Yemen’s fog of war explained

The capital of Yemen. Image Source: "San'a03 flickr" by ai@ce - Flickr.

The capital of Yemen.
Image Source: “San’a03 flickr” by ai@ce – Flickr.

Sana’a, Yemen (nsnbc) – Utility can explain even the strangest bedfellows. The thickening fog of war  in and about Yemen demonstrates that utilitarianism, a.k.a “Realpolitik” has greater explanatory power than the Propaganda that is being spewed out by all of the directly and indirectly belligerent parties.

The Saudi Arabia-led Arab League endorsed alliance against Houthi rebels in Yemen continues with air raids while latest intelligence suggests that Saudi Arabia may prepare for a ground offensive. Egypt may deploy a limited number of ground troops, although Egypt’s objectives don’t coincide with those of Saudi Arabia. For Egypt it is vital to secure that nobody who is hostile to Egypt gains control over the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and thus can threaten to disrupt traffic through the Suez Canal.

While Saudi Arabia has absolute air superiority, it may risk being dragged into a protracted ground war against a battle hardened Houthi rebel militia that despite all denials from Tehran is being supported by Iranian “military advisers”.

Western analyst’s confusion or denial about the presence of some hundred Iranian “military advisers” is mainly caused due to the fact that only very few of them ever use media in Parsi or conduct direct interviews and investigative journalism; The majority would rather use PRESS TV or FARS as sources. Both are, arguably, as credible as “The Voice of America” or “Radio Free Asia”.

The new Saudi government, for its part, is well aware of the fact that Washington is re-aligning itself with Qatar, that Tehran and Qatar are mending ties, that NATO member Turkey is closely aligned with Qatar and Israel (despite all rhetoric) and that Shi’ite militia in south-eastern Saudi Arabia are not exactly without communications with the Houthi or Tehran either.

In 2009 -10 the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels the Gulf Kingdom’s military lost some 200 troops before it left Yemen again. The Saudi-led war is, in so many words, not merely a war in “its backyard, Yemen”, but very much a war that aims at quelling domestic unrest and insurgents in an environment that becomes increasingly hostile to the absolute monarchy Saudi Arabia – the USA tentatively included.

Houthi spokespersons are confident that they have the strategic edge in a ground war, even if it includes a few token U.S. troops, who, arguably, would serve U.S. interests more than they would serve the interests of Saudi Arabia or, certainly, the interests of Egypt. Bombing the Houthi militia into submission is not likely to be a successful military strategy either.

Thus far, the still legal, but not necessarily “legitimate” government of Yemen has waged six wars against Shi’ite Houthi in the northern highlands of Yemen between 2002 – 2009. None of these campaigns has shown any decisive military success, but it has, according to many outraged Yemeni MPs, Houthi as well as Yemen’s military and police strengthened Al-Qaeda’s position in the country and sabotaged rather than supported the Yemeni military’s fight against Al-Qaeda. All that, with a helping hand from Washington.

The Houthi military success was foreseeable, not because of the few hundred Iranian military “advisers”,but because the people of Yemen were more than tired of puppet regimes. Ironically, one may ask the question whose puppet a Houthi regime would become.

Ali Abdullah Saleh governed Yemen for three decades before the so-called Arab Spring led to his ouster in 2012. The Saudi and half-heartedly U.S. backed President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for his part, largely continued Saleh’s uncompromising policies which didn’t merely outrage the Houthi, but led to sharp criticism from Yemen’s parliament that effectively has no other than advisory powers.

The USA decided to deploy two naval vessels while Tehran deployed two vessels last week. Several analysts would tout the presence of both Iranian and US vessels as a possible seed for a direct confrontation between Iran and the USA, forgetting that Iran, the USA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and several European countries have had a naval presence in the region for years.

Whoever controls the Arab Sea controls two of the world’s most important waterways and no military strategists, anywhere, are foolish enough not to recognize that as a matter of fact.

Ironically, Yemen’s Al-Qaeda militants are part of the informal coalition against the Houthi. Anybody who is informed about the genesis of Al-Qaeda as Saudi / US utility that can be used as either friend or foe would not be surprised.

What is surprising, however, is that many so-called “analysts” appear to analyze the situation in Yemen is if Tehran had no regional ambitions or economic and security objectives at all – pipelines across the Persian/Arab Gulf included.

Meanwhile, the Security Council called on an immediate end to hostilities. Houthi representatives would say that anyone, the Security Council included, who endorses the bombing of Yemen would have to answer to the people of Yemen.

Looking at the track record of this most August Security Council one must conclude that the post-WW II victor’s instrument for carving out global hegemonic zones answers to nobody. It didn’t function when Yemen was fighting a proxy cold war civil war, and it is equally defunct today where the pretext has shifted from socialism vs capitalism to a sectarian discourse.

The fate of the people of Yemen is that the region’s poorest nation is located at two of the world’s most strategically important waters.

Whoever controls the Arabian Sea controls the Suez Canal and the Persian / Arab Gulf. That is what Yemen is about. No degree of denial or propaganda can cover-up the fact that everyone, Saudi Arabia, the USA, EU, NATO, China, Russia, Egypt or Iran all have a stake in the region. Period!


Author: Christof Lehmann

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