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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses delegates on the final day of the Labour Party conference on September 26, 2017 in Brighton, England. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Unlike Most Western Leaders, Corbyn Demands End to US-UK Complicity in Yemen's Suffering

In letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, British Labour leader slams the West's role in arming Saudi Arabia and perpetuating world's worst humanitarian catastrophe

Jake Johnson

While most political leaders and U.S. media outlets continue to perpetuate the "power-serving" notion that the West has played little to no role in causing and worsening Yemen's humanitarian crisis, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn penned a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday slamming American and British forces for fueling the Saudi-led bombing campaign and demanding an independent war crimes investigation.

"Whilst the immediate priority should be humanitarian assistance to Yemen, it is time the government takes immediate steps to play its part in ending the suffering of the Yemeni people."
—Jeremy Corbyn, U.K. Labour leader
"At least 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in 2014 and 7 million people are in extreme hunger. Food shortages and the cholera outbreak are a direct result of the continuing blockade of Yemen by the U.S.- and U.K.-backed Saudi-led coalition," Corbyn wrote. "Whilst the immediate priority should be humanitarian assistance to Yemen, it is time the government takes immediate steps to play its part in ending the suffering of the Yemeni people."

The "devastation and destruction in Yemen" Corbyn highlights has been ongoing for years while garnering relatively little attention, but in recent days the crisis has increasingly been spotlighted by American media outlets—albeit with one "glaring" omission.

As journalist Adam Johnson notes in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), U.S. coverage in particular has peddled a "reductionist narrative" that accurately singles out Saudi Arabia for criticism but conveniently leaves out the fact that the Saudis rely heavily on the U.S., the U.K., and Canada for weaponry, ongoing military intelligence, and political support.

In contrast to the dominant media narrative, Corbyn's letter places the American and British role in arming Saudi Arabia front-and-center.

"Note how Corbyn doesn't just flamboyantly lament the destruction of Yemen as if it's a natural disaster, nor does he lay blame on other countries," observes The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald. "He explicitly notes his own government's key role in it. U.S . media could learn from that."

Corbyn's demand that the U.K. and U.S. take responsibility for their role in sustaining what has been deemed the worst humanitarian crisis in the world comes as the U.N. is calling on Saudi Arabia to end a blockade that is preventing food and medicine from entering Yemen. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, thousands more Yemenis could die per day if the country's ports remain closed.

Though it has received scant media attention since being released on Monday, Corbyn's full letter follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

In light of continuing reports from the United Nations and others of the devastation and destruction in Yemen, I am writing to express deep concern about your Government's role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition in prolonging and escalating the humanitarian crisis and impress on the need for you to call for an immediate ceasefire.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in 2014 and 7 million people are in extreme hunger. Food shortages and the cholera outbreak are a direct result of the continuing blockade of Yemen by the U.S. and U.K. backed Saudi-led coalition.

The Red Cross has confirmed that the cities of Taiz, Saads, and Hodeidah have now run out of clean water and sanitation due to the deadly blockade putting 1 million people at risk of death by famine and waterborne diseases.

The head of the World Food Program too warned today that millions of Yemenis are at risk of death as aid deliveries cannot get to those in need.

This weekend's warnings from multiple U.N. agencies starkly state the urgent need to lift the Saudi blockade, in order to stop this already catastrophic humanitarian crisis becoming one of the worst combinations of famine and disease since the 1980s, with millions of innocent people, especially children, at risk of death.

The U.K. has a crucial role to play in that decision, given the Government's strong support for all Saudi military action to date, its continued authorization of arms sales for use in the conflict, and its year-long failure to bring forward a UN resolution aimed at halting the conflict.

In August, former International Development Secretary Priti Patel, announced her department was launching "a new offensive" against Yemen's man-made cholera outbreak. For many, this incoherence in foreign and development policy is beyond belief. It cannot be aid packages from the U.K. one day, and missiles the next. With this in mind, I urge your Government to suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, pending the outcome of an independent, international UN-led investigation of potential violations of international humanitarian law from both sides of the conflict.

Given your Government's role as "pen holder" for drafting a fresh UN resolution intended to secure a ceasefire in Yemen, and enabling both the negotiation of a long-term political peace, why has there been a delay in calling for a ceasefire process?

Whilst the immediate priority should be humanitarian assistance to Yemen, it is time the Government takes immediate steps to play its part in ending the suffering of the Yemeni people, ends its support of the Saudi coalition's conduct in the war, and take appropriate action to bring the conflict to a peaceful, negotiated resolution.

Given the public interest in these issues, I will be making this letter public.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Corbyn


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