Global Kenyon: The blockade in Yemen
The Collegian is a local paper with an international audience. To address our audience’s desire to explore the world beyond the Hill, we are piloting an “international news” feature, highlighting underreported events occurring outside of the U.S. In order to tie these events back to campus, we will include insights and analysis from members of the Kenyon community. Because these pieces will be short, we hope they will inspire readers to conduct research about the global world on their own.
Saudi Arabia announced a blockade against Yemen and closed all of its ports on Nov. 6, leaving the Yemeni population without immediate access to valuable resources, according to the New York Times.
The Saudi government took this measure after Houthi rebel forces fired a missile from Yemen to an international airport in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. No damage was done to the King Khalid International Airport and flights were not disrupted, according to a Nov. 4 CBS News article. Fragments of the missile landed in an uninhabited area north of Riyadh.
“The Houthi rebels have used the weakness of this [President of the Republic of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s] presidency to try to expand their base of support and take a over a little bit,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Hart, who specializes in international relations. “This Houthi group has been backed by Iran, and Saudi Arabia has jumped in on the other side.”
Saudi Arabia plans to continue the blockade until they find a solution to the importing of weapons. In the meantime, all rebel-controlled air and sea ports will be shut down, according to a Nov. 14 BBC article.
This blockade deprives seven million people of valuable resources, including food, water medicines and vital vaccines, and puts them at risk of starvation, according to a Nov. 9 Huffington Post article. More than 70 percent of the country depends on these imports to survive in the war-torn country.
The Saudi-led coalition believes that Iran has supplied the rebel group with weapons, although Iran has publicly denied this charge.
The conflict in Yemen has been going on for years.
Hart described the conflict as a regional proxy war. “The problem in Yemen is much about the regional competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran for who is going to be the top state in this part of the world,” Hart said.
Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states became involved in the Yemeni politics due to their impression that the Houthi rebels were supported by the regional Shiite power Iran. The coalition also received logistical and intelligence support from the United States, the United Kingdom and France to prevent the rebels from gaining more power.
“The sad thing is Yemen is caught up in a bigger conflict that is bigger than itself and people are suffering terribly,” Hart said.
“I think it will get worse, a lot worse, before it gets better,” said Professor of Political Science David Rowe and the chair of the political science department. “The current [U.S.] administration has basically given Saudi Arabia a free hand — this is a country that has no qualms about being brutal, and so I expect things to get much worse.”