AT PM’s Questions, in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labour leader Corbyn raised the issue of the UK’s sale of billions of pounds-worth of bombs, planes and missiles to Saudi Arabia and the role that this weaponry is playing in killing thousands of Yemeni men, women and children in a very dirty war.
Corbyn spoke about ‘the final report of the United Nations panel of experts on Yemen, which has been sent to the Government. It makes very disturbing reading. The report says that the panel has documented that coalition forces have “conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees … civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques”.
‘These are very disturbing reports. In the light of this, will the Prime Minister agree to launch immediately an inquiry and a full review into the arms export licences to Saudi Arabia and suspend those arms sales until that review has been concluded?’
The Prime Minister answered: ‘As the Right Hon. Gentleman knows, we have the strictest rules for arms exports of almost any country anywhere in the world. Let me remind him that we are not a member of the Saudi-led coalition; we are not directly involved in the Saudi-led coalition’s operations; and British personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes.’
In fact, the UK is part of the Saudi-organised coalition to crush the Yemeni people!
Saudi Arabia is one of the oil-rich Gulf states that Britain sponsors, supports, arms and equips. Whatever actions the Saudis take, at home and abroad, whether it be mass beheadings of opponents or mass bombings in the Yemen, the UK is with them, keeping a vow of silence, its own Omerta.
Corbyn was so shocked at Cameron’s stance that he wrote to Cameron a letter co-signed by Hilary Benn. It stated: ‘The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told the UN Security Council: “I have observed with extreme concern the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with high a concentration of civilians as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure – in particular hospitals and schools – by all parties to the conflict, although a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces”.
‘It is now reported that the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen Final Report states: “The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes”.
‘There have been, and continue to be, extensive UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It was confirmed by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons on 12th January 2016 that “our people on the ground” are working with the Saudi military and that these personnel are providing a “quick check” on reported breaches of international humanitarian law.
‘On 15th January 2016, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir said, “We have British officials and American officials and officials from other countries in our command-and-control centre. They know what the target list is and they have a sense of what it is that we are doing and what we are not doing”.’
The truth is that the UK is up to its neck in the war against the Yemeni people, not just supplying bombs and planes but also identifying targets and guiding aircraft to the targets.
The British government committed war crimes in Iraq, war crimes in Libya and now it is committing war crimes in the Yemen, while hiding behind its Saudi proxy. This has now been exposed. Corbyn and the trade union leaders must now act. They must tell the UK government to stop its support for the Saudi murder machine and its war in the Yemen, or else face a campaign of industrial and political action to bring it down, to stop the dirty war in the Yemen and to withdraw all British troops from the Middle East and North Africa.