Tim Louis: Joe Biden’s latest move bodes well for desperate Yemenis

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      More good news on the Joe Biden front: the new U.S. president has promised to end American support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen, which was supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

      Biden has also temporarily paused weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, plus he's promised to review the controversial arms deals Donald Trump made with those two countries—both of which are U.S. allies—in the last days of his administration.

      You can learn more about the enormous tragedy unfolding in Yemen due to the disastrous six-year civil war, which has involved no fewer than six regional and international powers—including Saudi Arabia—along with Biden's latest progressive move in this comprehensive coverage by one of my favourite news sources, Democracy Now!, as well as the BBC.

      The past few weeks, the world has been marking the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, which rocked North Africa and the Middle East as people fought against oppressive governments.

      While some progress was made, there's been a terrible and tragic reversal in Yemen. People there felt a glimmer of hope with their Arab Spring uprising in 2011, when they forced their long-time authoritarian president to hand over power to deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. But now they're embroiled in this disastrous armed conflict that's created the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

      The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that 80 percent of the people in Yemen need some form of humanitarian assistance. Their health care system has collapsed.

      More than one in 10 Yemenis—at least 3.6 million people—have been forced to flee their homes. Many are barely surviving in destitute camps where the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading fast in a population with weakened immune systems and lack of sanitation and clean water.

      Human Rights Watch points out that last summer the UN was warning that Yemen was already on the brink of full-scale famine. Youngsters who can barely walk are rummaging through filthy garbage, trying to find something to eat as 16 million people—more than half the population of the entire country—are food insecure. Desperate Yemenis have even been selling their organs to survive.

      President Biden has described the war as a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe".

      It's anyone's guess what immediate impact his latest move will have. Nonetheless, it's a step in the right direction and one thing is certain. His decision to end support for the war and to pause arms sales to Saudi Arabia—even if only temporary—is yet another promising sign in these early days of his administration that he may go on to become a progressive Democrat.

      Let us hope that he will now do everything in his power to help bring about a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Yemen.

      But don't think Canada is an innocent in all this. As CBC reports, our nation, along with the US, Britain, France and Iran, continue to sell arms to the various warring sides.

      I urge you to support the Yemeni people in these times of great need by writing your MP and Prime Minister Trudeau urging them to take a firm stand to immediately end Canadian arms sales and to play a peace-keeping role in this disastrous, multi-year conflict.

      You could also consider making a donation to one of the many agencies currently involved in providing food and humanitarian assistance. Besides the UNHCR, mentioned above, many effective organizations are active in Yemen, including:

      Daily atmospheric CO2[Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Feb. 18, 2020): 417.54 ppm

      One year ago (Feb. 18, 2019): 413.56 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.