Saudi bombs make humanitarian disaster in Yemen

This video from the USA says about itself:

Yemen: Saudi strike on military base hits school instead

7 April 2015

A violent power struggle in Yemen is plunging the country into a deepening humanitarian crisis. Reports that an airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition may have hit the wrong target are circulating. CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report from Washington.

By Niles Williamson:

US-backed assault creating humanitarian disaster in Yemen

8 April 2015

The United Nations warned on Monday that ongoing fighting in Yemen combined with the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes backed by Washington is taking an “intolerable toll” on children in the deeply impoverished Middle Eastern country.

UNICEF has confirmed that at least 74 children have been killed and another 44 maimed since Saudi-led airstrikes began nearly two weeks ago. The real death toll for children is likely much higher and is expected to rise as airstrikes continue to hit civilian targets in urban areas throughout the country.

“Children are paying an intolerable price for this conflict,” UNICEF Yemen Representative Julien Harneis said in a statement Monday. “They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted.”

Grant Pritchard, Oxfam’s director in Yemen, cautioned that without a ceasefire there could be “a humanitarian disaster on our hands in the coming weeks and months.” Even before the outbreak of fighting, 16 million Yemenis relied on humanitarian aid and 53 percent of the country’s population, approximately 13 million people, lacked access to clean water.

Airstrikes began on March 26 after Houthi rebels, who had captured the capital city of Sanaa in January, advanced on the compound of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in the southern port city of Aden.

Since then, the bombardment, as well as fighting on the ground between the Houthi militia and military elements loyal to Hadi and hostile tribal forces, has resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Hadi was installed as president in 2012 by the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to quell the mass uprising against the Saleh government. Lacking any real base of support, Hadi fled the country for Saudi Arabia in the face of a Houthi assault on Aden, which has continued despite the widespread campaign of bombardment.

The Saudi regime has charged that Iran is attempting to expand its influence in the region by backing the Houthis. In reality, the Houthi rebellion was sparked in large measure by Saudi Arabia’s own repressive influence over Yemen and its sectarian campaign against the Zaidi Shia Yemenis, who make up one-third of the country’s population and are the majority in the north. While they have received some aid from Iran, they are neither controlled by nor a proxy of Tehran. …

In less than two weeks of Saudi-led aerial bombardments and fighting on the ground more than 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Many people have fled to rural villages in hopes of avoiding the airstrikes which have pounded urban areas throughout the country, including Sanaa, the Houthi stronghold of Sadaa, the western port city of Hodeida and Aden.

Airstrikes have been launched by forces from a coalition of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan. Though they have not been involved directly in the bombing, the campaign has been given support by the governments of Turkey and Pakistan.

This bloody campaign has been facilitated by the US government, which has provided the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support. Stepping up its direct involvement, the Pentagon announced this week that it would begin refueling jet fighters taking part in airstrikes.

Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters in Washington on Monday that the Pentagon had authorized tankers to refuel Saudi and other coalition aircraft outside Yemeni airspace. “It’s been authorized, assets are in place. The Saudis have not requested it. Any refueling will not take place over Yemen. Any refueling will take place over Saudi Arabia or other places,” he stated.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a diplomatic visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, told reporters that the Obama administration was expanding its support for the assault by accelerating the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the coalition.

“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center,” Blinken told reporters.

The “intelligence sharing” referred to by Blinken involves providing Saudis with intelligence from US surveillance flights over Yemen to determine what targets to strike, making Washington fully complicit in the ongoing slaughter of civilians on the ground.

The US-backed assault, approaching its third week, is severely worsening conditions in a country where food insecurity and malnutrition were already widespread amongst the most vulnerable segments of the population. According to the World Bank, more than half of Yemen’s population lived in poverty in 2012, and 45 percent were food insecure.

