By David Sole
In a dramatic reversal of Mideast relations the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen are taking steps toward ending their lengthy and bloody conflict. The turnaround is a direct result of peace talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran brokered by the People’s Republic of China announced in early March.
For over eight years the reactionary Saudi Arabian government, with full support of the United States, waged a brutal war against its neighbor, Yemen. Relentlessly bombing both military and civilian targets, Saudi Arabia has caused tens of thousands of Yemeni deaths. A blockade of Yemen has resulted in the deaths of perhaps as many as 350,00 people, including 85,000 young children. The United States has supplied to the Saudi side most of its weaponry as well as intelligence information for this war. Yemen has fought back and has had the support of Iran throughout the conflict.
On April 14 BBC News reported “A major prisoner swap between warring sides in Yemen is under way, seen as part of stepped-up efforts to end the devastating eight-year conflict there….About 900 prisoners are expected to be exchanged over the next three days.”
This is seen as part of a broader effort “toward ending the war since Saudi Arabia and the [Yemenis] resumed direct on-off talks last year. Hopes were furthered when Saudi Arabia and its powerful rival Iran – the [Yemeni’s] main backer – agreed last month to restore relations after a bitter seven-year rift.”
A two month truce was announced on April 1 which could be renewed by the parties. According to the U.N. News the truce includes an end to all offensive military operations, the docking of fuel ships into Yemen ports and some commercial flights to and from the capital, Sana’a.
The U.S. backed Saudi war has been unable to crush the resistance of the Yemenis. No doubt this is a contributing factor toward the Saudi-Iran breakthrough and the agreement of the Saudis to the truce talks. In fact late March saw “a wave of drone and missile attacks hit targets across Saudi Arabia, including an oil plant … triggering an inferno.”
These steps are definitely welcomed by the Yemeni people but it remains to be seen if a real peace agreement can finally be reached. The Saudi-Iran peace deal accomplished by China is also welcome and certainly has irritated the U.S. But Saudi Arabia has deep ties to the U.S. from whom it purchased over $100 billion in military hardware from 2009 to 2020. A $37 billion purchase by the Saudis of Boeing aircraft has also been arranged and, of course, the Pentagon has thousands of U.S. troops at five military bases across Saudi Arabia.