Yemen—the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’ continues

6 December 2018

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Tristan Dunning
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section

Executive summary

  • The conflict in Yemen has been labelled the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’ by the EU and characterised by the UN as ‘entirely man-made’.
  • It was reported in late October 2018 that the Saudi-led coalition was deploying an additional 10,000 troops as part of a planned new offensive against the port city of Hodeida, which is the principal humanitarian lifeline allowing food and medical aid to reach almost two-thirds of the Yemeni population located in Houthi-controlled territory.
  • The UN has warned that Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world prior to the conflict, is now on the brink of widespread famine, which could lead to further massive loss of life. Yemen is also suffering from one of the largest cholera outbreaks in recorded history, with over one million suspected cases.
  • It has been estimated that since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has conducted 18,000 airstrikes, one third of which have hit non-military targets. On 11 November 2018, the area around Hodeida’s main hospital came under sustained air attack.
  • The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has suggested that war crimes may have been committed by both sides to the conflict, noting reports of sexual violence, torture and child soldier recruitment.
  • The Australian Government has urged the parties to the conflict to ‘respect international humanitarian law [and] minimise civilian hardship’ and the Opposition has urged the Government to ‘support United Nations’ efforts to find a political solution to the conflict’.
  • Australia made a number of military shipments to Saudi Arabia in 2016–17 and plans to increase arms sales to the UAE. The Australian Greens and NGOs have called on the Government to suspend such arms sales, as the German Government has done.
  • Australia’s seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council provides an avenue for drawing attention to the conflict and promoting a multilateral approach to de-escalating the conflict and averting an even more widespread humanitarian disaster in Yemen.


Executive summary
Figure 1: political map of Yemen
Introduction to the crisis
The conflict
Figure 2: northern and southern Yemen prior to unification
Figure 3: map of the Yemen conflict (September 2018)
Potential war crimes
The Western connection
Australia’s role
The involvement of foreign nationals

All hyperlinks in this paper were valid as at October 2018.

Figure 1: political map of Yemen

Figure 1: political map of Yemen

Source: ‘Political map of Yemen’, Nations Online Project.

Introduction to the crisis

Labelled the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’ by the EU and characterised by the UN as ‘entirely man-made’, the ongoing crisis in Yemen continues to drag on unabated.[1] Despite a notional lull in fighting to allow for UN-brokered negotiations since July, statistics released by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) indicate that August has been the most deadly month of the conflict in 2018 with nearly 500 people killed in one nine-day period alone.[2] Oxfam, furthermore, has reported that 575 civilians, including 136 children, were killed in just the key Red Sea port of Hodeida between 1 August and 15 October 2018.[3]

Following the stalling of negotiations between the internationally-recognised Yemeni Government and Houthi de facto authorities after the failure to secure safe passage for the Houthi delegation to/from Geneva, UAE ground forces renewed their assault on Hodeida with Saudi air support on 7 September.[4] In late October 2018, it was reported that the Saudi-led coalition was deploying an additional 10,000 troops as part of a planned new offensive against the city.[5]

The port has been held by Houthi forces since 2014; it is the principal humanitarian lifeline allowing food and medical aid to reach almost two-thirds of the Yemeni population located in Houthi-controlled territory.[6] Yemen was already highly dependent on imports even before the war, accounting for 90 per cent of its food, fuel and medical supplies, with about 70 per cent of all imports coming through Hodeida.[7] Fighting also threatens to cut the main road inland to the capital, Sana’a, and other Houthi-controlled areas. In August 2016, for example, the Saudi-led coalition bombed and destroyed the main bridge between Hodeida and Sana’a. An estimated 90 per cent of food supplies provided by the UN’s World Food Programme had previously transited the destroyed bridge.[8]

The UN has warned that Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world prior to the conflict, is on the brink of widespread famine, which could lead to further massive loss of life.[9] A spokesperson for Save the Children, Mark Kaye, explains, ‘This crisis is happening because food and supplies can’t get into the country. Yemen was completely dependent on imports of food medicine and fuel prior to this crisis’.[10] Similarly, CARE International’s Yemen director warned in September 2018 that Yemen may run out of food within two to three months.[11] According to a 2017 report in the medical journal, The Lancet, the war ‘has exacerbated the country’s pre-existing challenges including poverty, poor health, and shortage of basic necessities such as water, fuel, and medications’ resulting in severe malnutrition, with about half of Yemen’s children affected by chronic malnutrition.[12]

It has been alleged, moreover, that the Saudi-led coalition has been deliberately targeting, degrading and destroying Yemen’s food supplies.[13] A report by Professor Martha Mundy for Tuft University’s World Peace Foundation concludes:

If one places the damage to the resources of food producers (farmers, herders, and fishers) alongside the targeting of food processing, storage and transport in urban areas and the wider economic war, there is strong evidence that Coalition strategy has aimed to destroy food production and distribution in the areas under the control of San‘a’ [Houthi-led authorities] ... from the autumn of 2016, economic war has compounded physical destruction to create a mass failure in basic livelihoods.[14]

Yemen’s health care system is on the verge of collapse. More than 55 per cent of health facilities are only partially functioning or have been destroyed and ‘The underground water in all Yemeni cities is contaminated with sewage and treatment plants are not functioning because of lack of fuel and maintenance’.[15] Indicatively, Yemen is suffering from one of the largest cholera outbreaks in recorded history with over one million suspected cases.[16] According to the International Crisis Group, ‘in excess of eighteen million people are food-insecure, and eight million are on the verge of starvation’.[17]

The conflict

The conflict has been variously portrayed as a civil war, a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a supposedly ancient schism between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims (the latter notionally represented by Zaydi Houthis).[18] The diversity and sheer number of actors involved in the conflict, however, demonstrates that these characterisations are far too simplistic and that the conflict defies neat categorisation.[19] Accordingly, a UN panel of experts reporting to the Security Council earlier this year expressed the view:

Yemen, as a state, has all but ceased to exist ... Instead of a single State there are warring statelets, and no one side has either the political support or the military strength to reunite the country or achieve victory on the battlefield.[20]

Nonetheless, conflict between the north and the south of Yemen is nothing new. Yemen is also no stranger to outside intervention, having been the site of conflict between revolutionary Arab republican states, led by Egypt, and conservative monarchies led by Saudi Arabia during the 1960s.[21] Prior to the 1962 revolution, northern Yemen had been ruled by a Houthi imamate for several hundred years, while southern Yemen was a British protectorate centred on the port of Aden from 1839 to 1967.[22] Figure 2 below indicates how Yemen was divided before it became a unified republic in 1990.

