Lancashire MP: Iran-backed rebels responsible for Yemen crisis

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones (Picture: Chris McAndrew)
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones (Picture: Chris McAndrew)
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The chairman of a committee that scrutinises British arms sales has blamed Iranian-backed rebels for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, in the wake of an international row over Saudi Arabia's role in the brutal conflict.

Labour's Graham Jones said responsibility for the spiralling emergency lay with Tehran-backed Ansar Allah rebels and likened their missile attacks on Saudi targets to Nazi V2 attacks on Britain in the Second World War.

Mr Jones, who chairs the Commons Committees on Arms Exports Controls (CAEC), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that, environmental issues aside, the well-armed Houthi group "represent the greatest threat on the planet now".

He said: "You talk about the humanitarian disaster of course. This is caused by Ansar Allah.

"If you read the ambassadors at the UN and the unanimous decision to back the Hadi government, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that the way we find peace and security is to stop the Ansar Allah advance into other tribal areas and the oppression that goes with it."

Saudi Arabia has come in for heavy criticism in recent days, weeks and months over its role in the Yemeni civil war. This includes the deadly bombing of a bus carrying school children, and another attack that targeted a wedding.

In recent days it has faced increased political pressure, including from the United States, following the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Turkey.

Many countries, including allies like Britain, have urged it to find a quick solution to the conflict, but apart from Germany have yet to halt arms sales.

Some of the most strident criticism has come from Labour, with frontbench figures including party leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing to end Saudi arms sales if it is elected.

CAEC is an overarching committee which brings together four select committees - defence, foreign affairs, international trade and international development - that have an interest in the arms trade as part of their scrutiny role.

Mr Jones, who represents Hyndburn in east Lancashire, told Today that the Saudis were themselves under attack by rebels with "hi-tech missiles".

He said: "The Iran-backed rebels, with hi-tech missiles. Ansar Allah, in my view, represent the greatest threat on the planet now in the way that they are trying to take over the Yemeni government ... apart from environmental issues."

He added: "We had, what, 1,300 V2 rockets fired into the UK during World War Two?

"The Saudis have now faced over 200 long-range ballistic missiles, Iranian-made missiles.

"That is a very serious issue."

He criticised Riyadh for attacks on a school bus and a wedding, labelling them a "disgrace" and saying the bombing campaign was "aggressive and it needs to ease off".

But he added: "It just happens to be that every other nation has decided not to send a military element to Yemen and the Arab coalition have.

"It doesn't mean we support the Arab coalition but what we do support though is international law and that was a unanimous decision at the UN and that's the position that we hold."