Peace talks delayed as Saudi stocks up on bombs – update 21st November

taiz devastation
Taiz today



This week has been the same never ending reports of death and destruction in Yemen. And the UN is saying today that they peace talks – due to start next week – are now delayed until December. I guess Hadi and his powerful neighbours want to make more progress in the ground war before entering the talks, but as usual – the ground war is at stalemate. Everyone says this war can only be ended by negotiations, so why oh why do they have to kill more Yemenis before they talk, for God’s sake?


Taiz is a ferocious battleground, with both sides hoping to use any progress there as a bargaining chip in peace negotiations. I read in one paper that the Houthi-Saleh alliance are using mercenaries from Ethiopia – I don’t know if it is true – and the Saudi-led alliance is definitely bringing in mercenaries and allies from all over the Middle East, Africa, and South America. If you read newspaper articles in papers from members of the Saudi led coalition, they are winning.  On the other hand, if you read Iranian or Houthi papers and news agencies, then you would also read that they too are winning.  When I hear from ordinary Taiz people with no political affiliations, they only state that they are being killed and starved.

Hadi – who ran away from his country and responsibilities at the beginning of the war has moved back to Aden at last – he says permanently.  I guess he’s left his family safe and comfortable in Riyadh. I hope this development means that more effort will be put into security matters in Aden.  Al Qaeda is driving around openly and the Houthi-Saleh alliance are said to be approaching the city – again.  Adenis have been asked to leave their weapons at home – but with gun-toting militias around and no effective police or army, that’s a big ask.  Hadi’s return may indeed draw the fight to Aden, as he is himself a divisive figure with limited popularity and many enemies.

The Saudi bombing raids are as fearsome as ever, killing and destroying all in their wake, especially in the northwest of Yemen.  They obviously have used up lots of their bombs (they dropped 40,000 in the first seven months of war); they have now ordered another 25,140 air to ground missiles from US, including 1,500 penetrator warheads (usually nuclear tipped) and 2,000 of the huge Mother Of All Bombs, each over 1000 pounds. Total cost said to be 1.3 billion US dollars. Human Rights Watch have called on the US not to send weapons to Saudi Arabia, but I guess no-one is listening.  An Italian news outlet said the weapons are on their way already. There is the usual round of dire warnings about the Yemeni humanitarian situation – this week ICRC has put out an appeal about the crisis – as has UNICEF.  The two recent cyclones have added to the disastrous situation in Yemen. But it’s one thing making a plea and wringing your hands.  Yemenis actually need action now – they are already dying.

Hadramaut had so far has been spared from the war, but the news today is that the war has been taken to them, with suicide bombs and attacks in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Shibam and nearby Al Qatn. A home video of the attack shows it is no mini matter – some of the explosions were horrendous.  As ISIS has claimed responsibility, in the week after the Paris attacks, at least this is getting some media coverage.

The UK media this week has really focused on Paris and the events there, and I guess for people like me who are trying to get empathetic coverage of a much bigger disaster elsewhere this is frustrating.  For example, on BBC Radio 4 a man said that after two lots of bombs in 10 months, he is wondering whether Paris is a good place to bring up his children.  HELLO!!!!  People in Yemen have had massive destructive bombs every single day for over 237 days in some cities like Saada; their homes, schools, hospitals destroyed and perhaps they too think that this is not a good place to bring up children.   Some cities such as Taiz have had ground war every day for over four months, their city looking as damaged as cities in Syria after 5 years.  Don’t Yemenis and Arabs want to protect their children too?  Surely this is the reason why there are so many refugees in Europe today.

Last but not least, there is an important inquiry in UK into the government’s response to the crisis in Yemen.  Written submissions are being invited.  I shall send a submission on behalf of Yemen News Today, but other charities and organisations linked to Yemen should also send their own observations.  It may not change anything, but those of us who love Yemen must do our best to assist Yemen and Yemenis in every way we can.





Saudi Arabia at war

By Dr Judith Brown

Saudi Arabia at war. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. To its west is the Red Sea, to the east is the Gulf of Arabia and a short border with Kuwait and Qatar, to the south-east is the United Arab Emirates and Oman, and Yemen is to the south-west of KSA. To the north, it has land boundaries with Jordan and Iraq. map saudi arabia Source of wealth. KSA has large reserves of oil, believed to be about 40% of the world’s reserves, and is currently the world’s largest producer of crude oil. Whilst oil dropped significantly in price in 2014, Saudi Arabia can use its windfall of reserves saved from when the oil price as higher to finance its current spending (

Weapons procurement. KSA has been purchasing weapons for many decades, many from US and Europe, but the rate of increase in arms purchases has increased significantly in recent years. In 2014 it was the world’s top weapons purchaser.

Table of spending on weapons, 2013/214

Top Defence Importers Top Defence Importers
2013 2014
1. India 1. Saudi Arabia
2. Saudi Arabia 2. India
3. UAE 3. China
4. Taiwan 4. UAE
5. China 5. Taiwan
6. Indonesia 6. Australia
7. South Korea 7. South Korea
8. Egypt 8. Indonesia
9. Australia 9. Turkey
10. Singapore 10. Pakistan


Total defence spending. KSA was 4th country in the table of total defence spending in 2014, after USA, China and Russia, spending 10.4% of its GDP on defence, a rise of 17% since 2013. (Perlo-Freeman, Fleurant, Wezeman P., Wezeman S. 2015. Trends in military expenditure2015; Sipri fact sheet; SIPRI, Sweden.)

