The war in Yemen is a global war that extends beyond the boundaries of the poorest country in the Gulf. Instead of the historic confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is part of the wider international conflict in the Middle East. It is a war fueled by European and U.S. weapons, as repeatedly confirmed by humanitarian organizations and Western civil society.
Wednesday and Thursday, dozens of Italian and Yemeni citizens marched together under the NoWar Network banner, in front of the Defense Ministry and the Parliament. They have called for the application of Law 185 that imposes in Italy an arms embargo against states in conflict. But that approach fails: Weapons made in Italy continue to enrich the already full Saudi war chest.
Now this globalization is evident. After the launch of two rockets toward the U.S. destroyer Mason (that fell in the water) while on the Strait of Bab al-Mandab, the U.S. Navy stationed on the Red Sea reacted. Cruise missiles hit three radar stations controlled by the Houthis.
President Obama authorized the retaliation, further expanding the strategy initiated by his predecessor Bush. The first drones of an undeclared war against another country were aimed at al Qaeda in 2002, but since 2011, the attacks have intensified radically, to be elevated to a model of modern remote control war.
But the absence of soldiers does not mean fewer casualties: According to the U.N., U.S. drones have caused more civilian deaths in Yemen than al Qaeda attacks: over 100, in addition to more than 300 victims in special missions. And this hasn’t caused al Qaeda to lose any power; they have spread like wildfire in the southwest of the country.
Thursday’s attack — the first direct U.S. action in the conflict between Houthi and the government of President Hadi — marks the official entrance in a war that has caused 10,000 deaths, of which 60 percent were civilians. Different indirect actions have been carried out since March 2015, under the guise of assistance to Riyadh in the form of military advisers and intelligence information.
“Those radars were active during previous attacks and attempted attacks against ships on the Red Sea,” the Pentagon said, stating that the target was located near the commercial port of Ras Isa, in the southwest of the country. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Peter Cook, was entrusted with the warning to the rebel movement: “The United States will respond appropriately to any attack on its own ships or to commercial traffic.”
The Houthis were held responsible because the rockets were fired on the Mason a few hours after the massacre of 155 people during a funeral in Sana’a by a Riyadh jet bombing. But an official speaking to the Saba news agency insisted: “These allegations are unfounded. Such claims aim to create false justifications for increasing attacks and cover up the continuous crimes committed by the coalition against the Yemeni people.”
A few hours later came the reaction from Iran, the state accused by many of being the lender and puppeteer of the Houthi movement. According to the semi-private news agency Iranian Tasnim, Tehran announced Thursday that it had deployed two destroyers of the 34th Fleet in international waters of the Gulf of Aden.
So, both Iranian and U.S. warships are stationed in the same waters, a short distance from each other. This is a hot area, where oil tankers en route from the Gulf to supply Europe pass all the time. Now, the coastal city of Aden has entered the front line of the conflict.
Aden was occupied by the Houthi movement after Sana’a, taken in September 2014. It was among the first cities to witness the heavy deployment of pro-government troops. In the summer of 2015, it was recaptured by the troops of President Hadi who made it his provisional capital, thanks to the help of al Qaeda cells, according to journalists and residents.