Figure 2: northern and southern Yemen prior to unification

Figure 2: northern and southern Yemen prior to unification

Source: ‘Mapping the Yemen conflict—historical division (1962)’, European Council on Foreign Relations.

The central government, moreover, has never held a monopoly on armed coercive power, which forms a key theoretical basis of the Weberian state’s sovereign legitimacy. Yemen has long been beset by separatist movements in both the north and the south of the country, as well as ongoing violent tribal disputes.[23] Instead, as Thomas Juneau explains:

[Former President Ali Abdullah] Saleh [who led Yemen through the process of unification] managed the country’s affairs for 34 years by maintaining a precarious balance among a range of competing forces, including the military and the security apparatus, tribes, political parties and factions, clerics and businesspeople. By buying loyalty through patronage and ruling through a combination of co-optation, inclusion and coercion, Saleh built an ‘administrative feudal system’ that evolved into a mix of ‘kleptocracy and plutocracy’.[24]

The roots of the current conflict, however, stem from a Houthi insurrection in 2004, which has periodically flared up since, comprising six rounds of conflict between 2004 and 2010.[25] The Houthi movement (now formally known as Ansar Allah or ‘Supporters/Partisans of God’), was founded by Hosein Badreddin al-Houthi, an influential cleric in northern Yemen and a former member of parliament in the 1990s; it is affiliated with the Zaydi stream of Shi’a Islam and remains firmly centred on the Houthi family.[26] From 2004, the Houthis fought against the Yemeni Government with the aim of ending economic underdevelopment, political marginalisation and discrimination. Zaydis constitute about 35 per cent of the Yemeni population, mostly located in the north west of the country.[27] According to Juneau, ‘At this point the Houthis wanted a greater say in national affairs, greater recognition of Zaydi cultural and religious rights, and an end to proselytizing by Saudi-backed Wahhabi institutes in Sa’ada province, their northern stronghold’.[28] Fearing instability, unrest and a potential security threat along its long and porous southern border, Saudi Arabia first intervened in Yemen in 2009 on behalf of the Saleh Government, employing artillery and air power against the Houthis and imposing a blockade on Yemen’s north west coast to impede the transfer of arms.

The present conflagration started after the 2011 Arab uprisings, which led to the deposal of long-time president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, amid widespread popular protests against corruption, economic stagnation and authoritarianism. Saleh was replaced by the current internationally-recognised president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in 2012.[29] The Houthis then participated in the national dialogue that followed, aimed at drafting a new constitution for a democratic and federalised Yemen, but remained suspicious of the Sana’a-based elites’ sincerity regarding the implementation of genuine reforms. In the event, the transition process ‘did not fundamentally reform governance but merely perpetuated the pre-2011 system: while redistributing positions, it failed to dismantle longstanding patronage structures and to integrate previously marginalized actors’.[30]

Following the collapse of national power-sharing talks in 2014, Houthi forces, then allied to forces still loyal to Saleh—their former foe being keen to reverse the effects of the 2011 protests that removed him from power—seized control of most of Yemen, including the capital Sana’a (Saleh was later killed by the Houthis in December 2017 after attempting to defect to the Saudi-led coalition).[31] Hadi resigned from office on 22 January 2015 before escaping from house arrest, fleeing to Yemen’s second city Aden on 21 February, which he designated the temporary capital, and rescinding his resignation.[32] As Houthi forces converged on Aden, Hadi then fled to Saudi Arabia and a Saudi-led coalition began bombarding Yemen in support of his government in 2015.

Since then, it is estimated that the Saudi-led coalition has conducted 18,000 airstrikes, one third of which have hit non-military targets.[33] Recent high-profile bombings include a strike on a school bus which killed at least 51 people, including 40 children, and the bombing of Hodeida’s main public hospital, killing dozens.[34] In 2017, the UN estimated that over 10,000 civilians had already been killed and 40,000 injured during the current conflict.[35] ACLED, however, estimates that around 56,000 civilians and combatants were killed between January 2016 and October 2018, with an increase of more than 2,000 per month, and an expected 70,000 to 80,000 dead once research backdating casualties to the start of the war in March 2015 is completed.[36]

Many more have died from hunger and preventable diseases. By November 2018, Save the Children estimated that extreme hunger and disease was killing an average of 100 children per day.[37] Analysing UN data, Save the Children has estimated that some 85,000 children under the age of five may have died from severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.[38] While the coalition has managed to secure much of the sparsely populated south and east of the country, the Houthis remain firmly in control of the capital and the majority of the population in the north.

Citing the Houthis’ use of long-range missiles and drones as evidence, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have frequently accused the Houthis of being Iranian proxies, alleging that the Islamic Republic has provided massive amounts of material support to the Houthis. This is a charge Iran has vehemently denied and which has been met by scepticism elsewhere.[39] Given the distances involved and the air, land and sea blockades of Yemen, the ability of Iran to transfer large amounts of weaponry appears to have been limited.[40]  Nonetheless, it has been speculated that weapons may have been transferred on small fishing boats via Somalia.[41] Moreover, the UAE has used the claim that Iranian weapons are being smuggled through Hodeida to justify its attack on the key port described earlier.

