0801 GMT December 11, 2019
Saudi Arabia has been longing to become the leader of the Muslim Ummah or at least that of the Arab world. After Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Arab kingdom chose to realize its ambitions in this regard. First, Riyadh and other Arab allies funded former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with their petrodollars in his all-out war against Iran. It aimed to garner a reputation by defeating Iran but it failed to do so. In the post-war era, bilateral ties gradually improved until the time of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During that time Saudi Arabia had the opportunity to materialize its long-held ambition by encouraging the US to invade Iran.
But Saudi Arabia's ambition was totally frustrated after President Hassan Rouhani came to power with a new approach. Outraged by its failure to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a possible rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, Riyadh decided to retaliate by invading Yemen. The US, feeling indebted to Saudi Arabia over Iran's nuclear energy program and the crisis in Syria, has turned a blind eye to Saudi's crimes in Yemen and even supports the military operation there as it does with Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.
Under international law, a country can ask for military support from a partner when it is attacked by another country. But domestic affairs of a country cannot provide the excuse for invading it. Because this way all dictators can make a military deal with other countries to protect their rule against any popular uprising which runs against pillars of democracy and is a flagrant breach of human rights and freedom.
In Yemen, a segment of the society, whose rights were trampled upon for decades, took up arms and rose against dictatorship and managed to bring much of the country under control. The turmoil in Yemen is totally domestic and the UN Security Council or is neighbors can only play the role of a mediator to facilitate a reconciliation there. But killing civilians in bombardments under illegitimate excuses is nothing but a war crime that can be proceduted by international tribunals.
This is not the first time Saudi Arabia invade a country. Following a revolution in Bahrain in 2011, Saudi forces were deployed to the tiny Persian Gulf island to help quell the popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty. Saudi Arabia should be held accountable for both invasions during which hundreds of innocent people have been killed.
The US invaded Iraq in 2001 years after two devastating wars waged by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against Iran and Kuwait during which Saddam used chemical and biological weapons against Iranian forces. The US attacked Iraq to remove Saddam who had committed crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing and allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. But in Yemen, the Saudi-led aggression is neither after toppling a war criminal, nor protecting Yemenis against a foreign enemy, nor authorized by the UNSC.
According to the UNSC, invasion of a country is a violation of global peace and punishable by sanctions and military action. Saudi Arabia can be subject to UNSC resolutions over its invasion of Yemen.
Iranian lawyers can launch a campaign to protest such a blatant violation of international law and unmask Saudi aggressors by exposing their atrocities to the world. Saudi war crimes in Yemen can be compared to those of Israel in occupied Palestinian territories. Neither value people's lives an iota when it comes to their political ambitions and expansionist policies.
In Syria and Iraq, in spite of the fact that armed groups, like the ISIL and the Al-Nusra Front, have been recognized as terrorists by the international community, Iran never took the role of Iraqi and Syrian armies to directly fight them, but merely helped Baghdad and Damascus in their battle against them as part of efforts to combat terrorism. Therefore, Saudi Arabia and its allies cannot justify their invasion of Yemen by arguing that they are following the example of Iran in Iraq and Syria.
*Khorram is an advisor to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.