Airstrikes as well as fighting on the ground has knocked out electrical infrastructure, cutting off power in many urban areas and stopping the operation of crucial pumps that supply Yemen’s cities with drinking water. “We’re worried that this system will break down shortly; Aden is a dry, hot place, and without water people will really suffer,” UNICEF representative Harneis told reporters.

Aid workers have been unable to access many areas where fighting has taken place; hospitals are overflowing with casualties, while bodies have been left to fester in the streets. Hospitals and aid workers have also come under repeated assault; at least three health workers have been killed in separate attacks.

“Conditions are very dangerous right now,” Doctor Gamila Hibatullah, a UNICEF volunteer stationed in Aden said Monday. “Hospitals are overflowing, and even ambulances have been hijacked.”

Adding to the death toll on Tuesday, Yemeni officials reported that three students were killed in a Saudi airstrike that hit the Al Bastain School in Maitam, 100 miles south of Sanaa. The airstrikes were reportedly intended for the Al Hamza military base, a third of a mile from the school, which has been taken over by members of the Houthi militia. No casualties were reported at the base.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Tuesday that it had finally reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to airlift 16 tons of medical supplies from Amman, Jordan into Sanaa by Wednesday morning, and a further 32 tons of supplies by Thursday afternoon. The no-fly zone and blockade enforced by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners has effectively blocked the delivery of medical aid and supplies for the last two weeks, exacerbating the developing crisis.

Yemen: «We are living through pure horror» was how one man described the aftermath of nightly aerial bombardments: here.

The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length: Seumas Milne. Barack Obama is playing all sides against each other, but support for the Saudi war in Yemen will only spread conflagration in the Middle East: here.

TO SUGGEST that United States policies in Yemen are a failure is an understatement. That would imply that the US has at least attempted to succeed. But succeed at what? Here.

Saudi monarch wages war, Yemeni children suffer

This video from the USA is called Yemen Does Not Need Another War: Report from Sana’a as Saudi Attack Enters Second Day.

From Associated Press:

Unicef reveals growing humanitarian cost of Yemen conflict

At least 74 children killed and 100,000 left homes since Saudi-led air air strikes began against Houthi rebels, says UN agency

Tuesday 7 April 2015 13.41 BST

More than 100,000 people in Yemen have left their homes in search of safety and at least 74 children have been killed since fighting in the country intensified almost two weeks ago, according to the UN children’s agency.

Unicef said the violence had disrupted water supplies in areas of southern Yemen and sewage was overflowing in some areas, raising the risk of disease.

Hospitals with limited supplies were struggling to treat large numbers of wounded people and some medical facilities had come under attack, with at least three health workers, including an ambulance driver, having been killed.

Children were especially vulnerable, said Unicef’s Yemen representative, Julien Harneis.

“They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted,” Harneis said in a statement, released on Monday in Amman, Jordan.

The agency said at least 74 children had been killed and 44 wounded since 26 March, when a Saudi-led air campaign began against Shia rebels and their allies. …

“Conditions are very dangerous right now,” Unicef’s Dr Gamila Hibatullah was quoted as saying in Aden. “Hospitals are overflowing, and even ambulances have been hijacked.”

Water systems had been repeatedly damaged in three southern systems, including Aden, the agency said, adding that it was providing fuel for pumping water. It said that in other southern areas, there were reports of water accumulating in the streets and sewage overflowing.

This 26 March 2015 video says about itself:

Yemen: Injured children arrive in hospital amid Saudi-led carnage.

By Thomas Gaist:

Preparing ground invasion of Yemen, Saudi military to raze some 100 border towns

7 April 2015

Saudi Arabian military forces participating in the US-backed war against Yemen will raze to the ground nearly 100 villages along the Yemen-Saudi border, according to reports in Saudi media Monday.

The mass demolitions are part of the preparations by Saudi Arabia to expand its ongoing air campaign into a full-scale ground invasion of its impoverished neighbor to the south. Saturday marked the 11th day of a Saudi-led bombing campaign pounding the country, with concentrated strikes against targets around Aden and the northern city of Saada.

