Everything is Over in Saad’a
The ruins carpeted the city market, rippling outwards in waves of destruction. Broken beams, collapsed roofs, exploded metal shutters and fossilised merchandise crumbled underfoot.
In one of the burnt-out shells of the shops where raisins, nuts, fabrics, incense and stone pots were traded for hundreds of years, all that was to be found was a box of coke bottles, a sofa and a child nailing wooden sticks together.
This is Sa’ada, ground zero of the 20-month Saudi campaign in Yemen, a largely forgotten conflict that has killed more than 10,000, uprooted 3 million and left perhaps 14 million – more than half the country – short of food, many on the brink of starvation.
When the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, spoke recently – and controversially – about Saudi Arabia and its proxy wars in the Middle East, this is the sort of thing he was talking about. The glib way to understand this is as a remote-controlled war between the Saudis, supporting the ousted government.
But nothing in Yemen is ever that straightforward. There are separatists and tribesmen and army units. There are US drones targeting jihadis. And, standing beside the Saudis at the air campaign HQ, are UK military advisers. Johnson didn’t mention them.