Washington’s Saudi ally bombs Yemen
March 30 — The Gulf Cooperation Council, under Saudi Arabia’s direction, announced on March 26 that it began bombing Ansurallah positions in Yemen.
At the same time, the Egyptian regime, product of a July 2013 military coup that ousted a Muslim-Brotherhood-led elected government, has taken steps toward forming a regional military force to intervene in the North African-Western Asian region.
Behind these aggressive moves by regional powers is Washington’s military escalation in the entire region, aimed at expanding the corporate, financial and strategic interests of the U.S. super-rich.
Earlier in March the Obama administration announced plans to keep a large occupation force in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the NATO-led war of regime-change continues in Syria where Islamic State fighters and other opposition groups seek to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon has bombed inside Iraq and in neighboring Syria, and has deployed more than 3,100 U.S. troops to train the Iraqi army. Such “advisers” often pave the road to a land invasion.
Like George W. Bush before him, Obama is using Pentagon terror to promote U.S. imperialist interests. With the U.S. military tied up with airstrikes and ground operations in Iraq and Syria, the administration is attempting to utilize regional pro-Western regimes to implement bombing campaigns and ground invasions designed to support U.S. interests — without using large numbers of U.S. ground troops.
U.S. foreign policy destabilizes Yemen
The Saudi bombing operation represents the collapse of U.S. foreign policy in Yemen. Recently, the Pentagon withdrew 100 special forces and diplomatic personnel. Jeff Rathke, U.S. State Department spokesperson, said, “Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the U.S. government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.” (BBC, March 25)
Rathke stressed that the Obama administration would continue to support the state’s “political transition” and monitor “terrorist threats” emerging from Yemen, the most underdeveloped country in the region.
Saudi Arabia occupies a vast territory with a population of 31 million people and enormous oil wealth concentrated in the royal family. The Saudi military buys hundreds of billions of dollars worth of U.S.-manufactured warplanes and other armaments. Impoverished Yemen’s territory on the southeast corner of the Arabian peninsula is only one-quarter that of Saudi Arabia, but Yemen’s population is large, at 25 million.
The Pentagon’s withdrawal from al-Anad air base occurred March 20 after an alleged offensive by al-Qaida fighters in nearby al-Houta. Reportedly, al-Qaida was soon forced to retreat from the city as a result of Yemen’s military forces’ defensive operations.
Pentagon military forces stationed at the base were conducting training operations for Yemeni soldiers allegedly to support their fight against al-Qaida. For years now the U.S. has engaged in drone attacks, targeted assassinations and other efforts aimed at suppressing any popular uprisings.
The Gulf Cooperation Council consists of all the oil-rich reactionary monarchies of the Gulf, including Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia. The Saudi monarchy has framed the current conflict as a battle against Iranian influence in Yemen. Saudi aerial bombardments have killed and injured dozens of Yemeni civilians.
The Ansurallah movement, more commonly known as Houthi, has been in conflict with the Western-backed Yemeni government for more than a decade.
Western media frame the struggle in Yemen, which involves the Houthi movement, as a proxy war guided by Saudi forces on the government side battling Iranian influence. Because the Saudi ruling class is Sunni and the Iranians are Shiite, this proxy war exacerbates sectarian hostility in the entire region and increases overall instability. Washington treats Saudi Arabia as a friendly client and supplies — mainly sells — weapons and military and intelligence support to its ruling family.
In addition to the struggle of Houthi fighters against President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, a secessionist movement is rising in Yemen’s South, where a socialist-oriented republic existed between 1967 and the late 1980s. Large demonstrations were recently held where the flag was flown of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.
Recent events in Yemen
Houthi fighters took over Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, in September, including the parliament. Recently, they took over Taiz. Saudi Arabia took action when the Houthi movement was about to launch a major offensive in the southern port city of Aden.
The International Organization for Migration announced on March 30 that 45 people were killed and 65 others wounded in air attacks on a displaced persons’ camp in the country’s northwest. (AFP)
Pablo Marco, Doctors without Borders operational manager in Yemen, said civilian bodies and people injured in the airstrike were taken to Haradh Hospital near the camp in Hajja province. (pressTV, March 30)
Press TV also reported that the al-Mazrak camp has sheltered Yemenis displaced by conflicts, which have intensified since 2009, calling the camp’s bombing an escalation of the Saudi operation: “The airstrikes began late Sunday (March 29) and continued unabated for almost nine hours. … Riyadh says it has launched the airstrikes, the first round of which was carried out on March 26, to defend the ‘legitimate government’ of Yemen’s fugitive president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who fled to the Saudi capital on the same day. Riyadh has vowed to press ahead with the bombing until Hadi is reinstated.”
The Saudi monarchy has intervened in Yemen before, seeking to bolster former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government. He was forced to resign after a nationwide uprising in 2011.
Recent reports suggest that Yemeni military forces loyal to Saleh have opposed Saudi airstrikes and are working with Houthi fighters. This alliance has given Houthi forces a decisive advantage in their offensive in the country’s south. (New York Times, March 25)
Houthis are a Zaidi Shiite group located in Yemen. The movement takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who launched an uprising in 2004 and reportedly was killed by Yemeni army forces that September. Led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the movement made substantial gains beginning in September 2014 and continuing through today.
Egypt calls for regional military force
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi presented a proposal to the Arab League Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on March 28 to establish a regional military force that would intervene in states facing internal conflicts.
Saudi airstrikes will not be enough to halt the Houthi fighters’ advances or to stabilize the security situation in Yemen based on U.S. interests. Al-Manar Television of Lebanon reported March 29 that Saudi Arabia is deploying thousands of Islamic Sunni rebels to fight against the Houthi movement.
Al-Manar noted, “Five Persian Gulf States — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — backed by the U.S. have declared war on Yemen in a joint statement. … U.S. President Barack Obama authorized … logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said. … She added that while U.S. forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, Washington was establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.”
During the Arab League’s summit, Egyptian President Al-Sisi argued that a regional force was essential to “defend our [Arab] nation.” (Washington Post, March 30) His Egyptian military regime, however, has been hostile to Palestinian Arabs and has cooperated with Israel, especially by locking down the border to Gaza.
Since the bulk of arms and intelligence sharing for such a regional force in Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council will be provided by the Pentagon, it will be able to carry out only those actions that are in accord with Washington and Wall Street’s foreign policy aims.
Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire, where a version of this article was originally published.