President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.
Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Continue reading
The Medact Arms Control Group:
Open letter to the Secretary of State of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Sajid Javid. BIS are in charge of licensing arms sales.
STOP FUELLING THE YEMEN CONFLICT
End all UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia
It is now over a year since the recent outbreak of armed conflict in Yemen began, forcing 2.4 million people to flee their homes, and leaving over 22 million people in need of humanitarian support. The conflict has killed over six thousand people, and left the health care system on its knees.
Humanitarian agencies are struggling to respond and the country stands on the brink of famine. A senior representative of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has described the current level of humanitarian assistance in Yemen as a “drop in the ocean.”
However, alternatives to the dominant military-authoritarian paradigm – in which militarised notions of masculinity are also a prominent feature – are available. In the discussion paper, Dilemmas of Counter-Terror, Stabilisation and Statebuilding, Saferworld provided a review of global evidence on the impacts of existing approaches, and suggested a number of constructive directions for improved policy, including:
- Avoiding defining conflicts narrowly as problems of ‘terror’, ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’, and instead adopting a more impartial, holistic and sustainable approach to resolving them
- Changing international and national policies and approaches that fuel grievances and undermine human rights
- Redoubling efforts for diplomacy, lobbying, advocacy and local-level dialogue to make the case for peace and adherence to international law by conflict actors
- Looking for opportunities to negotiate peace – balancing pragmatic considerations with a determined focus to achieve inclusive and just political settlements in any given context
- Considering the careful use of legal and judicial responses and targeted sanctions as alternatives to the use of force
- Taking greater care when choosing and reviewing relationships with supposed ‘allies’
- Supporting transformative reform efforts to improve governance and state-society relations and uphold human rights
- Choosing not to engage if harm cannot be effectively mitigated and no clear solution is evident.
Many civilians continue to live in Saada, northern Yemen, despite almost daily airstrikes in the area. Michael Seawright from Auckland, New Zealand, was recently Project Coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) projects in the war-torn region.
“I’ve worked in war zones for the past 11 to 12 years, in some of the worst conflicts like Syria, but I have never seen such destruction conducted in such a short period as in Yemen. I was based in Saada, in the north, in a Houthi-controlled area that was experiencing almost daily attacks from Coalition air forces. These air strikes were often close to our facilities and we clearly felt their effects.
Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.
But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.
And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.
Craig Whitlock, “Drone strikes killing more civilians than U.S. admits, human rights groups say,” The Washington Post, 22 October 2013
Two influential human rights groups say they have freshly documented dozens of civilian deaths in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, contradicting assertions by the Obama administration that such casualties are rare.