20150622

Yemen: Saudi-led Attack an Ideological Debacle

"These constant reports that the Houthis are working for the Iranians are nonsense, but the view is right out of the neocon playbook. The Israelis have been touting this line that we lost Yemen to Iran. That’s absurd. The Houthis don’t need Iranian weapons. They have plenty of their own. And they don’t require military training. They’ve been fighting Al-Qaeda since at least 2012, and they’ve been winning. Why are we fighting a movement that’s fighting Al-Qaeda?” — Michael Horton, Yemen expert

Since March of 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies have been bombing Houthi forces in Yemen. Their intent was to reinstall a democratically elected President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

However, the idea was bad from the beginning and despite supplying logistics and intelligence, the US was not an active player in the 9-state Arab coalition.

Overall, the consensus is that the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have killed mostly women and children. Political interference from Saudi Arabia has led to the failed Geneva peace talks, recently concluded on June 19, 2015.

However, the important thing to remember is that the US only provides logistics and intelligence to the coalition of 9 Arab states involved in one of the biggest humanitarian crises since the mainstream media labeled the 2011 Libya Civil War a humanitarian crisis.

Libya gives us an idea of the aftermath of that foreign policy. However it is a unique situation and different from the situation in Syria and Yemen, both of which have the perceived ideological threat of Iran and Hezbollah to Saudi Arabian government hegemony.

Yet the situation in Syria is different from Libya because the Assad government is also perceived as an economic threat. Four years after Arab Spring, Syria still has a functioning government.

According to what I have read online about the Yemen attack, the Saudi-led coalition attacked Yemen while implementing Riyadh's foreign policy in the Middle East. Its strategy is to attack a perceived threat, and to let other nations handle the fallout once the enemy turns out to be a formidable opponent.

Meanwhile it continues a propaganda campaign against the enemy and sends in militants loyal to Riyadh to terrorize the threat. When peace talks occur, the Saudi Arabian government will use its influence to frustrate a peace deal.

However, no foreign policy analyst or diplomat in the West is buying the idea that Iran and Hezbollah are as equal a threat as the Islamic State.

Here are recent events of note for June 2015:

According to a news report from Tehran as of June 9, 2015, Saudi Arabia is deploying pro Hadi extremists near border areas with Yemen. These extremists are purportedly in the guise of Bahraini soldiers. Additionally, the Saudi government is bribing Najran sheikhs to dissuade support for Yemeni forces.

On June 14, the Tehran source cites a UAE news website that Saudi Arabia is facing few options in Yemen which shall force them to accept Ansarullah's rule over Sana'a, the capitol of Yemen. Ansarullah is the Shiite movement which overthrew the Saudi-backed Yemen government of President Hadi, who was ousted out of power back in January 2015.

Recently on June 19, Press TV reported that Yemen's Ansarullah — aka the Houthis — said that its demands were not met in Geneva peace talks, due to interference by Saudi Arabia.

What good is peace talks when Saudi Arabia runs interference to prevent Ansarullah from getting what it wants from the peace deal, all because it fears Iran's influence in Yemen? Yet it is doubtful that Iran is in Yemen.

As well, the IRIB French Radio reported on June 19 that Iran and Russia advocate the immediate end of attacks against Yemen.

Both Russia and Iran support the Geneva peace talks on Yemen, and demand the military attacks end immediately so that the ceasefire may be established to enable sending humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Timeline on the 2014-2015 Yemeni Coup D'état (based on mainstream media reports, via wikipedia)

Back in January 2015, the Houthis, a Shi'ite Muslim minority group, had radicalized to the point where they ousted the Saudi-backed Yemen government of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. At that point, the US government was still in talks with them.

After the situation deteriorated further, Saudi Arabia decided to launch an attack on Yemen.

When the Al Saud attack on Yemen to bring Hadi back to power began in March 2015, the US provided logistics and intelligence to the coalition of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan).

That coalition was deployed to prevent Yemen from becoming a Shi'a dominated state. This problem started back in September 2004 when Saudi feared that the Shi'a Muslim Houthi movement could become a problem in Yemen and used force to assassinate its leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi.

Originally al-Houthi was a member of the Yemeni Zaydi political party Al-Haqq (The Truth). After the party supported South Yemen separatism, they were targeted by the Yemeni government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. In response, the al-Houthi family (al-Houthi, his father Badr al-Din Tabatabai, and his younger brother Abd al-Malik) fled Yemen, first to Syria, and eventually settled in Qom, Iran. Reportedly al-Houthi formed a relationship with Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader.

In the 1990s Hussein established the Believing Youth (BY) movement to promote a Zaidi revival in Saada to counter the dominance by Saudi-backed Yemeni regime since unification. Originally the BY movement was a moderate theological movement which preached tolerance with a broad-minded view of Yemeni people. After 1995, over 17,500 students had attended BY summer camps, which included lectures by Lebanese Shiite scholar Mohammed Hussein Fadhlallah and Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Lebanon's Hezbollah Party.