However, as journalist Patrick Cockburn observes, ‘a UN panel of experts concluded earlier in the year [2018] that no weapons were coming through the port from Iran because ships are randomly inspected and must be authorised by the UN’.[42] Similarly, a UN report released in June 2018 was unable to determine if missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia were provided by Iran despite containing components manufactured in Iran; nor was it able to say whether these were acquired after the imposition of UN restrictions on Iran’s transfer of ballistic missile technology under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, which came into force on 16 January 2016.[43]

Ironically, given his subsequent alliance with the Houthis against the Hadi Government and the Saudi-led coalition prior to his demise in December 2017, it was Saleh who first accused the Houthis (without ever providing definitive proof) of being Iranian proxies after fighting erupted in 2004, presumably with the intention of attracting Saudi and US support.[44] Iran and the Houthis do not have a long-standing relationship, with Iranian interest only piqued following Saudi military actions in 2009. Indeed, an April 2015 report to the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee found that Iran began transferring small amounts of weaponry to the Houthis in 2009.[45] This appears to have increased in 2011 and 2014, but still remained modest.[46]

Conversely, a lack of international support in the fight against the vast array of enemies aligned against them may have led Houthis to turn to Iran and the Lebanese Hizbullah for support and to start emphasising Shi’a practices and symbols, thereby fuelling a perception of a wider sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’a Islam.[47] However, as Juneau notes:

Whatever the precise amount of support Iran has given the Houthis, it represents a fraction of what Saudi Arabia has provided, over the years, to its preferred factions whether in the government, the armed forces, the bureaucracy, the security services or non-state entities such as Wahhabi institutions and tribal militias.[48]

Since 2012, Saudi Arabia has invested at least $4 billion to prop up the Yemeni economy after the 2011 uprisings. Remittances from Yemeni workers in Saudi Arabia have also contributed around another $4 billion per year to the Yemeni economy.[49] In short, the Houthis threaten the political structures in which Saudi Arabia has so much invested. Juneau concludes thus:

Yemen is Saudi Arabia’s soft under-belly, and instability on this south flank represents an important threat to Saudi security. This is far from the case for Iran. In sum, what happens in Yemen concerns Saudi Arabia’s vital interests, but not Iran’s; for Iran, Yemen represents opportunities, not threats. The Houthis are as a result much less dependent on Iranian support than pro-Saudi factions, including Hadi and his allies, are on Saudi support. Without Iranian assistance, the Houthis would remain a dominant actor; without Saudi support, Hadi would be significantly weaker... [T]he Houthis are neither a proxy nor a pawn of Tehran.[50]

As such, Iran’s goals in Yemen are centred on undermining Saudi efforts, while it focuses on issues that are far more important to its overall strategic position in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as managing its tense relationship with the US. Nonetheless, following the success of the Houthis in seizing Sana’a in 2014 in particular, Iranian news outlets have ‘pushed the theme of Zaidi [sic] Yemenis as a downtrodden and oppressed minority rising against Saudi funded oppression by the central government and by Salafi Jihadis in Yemen’.[51] This follows a pattern of Iranian support for dissatisfied groups (regardless of creed) located in unstable settings, such as Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, that allows Iran to accrue soft power by positioning itself as ‘the champion of the oppressed and marginalised’.[52]

The revitalisation of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the spread of the Islamic State terrorist group to Yemen under cover of the ensuing chaos may also have fed the perception of the wider sectarian war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.[53] The ongoing  pandemonium, for instance, has enabled AQAP to consolidate, briefly run a de facto state in the seaport of Mukalla in 2015–16 and, ultimately, expand its influence.[54] Despite being an early focus of US drone strikes under both the Bush and Obama administrations, al-Qa’ida’s affiliates in Yemen are stronger than ever. AQAP, which is proscribed in Australia and elsewhere, is often designated as one of the most dangerous of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates, responsible for a number of high-profile international terrorist attacks.[55] Prior to the war, AQAP was a small branch of al-Qa’ida primarily focused on Western targets with ‘limited local appeal’; it has now ‘adapted to rapidly shifting political terrain’ and morphed ‘into an insurgent movement capable of controlling territory and challenging state authority’.[56]

Tellingly, AQAP was not destroyed by UAE-backed forces in Mukalla but, rather, chose to retreat from its territorial acquisitions. It has, moreover, been reported that the UAE and its proxies have cut deals with AQAP fighters, allowed them to retreat with their weapons, equipment and looted money, and even co-opted or recruited them to fight the Houthi-led forces on their behalf.[57]

Also, the putative success of AQAP’s eviction from Mukalla ‘was almost immediately followed by accusations of corruption, cronyism, arbitrary detention and torture by the new authorities and security forces’.[58] Amnesty International has accused prisons under UAE control of torture, including sexual violence, beatings and electric shocks.[59]

Fractures are beginning to appear within the Saudi-led coalition, with conflict between the notional Hadi Government and various proxy forces backed by the UAE.[60] In essence, the UAE has set up parallel security institutions outside of the control of the internationally-recognised Yemeni Government. President Hadi has described the UAE as an ‘occupier’ and the UAE has been accused of de facto colonisation in southern Yemen, thereby breaching Yemeni sovereignty and territorial integrity.[61] Some of these forces, moreover, such as the UAE-backed ‘Security Belt’, support the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a separatist group dedicated to the re-establishment of Southern Yemen.[62] By February 2018, fighting in the Yemeni Government’s temporary capital of Aden had driven Hadi’s forces back into a small area around the presidential palace. In October 2018, the STC called for a popular uprising against the Hadi Government and urged independence due to the government’s inability to address the ongoing economic crisis.[63]

See Figure 3 below for a map of the Yemen conflict.

Figure 3: map of the Yemen conflict (September 2018)

Figure 3: map of the Yemen conflict (September 2018)

Source: ‘Yemen conflict—who controls what’, Al-Jazeera.

Potential war crimes

A recent report by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights documented that war crimes may have been committed by all the primary belligerents to the conflict, albeit attributing most of these violations to Saudi and UAE forces, and their proxies:

The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties. The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities. Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the [Hadi] Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.[64]

Indiscriminate airstrikes are perhaps unsurprising given that in 2015, Saudi state TV declared the Sa’da governorate of Yemen, a Houthi stronghold bordering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a military target in its entirety and ordered civilians there to leave.[65] Human Rights Watch has also documented Saudi use of banned cluster munitions (neither Saudi Arabia nor the United States has signed the relevant international treaty).[66] Houthi-led forces are also accused of indiscriminate shelling of urban areas, which may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.