Strikes launched by the Saudis and allied forces from the Persian Gulf monarchies, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as from Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, continued to pound the capital of Sanaa over the weekend.

Saudi special forces are already on the ground inside Yemen, according to some reports. Saudi Arabia demanded this weekend that Pakistan join the “Arab coalition” and supply military aid in advance of a ground invasion.

At least 500 are dead and 1,700 wounded as a result of the fighting that has raged across the Saudi-Yemeni border and throughout the interior of the country. The streets of Aden are “strewn with dead bodies,” and freshly wounded residents are flooding local medical centers, according to the Red Cross. Nearly 200 civilians have been killed and more than 1,200 wounded in Aden in the past 10 days, according to a local health official cited by the BBC.

The Red Cross has called for a 24-hour “humanitarian pause” in the fighting and the Saudi blockade of Yemen, which the agency said was necessary to prevent further mass deaths of civilians.

The breakdown of Yemen’s sanitation infrastructure under the impact of the Saudi air war threatens a devastating public health crisis, experts warn. Medical programs, including immunization programs for children, have been disrupted by severe supply shortages. Much of Aden has been without water and electricity for days, according to Reuters.

“Many, many” children have been killed since the Saudi-led assault began, according to UNICEF’s Yemen representative. Reports are emerging of mass recruitment of children into rival militias.

There is a widespread understanding that Yemen is being rapidly transformed into a slaughterhouse. Numerous governments scrambled to evacuate their citizens from Yemen over the weekend, in anticipation of further escalation of the violence, with Pakistan evacuating some 170 nationals by air on this weekend, Algeria evacuating 160, Jordan 150, Egypt 380, India 440, and Turkey rescuing some 230 of its nationals.

As Yemen’s cities and towns face bombardment from the air, the country is being torn apart by clashes between warring tribal-based militias that have stepped into the void produced by the collapse of the US puppet government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Installed by the US and Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council in early 2012, Hadi is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia after being deposed at gunpoint by Houthi forces in the opening weeks of 2015.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other sectarian militant forces, meanwhile, have expanded their control over substantial areas, seizing entire towns and springing hundreds of imprisoned fighters from government jails.

The Houthi rebels now control territory in the northwest and the south and along the strategically critical western coastline, and are engaged in a chaotic civil war with AQAP fighters and other militant groups that effectively control areas along the southern coast.

AQAP captured the city of al Mukalla on Friday, forcing government forces to flee their fortifications and abandon their US-made weapons. It is becoming clear that the group is seen by Saudi Arabia as a critical fighting force against the Houthis.

Previously, AQAP’s activities were invoked as the pretext for US intervention and military presence in Yemen, with AQAP constituting one of the main targets of Washington’s drone warfare. Now, the group may soon be fighting on behalf of the Saudi coalition, and thus effectively on behalf of Washington.

The Saudi monarchy seeks to maintain power over the impoverished Saudi and Middle Eastern working classes through a counterrevolutionary and sectarian strategy that includes the violent suppression of Shia minorities both inside and along its borders, making the extreme-right Sunni militants of AQAP all the more attractive as potential allies against the Iran-linked Houthis.

Nonetheless, the efforts of Western media to try to portray the conflict as driven primarily by a sectarian struggle of Sunni versus Shia are calculated to cover over the fundamental responsibility of the US government and ruling elite for the rising tide of war in Yemen and throughout the broader region.

Far from the product of medieval religious disputes, as the self-proclaimed pundits of the US media establishment contend, the accelerating destruction of Yemen has been waged in close coordination with the US and with direct US logistical support and weaponry and flows directly from the efforts of US imperialism to maintain political domination over the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf through endless wars and militarist conspiracies.

In an analysis posted in late March, “America, Saudi Arabia, and the Strategic Importance of Yemen,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) drew out the geopolitical considerations behind the war against Yemen.

