Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Throwing Good Money After Bad in Yemen?

LobeLog

In late March, when Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies began “Operation Decisive Storm,” the military effort to end Yemen’s ongoing civil war and restore President Abd Rabbuh al-Hadi to power there, they did so with American logistical assistance. In fact, according to The Washington Post, the early phases of the Saudi-led air campaign “relied heavily on U.S. surveillance ­images and targeting information,” and a US helicopter was responsible for rescuing two Saudi pilots when their plane crashed into the Gulf of Aden during a sortie on March 26. Last month, “Operation Decisive Storm” gave way to “Operation Restoring Hope,” which ostensibly meant an end to the heaviest parts of the air campaign. Aside from a brief humanitarian pause in the bombing earlier this month, however, there’s been no discernible change in the conduct of the campaign or in its intensity.

It’s hard to point to a single thing that the Saudi-led intervention has accomplished in pursuit of its declared goals. It hasn’t restored Hadi to power or tamped down the forces that ousted him, the Houthi-led Ansar Allah and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. True, just this week forces reportedly allied with President Hadi captured the city of Dhale, which is not far from the important Yemeni port city of Aden and is the base of operations for Yemen’s Saleh-aligned 33rdArmored Brigade. Between the city’s strategic location and the weapons the pro-Hadi forces seized in its capture, this was a significant victory. But it is literally the first gain of any importance by a pro-Hadi force in the two months since the Saudi campaign began.

In the meantime, the main effect of Saudi efforts has been to turn what was already a critical humanitarian situation into an outright “catastrophe.” Thanks to reckless conduct on both sides of the conflict, thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed or wounded, and millions are either displaced or otherwise lack access to clean water, food, and healthcare. Speaking on Tuesday at a conference held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut, European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Adam Baron called the war “unprecedented in Yemen in its level of destruction and its scope.” He added that “facts on the ground point to an extended conflict,” which means that most Yemenis have little to look forward to apart from further misery. It appears, actually, that the Saudi campaign has not weakened the Houthi position within Yemen in any significant way. On the contrary, according to Baron, Yemenis who had been ambivalent or even opposed to Ansar Allah’s takeover have, in the face of the bombing campaign, adopted the phrase “kullna Ansar Allah”—“we are all Ansar Allah.”

The one group in Yemen that has seen its fortunes improve under Decisive Storm and Restoring Hope has been al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which of all the regional affiliates of al-Qaeda U.S. officials consider “by far the most dangerous to the West because it has both technical skills and global reach.” In the chaos created by the civil war and the Saudi intervention, AQAP has been able to take control of the important seaport of Al-Mukalla—one of AQAP’s top commanders, Nasser al-Ansi, was killed in a drone strike on Al-Mukalla in early May—as well as a nearby airfield and oil terminal. Of potentially greater concern is that AQAP has made inroads into eastern Yemeni tribes that have opposed Ansar Allah’s takeover. Because the Saudi coalition has focused all of its attention on Ansar Allah, AQAP has been able to strengthen these ties without fear of pushback. As Baron put it, at this point “al-Qaeda and extremist groups in Yemen are stronger than they’ve ever been in their history.”

The Saudis and their coalition partners have justified their military intervention into Yemen on the basis of constraining Iran’s regional ambitions. But although there is a growing relationship between Ansar Allah and Tehran, the argument that the Houthis are nothing more than Iranian proxy agents has always rested on shaky ground. For example, Iranian officials actually tried to talk the Houthis out of seizing power in Yemen last year, before they took control of Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa. Moreover, despite concerns that Iranian arms shipments have enabled much of the Houthis’ military success, the Houthis’ weaponry has more likely come from Yemeni army units loyal to former President Saleh, and therefore, ultimately, from…the United States, which supplied them to Yemen in the first place. Ultimately, as Yemen scholar Gabriele vom Bruck recently wrote for LobeLog, the Saudi intervention probably has more to do with a desire to dominate Yemen politically and ideologically, a desire that the Houthi takeover has threatened to thwart, than it does with any fear of nefarious Iranian influence.

All this raises a critical question for the United States: is it really going to continue to involve itself in a campaign whose effects have uniformly run counter both to the interests of Yemeni civilians and to America’s own national security needs?

Despite the Obama administration’s insistence that it is simply providing “enabling support” to an intervention intended to force a political settlement to Yemen’s civil war, its support has been vital to the course of an air campaign that has, if anything, made a political solution more, not less, difficult to achieve. In fact, in early April Washington announced that it would begin “expediting” arms shipments to the Saudis, escalating America’s involvement from simply supplying targets to supplying both the targets and the ordinance used to strike them. America is thus providing critical logistical support to an operation that has only added to Yemen’s instability and that has worked largely to the benefit of America’s biggest security concern on the Arabian Peninsula.

Yet so far, America’s decision to enable the intervention has backfired in every imaginable way. Yemen is even less stable, Yemenis are suffering more, and AQAP’s position is stronger now than before the intervention began. Additionally, the escalating violence has stranded dozens of US citizens in Yemen, several of whom the Houthis are now reportedly holding captive. Washington contends that the situation is too dangerous to attempt an evacuation.

The Obama administration undoubtedly sees support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention as a relatively easy way to reassure Riyadh that the US is still a reliable ally despite its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. But at some point, the value of reassuring the Saudis has to be weighed against the damage that their actions in Yemen have wrought on America’s regional and national interests.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a pressure group founded in early 2019 that serves as a watchdog and enforcer of Israel’s reputation in the Democratic Party.


Richard Grenell is the U.S. ambassador to Germany for the Donald Trump administration, known for his brusque and confrontational style.


Zalmay Khalilzad is Donald Trump’s special representative to the Afghan peace process, having previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


The decline in Israel’s appeal to Democrats is directly related to the wider awareness of the country’s increasingly authoritarian nature, its treatment of Palestinians, and its reluctance to take substantive steps toward peace. Pro-Israel liberals face a fundamental paradox trying to reconcile Israel’s illiberalism with their political values.


RightWeb
share