The UN report also notes:

Victims and witnesses described to the Group of Experts persistent and pervasive aggressive behaviour, including sexual violence perpetrated by the [UAE-backed] Security Belt Forces and United Arab Emirates personnel. Examples include rape, of men and women, and sexual violence against displaced persons, migrants and other vulnerable groups.[67]

Similarly, the report notes that the panel has received reports of ‘ill-treatment and torture of detainees’ by Houthi-led authorities.[68]

Both coalition and Houthi-led forces have been accused of child soldier recruitment, a war crime in its own right:

The Group of Experts received substantial information indicating that the Government of Yemen, the coalition-backed forces and the Houthi-Saleh forces have all conscripted or enlisted children into armed forces or groups and used them to participate actively in hostilities. In most cases, the children were between 11 and 17 years old, but there have been consistent reports of the recruitment or use of children as young as 8 years old.[69]

According to Kamel Jendoubi, the chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, ‘The primary legal responsibility for addressing these violations and crimes lies with the [Hadi] Government of Yemen, which bears the duty to protect persons under its jurisdiction’.[70]

Acknowledging ‘the absolute gravity and seriousness of the situation’ described in the report, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, said the Government is ‘strongly urging the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, to minimise civilian hardship, to allow immediate and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies to affected communities in need’.[71] Australian Greens senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, conversely, has called upon the Australian Government to ‘immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE’.[72]

The Western connection

The escalating civilian death tolls detailed by the UN and elsewhere continue to raise questions about the responsibility of the US, UK and France, all of which provide Saudi Arabia and the UAE with arms shipments.[73] Additionally, the US provides logistical aid, such as intelligence sharing, targeting information, and (until recently) mid-air refuelling for Saudi and UAE aircraft, while UK military personnel are reportedly stationed at command and control centres.[74] The Royal Air Force has also trained Saudi air force pilots both in Saudi Arabia and the UK, ostensibly on the grounds that it would improve targeting.[75]

A bi-partisan group of US lawmakers tried to halt US military shipments to Saudi Arabia and the UAE through an amendment inserted in the congressional defence spending bill for 2018 requiring Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to certify that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have made changes aimed at minimising civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.[76] This is despite UN and other reports asserting the contrary. The Obama administration had previously suspended the shipment of some weapons over concerns about civilian casualties but these were resumed by the Trump administration.[77]

In the UK, the legality of sales to Saudi Arabia has been challenged in the High Court and the Ministry of Defence has tracked hundreds of alleged Saudi violations of international law. [78]  Similarly, the Metropolitan Police have investigated allegations of war crimes potentially prosecutable on grounds of universal jurisdiction.[79]

In early November 2018, the US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, called for a ceasefire and peace talks within 30 days.[80] In a reversal of previous British policy, the UK has similarly urged the UN Security Council to support this call for a ceasefire.[81] The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong, echoed this call on 14 November:

Labor has given notice of a motion in the Senate strongly supporting the current efforts by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary to build support among international and regional partners for new action in the UN Security Council to bolster the UN-led peace process.

The motion also endorses the US Administration’s decision to no longer take part in inflight refuelling operations for Saudi-led coalition aircraft involved in the fighting.

Labor urges the Australian Government to support United Nations’ efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, and assure itself that any Australian military cooperation in the region, including defence equipment sales, does not inadvertently contribute to the suffering of the Yemeni civilian population.[82]

Rather than de-escalating the conflict, however, these calls have been followed by a surge in violence as both sides try to expand and consolidate gains before any potential imposition of a ceasefire.[83] Amnesty International described how, on 11 November, the area around Hodeida’s main hospital came under sustained attack, reportedly by the Saudi-led coalition:

Hundreds of medical workers and patients, including a malnourished woman carrying her daughter in a surgical robe and a man still hooked up to a catheter, fled in terror as a series of large explosions rocked a hospital in central Hodeidah yesterday, according to an eyewitness who spoke to Amnesty International.


A medical worker who was inside al-Thawra hospital at the time told Amnesty International that hundreds of patients and staff dodged a hail of shrapnel as they fled in panic. The sustained bombardment near the hospital lasted more than half an hour.[84]

Finally, Mundy observes that while commentary of the war in Yemen often speculates on the complicity of the arms-suppliers, and the top three in particular (the US, the UK and France), in potential war crimes stemming from the Saudi-led military campaign, and may sometimes mention their role in providing diplomatic cover for the coalition, their support for economic war and the blockade of Yemen—the major causes of starvation, deprivation and disease—is barely recognised.[85]   

Australia’s role

Australia made a number of military shipments to Saudi Arabia in 2016–17 and plans to increase arms sales to the UAE.[86] Dubai is also home to Australia’s central military operational hub in the Middle East region, providing support for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf of Aden, among others.[87] The Middle East region involves Australia’s highest level of troop deployments, with some 300 personnel in Afghanistan (Operation Highroad), 600 in Iraq (Operation Okra), 500 in the UAE (Operation Accordion) largely providing logistical support, and another 240 predominantly from the Royal Australian Navy patrolling the seas as part of Operation Manitou.[88] Australian forces have provided air support against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, trained members of the Iraqi and Afghan security forces, and engaged in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy maritime operations. According to a September 2014 report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Australia’s military presence in the UAE is reliant on our good relations and solid relationship with the ruling family, particularly the president Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’.[89]

On 29 March 2017, Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Scott Ludlam, introduced a motion in the Australian Senate requiring the Minister of Defence (then Senator Marise Payne) to disclose the Minister for Defence Industry’s itinerary from his December 2016 visit to Saudi Arabia to promote the export of military equipment, and ‘Any documents relating to approvals for military exports to Saudi Arabia since January 2016’.[90] Senator Ludlam also moved:

That the Senate—

(a) notes with concern reports that:

(i) the Saudi Arabian Government is breaking humanitarian law in its attacks on Yemen by bombing schools, hospitals and refugee camps, and is pushing Yemenis towards famine by blocking supply routes,

(ii) the Australian Defence Department has approved four military exports to Saudi Arabia in the past year and that the Australian Government is leading a push for more, and

(iii) the Minister for Defence Industry, the Honourable Christopher Pyne, MP, visited Riyadh in December 2016 to promote Australian defence material to senior government figures, including Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah al-Saud, the head of Saudi Arabia's National Guard;

(b) notes that the Dutch Parliament voted in 2016 to ban military exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom (UK) started a review in February aimed at halting UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and former US President Barack Obama halted the sale of precision-guided technology to Saudi Arabia, all on humanitarian grounds.[91]

The motion was carried 39 votes to 22. Following the failure of the Defence Minister to produce the documents requested, a second attempt on 10 May 2017 by Senator Ludlam to have the Senate order their production failed by 40 votes.[92]

In August 2018, the Defence Minister Payne stated that military exports are assessed against five criteria:

Australia’s international obligations, human rights, regional security, national security and foreign policy. The assessment of export applications is done on a case-by-case basis, looking at the end use, the end user and technology that is being exported.[93]  

In September 2018, the new Minister of Defence, Christopher Pyne, said that Australia was looking to conclude formal defence industry agreements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.[94] In contrast, a number of European countries, including Belgium, Norway and Germany, have announced restrictions or a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.[95]

The October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul elicited strong international condemnation, but also threw the international actions of Saudi Arabia, including the war in Yemen, into sharp relief.[96] The German Government, for instance, suspended the future sales of arms to Saudi Arabia.[97] Responding to the German decision, Diana Sayed, the Crisis Campaigns Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia, called on the Australian Government:

... to publicly report the exact nature of all arms transfers to Saudi Arabia to date and to its allies in the war in Yemen, and to cease the authorisation of any future arms transfers while there remains a substantial risk these arms will be used to fuel human rights abuses.


