‘Saudis hitting funeral in Yemen with US and UK munitions a PR disaster’

Smoke rises from the community hall where Saudi-led warplanes struck a funeral in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen on October 9, 2016 © Khaled Abdullah
According to charities on the ground in Yemen, Saudi forces have deliberately targeted hospitals, market places, schools, markets and even refugee camps, Charles Shoebridge, security analyst and former UK counter-terrorism intelligence officer told RT.

Saudi Arabia admitted on Saturday it conducted one of the deadliest air strikes of the Yemeni conflict which killed over 150 people, mostly civilians. It says the attack was based on inaccurate information that armed Houthi leaders were in the area, an investigative body set up by the coalition has concluded.

RT: Will anyone be held to account over what happened do you think?

Charles Shoebridge: It is understandable, I think. If people look at this report, even though we don’t know the full details of it yet, but we know the headline messages that it is intended to get out which is that the Saudis were not responsible, it is somebody else’s fault, some rogue air traffic controller or operations controller in the control room (…) and indeed, not even Saudi-national people connected with the government are named people responsible. But I think it is important to remember the backdrop to this incident which killed and injured so many hundreds of civilians, and that backdrop is of an air campaign mainly by Saudi Arabia ostensibly against Houthi rebels in Yemen over very many months, which, according to the UN is responsible for over two-thirds of around 6,000 civilian deaths that occurred in Yemen and which, according to the charities on the ground, such as MSF and others, has deliberately targeted in their words, hospitals, market places, schools, markets and even refugee camps.

And very few of these incidents have led to such civilian loss of life and those that have been investigated – and it is only a handful - have come to similar conclusions, basically that it was a mistake and this won’t happen again. Let’s not forget in this conflict that these weapons, these bombs, as really confirmed by the findings of what seems to be the remains of the Paveway guided bomb supplied and made by the US in this case at the scene of the funeral attack makes clear that this campaign by the Saudis is almost entirely dependent upon British and American manufactured munitions, which continued to be supplied to this day. British and American assistance in refueling facilities and intelligence gathering and logistics, and even in the control rooms coordinating the targeting.     

RT: Even the Saudis' close ally, the US, has condemned the funeral strike. Are weapons sales to Riyadh at all in jeopardy?

CS: I think there already are a great deal of questions being raised in some parts of the US and the UK media, and certainly online, and MPs and others who are responsible to the constituents have started to raise these kind of questions because it is very difficult to avoid the hypocrisy that is evident in this war, for example, the UK and the US governments and media vehemently condemn the alleged attacks on hospitals facilities in places like Aleppo, if it is alleged that it is Russia or Assad, but they are almost scapegoats. But certainly they don’t put on their front pages or keep on their front pages for very long similar attacks that are taking place using UK and US weapons in Yemen. Therefore, you can also see this inquiry which was largely encouraged by the US and the UK, and they in fact took part in this inquiry in an attempt to legitimize it. Of course, it is a PR disaster for the UK and the US that this kind of strike happened at this funeral and now they see the calling of an inquiry and this kind of conclusion in inquiry as a way of managing the damage in terms of PR that this strike caused.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.