Because the new Yemen war involves essential US global interests, the Pentagon must prepare to provide direct “combat support” for the Saudi-led war, Cordesman argued.

“US strategic interests require a broad level of stability in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula,” the CSIS chief, who serves as unofficial foreign policy advisor to the White House, noted.

“Yemen is of major strategic importance to the United States, as is the broader stability of Saudi Arabia and all of the Arab Gulf states. For all of the talk of U.S. energy ‘independence,’ the reality remains very different. The increase in petroleum and alternative fuels outside the Gulf has not changed its vital strategic importance to the global and U.S. economy,” Cordesman wrote.

Cordesman’s point is that historic oil surpluses do not free the US from the need to control the strategic reserves and shipping channels of the region, levers of global power that are essential to US domination over the main European and Asian powers.

Yemen’s proximity to two of the most important commercial waterways on the planet, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Straits of Hormuz, make it a linchpin of US regional strategy. Traffic exiting the Persian Gulf must cross through Bab el-Mandeb, which is less than 20 miles across with only two shipping lanes at its narrowest point, before reaching the Suez Canal and SUMED pipeline.

“The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is a chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and it is a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Cordesman noted.

Control over even small portions of Yemen by hostile forces could threaten key US allied regimes in Riyadh and Cairo, calling into question both “the economic stability of [the US-backed military dictatorship in] Egypt,” and “the security of Saudi Arabia’s key port at Jeddah and major petroleum export facility outside the Gulf,” Cordesman noted.

Stop killing my people with warplanes and drones, Yemeni human rights activist says

A Yemeni boy stands in front of a damaged house in the village of Bani Matar, a day after it was reportedly hit by an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Huthi rebel positions. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Baraa Shiban is a Yemeni human rights activist.

Today he writes in daily The Guardian in Britain:

US-backed airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians – and hopes for peace

America saw my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens, which was a mistake. Instead of fixing the problems, drone strikes only made them worse

You can’t bomb a country into existence, however much America seems determined to try.

In the last week, 164 Yemeni civilians have lost their lives in the Saudi bombardment of my country. In media reports – full of geopolitical talk of “proxy wars” and “regional interests” – the names of the dead are absent. As always, it is ordinary Yemeni families who are left grieving, and forgotten.

The US has a central role in all of this. As US officials told the Wall Street Journal, “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb”.

Investigating US drone strikes on my country, I have seen the aftermath of aerial bombardment time and time again. The weeping father; the young girl unable to walk from shrapnel wounds; the mother, mute from shock. I try to record what has taken place; most of them just ask in return what my questions will do to bring back their loved ones. The few that find words express powerlessness and confusion as to why the might of a distant US military has been visited on their simple lives.

I represented the youth in Yemen’s revolution in 2011. I had never been particularly politically interested before the revolution, but those remarkable days changed my life forever, and I was proud to take my place in the process that was set up by the international community to guide my country to democracy. Over months of hard negotiation, we created the framework for Yemen’s new constitution.

Meanwhile, inexplicably, US drones continued to drop bombs on communities across the country . The blanket claims by the American government that these attacks were clinically picking off terrorists were patently untrue: I went to the attack sites, and met the bereaved relatives of builders, children, hitchhikers.

I know my country, and my fellow countrymen; the people I was meeting were simple souls, scraping a living in Yemen’s tough agricultural hinterland. Large political questions were far from their minds. When asked, they would all condemn the terrorist groups who had provided the pretext for the attacks.

We took reports of our investigations to President Hadi, and begged him to stop the attacks. They clearly destabilised all our genuine political efforts. Hadi would try and change the subject: he knew full well that the US economic support propping up our country was dependent on turning a blind eye to American counter-terrorism activities.