Yet Australia chooses to wilfully ignore all of the human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia and continue to expand military exports to the Kingdom—with 18 licenses approved to date.

There is reluctance on the Government’s part to exercise transparency in its arms exports trade and this is incredibly worrying. It must cease all military exports to Saudi Arabia.[98]

On 24 October 2018 in Senate Estimates, Senator Payne, in her new role as Minister for Foreign Affairs, ‘condemned the killing of Mr Khashoggi in the strongest possible terms’ and confirmed the Australian Government’s intention to conclude a memorandum of understanding regarding the exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.[99] However, Foreign Minister Payne has refused to rule out a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.[100]

Australia currently holds a three-year position on the United Nations Human Rights Council, which provides an avenue for drawing attention to the conflict and promoting a multilateral approach to de-escalating the conflict and averting an even more widespread humanitarian disaster in Yemen.[101]

The involvement of foreign nationals

There are also numerous reports of foreign nationals fighting in Yemen, as well as others advising and training the UAE’s military, including individuals from Australia, the US, South Africa and Latin America.[102] Some of these hold high-ranking positions in the UAE military.[103] In 2011, for instance, the UAE hired Erik Prince, the founder of the organisation formerly called Blackwater, to train foreign personnel.[104]

The presence of foreign soldiers, perhaps especially those in positions of command, raises questions about culpability and accountability for potential war crimes and/or other human rights violations detailed above.[105] For example, Stephen Toumajan, a former officer in the US Army, is now a major general for the Emirati military and questions have been asked about his potential accountability for war crimes.[106]

Such questions are also important from an Australian perspective because, as the Herald Sun reported in 2009, ‘Dozens of ex-Australian soldiers work for the UAE military in leadership, training and mentoring roles, developing links between the two armed forces’.[107] This notably includes former Australian SAS commander, Major General Michael Hindmarsh (Retd), who is serving as Commander of the UAE’s Presidential Guard, the country’s elite fighting force, and reportedly commands some 1,500 soldiers in Yemen.[108] There is, however, no suggestion or evidence implicating Major General Hindmarsh in any wrongdoing.

It is also important to note the explanation of Major General Hindmarsh’s involvement contained within internal Department of Defence documents (dated February 2016) released on 5 November 2018 under a Freedom of Information request:

In June 2009, then Chief of Army (Lieutenant General Gillespie) supported Major General Hindmarsh’s request to travel to the United Arab Emirates to explore employment opportunities.


Personnel who retire or resign from active service, either Australian Regular Army or Army Reserve, are considered by Defence to be private citizens and are able to seek employment domestically or overseas.


Whether a person is accepted into a foreign military is a matter for the country in question and their laws regarding military service. The ADF has targeted recruiting schemes to meet particular personnel capability requirements through recruitment of personnel with previous service in other foreign militaries.


Under the current arrangements for the engagement of Major General Hindmarsh (Retd) by the United Arab Emirates military, it is not appropriate to consider him to be a mercenary. Major General Hindmarsh is a member of the national armed forces of the United Arab Emirates.[109]

Nonetheless, while the UAE is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, Australia is and Australia’s war crimes legislation has universal jurisdiction. According to Professor Richard Tanter, given the presence of Australians fighting in military conflicts abroad, ‘Lawyers have pointed to Australia’s responsibility for holding its citizens accountable for alleged war crimes under that statute to investigate and if necessary prosecute under domestic war-crimes legislation or through the ICC’.[110]


As the Yemen crisis rapidly approaches is fifth year, since October 2018 there have been increasing calls for a ceasefire, notably by the US and UK, the Saudi-led coalition’s principal suppliers of weapons. This follows an increasing international focus on civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure caused by the Saudi military campaign, as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis stemming from widespread famine and disease. At present, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who recently visited Sana’a, is tasked with negotiating a framework prior to the commencement of talks to avoid misunderstandings which may cause the situation to deteriorate further.[111]

Both the Houthis and the Hadi Government have long claimed that they are open to negotiations and blamed the other for intransigence, but the multiple parties and multiple overlapping conflicts comprising the war in Yemen complicate such matters. It also debatable how much control the Hadi Government actually exercises in the territories notionally under its control given its conflict with UAE backed forces, some of whom are secessionist in nature. AQAP and the Islamic State group also have their own interests in acting as spoilers to prolong the chaos that has allowed them to flourish.

Saudi Arabia, moreover, essentially possesses a veto over any agreement reached by the Hadi Government. According to Peter Salisbury, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House:

The Saudis won’t approve a deal that leaves the Huthis with a degree of power—as an agreement is likely to do—without key assurances regarding border security, the Huthis’ ballistic missile capabilities and the rebels’ relationship with Iran. In turn, the Huthis need to be confident that they will have a guaranteed place at the political table in the long term, won’t have to give up all their weapons and will have access to international trade through a seaport. Most importantly, they need to be assured that the Saudis will stick to their side of the deal before signing off.[112]

In terms of Iran, Thomas Juneau explains:

In the regional balance of power, losses for Saudi Arabia represent gains for Iran, as Tehran benefits from Riyadh’s being bogged down in a difficult and costly conflict while insecurity spreads in its soft underbelly. Also, Syria and Iraq represent far greater preoccupations for Iran...

