Saturday, March 28, 2015

From Bad to Worse to Absolutely Nuts. How Yemen Complicates and Confounds Everything in Our War on ISIS.

MSM reporters are finally beginning to figure out that all's not what it seems with our air war against ISIS.  There are wheels spinning within wheels on this one.  There's the religious civil war between Shiite and Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia versus Iran.  Then there's China's interest in expanding its presence and influence in the Middle East.  Russia is holding a hand too although it's keeping its cards pretty close to its chest for now.

Much as we badmouth ISIS, it does have its usefulness.  Among other things it's presence has become the hallmark of a failed state.  If ISIS is there, the place has gone all to hell.  ISIS shows up just in time to push everything over the edge.  ISIS also lets us see our supposed friends in a clearer light.  ISIS is in Iraq which has gone all to hell.  ISIS is in Libya which has gone all to hell.  ISIS is big in Syria - yeah, gone all to hell.  ISIS is in Yemen - ditto, ditto, ditto.

ISIS is synonymous with chaos.  Which brings up an interesting point.  How do you restore order out of chaos with a bombing campaign?  You could put that question to the half-wits that make up our political and military leadership but you would need to be fluent in babble to make any sense of them.

The lack of any shred of coherence in our current adventure in the Middle East is blatant in the fighting now underway in Yemen.  Lots of players there.  Start with the ousted (Sunni) president, a puppet of the Saudis.  Also on the Sunni side are ISIS and al Qaeda fighters.  Among their ranks are the guys on whom Obama has been waging drone warfare for.. well, it feels like forever.  On the other side are the Houthi rebels, a Shiite bunch, who have been kicking their government's ass and are engaged in fierce combat against ISIS and al Qaeda.  But wait, there's more.  Asia Times has a good backgrounder.

Simply put, the conclusion becomes unavoidable that while Obama has no option but to be seen openly holding the hands of King Salman, a key ally, the US would have serious misgivings about the efficacy of the military intervention achieving anything of lasting value. The Saudis, after all, have no known record in modern history of being great performers in wars and the Americans willy-nilly factor in that if and when the Saudi operations in Yemen fail, a direct US military intervention may become unavoidable, which means involvement in another Middle eastern war, which is something that Obama has refused to contemplate.

Most certainly, Washington would also see that the weakening of the Houthis at the present juncture can only shift the balance of forces in favor of the extremist Islamist groups affiliated with the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the standoffish stance taken by the European Union would also imply an early warning to the US from Brussels that it will essentially have to opt for a ‘coalition of the willing’ to carry forward any sustained military intervention in Yemen. In a clear-cut statement on Thursday, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has disapproved of military actions on the whole and has counseled that the aim should be to reach “a political consensus through negotiations” so that a “sustainable solution” becomes available.

...Conceivably, Obama and Mogherini’s thinking converge. And that brings in the role of Russia and Iran. Of course, Moscow and Tehran have held consultations. President Vladimir Putin received a phone call on Thursday from his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and has been reported as stressing “the urgency of an immediate cessation of hostilities and of stepping up efforts, including the UN, to develop options for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

Clearly, Moscow is reading the tea leaves correctly that US will turn to the UN Security Council shortly to open a political and diplomatic track and that Russia’s cooperation becomes vital.

Hey, even Pakistan wants in.

This dominant thinking in the world capitals make it very difficult for the Saudis to push ahead with the military operations and expand them to a ground offensive. Interestingly, Riyadh has since advised Islamabad to postpone the visit by a high-level Pakistani delegation including military officials that was to have taken place on Friday. (See my blog Pakistan’s Yemeni War.) Sensing that the Saudis are having a rethink, Islamabad has also quickly re-calibrated its earlier enthusiasm to be part of the Saudi-led coalition.

All in all, the Saudi operations in Yemen are lacking a sense of direction and may have to give way to the political and diplomatic track sooner than later. Iran will be pleased that the prospect of the Houthis being accommodated in Yemen’s power structure in Sana’a as a legitimate constituent party looks brighter than ever. If that happens, Shi’ite empowerment in the region gains further ground. Indeed, the suppressed Shi’ite communities in Bahrain (where Shi’ites are in majority) and other regional states in the Gulf, including even in Saudi Arabia, are watching closely the denouement in Yemen.

As the best-organized force in Yemen, the Houthis can afford to play the long game. Their winning trump card, in the ultimate analysis, is that they are the bulwark against the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Yemen — and not the GCC states.

Our leaders, political and military, cannot see where this is going.  Harper and Kenney do not see the larger picture.  They haven't got a clue.  The conflict in Iraq is tied into Syria and, through ISIS and al Qaeda, those conflicts are tied into Yemen and the victorious Houthis are kindred spirits with the "suppressed Shi'ite" minorities in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia where most of the really good oil fields are in Shiite areas.  

And what does it really come down to at the end of the day?  This is it.

Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam.

The word Sunni comes from "Ahl al-Sunna", the people of the tradition. The tradition in this case refers to practices based on precedent or reports of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and those close to him.

Sunnis venerate all the prophets mentioned in the Koran, but particularly Muhammad as the final prophet. All subsequent Muslim leaders are seen as temporal figures.

In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction - literally "Shiat Ali" or the party of Ali.

The Shia claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to lead the Islamic community.

There you go.  Now does all this chaos make sense?  Is it finally clear?


Steve said...

For all his Royal brown nosing at Heart Harper is for sure a Sunni.

The Mound of Sound said...

He certainly does have that inclination, Steve, especially after the Saudis inked that deal for billions worth of Canadian made light-armoured democracy suppression vehicles. They're just the thing to keep those Shiites from getting uppity.