Even last week, as Saudi warplanes were refuelling to fly more sorties, anti-aircraft guns were barking over the capital, and President Hadi was fleeing the country, the White House Press Secretary was still trying to defend the so-called “Yemen model” of counterterrorism that was founded on these drone attacks. I listened to his words with incredulity, that he could so blindly ignore the evidence of his own eyes.

I understand that Yemen’s problems are complicated, and need time to resolve, but America’s desire to see my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens was a grave mistake. The National Dialogue was the forum for mending Yemen; US drone attacks consistently undermined our claim to be the sole, sovereign forum for Yemenis to resolve Yemeni disputes.

Truly concerning is President Obama’s belief that Yemen should act as some sort of model for other conflicts – notably the one being waged in Iraq and Syria. Reporters have already revealed Centcom’s efforts to cover up a drone strike in el-Bab in Syria in which 50 civilians died, as well as the botched attack on Kafr Daryan in which 12 more were killed.

When I read those reports, I am taken straight back to the awful drone attack sites I have visited in Yemen: 12 dead when a wedding convoy was hit in Yakla; a mother, father and young daughter all blown up together when a minibus was hit in al-Saboul.

The surest way to ensure America’s security isn’t bombing my countrymen and women; it’s to help countries build strong institutions, which doesn’t happen through the crosshairs of a drone feed. It’s been tried in Yemen. Please take our current pain as proof it won’t work anywhere else.

Saudi war on Yemen ‘kills everything that was beautiful’

Yemenis stand amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in a village near Sana’a. Photograph: Hani Mohammed/AP

From The Guardian daily in Britain:

Yemen conflict: ‘This war has killed everything that was beautiful’

As air raids continue to batter the Arab world’s poorest state, many Yemenis fear the country’s deepening divisions will inflict irreparable damage to its soul

Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

Monday 6 April 2015 14.31 BST

A mesmerising tune floods into Sarah Jamal’s ears, shielding them from the horror of the air strikes outside. Every night, when the bombing of the Yemeni capital begins in earnest, she takes refuge in the poetry she and her compatriots used to perform in Tahrir Square, Sana’a, when Arab spring protests four years ago held the tantalising promise of a new Yemen.

“They come with iron and fire, but they are weaker than straw,” the famous Yemeni poet Al-Baradouni recites in a recording to the melodious tone of the oud, a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument.

The violence of the latest war to engulf the Arab world’s poorest country is a far cry from those hopeful days. A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Yemen for 12 days in an attempt to fight off an advance by Houthi rebels who took control of Sana’a and advanced on the southern port city of Aden, exiling the president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and threatening to plunge the country into all-out civil war.

According to the World Health Organisation, 549 people have been killed and 1,707 injured in violence in Yemen since 19 March, a week before the air campaign began. As the humanitarian situation worsens, the International Committee of the Red Cross received approval on Sunday from the military coalition that controls Yemen’s ports and air space for an aid flight to deliver medical supplies, but on Monday said “logistical problems” were delaying its departure. …

“This is not the first war I’ve witnessed, but it is the worst by far,” Jamal, a sociologist, told the Guardian. “It seems that the older we get, the less tolerant we become with the sounds of blasts. We end up fearing more than we did when we were children.”

While Jamal endures the air raids in the capital, her family in Aden has had no electricity or water for days, and she fears the latest conflict will do irreparable damage to the Yemeni soul.

“This war is tearing the social texture in a way that makes it impossible to repair,” she said. “The double aggression we are under from the outside and the inside is creating cracks. I can see all my loved ones watching in pain knowing that things will never be the same even when this war ends, if it ever does.

“We have survived so many wars. We have been stripped of jobs, security and basic services before, however, this time we are being stripped of a home,” she said.

“In any war there are casualties always, but the painful thing is to see victims and you can’t get them medical care for any reason,” said Hisham Abdulaziz, a doctor who treated dozens of wounded who were hit by an apparent air strike in Mazraq refugee camp earlier in the war. “You feel paralysed.”

