12:19 GMT +315 October 2018
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    Pivot to Asia

    Is Yemen The Saudis’ Vietnam?

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    John Harrison
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    The war in Yemen is continuing, and a constant stream of civilians are being bombed alive in war crimes which we don’t want to hear about. Why is this war in the poorest Middle Eastern country dragging on for so long and why are Western powers involved?

    Brecht Jonkers, a journalist for Al-Masdar News joins the program.

    There seem to be two conflicts going on at the same time. One involves the US working with its allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to eliminate Al Qaeda (AQAP) in the Arabian Peninsula. The other seems to be aimed in winning the civil war against the Houthis. In that fight, are AQAP militants on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition, and by extension, the US. Brecht says: "The US may not be directly negotiating with Al Qaeda forces directly in the Arab Peninsular, however it is undeniable that Al Qaeda is supporting the Arab Coalition which of course is being supported by the US. I found it very interesting last week when suddenly the Western media started waking up to the shocking news that Al Qaeda is on the side of the Saudis in Yemen. I found it surprising that anybody was surprised about it! For journalists and analysts who have been following this conflict closely, for the past few years, they have been saying this already for years, this has been known at the very least since 2017. Last May, in May 2017, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arab peninsular said publicly that he had the active support of the Saudi coalition… The Al Qaeda group in the Arab Peninsula is the most dangerous group of Al Qaeda in the world. Several of them have been tried for involvement in international terrorist attacks, including 9/11 and attacks in Europe and yet, despite all of this, now we find out that Al Qaeda members have been openly colluding with the Saudis and thus the Americans have been openly colluding with these violent terrorists in order to destroy what they call the Houthis in Yemen. This is basically the story of uniting with the devil. The Saudis have actually said that: ‘we are willing to unite with the devil to defeat what they call the Houthis."

    The official government which control part of Yemen has also been recruiting soldiers from Al Qaeda. Brecht comments: ‘It is unbelievable when you look at this from the outside, but if you look at history, this is very much the way the imperial powers have operated in the Middle East. The Americans have been doing this sort of thing in Syria when they said that they are going to defeat ISIS, they supported so called ‘moderate' rebels who later turned out to be, in many cases, Al Qaeda… I don't think the regime in Yemen that is supported by Saudi Arabia to be a government anymore… What we call the Houthis is now the new government of Yemen, they control the capital and the territory where 17 million of the total Yemen population of 27 million." Brecht describes the war as being farcical. "Based on AP interviews with commanders, it seems that a lot of the territory which they have liberated from Al Qaeda, has been gained without fighting for it. They simply bribed the Al Qaeda forces to let them leave with their weapons, everything intact, and then the Saudi coalition moved into the empty towns and declared them liberated. And of course these terrorists are still alive, they just went a bit deeper into the desert with a lot more money than they had before. The American government knows that it cannot tell the American people that we are going to war against the tribes in Yemen, because that sounds like a bad reason to go to war, instead they were going to war against Al Qaeda, but end up fighting somebody else…"

    There seems to be an attempt being made currently to link the Houthis with Iran. Bracht comments: "Any claim of Iranian support to the Houthis is a complete and absolute lie. There has never ever been any shred of evidence provided by the Saudis or their allies or the US in this regard. Last week with the Saudi murder of the 50 children when a school bus was bombed, even then, you see the media, condemning it and then they say that this is a war between Saudi Arabia and the Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Yemen has been under complete lock-down since 2015, there is a naval blockade, a land blockade there is even an aerial blockade, even the United nations cannot enter Yemen with the Saudis giving them permission, so how is it possible for Iranian ships or planes to get through? This is one of the biggest blockades in history and it is very tightly enforced. The only reason a connection is made with Iran is because Iran is a Shia country and the Houthis movement is also Shia, but even that is not completely correct because they are different branches of Shia… The only connection there is that Iran has expressed sympathy for the Houthis. That is where the link stops."

    The fact that the US is now imposing sanctions on Iran, could be seen as an indication that it is also prepared to take more extreme actions against Yemen, because an association between Yemen and Iran has been made in the Western press. "This is already happening. Saudi Arabia with direct support from the US and the UK has committed serious war crimes over last three years, this goes further than the massive arms deals with Saudi Arabia that the Americans have made. We know now for a fact that Americans are directly involved in the control rooms for the Saudi air strikes. There are American and British military personal involved in deciding when and where to strike. The Americans claim that this is usually limited to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, but it is not hard to see that this is also used against both forces in N.Yemen. There is a growing movement in the Middle East which is inspired by Iran, because it is the strongest Islamic power in the region that is very strictly anti-imperialist, anti-Wahabis and very insistent on following their own sovereign course, and this is one of the things that has scared the US very much. That is why they feel that they are prepared to do anything that is necessary to destroy this. Using Saudi Arabia in Yemen is a very practical way for the Americans to handle the problem. The Saudis are running out of oil, they know they have to expand into other areas of economic activity and of great importance is the very strategically place port of Aden. The Saudis have ideological, sectarian and economic reasons to be involved in Yemen, and the Americans have their own imperialist reasons to be involved there as well."

    The Yemen war seems to be almost unwinnable. Al Qaeda says its numbers — which US officials have estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 members — are rising. An Al Qaeda commander who helps organize deployments told the AP that the front lines against the Houthis provide fertile ground to recruit new members. "Meaning, if we send 20, we come back with 100," he said. "The war will probably go on until the public in the West changes its mind. The Saudis are fighting against the poorest country in the Middle East but yet after three years they still have not won. This is a Vietnam situation, even the territories like the port of Aden which the Saudis control are in fact complete no-man's lands. There are areas in which Al Qaeda is active, it is a region that South Yemenis separatist rebels are active, a region in which other Sunny extremist organizations which are not related to Al Qaeda but have their own objectives are active as well, we have tribal alliances fighting each other over small pieces of land, you have small factions related to ISIS active in this region, so when it comes to stability and nation building, the Saudis are completely failing. The Saudis will keep on fighting until they are defeated or they will retreat. This seems unlikely, as the Yemenis are fighting vastly superior forces, however the Houthis are now developing their own missile technologies."

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    Tags:
    Yemen civil war, al Qaeda, Aden, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
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