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The famine in Yemen shows how disastrous is the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the entire Middle East, says guest columnist Rainer Hermann, of the German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.
The world has looked away from this terrible tragedy and has not done anything for too long. And it is that, in part, it has not been paid attention because there are no pictures of the catastrophe in progress. Yemen is so remote and so poor that its citizens could never reach Europe as refugees. And the harsh exhortations issued by humanitarian organizations have simply not been addressed.
However, the most recent appeal by the United Nations has gained some attention. In it, the world organization clearly states that the world must prepare to face the most catastrophic famine that has been seen in decades, one that will cost the lives of millions of people. Warns that a quarter of Yemen’s 28 million citizens face the real death threat from starvation, unless Saudi Arabia immediately opens Yemen’s airspace to allow the arrival of humanitarian flights, as well as its ports to allow entry of cargo ships.
Saudi Arabia has imposed a far-reaching embargo against Yemen and strengthened it even more last week. The reason for the further tightening was the fact that the Yemeni Houthi rebels fired a missile allegedly manufactured by Iran on Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
Short-range Iranian missiles have fallen on several Saudi cities since the kingdom declared war on the Houthi rebels in March 2015. But this attack on Riyadh went too far, especially because, according to Saudi leaders, Hezbollah fighters, backed by Iran, they launched these missiles from territories controlled by the Houthis.
However, the destruction of the missiles fired at Saudi Arabia is nothing compared to the devastation that Yemen has suffered from Saudi air strikes for two years. Saudi Arabia intends to prevent the Houthi rebels from becoming a permanent threat on its southern border, but the kingdom has been reluctant to send ground troops. And while the Saudi air offensive has done little to expel the Houthis, it has succeeded in throwing the country and its people into a hellish situation.
Fighting on the backs of the Yemeni people
Saudi Arabia and Iran vie for regional domination by fighting on the backs of the Yemeni people with disastrous consequences for the entire Middle East. However, Yemen itself had already fallen into a civil war before Saudi Arabia entered the conflict on the side of the pro-Western president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, and Iran, on the side of the Houthi rebels, who also provided weapons.
The Saudis are wondering exactly what Iran is doing in this part of the Arab world. What is, to some extent, a justified question. However, there is no justification for the suffering of the Yemeni people, a suffering that is mainly a consequence of the policies of Saudi Arabia.