And one more bloody episode of the Empire’s drive to maintain its hegemonic role in the oil-rich region of the Middle East and worldwide
P. Pap. for avantgarde
Since March 2015, Western imperialism has opened one more war front, in Yemen this time. Yemen is since being bombed and invaded by a US-backed coalition of Gulf countries under the leadership of Saudi Arabia. A report released on December 28 by a local monitoring group estimates that 7,411 Yemeni civilians have been killed so far in this war (an average of 29 people every day). The report also details the death of 4,373 men, 1,309 women, and 1,729 children from the dates of March 26th, 2015 – December 12th, 2015; meanwhile, another 13,846 men, women and children were reportedly wounded by the Saudi-led Coalition. In light of these grim statistics, let us go back and have a look at this war, which is a part of a broader conflict the outcome of which will play an important role in the global power balance.
Back in January 2015, the anti-government Houthi rebels had taken control of the presidential palace in the capital of Yemen, Sanaa. In February, the president of the country, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, a stooge of the US, and his ministers had been forced to resign, with Abdel Malik al-Houthi being pronounced as the new president of the country. The main target of the Saudi-led attack is the reinstatement of the Hadi regime.
The nature of the conflict
A quick look at the map is enough for one to get an idea of what this conflict is about. The answer, as usual, is global hegemony and, secondly, oil. Yemen is located at the southern part of the Arab peninsula and the Bab el-Mandeb straits are one of the two gates to the Red Sea. A large portion of the oil exported from the Gulf countries to Europe, the US and Asia pass through it, which means that the control of these straits is critical.
On the very day that the US-backed, Saudi-led war against Yemen begun, Anthony Cordesman, foreign policy strategist at the influential Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, explained quite clearly what the US bourgeois class wanted in Yemen. He noted that 3.8 million barells of crude oil and refined petroleum products (bbl/d) had flowed through the Bab el-Mandeb strait in 2013 and went on to state that the interests at stake included “the cost and security of every cargo that goes through the Suez canal, the security of US and other allied combat ships moving through the canal, the economic stability of Egypt, and the security of Saudi Arabia’s key port at Jeddah and major petroleum export facility outside the Gulf.” The closing of the Bab el-Mandeb would force the tankers coming from the Persian Gulf and bound for the Suez Canal of the SUMED Pipeline to divert their course around the southern tip of Africa, thus increasing the transit time and the cost. Furthermore, it would block the route between Europe / North Africa with the Asian markets through the Suez Canal and the Bab el-Mandeb.
In red circle, the Bab el-Mandeb strait, the geopolitically critical pass from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.
An important aspect that also needs to be taken into account is that the Houthis are Shia Muslims, allies of Iran, Hizbullah and (Sunni) Palestine. The attack against them needs to be seen in the context of the efforts being made by imperialism and its regional allies to weaken and ultimately break the “Shia Crescent”. Anthony Cordesman is again quite clear: “U.S.-Saudi partnership and cooperation is critical in building some form of deterrence and strategic stability to contain Iran in the Gulf. Any nuclear agreement will not affect the need for close cooperation between the United States, Saudi Arabia and other key members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in dealing with the broader and active threat Iran poses in terms of conventional forces, asymmetric warfare, missiles, and strategic influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.”
Western imperialism, therefore, is pursuing the restoration of the previous, pro-imperialist regime in Yemen. Such a development will reinforce imperialism and its regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Israel etc), while at the same time weaken the forces in the region that are trying to have a policy of their own, one that is not subjugated to the imperialist dictates. It will be a serious blow against Iran, Hizbullah as well as the Syrian government. One can imagine the situation in which the Palestinian resistance will find itself in such a scenario.
The forces standing against the imperialist onslaught at the given moment are the Houthis, who have entered an alliance with military forces loyal to the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The coalition of the Saud and Co. have made an alliance with the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda. The fact that the ISIS chooses to attack Houthi targets is one more valid indication of what the real fronts are in the region, as well as who the real allies of the imperialists are. So much for the sham of the “war against terrorism” in which the imperialists are supposedly engaged!
A short list of imperialist war crimes against the Yemeni people
The war crimes committed by the Western backed, Saudi led coalition cannot be described here in detail. A few indicative examples can be given, however.
During the night between 27-28 October, the Saud bombed an MSF hospital in Yemen. When their action became widely known, they claimed that they did not know anything about it and denied responsibility. A little later, they would admit their action, talk about a “mistake” and blame… the MSF.
On September 28, a wedding ceremony had been targeted, leading to the murder of 131 people, 80 of which were women. An official of the fallen government of Hadi talked about a “mistake”. The day after, a helicopter attack against a civilian area left behind 28 killed and 17 wounded – all civilians. On September 20, the Saud were bombing a market in the capital Sanaa, killing 69 civilians and destroying parts of the historic old city (multi-storey buildings built before the eleventh century, which are in the UNESCO World Heritage list).
The bombing of civilian areas is a quite common practice for the Saudi-led coalition. Markets, mosques, schools, hospitals have been targeted indiscriminately. Amnesty International has investigated a number of such airstrikes and found that, in the majority of cases, no military target could be located nearby.
Some more indicative examples (source):
August 30: 36 workers killed when Saudi jet fighters bombed a water bottling factory in the Abs District of Haajah province, exacerbating the water problem that Yemen faces.
August 18: bombing of the port of Hodeidah (crucial node for receiving and distributing humanitarian aid), destruction of four cranes and a number of warehouses.
July 24: 63 killed and 50 injured when dormitories that housed power plant workers were bombed in the city of Mokah.
July 6: 45 killed and 50 wounded in airstrike against livestock market in Fayush.
The humanitarian disaster that has been caused by the intervention has probably been best described by Peter Maurer, head of the International Red Cross, who said that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years”. The naval blockade imposed on Yemen completes the imperialist crime. In May, the Iranian ship Iran Shahed, with a crew consisting of members of the Red Crescent Society and anti-war activists from the US, Germany and France, made an effort to break the blockade and deliver humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people. The ship was not allowed to complete its journey. We are talking about a country that imports 80% of the food it needs through naval transport. The blockade has resulted in a widespread famine, with 80% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance, a large part of the population not having access to drinking water and 500,000 children threatened by malnutrition. 1.5 million people have become refugees.
The main responsibility lies with Western imperialism
On the very day that the bombs were falling on the wedding ceremony, Obama was addressing the UN, talking about the great job that his government is doing in protecting human rights and safeguarding peace and stability in the world. We are talking about the exact same government which considers Saudi Arabia as a trusted ally; Obama himself refers to the king of Saudi Arabia as a “personal friend”.
The “achievements” of Obama’s obscurantist friend in the field of human rights are quite well-known (for instance, more than 150 executions in 2015 based on charges such as “sorcery”, “witchcraft” and adultery), however this did stop his country from being recently selected to lead the UN human rights council, with the US welcoming this decision. It would be funny if it were not tragic. Oh well. Maybe this development could help expose a little further the true nature of the UN, namely that of a pacifistic department used by the armed-to-the-teeth imperialists in order to provide their actions with a democratic and pro-peace façade.
Dozens of US military advisors participate at a common command center located in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Rhyad, providing intelligence and targets for the Saudi bombers. The US air-force provides aerial refueling to the Saudi bombers, while the US navy actively participates in the naval blockade. The weapons used by the Saudi military are made in the US: in 2010, the US government had made a $60 billion deal for the selling of arms, warplanes, helicopters etc. to Saudi Arabia. Among these arms were cluster bombs – prohibited worldwide. Recently, a new deal was made with the Saud buying $1.29 billion worth of bombs, since their inventory was probably running low after their operations in Yemen.