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Opinion: Yemen and the Sudden Sense of Humanity | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Armed men stand guard outside a local authority compound after taking it over in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, on February 16, 2015. (Reuters/Yaser Hasan)

Following Russia’s sudden humanitarian concern over Yemen, we have witnessed a situation akin to a relay race over this concern. Iran picked up the baton from Russia. In the words of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s sole concern is with the humanitarian, not the sectarian, condition of the world’s nations. “[Iran] is worried about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen,” the Iranian minister said. The friendly Sultanate of Oman has followed suit as Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah demanded “giving priority to humanitarian aid.” Alawi has announced that he is seeking a “humanitarian truce.” No one can reject or express any reservations about the lofty sense of humanity suddenly sweeping across some countries. But what raises dozens of exclamation and questions marks is that, despite the killing the Houthi militia has committed over the last six months since it occupied Sana’a, none of these countries expressed any concern over the humanitarian situation in Yemen before Operation Decisive Storm. Claiming the moral high ground is an exposed tactic and a sudden awakening of conscience by Russia does not explain it.

Apart from Operation Decisive Storm’s declared efforts to coordinate with international relief organizations and the Red Cross to deliver humanitarian aid to all Yemenis, the airstrikes have targeted the military positions of the Houthi militia and forces loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and not residential areas. The strikes do not target civilians as the Houthis have been doing in Aden.

The concept of a humanitarian truce does not apply to the present situation in Yemen unless we exclude the violations being committed by the militias of the Houthis and Saleh. This stance has been clearly expressed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed when he emphasized the significance of facilitating the “delivery of humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people in a safe and smooth manner.” He emphasized that terrorist acts by the Houthi militia are among the main reasons behind the dangerously deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen.

I think the issue of a “humanitarian policy” is being adopted by some countries as an opportunity to pander to the world’s emotions. They portray the situation in Yemen as a catastrophe because of Operation Decisive Storm, not because of the Houthis, in a bid to halt the operation before it achieves its objectives. Among the things Russia and Iran have in common is their alliance with the Houthis, something that explains their desire to mobilize the world against Operation Decisive Storm. As for Oman, it has already expressed reservations about joining the international coalition against the Houthis, a position that its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members understand. Oman has chosen to sit on the fence given its distinguished relations and constant coordination with Tehran. Therefore, it has its own reasons to remain neutral, as its officials always say. Nevertheless, the Gulf Street believes that Oman should prioritize the interests of the GCC above those of Iran.

Facts and figures show that no country has been as supportive of Yemen throughout its history as the GCC nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, be that on the political, economic or humanitarian level. On the other hand, Russia has never provided humanitarian support to Yemen, neither has Iran, which we are certain is supplying the Houthi militias with state-of-the-art weapons. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis work in the Gulf and send money back home to support millions of people there. Meanwhile, Iran is busy hosting Houthis to train them how to kill and terrorize the Yemeni people. Who knows, this may be the definition of humanity in the Persian language!