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  • Writer's pictureDurham Pro Bono Blog

Yemen: The Deathly Policy and Involvement of the UK Government

'A wounded child being carried after a devastating Saudi airstrike that killed eight members of her family, 2017' - 'Khaled Abdullah / Reuters'

A war-torn nation crippled by Western intervention and Western exploitation, Yemen is hidden from coverage in Western discussion and is suffering immensely since the war commenced in 2015 (with over 10,000 people being killed and over 9 million in a state of starvation[1]). The UK government upholds the Saudi Arabian destruction of the nation under the premise that the UK only sells arms to nations that satisfy certain ethical guidelines. However, the UK government is fuelling a war against humanity itself in the drive for profit, causing the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century so far which is quickly spiralling further into the abyss of war and famine.

In order to properly conceptualise the UK’s role in Yemen, a wider contextual view of the political climate is necessary. Saudi Arabia, being one of the biggest exporters of oil in the world, is viewed as an extremely vital element of the Middle East and gains a great deal of attention from the West. Not only this, the West (the US in particular) views Saudi Arabia as a proxy of control in the Middle East, backing the regime to maintain Saudi influence and prevent an influx of Iranian influence and control in the region. The main interest, however, is oil. To keep Saudi as a concrete ally to contribute to the controlling of global oil prices, the US (and the UK) provide Saudi Arabia with extensive arms, munitions and military aid - Arms and munitions which it uses against civilians in Yemen.

Based on this (extremely brief) summary of the political situation in Saudi Arabia, we can rationalise that the Western involvement in the Middle East rests on the basis of remnants of Imperialism. Proxy imperialism in which territories are conquered and pillaged not through direct action, but through building a controversial alliance with a powerful state in the relevant region and influencing it to support and engage in unhumanitarian policies. Imperialism that goes unnoticed by international law and refuses to be subject to open criticism in Western media.

The lack of concrete and condemning commentary from major treaties and international bodies, such as the United Nations, could be attributed to the fact that the major contributors of UN policy are themselves involved in the Imperialistic activities involving the Middle East and thus will be reluctant to enforce policy in areas that may restrict their international relations and their foreign influence in territories of monetary interest.

The very concept that profit and foreign influence takes precedence over human life and social stability in the region of the Middle East is somewhat horrifying and displays the corrupting nature that Capitalism as an unconscious institution has on society. The profits made from the deaths of thousands of civilians outweighs the moral burden that the deaths cause. This is mindset of the institutions and governments of the West – And is truly horrifying.

This is further consolidated by the notion that the government goes to great lengths to deceive those that inquire into the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the government, suggesting that the extent of the relationship is arms sales; however, is confirmed by UK correspondents in the area that it also involves training Saudi regiments and operating in bomb rooms alongside Saudi forces. Not only is this hidden from the public domain, it is routinely declined by the government in the few moments that it has been referenced in the past 3 years. This relationship has been under extensive media scrutiny extremely recently after the death of a well-known Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, which drove the actions of Saudi Arabia into the Western political spotlight. However, it is somewhat disheartening that it took the death of one individual to forge awareness about a callous operation that has been taking place since 2015 with the aid of the UK in which over 10,000 have been murdered. The strain induced from media attention on the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UK has not been intense enough unfortunately, with Theresa May refusing to back calls (lead by the US) for Saudi Arabia to stop the bombing of Yemen[2], displaying the shocking extent to which the value of arms sales drives government foreign policy in relation to the Middle East.

There is no defence for the UK’s involvement in the Yemen conflict and contradicts every moral principle that humanitarianism represents. Prioritising profit and regional influence over human life is a symptom of a wider institutional corruption and moral deficit that the policies of the UK government currently possess and is only twisted and manifested further through institutional smoke screens and denial from the government as to the legitimate relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East is an area regularly exploited by the West for financial gain and drives classist and societal inequality in these areas, reinforced by violent regimes backed by UK and US munitions. This is abhorrent and should not be the central rhetoric of the UK Middle Eastern foreign policy.

Let’s stop the needless death and contest government policy in the Middle East.

Jack Herring

Middle East Editor

7th November 2018


[1] ‘Key facts about the war in Yemen’ (Aljazeera, 25 March 2018) accessed 7 November 2018

[2] Lizzy Buchan, ‘Theresa May fails to back US calls for Saudi Arabia to stop bombing Yemen’ (The Independent, 31 October 2018) accessed 7 November 2018

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are listed in the bibliography above.

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