Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, a country about 7,000 miles from its shores. The reasons provided to justify the invasion were based on unreliable reports claiming that Iraq was a threat to the security of the US, as it allegedly possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those reports also alleged that the Iraqi regime had ties with Al-Qaeda.
Following the invasion that resulted in the deaths of hundred of thousands of Iraqis and a large number of US troops, all those reports proved to be concocted. The Iraqi regime had no connection with Al-Qaeda and it had no weapons of mass destruction.
During the last year, the world saw the United States amassing its naval forces in the South China Sea, which is thousands of miles away from the US. The US naval forces started patrolling areas close to islands claimed by China in an operation called “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOP).
Israel uses lethal weapons against unarmed and innocent Palestinians whenever Israel believes that its borders or people are under threat. The only threat it usually faces is in the form of primitive rockets fired by Palestinians, which usually don’t hit any target and perhaps are not aimed at any target in the first place but a way to express their frustration and anger over Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. Whatever the reason, Israel feels compelled to respond to the perceived threat in the best possible manner.
Let us not forget the recent Russian intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
By citing these examples, I don’t intend to justify or criticize these actions. That is another debate. What I want to highlight is that every country acts in self-defense or to protect its people and its borders. A country like the US, in order to stop the influx of people crossing its borders, went as far as expanding border barriers and fences with its southern neighboring country, Mexico.
Now, let us talk about Saudi Arabia and its neighboring country, the Republic of Yemen. A few days ago, the United Nations issued a report, which was not based on credible statistics and ground realities. These analysts usually tend to ignore the historical ties between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
I will not talk about the millions of Yemenis living and working in the Kingdom since decades and I will not discuss the massive amounts of financial or economic aid that Saudi Arabia had given to the Yemenis in the past and present. And there is no need to talk about the amount of money Yemenis transfer to their families back in Yemen. I will also not mention the massive infrastructure development that Saudi Arabia had done in Yemen. So, the question is why would Saudi Arabia destroy a country that it helped build and why would it attack people of a country that are an integral part of the Saudi society. Saudis deal with Yemeni men, women and children in Saudi Arabia on a daily bases. Our schools, homes and hospitals are open for them and many of them had been in the Kingdom for many years. Saudi Arabia has never hesitated in going the extra mile to help Yemen and the Yemenis. As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia even tried to rid the Yemenis of the Qat (Khat) chewing habit, which is destroying the fabric of the Yemeni society.
So, why would a respected organization like the UN think a country like Saudi Arabia intends to destroy Yemen and hurt the Yemenis?
When hostilities broke out about a year ago in Yemen, it wasn’t something that Saudi Arabia had planned for or wanted. Saudi Arabia shares more than 1,800 kilometers of rugged borders and it is in our interest to see a happy, prosperous and stable Yemen. And the Saudi-led coalition was intended to stabilize Yemen and restore the legitimate government that was toppled by the Iran-backed Houthis.
Even at the start of the conflict Saudi Arabia had announced that the action was taken because of the direct threat to the Kingdom. The Saudi-led action wasn’t aimed at a particular sect. It was aimed at stabilizing Yemen and protection of our borders. The Saudi-led coalition made every effort to avoid civilian causalities. This is the reason behind using very precise and very expensive munitions for minimal damage. And this doesn’t mean destroying any target for the sake of destroying it but only if it is a threat like Scud Missile launcher.
The report that the United Nations has released lacks accuracy and the report goes as far as addressing Houthis as a legitimate entity at a time all people in Yemen know about the heinous crimes committed by these militants.
At the end of the day, it is not the United Nations or any other country that has the cure to the prolonged agony and dilemma of the Yemenis. Yemen has gone through far more difficult times than any other country. The Yemenis have experienced civil wars, bloody military coups and internal and tribal fighting. It is high time the Yemenis forged unity among their ranks, and said no to all type of violence and started taking action for the reconstruction of their country. Saudi Arabia is ready for a truce provided Houthis put down their arms.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Right To Protect Our Borders reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.