The Yemen war in Western media

November 07, 2018
The Yemen war in Western media

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

The extent of the Western - especially liberal and European - media’s misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Saudi involvement in the Yemen conflict is disheartening and baffling. To them, it looks like a war of choice not of necessity. They seem to believe that 10 Arab and Muslim countries decided one day that it was a good idea to bombard Yemeni towns and villages for no good reason. They seem to think that these countries could end hostilities anytime they wished, but somehow have continued on for three years and counting, and that the only way to stop them is to cease the sale of weapons and ammunition to the coalition leader, Saudi Arabia. They believe that if this happens, then peace will prevail the next day, and Yemenis will return to their pre-war “normal lives” and be happy ever after!

Except for some American, British and French leaders, who have clearly and continuously pointed out to their media and the world who is at fault in this tragic war, the rest seem to enjoy playing along with the crowd and falling over themselves to sell us more arms.

Some, like German leaders, have announced that they will cease arms sales and have called on other European nations to do the same. The hypocrisy is such that Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, pointed out that Germany has had no military business with Saudi Arabia for a decade! French President, Emmanuel Macron, called on German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to stop her demagogue politics, and if she was serious, then to cease real German exports to Saudi Arabia, such as automobiles.

Like the Germans, many European politicians go along with this media narrative, or refrain from putting the record straight. Therefore, it feels good to listen to those who have had the courage to explain and correct.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Labour MP Graham Jones declared that aside from environmental issues, the well-armed Houthi group “represent the greatest threat on the planet now.”

Jones, who chairs the Commons Committees on Arms Exports Controls, likened Houthi missile attacks on Saudi targets to Nazi attacks on Britain during WWII.

In remarks cited by The Independent, Jones said: “You talk about the humanitarian disaster of course. This is caused by Ansar Allah (Houthi militia).”

He added: “If you read the ambassadors at the UN and the unanimous decision to back the (Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour) Hadi government, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that the way we find peace and security is to stop the Ansar Allah advance into other tribal areas and the oppression that goes with it.” Adding that the Saudis were themselves under attack by rebels with “hi-tech missiles.”

“We had, what, 1,300 V2 rockets fired into the UK during World War Two? The Saudis have now faced over 200 long-range ballistic missiles, Iranian-made missiles. That is a very serious issue.

“It just happens to be that every other nation has decided not to send a military element to Yemen and the Arab coalition have. It doesn’t mean we support the Arab coalition but what we do support though is international law and that was an unanimous decision at the UN and that’s the position that we hold.”

I asked my French TV interviewer, do you think we are not as eager as you to end this war? Do you know how much it costs us in terms of blood, dollars and image? Your media extensively cover our aerial support of the Yemeni army, but you all but ignore the thousands of Katyusha rockets and RPGs and hundreds of ballistic missiles raining on our towns and cities. You don’t cover the daily terrorist attacks on petroleum and civic facilities, as well as on sea shipping lines, airports and ports.

This war is draining our treasury, distracting us from our “normal lives” and slowing our economy, development and all. We want this nightmare over, yesterday! However, we cannot end it while the Iranian supported militias continue to dismiss all resolutions of the UN Security Council, Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, refuse to participate in peace conferences, and never honor any agreement or ceasefire.

It is important to note that the Yemeni conflict has always been between the legitimate, elected, internationally-recognized government, and the Iranian-backed militias that started a rebellion in 2013. At its peak, they stormed the capital, Sanaa, overran the government, arrested the elected president, together with his prime minister and entire cabinet. Only, when the president escaped and called on Saudi Arabia and the international community for help, did the Arab-Muslim Coalition intervene, in 2015, with a clear and specific UN mandate - Security Council resolution 2216, enforced by chapter 7.

Much needs to be done to make our case clearer. But unless the Western media is ready to accept a different narrative than its own, it is a hopeless case!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi

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