He called on all parties to the conflict to avoid targeting medics and civilians and to allow the entry of humanitarian supplies. “We have nothing to do with the conflict and who is right or wrong, but every wounded person deserves to get medical care,” he said.

In Sana’a, Abdulaziz said many families had fled the city, which has been hit by fuel and food shortages. He said the prices of some basic staples such as wheat have more than doubled. He has also been enduring air strikes at night as his home is near a military site. “We sit and listen to the bombs and pray that we will be safe, but that is up to fate,” he said. “But it’s not just me, it’s everyone in Sana’a.”

The attacks on health workers mean that fewer can reach besieged areas, and families of the wounded are less willing to transport their loved ones for treatment at the risk of being targeted. “This is really, really worrying,” said Dounia Dekhili, who is coordinating Médecins Sans Frontières activities in Yemen.

Dekhili said it was difficult to support clinics operating in besieged areas, where medics have not been sleeping for days and morgues are quickly filling up. She said that just as states have been able to evacuate their diplomats, humanitarian aid should be permitted to reach the affected areas.

She says the organisation has treatments loaded in cargo boats and planes to be sent to Aden and Sana’a, but they are awaiting permission to deploy them.

The Red Cross has also said it is facing severe problems trying to help victims of the recent violence. “We have a cargo plane with medical supplies which is ready to go,” Sitara Jabeen, a spokeswoman told AFP on Monday.

“We have the permission for this plane but we have logistical problems for the landing. There are less and less planes landing in Yemen. We are trying to solve the logistic problems.”

Saudi war on Yemen threatens Pakistan

This video says about itself:

Saudi-led coalition helping ISIS by bombing Houthis in Yemen’

28 March 2015

In Yemen, Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the ousted President have renewed their battle. That’s as Saudi Arabia and its allies have been targeting the anti-government faction for the third night in a row with air strikes. Political analyst Hani Ali believes Riyadh is indirectly helping out Islamic State.

By Sampath Perera in Sri Lanka:

Political crisis in Pakistan as Saudi Arabia demands it join war against Yemen

6 April 2014

Saudi Arabia’s demands that its long-time ally Pakistan participate in its US-backed war against Yemen have produced a political crisis in Islamabad.

In the nearly two weeks since Riyadh declared that Pakistan was part of its war coalition, Islambad has undertaken a whirlwind of diplomatic activity, as it attempts to balance between Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and neighboring Iran. At the same time, Pakistan’s political and military establishment are fearful of a further outbreak of sectarian tensions within the country.

Air attacks by the Saudi airforce and its allies—targeting Houthi rebels … —continue to kill dozens of civilians on a daily basis in Yemen, while laying waste to towns and cities.

Riyadh, encouraged by Washington’s backing, has not only spurned calls for a halt to its illegal war; it is also completing preparations for the coalition of states it leads to mount a ground invasion, with the aim of delivering a blow to its regional rival Iran, which has backed the Houthi rebels.

The war has already intensified sectarian tensions between predominantly Shiite and Sunni states and militias across the greater Middle East. These developments are especially troubling for Pakistan, where decades of US intervention and wars have produced deep sectarian divides.

A majority Sunni country, Pakistan also has a sizable Shiite minority that makes up 20 percent of its population, or about 40 million people. Sunni Islamist fundamentalist militia, which arose out of the CIA-backed proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, have killed several thousand Shiites and other minorities in the country over the past few years.

Responding to Saudi news reports that Pakistan had joined the war against Yemen, Islamabad initially came out with contradictory and ambiguous statements. It declared its support for Saudi Arabia while publicly refraining from making any commitment to become directly involved.

On the day that airstrikes began, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared, “Any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan.” However, the following day the government informed the parliament that it had made “no decision to participate in this war.”

A day later Sharif offered “all potentials of the Pakistani army” to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a telephone conversation.

