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Why are the U.S. and UK bombing Yemen?

Photo: Anti-war activists rally in front of the White House on Jan. 11, immediately after the U.S.-UK air strikes on Yemen. Credit: Students for Socialism

If you pay attention to the mainstream news, the U.S. government and its now junior partner, the UK, assert they have bombed Yemen because the “illegitimate” and “terrorist” Yemeni government is interfering with international shipping and commerce and must be punished by the “international community.”  

If you ask the Yemenis, they will tell you they are acting on their moral and religious duty to stop the U.S.-backed Israeli genocide of Palestinians by preventing Israeli ships or those bringing goods to Israel from passing through the Bab al-Mandeb. Ansar Allah military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree said, “The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea (and Gulf of Aden) until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.” 

Who should you believe? The United States, a nuclear-armed military power, biggest in the world, which provided billions of dollars in arms and logistical support to Saudi Arabia during its brutal war on Yemen? The United States, which provides the greatest amount of aid to Israel, most recently giving the Zionist state $2.8 billion to continue to continue to carry out genocide? Or the UK, the colonial occupier of South Yemen from 1839 until 1967 when it was kicked out by a Marxist liberation movement? The UK, the country that in 1917 in the Balfour Declaration promised Palestine to the Zionist movement — as if Palestine was theirs to give? 

Or should you believe Ansar Allah (also known as the “Houthis”), who holds power in much of Yemen and are the ones stopping Israeli-linked ships in solidarity with Palestine? As a military force, Ansar Allah, fighting with homemade drones and vastly fewer weapons, not only held their own against the U.S.-armed Saudi Arabia in a brutal war that dragged on for years and killed 150,000 Yemenis, they could not be defeated. That is why a ceasefire was declared in 2021 and talks have been ongoing regarding a permanent peace agreement.  

The U.S. and UK governments have been clear in their stated intent regarding the anti-Yemen bombing campaign. President Biden said, “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary,” while UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasized that the attacks were intended to “protect global shipping.” They are concerned that Yemen’s actions in the Red Sea are making international commerce more expensive, since shipping companies are now opting to sail all the way around the southern end of Africa, adding about $1 million in fuel costs for each voyage. In addition, insurance costs have shot up nearly tenfold for ships operating in the Red Sea.

It’s not surprising that capitalist countries would be upset about anything that interferes with commerce and trade. But wait — isn’t there something else they could do other than bomb Yemen to solve this problem? The Yemenis have made it clear they will continue targeting ships in the Red Sea as long as the U.S.-Israeli genocide against Palestine continues. The governments of the United States and UK could use their power and influence to stop the genocide. But that is unthinkable to them. They would rather create more destruction and instability in Yemen than stop supporting genocide in Palestine. And this is clear for the whole world to see. 

UK and U.S. imperialism

The U.S. and UK have a long history of attempting to dominate the “Middle East” region from Palestine to Yemen and beyond. In 1839, the UK colonized the Port of Aden in the south of Yemen, a huge deepwater port that can service very large vessels. Of course, this was only one part of the vast British Empire that was the most dominant world power of its time. “Natives” and their land, their natural resources, were to be exploited to benefit “Mother England,” while the most vile and disrespectful treatment was meted out to the peoples who were colonized. Of course, the whole enterprise was framed as a mission to “civilize” the colonized, the “white man’s burden.” The UK was kicked out of south Yemen in 1967 leading to the founding of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen, which was the only Marxist-led Arab state until it merged with the Republic of Yemen (North Yemen) in 1990. 

The United States is a relative newcomer to dominating the Middle East, or at least trying to. From its overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran and installation of the Shah in 1951 to its massive funding and military support of Israel to its invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. ruling class sees the region as strategically important to its interests due to the natural resources — especially oil — as well as its location between Europe and Asia. 

In 1986, then-U.S. Senator Biden said, “Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region.” He repeated this comment as president in July 2023 when Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the United States and spoke before Congress. 

United States has bullied Yemen for decades

In 1991, Yemen held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council and cast the sole “no” vote against Desert Storm, the genocidal war on Iraq in which the U.S. military committed countless war crimes against the Iraqi people. Following that vote, the U.S. ambassador to the UN reportedly told the Yemeni representative, “That will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” And then the United States proceeded to withdraw all aid to Yemen, down to its Peace Corps volunteers. 

Over the course of the past four presidential administrations, the United States has terrorized Yemen: from George W. Bush ordering approximately 50 drone attacks on the country during his administration; to Obama drone striking wedding celebrations and ordering the CIA assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, alleged to have been involved in terrorism, not to mention the killing of his teenage son two weeks later; to the killing of al-Awlaki’s 8-year old daughter, Nora, during the Trump administration; and now this bombing attack under Biden. 

The United States also financially and logistically supported the devastating Saudi war against Yemen starting in 2015, which led to what the UN called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Both Trump and Biden have provided Saudi Arabia billions of dollars in arms sales for its war on Yemen. The U.S. Navy has helped the Saudi-led coalition maintain a blockade on Yemen which resulted in famine, cholera outbreaks and the total destruction of Yemen’s health and medical infrastructure. The United States also trained Saudi soldiers and its Air Force, providing aircraft maintenance, logistics and intelligence. U.S. commanders were even involved in joint planning to choose Yemeni targets for the Saudis. The U.S. government will go down in history with blood on its hands for the 150,000 Yemenis who were killed in this brutal war. 

Only the Yemeni people can truly determine who is the legitimate government of their nation. However, the solidarity actions in the Red Sea have not only unified Yemenis behind Ansar Allah, they have drawn the support of the masses of Arab and Muslim people worldwide as well as many others living in the imperialist states who want peace with justice for Palestine. This is a true David vs. Goliath story: Yemen, itself just emerging from a brutal imperialist war, facing off against the mightiest militaries on earth, in solidarity with the people of Palestine. United States and UK: Stop bombing Yemen — free Palestine now! 

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