In Seth Ferris’ NEO article on Yemen back in April it was suggested that the only reason the US suddenly withdrew from Yemen, after staying there through thick and thin, was because the US had only taken over the country to supply arms to terrorists. Now it is back – its warships are patrolling the coast so that it can maintain a military presence in another form, having yet to be embarrassed by the stolen military files which Ferris claims will prove his case.
It is these warships which are being attacked by the Houthis. These are the people the US claims looted those millions of dollars of weapons which mysteriously vanished. So anything can be blamed on them, because they are covered by a previous official story.
However, no one has yet provided a clear link between these attacks and the rebels. Remains of American munitions have been found, but these were not necessarily looted ones. Nor were they found near the warships: most conveniently, they were found like discarded foreign passports in the rubble of factories, hospitals, bridges and power stations attacked by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, not the rebels. This stunt is so blatant that even the New York Times is prepared to report it.
We remember that earlier this year the U.S. military launched cruise missiles at radar sites along Yemen’s Red Sea coast, after its ships were supposedly targeted by missiles fired from rebel-controlled areas. Therefore the justification for making more cruise missile attacks is simply sending warships to the coast during a time of conflict. Apparently the last cruise missile attacks didn’t work, because the rebels are still shooting, despite the deadly effect of cruise missiles highlighted so effectively by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament during its various waves of mass support.
This suggests that neither the attacks on the warships or the US response were real, yet more false flags in support of failed US regional policy and the election campaign for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
This whole story looks too bad to be true. Looted weapons which no one saw being looted, convenient enemies, an ongoing conflict the next president has no choice but to support the military in – Yemen is currently able to provide it all, without the long discussions which would take place if the same was happening in more debated hotspots like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. These attacks suit too many of the wrong people to be taken seriously – unless you happen to be Yemeni, but as ever the people the US claims to be doing these things for are the least important part of the equation.
Blame it on Iran
The USS Mason, a destroyer of the US 6th fleet, allegedly came under attack by the Houthis not once, not twice, but three times within days. The US has struck back by targeting and destroying radar sites in Houthi territory, if reports are to be believed.
The missiles used against US warships are claimed to be Iranian Zafzlal III models. Of course they are – the US public and politicians are used to denouncing Iran, as they have been brought up to take that as a default position.
If the word “Iran” is associated with something controversial, like the gas heater that supposedly killed the former Georgian PM during the George W. Bush presidency, that is supposed to explain it all. Particularly when we understand that Alarabiya is a pro-Saudi site with a long history of trying to implicate Iran in everything.
Older heads can recall the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, in which two attacks were allegedly made on a US destroyer by a North Vietnamese patrol boat. The second never happened, and the first was misreported as an attack by the Vietnamese boats, in whose territorial waters the destroyer was trespassing, whereas in fact the US fired first.
These false attacks led to President Johnson being given the legal justification to launch open warfare against North Vietnam. This famously led to crowds following him everywhere chanting “LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
Gulf of Tonkin showed how is easy it is for a US president who presses the right verbal buttons to manufacture consent for his actions. The Houthis are a little-known and little understood force, and can thus be presented in any way the US State Department wants. All the vast majority of Americans are aware of is that they are Muslim separatists who are on the other side to the US, but that makes them a fair target as they are trying to destroy the American way of life, democracy and human rights.
Perhaps Yemenis don’t aspire to the American way of life, even if they want the commercial benefits. But the US has to believe that everyone does to explain it own success, which would be a far more difficult process than assuming it is the product of some moral superiority.
Shacking-up of convenience
Saudi Arabia needs US support in Yemen because its adventures there have put the Saudi state itself at risk. The Yemen war has deeply damaged the Saudis, exposing the incompetence of both the military and the House of Saud—to the point that there is a risk it will cause a civil insurrection which will split the country in two. The eastern half, where Mecca and Medina are, wants to break away, as its inhabitants are from a completely separate tribal grouping to those of the eastern half, where the gilded rulers live.
The US took advantage of that situation to enter Yemen and make it the regional dirty tricks capital. It is not going to leave until it has found another, as we saw when it stayed in Georgia, with a president it was happy to get rid of, until it could start moving its operations to Ukraine using the same individuals.
