Yemen is no stranger to conflict. Under the Obama administration, the country has been subject to years of lethal drone strikes, which Washington, for the most part, claims were targeted at al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Washington regards AQAP as the most deadly branch of al-Qaeda. However, in practice, these drone strikes have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths. To put this further into perspective, Washington’s drone strikes this year have killed more civilians than AQAP has.
Saudi Arabia and its so-called coalition, on the other hand, did not become overtly involved in Yemen until the Houthi Ansarullah movement took full force and forced Yemen’s former leader, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to remove himself from power. Instead of intervening to combat the threat of the most deadly branch of al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia has instead decided to start bombarding AQAP’s sworn nemesis, effectively intervening on the side of AQAP.
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The prominent rationale for this campaign, rife with the use of banned munitions and absent of any legal mandate, is that the Houthi rebels are a serious threat because they are backed by Iran. The Guardian has made this quite clear, stating in almost every article that Saudi Arabia is at war with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The problem is, more often than not, they have not provided any evidence at all that Iran is backing these rebels.
Let’s take one of the most recent Guardian articles, published on October 15, 2015. This article states that “the coalition is fighting the Iran-backed Houthis to drive them from Sana’a and other areas they captured last year, and to restore the internationally recognised president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.” “Iran-backed Houthis” is underlined by a hyperlink, supposedly to educate the reader on the source of the claim that the Houthis are indeed Iranian-backed. However, clicking on this hyperlink will take you to another article that explains nothing further than the previous article except again to reiterate that the Houthis are backed by Iran, providing no evidentiary support. This time, however, the word “Iran” is hyperlinked. Click on this hyperlink and it takes the reader to the Guardian’s world news page on Iran, with countless articles to choose from, mostly pertaining to the Iranian nuclear accord. This is where the rabbit hole ends.
Given the horrendous crisis now facing Yemen, this spread of misinformation falls nothing short of shameful.
Let’s take another example. This recent article published by the Guardian on October 8, 2015, again states that: “It is now six months since a coalition of countries, led by Saudi Arabia, took on Iran-backed Houthis who had swept through the country earlier this year.” The words “Iran-backed Houthis” are again hyperlinked. This time the hyperlink takes you to another Guardian article, which explains that a “source” has revealed that no more than 10 Gulf-trained fighters have arrived in Yemen. The article references Iran only once by again claiming that the Houthis are Iranian-backed, but this is not hyperlinked to any other source and at no point in the article does the writer even try to explain in which of the Gulf states these fighters, who number no more than 10, were trained before their deployment into Yemen.
When the Guardian isn’t hyperlinking sources that provide no evidence for their claims, more often than not, the Guardian’s articles will continue to perpetuate this rationale for war but will not hyperlink any sources at all, though they make sure to mention that the rebels are Iranian-backed at least two or three times per article.
The reality of the situation is that the Houthis receive most of their effective support on the ground not from Iran, but from the former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh was forced from power in 2012 but continues to hold the loyalty of the country’s armed forces. Why else would a coalition of foreign nations need to intervene so promptly and violently with deadly airstrikes and a number of ground troops to protect the country’s current leader from being removed from power, if he had the overwhelming support of his people?
The Guardian is by all accounts an award-winning, highly respected and internationally acclaimed form of media with over 40 million readers. It is often regarded as credible and trustworthy, especially by this author.
But this isn’t journalism. This is the propagation of misinformation of the lowest kind possible, the publication of which is something a university student would be looking at disciplinary action for. Given the horrendous crisis now facing Yemen, this spread of misinformation falls nothing short of shameful.
Yemen is the poorest, most impoverished nation in the Arab world. The Saudi-led coalition has been striking refugee camps, residential areas and wedding parties. The coalition has been deeply suspected of using banned munitions such as cluster bombs. The coalition uses US-made aircraft and continues to enjoy US and UK intelligence in their operations, as well as having the impunity to attract no more than a blink from the UN (who apparently is deeply concerned with human rights in Syria). The country now has more than half a million children at serious risk of malnutrition. More than 5,000 civilians have been killed, including more than 500 children. More than 21 million out of the total population of 25 million are in serious need of basic humanitarian assistance.
The Saudi-led coalition has no legal basis to be conducting its operations in the first place. When the coalition first announced plans to intervene, its stated goal and rationale was “to protect Yemen and the Yemeni people from the Houthi destructive aggression.” In actuality, the coalition has unleashed a world of chaos, plunging Yemen to Syria-stricken levels in half a year of bombing.
Speaking of Syria, Saudi Arabia happens to be one of the countries that is so intent on having Bashar al-Assad removed from power. Before one has a chance to even ask why this would be, the world should be asking how a country with an appalling human rights record toward its own people, coupled with deadly actions in Yemen, can have the ability to freely criticize another country’s leader with impunity. This is the world’s worst form of hypocrisy.
Any journalist who perpetuates misinformation, stays silent on these atrocities and does not condemn the aggressor is not doing his or her job. If the Guardian has evidence that the Houthi rebels are backed by Iran, they should present it. And when they do present it, they should ask why it is okay for the United States, NATO and the Gulf states to support al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels in Syria (and Libya, and elsewhere) but for Iran to be widely condemned for doing so in Yemen (considering the Houthi rebels are fighting against al-Qaeda).