The Implications of the Saudi-Iran Conflict on the People of Yemen

The pressing issue at hand in the Middle East is the growing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  The conflict between these two nations has its roots in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 when the anti-west Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the pro-Western monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This transition marked a turning point for the Middle East, particularly in regards to alliances and security. Hostility has since engulfed the two nations.

The Saudi-Iran conflict reached new levels on September 14 of this year. Advanced drone technology was used to target the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, causing a major scare in the global oil supply. Houthi rebels later claimed responsibility, but many U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say all signs point toward Iran. In an interview on “Face the Nation,”-Pompeo stated the alleged Iranian involvement in the strike was an “act of war.”

The implications of Iran’s involvement could provoke major hostility in an already fragile region, and the escalating dispute between the U.S. and Iran places America in a potentially compromising position. The U.S. has already deployed troops to Saudi Arabia to assist the country in the defense against future attacks, the Pentagon confirmed this week.[i]

The major victim of this attack, however, is neither Saudi Arabia nor its allies, but the people of Yemen.

Yemen has seen little reprieve from violence since the outbreak of civil war in 2015 between the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led government and the Houthi-rebel faction. The Saudi-led bombing campaign on Yemen to combat Houthi rebels and Iranian influence in the area has led to staggering numbers of casualties: an estimated 17,729 civilians have been killed or injured since March 2019. Just this past week, 16 people, including seven children, were killed in the Sawd District of Northwestern Yemen by a Saudi-led airstrike. This attack came in response to the Saudi oil field bombings just a few days earlier.

Perhaps most concerning, Yemen is home to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world according to the United Nations. The country currently suffers from a widespread food shortage with 13 million Yemeni civilians facing starvation in what is being referred to as “the worst famine in 100 years.”[ii] The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen resulted in a complete blockade of medicine and food from the country in 2015, leaving the country susceptible to starvation and disease outbreaks. In fact, the number of cholera incidents in Yemen has risen dramatically since 2015: 109,000 cases of suspected cholera have been reported from the beginning of 2019 to March 2019, and almost 2,000 new cases are added each day according to the World Health Organization. Experts are certain the cholera endemic coincided with the outbreak of war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition in March 2015.[iii]

In addition to this, UNICEF confirms over 2 million children are out of school in Yemen, with an estimated 3.7 million more at risk. Since the outbreak of civil war, almost a fourth of children have dropped out of school.

What this all means for Yemen’s future remains unclear, though one thing is certain: the crisis in Yemen will continue to deteriorate as long as the Saudi-Iran proxy war calls Yemen home. Expect additional U.S. military personnel to deploy to the region in the weeks to come.


Endnotes

[i] Gibbons-neff, Thomas. “New U.S. Aid to Saudi Arabia Will Include 200 Troops.” The New York Times. The New York Times, September 26, 2019.

[ii] “Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen Remains the Worst in the World, Warns UN | UN News.” United Nations. United Nations. Accessed September 28, 2019. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811.

[iii] Gladstone, Rick. “Cholera, Lurking Symptom of Yemen’s War, Appears to Make Roaring Comeback.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 28, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/world/middleeast/cholera-yemen.html.

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