Yemen — The Starvation Siege Has Begun

Moon of Alabama

Last night the Saudi coalition launched its attack on the city of Hodeidah in Yemen. Hodeidah is the only Yemeni harbor on the Red Sea coast that can take large vessels. It is ruled by the Houthi who in 2014 took over the capital Sanaa and disposed of the Saudi installed Hadi government. 90% of the food for the 18 million people living in Houthi controlled areas comes through Hodeidah.

Saudi-owned satellite news channels and later state media announced the battle had begun, citing military sources. They also reported coalition airstrikes and shelling by naval ships.

The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement. Some 2,000 troops who crossed the Red Sea from an Emirati naval base in the African nation of Eritrea landed west of the city with plans to seize Hodeida’s port, Yemeni security officials said.

Emirati forces with Yemeni troops moved in from the south near Hodeida’s airport, while others sought to cut off Houthi supply lines to the east, the officials said.

The port is now classified as a zone of active military conflict. Prolonged fighting may well destroy the port infrastructurer. Even if the Saudi coalition forces take and reopen it they will continue to block food supplies for the central highlands of Yemen. They want to starve the Houthis into submission.

The attack from the south includes 3,000 to 5,000 troops under the command of Tariq Sale, a cousin of the recently killed former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. They have been equipped with trucks and new weapons by the UAE. More forces are on their way from Aden and Taiz. They are supported by Emirati artillery, tanks and Saudi aerial bombing. The Saudi coalition forces are commanded by former officers from Australia, the U.S. and UK who have been hired by the UAE.

The New York Times editors do not want to understand the real problem with this attack:

A coalition led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia is poised to attack the Red Sea port of Al Hudaydah, the home to 600,000 Yemenis and the lifeline for humanitarian aid that sustains most of the country’s people...

Experts have predicted that 250,000 people could be killed or displaced in the offensive.

The NYT is in principle supporting the Saudi attack. It wants the Houthis removed. It follows the line of the Zionist lobby:

However, inaction at Hodeida carries steep costs.[...] If liberated, the port's capacity could quickly be expanded, especially if the liberation is achieved quickly and carefully. People in government-controlled areas are better off than people in Houthi-controlled areas precisely because they are reconnected to functioning ports and, partially, to the government payroll system. Thus, the people in Hodeida would benefit from being liberated.

The problem is not that 250,000 people could be displaced or even killed due to the fighting. The problem is not that the people of Hodeidah lacked food. Until today they received it through the harbor.

The problem is that the Saudis plan a starvation siege on all territory held by the Houthis and their aligned forces.

There are some eighteen million people living in those territories. Eight million of them are already on the border of starvation. The Saudis want to take Hodeidah to block food access for the people in Sanaa. If they succeed, or if the harbor infrastructure gets damaged by fighting, the eight million will probably die and another ten million will also be in imminent danger.

The Saudi media are not even shy about the intent. Liberating Hodeidah is a must for cutting the Houthi lifeline headlined the Arab News. Asharq Al-Awsat opined that the operations is necessary to "tighten the siege" until the Houthi "surrender to all conditions and resolutions", "hand over their arms" and "leave Sanaa".

The Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana points out that the Saudis used the same strategy in 1934 during a border conflict with the Imamate of Yemen. Back then the Saudis occupied Hodeidah and starved the population of Sanaa, the seat of the Imamate, until Yemen gave up. This is what they want to repeat:

The strategy is to land-lock the Houthis in the already air-blockaded capital Sanaa. In 1934, food scarcity in Sanaa ended the war. Same plan today: Starve the Houthi-controlled areas into military surrender. Ergo: Hodeidah will end the Yemen war.

Whether the starvation of Yemen & Yemenis proceeds depends entirely on what the Houthis decide – fight & starve, or surrender & eat. Houthi threat to shut down ALL Red Sea shipping? Only 1 result: ALL world powers will wage war on them & Yemen, and many, many Yemenis will die.

No one – not Saudi Arabia, UAE, US or the UK, and not even the United Nations – has announced alternative plans to deal with this Hodeidah port closure. But it is Yemen that is lawless, some say.

No matter how much you all hate the Houthis, to starve #Yemen's civilians is a war crime. Starvation of Yemenis as a war strategy is illegal.

This obvious Saudi strategy is the reason why the United Nations warned of the possible starving of up to 18 million people who depend on food transfers through Hodeidah. The International Committee of the Red Cross warns that a push for Hodeida will exacerbate catastrophic humanitarian situation. The Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) is a U.S. government organization. It warns:

In a worst-case scenario, significant declines in commercial imports below requirement levels and conflict that cuts populations off from trade and humanitarian assistance for an extended period could drive food security outcomes in line with Famine.

In the fighting today the UAE supported forces claimed to have reached the southern outskirts of the airport of Hodeidah. They will probably try to hook east around the city to isolate and besiege it. The area is mostly flat and difficult to defend against a force with air support and heavy artillery. There is little hope that the Houthi can hold on to it.

But the Houthis will continue to fight. If they give up on Hodeidah they will have lost the war. Today they claimed to have fired another ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia. They also said that they successfully attacked a UAE navy ship with a landing force. The Saudis said that they intercepted the missile. There is no confirmation for the ship attack.

The Saudis and Emirates have the active support of Britain and the United States. The attack on Hodeidah, the siege on all Houthi controlled territory and the coming famine can still stopped. Britain and the U.S., the Saudis and the Emirates are on the verge of committing a war crime that will exceed the war on Iraq by any measure.

The attack must stop and the blockade must be lifted. It is either now or it will be too late to prevent the siege of Yemen and a very large famine.

moonofalabama.org