO alliance and oil-rich Arab dictatorships. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen are but some of the evil fruit from the poison that is coursing through international relations. And yet, ludicrously, Washington accuses Putin and Moscow of behaving like Hitler with a malign 20th Century atavism.
That a defenceless, impoverished country such as Yemen can be openly bombed by hundreds of US-supplied F-15 fighter jets – and for that criminality to be widely endorsed – is a sure sign that the world is once again sliding into the abyss of rampant criminality and the possibility of a more catastrophic all-out war.