In this sense, Iran’s support for the Houthis is more reactive more than proactive ... Iran, to some extent, bandwagoned on Houthi successes. It did not cause them, but decided to play its part to entrench them.[113]

Nonetheless, US Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis, has announced that peace talks will take place in December in Sweden, with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths claiming that Yemen’s warring parties have given ‘firm assurances’ that they are committed to attending; experts, however, have warned that Saudi Arabia might not take the necessary measures to facilitate their success.[114] The UK has circulated a draft UN Security Resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and guarantees for the safe delivery of aid, which has been reportedly opposed by Saudi Arabia.[115]

Despite a brief lull in fighting and a temporary halt to the Saudi-led offensive of Hodeida in mid-November, at the time of writing, fighting described by residents as the worst yet has broken out once more in the key port city.[116]

[1].      ‘Yemen “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”: EU’, Al Jazeera News, 5 August 2018; United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), Yemen: an ‘entirely man-made catastrophe’—UN human rights report urges international investigation, media release, United Nations, 5 September 2017.

[2].      P Salisbury, Is the Yemen peace process coming back to life?, International Crisis Group, 7 September 2018; P Beaumont, ‘Huge spike in Yemen violence as civilian deaths rise by 164% in four months’, The Guardian, 26 September 2018.

[3].      P Cockburn, ‘The Yemen war death toll is five times higher than we think - we can’t shrug off our responsibilities any longer’, The Independent, 26 October 2018.

[4].      M Ghobari, A El Yaakoubi and S Nebehay, ‘Fighting resumes in Yemen’s Hodeidah as peace talks stall’, Reuters, 12 September 2018.

[5].      ‘Saudi-led coalition sends thousands of troops towards Hodeidah’, al-Jazeera, 31 October 2018.

[6].      Yemen: averting a destructive battle for Hodeida, International Crisis Group, 11 June 2018.

[7].      United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014, Advance edit version, 17 August 2018, p. 8; A Gregory, ‘Yemen’s food supplies might run out in two months, charity warns’, The Independent, 23 September 2018.

[8].      S Oakford, ‘Saudi Arabia kills civilians, the U.S. looks the other way’, The New York Times, 19 August 2016.

[9].      M Bearak, ‘The Saudi power struggle hits the Arab world’s poorest country’, The Washington Post, 6 November 2017; J Borger, ‘Deadly Yemen famine could strike at any time, warns UN boss’, The Guardian, 24 September 2018.

[10].    Cited in L Roopanarine, P Wintour, S Kamali and A Algohbary, ‘Yemen at “point of no return” as conflict leaves almost 7 million close to famine’, The Guardian, 16 May 2017.

[11].    Gregory, ‘Yemen’s food supplies might run out in two months’, op. cit.

[12].    A Eshaq, A Fothan, E Jensen, T Khan and A Al Amodi, ‘Malnutrition in Yemen: an invisible crisis’, The Lancet, 389, 7 January 2017, pp. 31–32.

[13].    I Craig, ‘Bombed into famine: how Saudi air campaign targets Yemen’s food supplies’, The Guardian, 12 December 2017.

[14].    M Mundy, The strategies of the coalition in the Yemen war: aerial bombardment and food war, World Peace Foundation, Tufts University, p. 18.

[15].    H Al-Mekhlafi, ‘Yemen in a time of cholera: current situation and challenges’, American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 98(6), 2018, p. 1558.

[16].    A Barker, ‘Yemen cholera cases hit 1 million in “hideous milestone” for worst outbreak on record’, ABC News online, 22 December 2017.

[17].    Salisbury, Is the Yemen peace process coming back to life?, op. cit.

[18].    K Fahim, ‘UN probe details fallout of proxy war in Yemen between Saudi coalition and Iran’, The Washington Post, 11 January 2018; TL Friedman, ‘Tell me how this ends well’, The New York Times, 1 April 2015;  H Mohammed, ‘A look at Zaydi Shiites and Houthi rebels in Yemen’, Washington Examiner, 4 October 2014.

[19].    ‘Yemen crisis: who is fighting whom?’, BBC News online, 30 January 2018.

[20].    Cited in K Fahim, ‘US approach to Yemen is challenged as country splinters and government vanishes’, The Washington Post, 21 September 2018.

[21].    J Ferris, ‘Egypt’s Vietnam’, Foreign Policy, 3 April 2015.

[22].    N al-Dawsari, ‘The Houthis’ endgame in Yemen’, al-Jazeera, 22 December 2017; G Gasim, ‘What is going on in southern Yemen?’, al-Jazeera, 30 January 2018.

23.    M Reardon, ‘Saudi Arabia, Iran and the “Great Game” in Yemen’, al-Jazeera, 26 March 2015.

24.    T Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis in Yemen: a limited return on a modest investment’, International Affairs, 92(3), 2016, p. 651.

[25].    K McFarland, ‘Yemen: understanding the conflict’, The Conversation, 18 June 2018; M Wells, ‘Yemen’s Houthi movement and the revolution’, Foreign Policy, 27 February 2012.

26.    ‘Yemen war: who are the Houthis and why is Saudi Arabia fighting them?’, The Independent, 10 November 2018.

27.    C Glenn, ‘Iran, Yemen and the Houthis’, Iran Primer, 29 April 2015.

28.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., pp. 651–2.

[29].    See United Nations, ‘Security Council demands end to Yemen violence, adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), with Russian Federation abstaining’, 14 April 2015.

30.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., pp. 653.

31.    M Hatem, ‘Houthis say they killed former Yemeni president Ali Abduallah Saleh, as pact unravels’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 2017.

[32].    ‘Yemen crisis: President Hadi flees as Houthi rebels advance’, BBC News, 25 March 2015.    

[33].    Beaumont, ‘Huge spike in Yemen violence’, op. cit.

[34].    ‘Saudi bus bombing is a new low’, The Canberra Times, 13 August 2018; A Algobary and F Edroos, ‘Yemen bus massacre: how a joyful excursion ended in sheer horror’, al-Jazeera, 17 August 2018; ‘“It was a massacre” Dozens killed in Saudi air raids on Hodeidah’, al-Jazeera, 3 August 2018.

[35].    A al-Haj, ‘Yemen civil war: 10,000 civilians killed and 40,000 injured in conflict, UN reveals’, The Independent, 17 January 2017.

[36].    Cockburn, ‘The Yemen war death toll’, op. cit.

[37].    B Trew, ‘Britain urges UN Security Council to back ceasefire in Yemen, in dramatic foreign policy U-turn’, The Independent, 5 November 2018.

38.    Save the Children, Yemen: 85,000 children may have died from starvation since the start of the war, media release, 20 November 2018.

