Axis of Logic
Finding Clarity in the 21st Century Mediaplex

Critical Analysis
Britain Has Been at War with Yemenis for Decades: A Wider Perspective on the Saudi Bombing
By T.J. Coles, PIPR
Plymouth Institute for Peace Research
Thursday, Feb 4, 2016

Britain has been crushing southern socialists in Yemen for over twenty years. It also supplied arms and training during “Operation Scorched Earth,” the little-known war that the Saleh government waged against northern Huthis (before he started supporting them) and civilians.
In 2015, it was revealed by the New York Times that “human rights experts monitoring negotiations” at the UN to investigate Saudi war crimes in Yemen “say it appears that the United States, Britain and France chose instead to back a consensus resolution,” giving a free-hand to the Saudi regime to block the inquiry. [1]
Earlier in 2016, it was confirmed by the UK Ministry of Defence and the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, that “British military advisers are in control rooms assisting the Saudi-led coalition staging bombing raids across Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians” (Telegraph). numerous left-wing media commentators and even Members of Parliament (MPs) have raised concerns.  [2]
For example, the Guardian’s Owen Jones writes: “As the SNP’s [Scottish National Party’s] Angus Robertson put it to [British Prime Minister Cameron]’s face, Britain is “effectively at war [with Yemen]” – and yet few Britons know anything about it.” [3] Even fewer know about the recent history.
Aden, now Yemen, was a British “protectorate.” After WWII, it was subdued in part by the then-new weapon of mass destruction, the bomber plane. In 1947, the Emir of Dhala’s son, Haidan, led an uprising which was crushed by the Royal Air Force. [4]
The RAND Corporation’s Bruce Hoffman writes that, “No sooner than the threat from Haidan been neutralized than trouble erupted from another tribe, in the nearby village of Al Husein.” Hoffman explains the aerial “punishment”: “Four Mosquitoes and three Tempests from No. 8 Squadron were ordered to destroy the village. The rocket and cannon air strike, the after-action report stated, “was most impressive and awe-inspiring, and the attack undoubtedly made an impression not easily forgotten.”” [5]
From 1962, Britain ran a covert mercenary war in Yemen, in which a staggering 200,000 people died in an eight year period, many from chemical weapons, such as phosgene, produced by the tax-funded Porton Down laboratories (the UK’s biochemical warfare plant). The operations were run by MI6 head Dick White, and former MI6 vice chief turned banker George Young via the latter’s Mossad-allied proxy, Neil McLean. [6]
High Commissioner Sir Kennedy Trevaskis suggested to the British mercenary forces that they “put the fear of death into the [Yemeni] villagers” with more air raids. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote that “it would not suit us too badly if [Yemenis] were occupied with their own internal affairs during the next few years.” [7]
In 1990, the South and North were united. Southern Yemenis have become increasingly marginalised by the central government, with many losing their jobs and pensions. State-rights are severely restricted.
The southern secessionist movement is a loose association of interests, including the Yemeni Socialist Party. It uses “grassroots networks to mobilize support for the movement … Since 2007,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) continues, “southern Yemenis have conducted sit-ins, marches and demonstrations to protest what they say is the northern-dominated central government’s treatment of them, including dismissal from the civil and security services.” [8]
In its Annual Accounts 2006-07, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a map of then-current deployments, including this one-line revelation: “Yemen: Training support to forces of the Minister of Interior.” A map published in the 2009-10 report confirms that training continued. This was used to devastating effect in the Arab Spring, in which President Saleh’s military murdered hundreds of activist.  [9]
In November 2011, Richard Burden “ask[ed] the Secretary of State for Defence … what the training is which is being provided to Yemeni officers in the UK.” Nick Harvey, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, confirmed that “Yemeni officers are currently undertaking training on courses at the following establishments within UK,” as they have been doing since at least 2007, probably earlier: “Royal College of Defence Studies: strategic development and training for senior officers. Joint Services Command and Staff College: staff training for middle ranking officers. Britannia Royal Naval College: Navy initial officer training. Royal Military Academy Sandhurst: Army initial officer training. Defence School of Languages: English language training.” [10]
In the north, a civil war has been fought intermittently since 2004 against Huthi “rebels,” whose “political aims … [were] not clear. The group originated as a religious movement—the “Believing Youth” ( al-shabbab al-mu’min)—in the mid-1990s, mainly to promote religious education in Sa’da governorate,” writes HRW. “Yemenis in Sa’da overwhelmingly follow the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam.” Indeed, then-President Saleh is a Zaidi, whose people “ruled large parts of Yemen for a thousand years under a religiously legitimized imamate until 1962, when a military-led coup eventually ushered in republican rule.” [11]
In 2006, Britain exported £7.5 million-worth of weapons to Yemen were used to deadly effect. They included (from the annual weapons export report): “weapon day and night sights,” “armoured all wheel drive vehicles,” “components for combat helicopters,” “components for combat aircraft,” and “components for military surveillance aircraft.” [12]
Since 2007, international aid agencies have sought access to the northern Sa’da governorate. As the military operations intensified, the Yemeni authorities “severely restricted humanitarian access to tens of thousands of civilians in need.” Over the years, the war has intensified. “After a fifth round of fighting erupted in May 2008,” HRW continues, “the government blocked the movement of all commercial goods, including staple foods and fuel, an act that appears to constitute an illegal collective punishment.” [12]
After August 2009, the start of the war’s “sixth round,” shelling by both sides, coupled with government aerial bombing resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the razing of “entire villages.” By February 2010, aid agencies were struggling to help even a fraction of the 265,000 displaced civilians, most of whom were/are women and children. “At a high-level meeting on Yemen in London in January 2010,” the UK’s then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband noted Britain’s “commit[ment] to non-interference in Yemen’s internal affairs.” [13]
On 12 February 2010, Saleh and the Huthis “agreed on a truce that ended the sixth round of fighting in a five-year-long war that has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.” Exemplifying Britain’s “commitment to non-interference,” MoD training continued, as did government-approved weapons exports. In 2010, Britain exported £250,000-worth of weapons to Yemen, including “military firing sets,” “military helmets,” and “technology for the use of military cameras.” [14]
British media have succeeded in keeping Britain’s role in Yemen a secret from the public. When Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen in its recent anti-Huthi war, it became convenient to criticise the Saudis and sneak in some narrow critiques of Britain’s contribution to their war crimes. However, this kind of reporting only obscures the bigger, recent-historical picture.
1. Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Saudi objections halt UN inquiry of Yemen war,” New York Times, 30 September, 2015.
2. Richard Spenser, “UK military ‘working alongside’ Saudi bomb targeters in Yemen war,” Telegraph, 15 January, 2016.
3. Owen Jones, “Britain is at war with Yemen. So why does nobody know about it?,” Guardian, 28 January, 2016.
4.  See my “How to create your very own terrorist state,” Yemen Times, 25 July, 2010, archived here.
5. Ibid.
6. Details and sources in my “Britain’s secret war in Yemen,” PIPR, 12 July, 2015.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.