Then 911 happened.

As a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Ansarullah was radicalized by the influence of Hussein al-Houthi. Youths affiliated with Believing Youth chanted anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans in the Saleh Mosque in the Yemen capitol city of Sana'a after Friday Prayers. This attracted the attention of the Yemeni authorities who were worried of the extent of the al-Houthi movement's influence.

So they arrested 800 BY supporters in Sana'a in 2004. Then Yemen President Saleh issued an invitation to Hussein al-Houthi to a meeting in the capitol which Hussein declined. In response, Saleh ordered Hussein's arrest in June 2004. This resulted in an anti-government insurgency by al-Houthi, which led to his death in September 2004.

Most of the insurgency was over by 2010 when both the Houthis and the Yemen government agreed to a cease-fire. Arab Spring in 2011 led to the 2011 Yemeni Revolution and the ensuing National Dialogue Conference, both of which Houthis were a participant. Yet their rejection of the provisions of the Gulf Cooperation Council deal meant that the revolution was not over.

Meanwhile, President Saleh is deposed in 2011 and his Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is made President in 2012.

By May 2012 the Houthis control most of Saada, Al Jawf and Hajjah governates, and have also gained access to the Red Sea. By the end of 2014 they control most of Sana'a and other towns such as Rada'. In response, a strong challenge for control of the region is made by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

At this point it is apparent that Iran was giving aid to the Houthis and that Saudi Arabia was aiding various militant groups such as AQAP and Islamic State.

In January 2015 the Houthis seized the presidential palace in Sana'a. During this takeover, President Hadi was present in the palace but left unharmed. By February, the Houthi Revolutionary Committee dissolved parliament and declared itself the acting authority in Yemen.

In retaliation, March 2015 saw the al-Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques come under suicide attack during midday prayers by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (now Islamic State).

On March 25, 2015 Saudi Arabia and a coalition of nine Arab states begin airstrikes in neighbouring Yemen.

Finally on April 21, 2015, the operation is declared over. However, the aftermath is still ongoing.

Behind the scenes, it turns out that former President Saleh is working as one of the leaders of the Yemeni coup d-etat led by the Shi'a Muslim Houthi militants. Tribesmen and government forces aligned with Saleh have allied with the Houthis.

Saudi Arabian diplomats failed to persuade Russia to abandon its support for the Assad government in Syria, and Riyadh is now containing a potential media fallout over its exposure.

References:

Background on Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabian-led_intervention_in_Yemen
Background on Yemen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemen
Background on Ansarullah aka Houthis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houthis
Background on al-Houthi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein_Badreddin_al-Houthi
Background on Saleh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Abdullah_Saleh
Background on Hadi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_Rabbuh_Mansur_Hadi
Background on South Yemen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Yemen
Background on North Yemen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Yemen
Background on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda_in_the_Arabian_Peninsula
Background on ISIS/ISIL/IS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Levant

US generals: Saudi intervention in Yemen ‘a bad idea’: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/17/us-generals-think-saudi-strikes-in-yemen-a-bad-idea.html

The Huthis: from Saada to Sana'a: http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-iran-gulf/yemen/154-the-huthis-from-saada-to-sanaa.aspx

Pentagon: US officials in communication with Yemen’s Houthis: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/16668-pentagon-us-officials-in-communication-with-yemens-houthis

U.S. Backs Saudi-Led Yemeni Bombing With Logistics, Spying: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-26/yemeni-bombing-led-by-saudis-is-backed-by-u-s-logistics-spying

Saudi Arabia is deploying pro Hadi extremists near border areas with Yemen: https://piazzadcara.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/riyadh-deploys-pro-hadi-extremists-near-border-areas-in-guise-of-bahraini-soldiers-saudi-govt-bribing-najran-sheikhs-to-dissuade-support-for-yemeni-forces/

UAE Website: S. Arabia Facing Few Options in Yemen Forced to Accept Ansarullah: https://piazzadcara.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/uae-website-s-arabia-facing-few-options-in-yemen-forced-to-accept-ansarullah/

Yemen's Ansarullah says its demands not met in Geneva peace talks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0_833cJBlE

Yemen’s Ansarullah, Political Factions: Saudi Derailed Geneva Peace Talks
http://www.almanar.com.lb/english/adetails.php?fromval=1&cid=23&frid

Iran and Russia advocate the immediate cessation of attacks against Yemen (French):
http://french.irib.ir/info/moyen-orient/item/373318-l%E2%80%99iran-et-la-russie-pr%C3%B4nent-l%E2%80%99arr%C3%AAt-imm%C3%A9diat-des-attaques-contre-le-y%C3%A9men

Deprived of Checkbook Diplomacy in Yemen and Syria, Saudi Arabia Flounders:
http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/06/26/deprived-of-checkbook-diplomacy-in-yemen-and-syria-saudi-arabia-flounders/

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