The government then sent a delegation—including Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz and top generals from the military— to Riyadh last Monday to “assess the situation.” Following their return, Sharif himself left for Ankara, where he met both Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a joint press conference held with Davutoglu, Sharif declared, “We are concerned at the overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by use of force by non-state actors,” referring to the Houthi rebels. He added that Pakistan is committed to defending “Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In fact, there is no threat to Saudi Arabia from Yemen. Sharif’s remarks were aimed both at placating the Saudis and providing a justification for the military support Islamabad has already provided or may provide in the future. Sharif went on to claim that Pakistan is for a “peaceful solution to the Yemen conflict.”

There are also concerns within the political establishment that a backlash from Tehran—with which Pakistan shares a 700 kilometre border and which has considerable influence in Afghanistan—could further destabilize the country. Iranian officials met Pakistani Ambassador Noor Mohammad Jadmani to convey their concern over reports of Pakistan’s participation in the war. They insisted on a “policy of non-interference,” while requesting a “dialog” on the crisis with Islamabad. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javed Zarif is scheduled to visit Pakistan this Tuesday.

The concerns within the ruling class were reflected in Sharif’s call for a joint session of the lower and upper house of the parliament for today. Co-chairman of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party and former president Asif Ali Zardari last week threw his support behind the government, declaring, “It becomes collective responsibility of the international community to join hands against the [Houthi] militia to protect Saudi Arabia and Yemen.”

The emerging consensus indicates that Pakistan will likely expand its role in the war, even if publicly it continues to claim its policy is one of “non-intervention.” At the same time, the political establishment is seeking to avert a sectarian backslash in the country. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif explained the risks to parliament last month, saying, “In Syria, Yemen and Iraq, division is being fuelled and it needs to be contained. The crisis has its fault lines in Pakistan too, [we] don’t want to disturb them.”

The dilemma was further expressed by an editorial in the [Pakistani] English [language] daily Dawn on March 27, which asserted that Pakistan should not take sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran, “considering Pakistan’s strategic relationship with the former and geographical proximity with the latter.”

In February 2014, then Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman, in a rare three-day visit to Pakistan, effected a shift in Islamabad’s position in relation to Syria. Pakistan threw away its “non-interference” policy and called for “a transnational governing body with full executive powers”—in other words, the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. Weeks later it was revealed that Saudi Arabia had agreed to $1.5 billion in aid to the crisis-ridden Pakistani economy.

According to the US-based Brookings Institution, “Pakistan has received more aid from Saudi Arabia than any country outside the Arab world since the 1960s.” It is also a major source of foreign remittances to Pakistan, which last month alone amounted to $453 million. The money from “more than 1.5 million often poorly treated migrant workers,” according to Al Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, with the encouragement of Washington, have extensive military ties. Since the 1960s, Pakistani troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia, providing essential defence forces for the reactionary fiefdom. Saudi Arabia’s intimate relationship with Pakistan developed in the 1980s when it funded US-backed dictator Zia-ul Haq’s “Islamisation” of Pakistan policy and the war in Afghanistan in accordance with US strategic aims. It is in this period that Sharif emerged as a protégé of Zia and developed close relations with the Saudi monarchy.

Pakistan is said to have received up to 60 percent of the funding for its nuclear project from Riyadh. According to recent US and British news reports, this was done in the expectation that the Saudis could obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan at will, especially if Iran were ever to develop them.

Pakistan also faces practical limitations on how much support it can give Riyadh in the Yemen war, as it is already waging a war in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the north-west against Islamist fundamentalist militias, as demanded by and in collaboration with Washington. It also maintains high troop levels along the border with its arch-rival India to the south and is waging a brutal repression in the Balochistan province on the border with Iran against separatist nationalist militias.

Whatever the maneuvers of the ruling class, the escalation of war in Yemen will have a deeply destabilizing impact on Pakistan, while intensifying the danger of a regional war throughout the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

THE civil war in Yemen looks set to become an international flashpoint after Pakistan revealed yesterday that it has been asked to help invade the country: here.