39.    J Saul, P Hafezi and M Georgy, ‘Exclusive: Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war—sources’, Reuters, 22 March 2017; G Viscusi, P Donahue and J Walcott, ‘Saudi claims on Iran’s role in Yemen face skepticism in West’, Bloomberg, 17 April 2015.

40.    N Khoury, ‘A US-Iran strategy begins in Yemen’, The Hill, 20 November 2018.

41.    Saul, Hafezi and Georgy, ‘Iran steps up support for Houthis’, op. cit.

42.    P Cockburn, ‘Attacking Hodeidah is a deliberate act of cruelty by the Trump administration’, The Independent, 15 June 2018.

43.    E Lederer, ‘UN report: debris from missiles that hit Saudis from missiles that his Saudis from Iran’, Associated Press, 15 June 2018.

44.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., p. 652.

45.    C Landry, ‘Iran arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels since 2009: UN report’, Middle East Eye, 1 May 2015.

46.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., pp. 656–7.

47.    Khoury, ‘A US-Iran strategy begins’, op. cit.

48.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., p. 662.

49.    Ibid.

50.    Ibid., p. 662–3.

51.    Khoury, ‘A US-Iran strategy begins’, op. cit.

52.    Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., p. 648.

53.    K Fahim, ‘U.S. approach to Yemen is challenged as a country splinters and government vanishes’, The Washington Post, 21 September 2018.

[54].    B Watson, ‘The war in Yemen and the making of a chaos state’, The Atlantic, 3 February 2018; E Schmitt and S Al-Batati, ‘The U.S. has pummelled Al Qaeda in Yemen. But the threat is barely dented’, The New York Times, 30 December 2017.

[55].    B Rich, ‘Explainer: what is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?’, The Conversation, 12 January 2015; Australian Government, Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

[56].    Yemen’s al-Qaeda: expanding the base, International Crisis Group, 2 February 2017, p. i.

[57].    M Michael, T Wilson and L Keath, ‘US allies, al-Qaida battle rebels in Yemen’, Associated Press, 7 August 2018; B Trew, ‘Former al-Qaeda footsoldiers have been allowed into Yemen forces, admits UAE military’, The Independent, 16 August 2018.

[58].    Yemen’s al-Qaeda, op. cit., p. 26.

[59].    B McKernan, ‘Yemen conflict: Amnesty calls for war crimes investigation into UAE-run prisons’, The Independent, 12 July 2018.

[60].    Gasim, ‘What is going on in southern Yemen?’, op. cit.

[61].    M Horton, ‘Can the UAE and its security forces avoid a wrong turn in Yemen?’, Counter Terrorism Center Sentinel, 11(2), February 2018; ‘US report: UAE ‘colonising force’ in Yemen’, Middle East Monitor, 21 February 2018; ‘UAE extends military reach in Yemen and Somalia’, Reuters, 13 May 2018; M Vall, ‘Yemen: UAE attempting to ‘colonise’ Socotra’, al-Jazeera, 13 May 2018.

62.    A Harper, ‘The spectre of a divided Yemen’, The Interpreter, The Lowy Institute, 8 February 2018.

63.    ‘Yemen’s UAE-backed southern separatists announce popular uprising’, Middle East Eye, 3 October 2018; A El Yaakoubi, ‘Yemen separatists call for uprising as U.N. pursues peace’, Reuters, 4 October 2018.

[64].    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Yemen: United Nations experts point to possible war crimes by parties to the conflict’, Geneva, 28 August 2018.

[65].    ‘Civilians order to leave Yemen’s Saada province ahead of Saudi strikes’, al-Jazeera America, 8 May 2015.

[66].    Hiding behind the coalition: failure to credibly investigate and provide redress for unlawful attacks in Yemen, Human Rights Watch, 24 August 2018, p. 3.

[67].    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Yemen: United Nations experts point to possible war crimes’, op. cit.

[68].    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Situation of human rights in Yemen, op. cit. p. 11.

[69].    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Yemen: United Nations experts point to possible war crimes’, op. cit.

[70].    Ibid.

[71].    Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Official committee Hansard, 24 October 2018.

[72].    P Whish-Wilson, ‘General business notice of motion no. 1043’, Senate, Debates, 11 September 2018, p. 44.

[73].    Editorial Board, ‘Why are U.S. bombs killing civilians in Yemen?’, The New York Times, 28 August 2018; A Mitchell, ‘Britain is complicit in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen’, The Guardian, 13 June 2018; J Irish and S Louet, ‘Pressure mounts on Macron over arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE’, Reuters, 23 March 2018.

[74].    M Dalton, H Shah and T Robbins, ‘U.S. support for Saudi military operations in Yemen’, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, 23 March 2018; P Cockburn, ‘The Saudi targeting of food supplies in Yemen is a worse story than the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi’, The Independent, 12 October 2018; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), ‘Yemen war: Trump administration to end US refuelling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft’, ABC News online, 10 November 2018.

[75].    R Merrick, ‘Revealed: the UK is training Saudi pilots amid accusations of war crimes in Yemen’, The Independent, 22 October 2016; D Bloom, ‘Saudi pilots trained by the RAF as more than 100 learn how to fly in the UK’, Mirror, 5 November 2018.

[76].    N Toosi, ‘Congress corners Pompeo on Saudi military actions’, Politico, 4 September 2018; D Nissenbuam, ‘Top U.S. diplomat backed continuing support for Saudi war in Yemen’, The Wall Street Journal, 20 September 2018.

[77].    H Cooper, ‘U.S. blocks arms sale to Saudi Arabia amid concerns over Yemen war’, The New York Times, 13 December 2016; W Strobel and M Stone, ‘Trump to resume precision munitions deliveries to Saudis: officials’, Reuters, 14 June 2017.

[78].    P Begley, ‘Australia selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia during brutal Yemen conflict’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 March 2017; J Vale, ‘MoD aware of 350 alleged breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen’, HuffPost UK, 23 March 2018.

[79].    J Halliday and A Asthana, ‘Met police look at allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen’, The Guardian, 3 April 2017.

[80].    ‘US defence chief demands Yemen ceasefire; peace talks in 30 days’, al-Jazeera, 2 November 2018.

[81].    Trew, ‘Britain urges UN Security council to back ceasefire in Yemen’, op. cit.

