Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Limiting Losses in Yemen’s Conflict | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the largest clan in Yemen’s Shabwah province gather on February 19, 2015 after forming a “popular army” to protect the province from Houthi militias. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

No war in the world can be without its losses. Even when the police want to preserve the security of the people, damages can be inflicted. Like all wars, Operation Decisive Storm unfortunately will cause losses. Of course this is not to justify the shortcomings of what is expected to be a campaign of smart airstrikes. Tools of modern warfare have improved exponentially; Targets are determined in a precise manner and in advance as is the case with Operation Decisive Storm where strikes are aimed at the military positions and facilities of the Houthi militia and forces loyal to the toppled president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Apart from the lies about airstrikes targeting civilians made by the Iranian media (the mouthpiece of the Houthis), if Yemen was left at the mercy of the Houthi militia, losses would be expected to greatly exceed those the war may produce. Had Yemen been left exposed to the dangers of a sectarian civil war—the signs of which began to emerge in Sana’a, Aden, Ma’rib, Hadhramaut, Al-Hudaydah and Taiz—the country would undoubtedly have witnessed a repeat of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, a country that, due to an illegitimate regime backed by Iran, has suffered massive humanitarian and economic losses.

The Syrian people started a popular uprising in 2011. But thanks to the oppression of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and the hesitance of the international community to intervene militarily, the vortex of the conflict gradually expanded across the country, turning into an open war fought by several parties. This has led to economic and humanitarian losses so massive that it earned the war in Syria a place among history’s bloodiest and most financially-damaging wars. The number of those killed in Syria is estimated at 300,000, while almost half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, of whom four million have sought refuge in neighboring countries and seven million are internally displaced. Who would take responsibility if Yemen were to follow the Syrian course, or suffer to a similar degree, or even part of Syria’s losses?

Should the current crisis in Yemen continue, the economic losses would be so massive that it may produce as dire a humanitarian catastrophe as the one in Syria. Half of Yemen’s budget depends on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and half the population there live on less than one US dollar per day. Unemployment rates increased from 25 percent before the revolution to 44 percent in 2013 amid predictions that it may hit 60 percent this year. If we add to this the potential decline in the remittances sent by hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the Gulf, Yemenis will not be able to cope with the difficult living conditions that have deteriorated further after the Houthis’ coup. Nor can humanitarian aid agencies predict the scale of the tragedy Yemen would witness.

The countries participating in Operation Decisive Storm have done a good job launching a necessary war to avoid repeating the Syrian tragedy.

Yemen was heading towards a dark tunnel from which it would not have emerged without paying a hefty price. The members of the coalition took responsibility to rescue this country, which is suffering both politically and economically.

Any damages the raging war on Houthis may cause will be no match to those that would be incurred had the Shi’ite militia been allowed to control Yemen and destroy its political and economic infrastructure.