The US still has a free hand in Yemen because the Saudis don’t have any other friends, apart from Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai, which are also run by despotic dynasties. Troops from those nations have fought alongside the Saudis in Yemen but have been no more effective than the Saudi troops, being nothing more than fodder for the Houthi’s cannons. So the US has no reason to leave, which is what made its sudden withdrawal after those documents were stolen all the more suspicious.
But the US still has to manufacture consent not only to stay there, but justify its previous actions to its own public. If they were undertaken as part of a friendly intervention, this would be one thing. If US ships are attacked by Iranian weapons, this transforms the opponent into a known enemy and forces the US to intervene as a combatant in its own right. It also deflects any attention from how we got to this point – which can be excoriating, as Tony Blair has recently found to his cost.
This desire also explains recent “independent” Saudi actions towards Iran. A senior Iranian military official has recently accused Israel and Saudi Arabia of collaborating on a plot to stir insurrection within the Islamic Republic. “We have thorough intelligence that Al Saud, in collusion with the Zionist regime, is hatching plots against our country,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by Iran’s Press TV as saying.
Calm before the storm
Saudi Arabia’s major foreign policy decisions are often based on a general consensus among a number of senior princes. The operation in Yemen is no exception, and had the former King Abdullah still been alive, he would have most likely chosen exactly the same response to the current situation.
Saudi Arabia’s goal is to reinstate the now-deposed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. However Saudi troops have suffered major problems with various attempts to invade Yemen, and they know that any occupation is out of the question without the help of an outside power, such as the US military. Supply lines are stretched too thin, and are subject to attacks, as Houthi know how to fight a guerilla war under the harshest of conditions, and have successfully dealt with their neighbour for the last 80 years.
Some claim that Saudi Arabia wants to sort things out with Yemen, come-hell-or-high water, in order to be able to have a greater impact at regional level. It hopes to weigh in on conflicts elsewhere in the MENA (Middle East and North African) countries. However to do this it needs political stability, and the reverses in Yemen have put that in question.
Any long-term occupation of the country would come at too high a cost for the Saudis – financially, politically and in terms of human lives. Attention also needs to be diverted from the 28 pages of the 9/11 report that basically implicates the Saudi leadership in a terrorist attack on the American homeland, and the involvement of Saudi intelligence in Syria and Northern Iraq, where it has provided material support to known terrorists groups. The US knows it will stay in Yemen for as long as the Saudi monarchy is in danger of collapse, as the political systems of countries which lose wars often do.
The worst of a bad job
In Johnson’s time the US was expected to act unilaterally. Now it acts in partnership with other nations to cover its illegal acts – as if acting purely in response to their concerns, as a strategic partner, not from selfish motives of its own.
Any temporary lull in such interventions provides an opportunity for all sides to lick their wounds and prepare for the next stage in the fighting, or allows the PR machine to catch up with the game plan on the ground, especially in an election year. But the Saudis have violated all ceasefires to date, and will likely try to continue doing the same now and into the future. As reported by the NYT, “millions have been forced from their homes, and since August, the government has been unable to pay the salaries of most of the 1.2 million civil servants.”
Now that the Clinton influence peddling scheme has been exposed in the wake of the US presidential elections Saudi donations will dry up, as will their blank check to get away with murder. The Saudis will have fewer well-connected friends in the US State Department. But this is unlikely to prevent any further adventures in Yemen: on the contrary, the Saudis will need them all the more to prevent further embarrassments within the US, while the US military needs them to prevent its own embarrassment.
Donald Trump has said several times that he doesn’t agree with the US spending all this money on all these foreign wars. Not only was a ramping-up of the Yemen conflict an attempt to support Clinton, it was an attempt to force Trump to support the military ad the general policy of fighting all these wars, should he be elected. Now that has happened, does anyone expect the military to just go home, with so many bases still in place and so many arms deals still being serviced? Trump can’t stop these things on his say-so, and is too much of a businessman to try and take on the whole capital structure of the US.
The selling point of remaining in Yemen may well be that it reduces the Iranian direct involvement in protecting Assad and draws attention away from the movement of terrorist proxy fighters from Iraq back into Syria proper. It is much easier for Trump to continue demonising Iran, as a Muslim nation, than to stop this movement. But once this step is taken a precedent for this administration will have been set. Trump will either have to take on his military continually or find ways of justifying it – and Yemen, although not of Trump’s making, gives him every excuse to do the latter whilst still pretending to follow his campaign policy.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.