Sources of procurement. Most of Saudi Arabia’s military aircraft are supplied by USA and UK (

Recent UK deals include: • September 2007, detailed contract signed for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. o 24 were delivered in 2009, made in Lancashire. o Others supplied in kit form and assembled in Saudi Arabia. o Cost £4.4 billion. o Called Salam ‘peace’ project. • May 2012 BAE contract o Contract to train Saudi air force o 55 Pilatus aircraft made in Switzerland o 22 BAE Hawk jets. o Cost £1.6 billion (source: CAAT) SAUDI JET SUPPLIED BY BAE SYSTEMS This is surprising not only in terms of its own status as an intolerant dictatorship, but also in view of its funding of groups that are deemed to be ‘terrorists’ that has been heavily criticised in the West (Cockburn, P., 2014, Al Qaeda the second act: is Saudi Arabia regretting its support for terrorism; The Independent, 17.3.2014).

Nuclear ambitions. Many British newspapers have recently reported that Saudi Arabia could purchase battle ready nuclear weapons from Pakistan. The relationship between SaudiArabia and Pakistan is cordial and since 1974 KSA has funded part of the Pakistan integrated atomic weapons project. Western intelligence and diplomats believe that Pakistan would sell nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. One German magazine produced photographs in 2006 that allegedly shows Gauri rockets in silos south of Riyadh; Pakistan denies that it has provided weapons to the Kingdom. Source: Wikipedia and UK newspapers.

Saudi Arabia’s use of military force outside the Kingdom. Between 1903-1920, the Saud tribe was involved in various wars in Arabia that enlarged its land under its control, and formed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Then, • In 1924-5 the Saudis fought a war with the Hashemite tribes and took part of the Hijaz territory that had previously been part of Yemen, including the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. • In 1990-1991 Saudi Arabia was involved with the coalition that formed the First Gulf War against Iraq. • In 2009-2010 Saudi invaded northern Yemen to attack the Bakil tribe (the Houthis), and was repelled. • In 2012 it entered Bahrain at the request of the rulers of Bahrain, who had already been involved in a brutal crackdown against protesters, and helped the ruling dictatorship to consolidate its power. • It participated with US led air attacks on ISIS/Daesh in Syria in 2014. • It assembled a coalition to attack Yemen in March 2015.

The stated purpose of the attack on Yemen. • Saudi Arabia’s reason for the attacks (Defensive Shield) was articulated by Adel al-Jubeir, its ambassador to the United States, who said, “Having Yemen fail cannot be an option for us or for our coalition partners.” The Saudis believed that Yemen was failing because Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president who was supported by Saudi Arabia but was deposed as a result of months of demonstrations in 2011-12, had sided with the Houthi Shiites. The alliance allowed the Houthis to make rapid progress in their attacks on the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and take control of a significant part of Yemen. Hadi fled Yemen and took refuge in Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia claims that one goal of the military operation is to restore “the legitimate leader” of Yemen to power. (Sahimi, M., 2015, Saudi Attack on Yemen Aims to Prevent Thaw Between Iran and the West, The World Post, 30.3.2015.) • Yemen has since become a failed state; it now only has a government in exile in Riyadh that cannot speak or act independently in the interests of Yemen. Saudi has also extensively bombed the arsenal of the Yemen army, thus ensuring that there is no possibility of a Yemeni army to police and protect its population. Moreover, Hadi is not seen as a legitimate president by sections of the Yemeni community, because he was elected in a one candidate election for a limited term that expired in February 2014, and he had already resigned and then re-instated himself without authority from the Yemeni people. In any case, Saudi Arabia is not a country that has followed democratic processes in the past. Moreover, the extensive Saudi attack means that no section of society in Yemen can function because of the extent of damage caused. The Houthi links with Iran exist but they are recent, and there is no evidence that Iran exerted any control over Yemen, and also there is no evidence that the Saudi campaign has hindered the Houthi advance. Thus the initial stated aims of Saudi Arabia seem not to have been supported by facts on the ground, the subsequent actions by Saudi Arabia, and the result of those actions. • The UN appointed special advisor, Jamal Benomar, who was appointed to oversee the transition of Yemen after 2011 resigned after the start of the Saudi bombing. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he stated that negotiations in Yemen were continuing and a deal was possible, but start of the bombing raids had hardened all positions and complicated matters further. (Lauria, J, Coker, M., 2015; Former UN Envoy says Yemen political deal was close before Saudi airstrikes began. Wall Street Journal, 26.4.2015)

The dark green area to the left is the area in Houthi control before Saudi bombing campaign
Yemen_war_detailed_map 1.6.15
June 2015 Houthi area of control light green now extends to southern coastline

The members of the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen. Saudi Arabia all the GCC counties except Oman signed a statement of agreement before the coalition started the air attacks on Yemen on 25th March 2015. Oman has remained neutral.

• Saudi Arabia leads the coalition. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and some naval units. These soldiers are not in Yemen but guard the border between the two countries.

• The UAE signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 30 fighter jets.

• Bahrain signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 15 fighter jets.

• Kuwait signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 15 fighter jets.

• Qatar signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 10 fighter jets.

• Jordan said its fighter jets were involved in the operation. Al-Arabiya said 6 Jordanian jets were involved.

• Sudan said its air and ground forces would take part in the operation. Al-Arabiya said three Sudanese fighter jets were involved.

• Egypt said its naval and air forces were involved in the campaign. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said ground forces could become involved “if necessary”.

• Pakistan had been asked to provide ground troops but declined to take part .

• USA and UK are supporting the coalition, but are not taking part in the combat operations. For example, it has been reported that US has helped to refuel in flight, shared intelligence, and assisted with rescue missions. Operation-Deceive-Storm-Yemen-Conflict Geneva peace talks. Saudi Arabia was not present at the UN sponsored peace talks in Geneva.