Monday, March 30, 2015

Deliver Us From Evil

Why do we tolerate Saudi Arabia when the kingdom, and its Sunni state allies, seems determined to deliver Yemen into the control of ISIS and al Qaeda?

Gwynne Dyer writes that, while we wage an air war against ISIS, the Saudis are undermining our effort with their war on the Yemeni Houthi.

They’ve all shown up for this war. Saudi Arabia and the other monarchies of the Arab world (Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and even Morocco) have all committed aircraft to bombing Yemen. Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan have offered to send ground troops. And the United States (which just pulled the last American troops out of Yemen) promises to provide “logistical and intelligence support.”

In practice, however, this coalition of Sunni Arabs and Americans is unlikely to commit large numbers of ground troops to Yemen: the country has been the graveyard of foreign armies from the Romans to the Ottomans. But if they don’t do that, the (entirely unintended) result of their bombing may be to facilitate the take-over of most of Yemen by al-Qaeda and/or ISIS

Sunni paranoia about the rise of Shia power has its roots in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. So long as the Sunni minority ruled Iraq, it limited the influence of Iran, the paramount Shia power, in the Arab world. With the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of Sunni supremacy in Iraq, Iran’s power automatically soared – and so did its influence in Shia parts of the Arab world.

Iran didn’t have to do anything particularly aggressive for paranoia to take off in the Sunni countries of the Gulf. Of the 140 million citizens of countries that border on the Persian/Arabian Gulf, about two-thirds are Shias. With a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Sunni Arab monarchies felt terribly exposed and began to see Shia plots everywhere.

...The “coalition” is now bombing the Houthis all over the country. How intensively and how accurately remains to be seen, but if they really succeed in breaking the Houthi grip on central and southern Yemen, they will create a power vacuum that will NOT be filled by the “legitimate” president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, whom they are allegedly trying to restore to power.

Hadi’s forces have utterly disintegrated, and Houthi fighters now occupy the temporary capital that he established in his home city, Aden. (The real capital, Sanaa, has been in Houthi hands since September.) Hadi left Aden by boat on Tuesday, which suggests that he has left the country entirely – unless he plans to create another provisional capital on, say, the island of Socotra.

So if the coalition bombs the Houthis out of Aden, but does not commit ground troops of its own, the real winners will be the al-Qaeda forces that wait just outside the city. Much the same goes for Taiz, the third city, and even for Sanaa itself: it is al-Qaeda or ISIS jihadis who stand to profit most from a Houthi retreat.

Perfect, Mr. Harper.  Just what in hell have you gotten us stuck into?  One thing is sure, if you really do intend to "defeat ISIS" as your supposed defence minister claims, you're going to need a lot more than a sixpack of CF-18s.  And don't forget to bring your chequebook.


Owen Gray said...

The March of Folly continues.

Anonymous said...

Saudi Arabia may be back to supporting ISIS and AQAP gain power, either intentionally or unintentionally, in Yemen.

There were already reports that the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar were secretly training ISIS in Jordan and Turkey before they started to bomb the latter in Iraq.

Never clear to me why Saudi Arabia had agreed to bombing ISIS in Iraq and thereby strengthening the U.S.-installed Shiite government. Was it U.S. pressure or threats to discontinue their support for Saudi America?

The Mound of Sound said...

I take it "Saudi America" was a Freudian slip, Anon.

I have often wondered what role the Saudi princes, especially Bandar bin Sultan (aka "Bandar Bush") played in raising, funding, training and equipping ISIS.

I recall when Bandar, furious that the US wouldn't attack Assad, said he would raise some sort of Sunni force in Jordan to unleash on Syria. Where are those fighters unless they really are ISIS?

@ Owen. March of Folly indeed. I can't think of NATO states getting into something as messed up, confused and contradictory as this - ever.

Toby said...

It's not Harper's chequebook, it's ours. Unfortunately, Harper gets to waste it on insanity.