82.    P Wong (Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs), Labor urges end to hostilities in Yemen, media release, 14 November 2018.

83.    B Graham, ‘US change of heart only seems to have made “apocalyptic” catastrophe in Yemen even worse’, Herald Sun, 7 November 2018.

84.    ‘Yemen: eyewitness describes terrifying scenes as explosions rock hospital in central Hodeidah’, Amnesty International, 12 November 2018.

85.    Mundy, ‘The strategies of the Coalition in the Yemen war’, op. cit., p. 7.

[86].    S Hutchinson, ‘Defence exports and the Arms Trade Treaty—is Australia missing in action?The Interpreter, The Lowy Institute, 20 February 2018; A Cornwell, ‘Australia and UAE to explore deeper defense ties, A$1 billion in sales’, Reuters, 20 February 2017.

[87].    ‘Al Minhad Air Base’, Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

88.    C Miranda, ‘Anzac spirit lives on today, all around the world’, Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 11 November 2018; see also, ‘Operation Highroad’, Department of Defence; ‘Operation OKRA’, Department of Defence; ‘Operation Accordion’, Department of Defence; ‘Operation MANITOU’, Department of Defence.

89.    M Brissenden, ‘Al Minhad Air Base: a closer look at Australia’s base for operation in the Middle East’, ABC News, 15 September 2014.

[90].    S Ludlam, ‘Saudi Arabia: human rights, order for the production of documents’, Senate, Debates, 29 March 2017, p. 2624.

[91].    Ibid.

[92].    S Ludlam, ‘Military exports to Saudi Arabia—order for production of documents—non-compliance’, Senate, Debates, 10 May 2017.

[93].    M Payne, ‘Answer to Question without notice: Yemen’, [Questioner: P Whish-Wilson], Senate, Debates, 13 August 2018.

[94].    P Riordan, ‘Pyne stands ready for jihadi influx’, The Australian, 5 September 2018.

[95].    D Dudley, ‘Why more and more countries are blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE’, Forbes, 7 September 2018.

[96].    B Trew, ‘“Khashoggi’s death was the final straw”: Saudi’s crown prince faces mounting backlash over Istanbul consulate killing’, The Independent, 23 October 2018.

[97].    R Noack, ‘Germany halts arms deals with Saudi Arabia, encourages allies to do the same’, The Washington Post, 22 October 2018.

[98].    D Sayed, ‘Australia must suspend all military exports to Saudi Arabia over brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi’, Amnesty International Australia, 23 October 2018.

[99].    Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, op. cit.

[100]. L Martin, ‘Khashoggi killing: Australia refuses to rule out arms export ban to Saudi Arabia’, The Guardian, 24 October 2017.

[101]. ‘UNHRC: Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council amid concerns of refugee rights abuses’, ABC News online, 17 October 2017.

[102]. R Tanter, ‘Yemen: Australian mercenaries and the shifting sands of Australia-East alliances’, Arena Magazine, August 2018; M Calligeros and AAP, ‘Australian mercenary reportedly killed in Yemen’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 2015; A Roston, ‘A Middle East monarchy hired American ex-soldiers to kill its political enemies. This could be the future of war’, BuzzFeed News, 16 October 2018; E Hager and M Mazzetti, ‘Emirates secretly sends Colombian mercenaries to Yemen fight’, The New York Times, 25 November 2015; D Isenberg, ‘The UAE in Yemen: with a lot of help from its mercs’, The New Arab, 20 June 2018; L Carlsen, ‘Mercenaries in Yemen—the U.S. connection’, Huffington Post, 3 December 2015.

[103]. R Donaghy, ‘Revealed: the mercenaries commanding UAE forces in Yemen’, Middle East Eye, 23 December 2015.

[104]. M Mazzetti and E Hager, ‘Secret desert force set-up by Blackwater’s founder’, The New York Times, 14 May 2011; The New Arab, ‘The UAE is “employing” Blackwater to run its army’, 8 July 2017.

[105]. ‘Q & A on the conflict in Yemen and international law’, Human Rights Watch, 6 April 2015.

[106]. A Roston, ‘This American is a general for a foreign army accused of war crimes in Yemen’, BuzzFeed News, 7 May 2018; R Hamilton and S Knuckey, ‘Time to dust off the war crimes act? – for an American ex-soldier now in command of UAE forces’, Just Security, 9 May 2018.

[107]. I McPhedran, ‘United Arab Emirates poaches former major-general Mike Hindmarsh as security adviser’, Herald Sun, 3 December 2009.

[108]. S McNeill, ‘Retired Australian Major General Mike Hindmarsh faces questions about knowledge of civilian attacks’, 7.30, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), 8 February 2016; M Brull, ‘Why Australia should stop supporting the war in Yemen’, New Matilda, 12 September 2016.

109. Department of Defence, Defence members involved in the war in Yemen, FOI no. 083/18/19, Freedom of Information disclosure log—documents released by Defence, 2018–19.

[110]. Tanter, ‘Yemen: Australian mercenaries and the shifting sands’, op. cit.

111. B Trew, ‘Yemen government agrees to UN peace talks after Houthi leader calls for halt to attacks’, The Independent, 20 November 2018; ‘UN envoy arrives in Sanaa to push for peace talks’, al-Jazeera, 21 November 2018; M Aldroubi, ‘UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrives in Sanaa to lay groundwork for peace talks’, The National (UAE), 21 November 2018.

112. Salisbury, Is the Yemen peace process coming back to life?, op. cit.

113. Juneau, ‘Iran’s policy towards the Houthis’, op. cit., p. 661.

114.  I Ali, ‘Yemen peace talks likely in early December: Mattis’, Reuters, 22 November 2018; N Gaouette, ‘Yemen peace talks set for December, Mattis says’, CNN, 21 November 2018.

115. P Falk, ‘Time “running out” for war-torn Yemen as Saudis delay peace proposal’, CBS News, 20 November 2018; M Kosinski, ‘Saudi crown prince’s “fit” delays UN resolution on war in Yemen’, CNN, 17 November 2018;  J Borger and B Mckernan, ‘UK tables UN security council resolution calling for Yemen truce’, The Guardian, 20 November 2018.

116. B Mckernan, ‘Yemen: Hodeidah sees ‘worst fighting yet’ despite UN ceasefire calls’, The Guardian, 21 November 2018.


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