Sunday, March 29, 2015

That Burnt Smell, That Hissing Sound? That's the Fuze.

Ready to Rumble
\Well, if nothing else, Stephen Harper might just have earned Canada a ringside seat to the outbreak of a Middle East regional war.  The way the International Crisis Group sees it, the Saudi air war on Shiite Yemeni rebels might just be the burning fuze that explodes the Sunni-Shia powder keg.

Obama and the Euros are trying to calm the situation, urging a negotiated peace between Yemen's Sunni government and the Houthi rebels but, according to the ICG, the mixed up gaggle of players aren't in the mood for talking.

No major party seems truly to want to halt what threatens to become a regional war. The slim chance to salvage a political process requires that regional actors immediately cease military action and help the domestic parties agree on a broadly acceptable president or presidential council. Only then can Yemenis return to the political negotiating table to address other outstanding issues.

The Huthi-Hadi divide is the most explosive, but it is not the only conflict. Tensions are also unsettling the recent marriage of convenience between the Huthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who, after being deposed in 2011, has taken advantage of popular dissatisfaction and tacitly allied himself with the Huthis against their common enemies to stage a political comeback through his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), and possibly his son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh. Divisions in the south, which was an independent state prior to its 1990 union with the north, are rampant as well. Southern separatists are internally split and suspicious of Hadi, a southerner who supports continued unity with the north. Then there are al-Qaeda and a nascent Islamic State (IS) movement, both determined to fight the Huthis and take advantage of the state’s collapse to claim territory.

...GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council - the Sunni Arab states] countries have lost faith as well and are increasingly committed to reversing Huthi gains at virtually any cost. Saudi Arabia considers the Huthis Iranian proxies, a stance that pushes them closer to Tehran. Throwing their weight behind Hadi, the Saudis moved their embassy to Aden and reportedly bankroll anti-Huthi tribal mobilisation in the central governorate of Marib and the south. They lead efforts to isolate the Huthis diplomatically, strangle them economically and, now, weaken them militarily. In turn, the Huthis denounce Hadi as illegitimate and offer $100,000 for his capture. They have conducted military exercises on the Saudi border and likely will harden their position in response to Saudi military intervention. They are less dependent on Tehran than Hadi and his allies are on Riyadh, but on today’s trajectory, their relative self-sufficiency will not last long. They are already soliciting Iranian financial and political support.

...Without minimum consensus within and beyond its borders, Yemen is headed for protracted violence on multiple fronts. This combination of proxy wars, sectarian violence, state collapse and militia rule has become sadly familiar in the region. Nobody is likely to win such a fight, which will only benefit those who prosper in the chaos of war, such as al-Qaeda and IS. But great human suffering would be certain. An alternative exists, but only if Yemenis and their neighbours choose it.

This is a perfect example of what's being called "new war."  It's a furball of state and non-state actors.  Governments, including outside nations, rebels, insurgents, militias, terrorists and criminal organizations.  It's a very fluid type of warfare that commonly features shifting alliances among the parties and widely differing and at times irreconcilable political and territorial objectives.  In the context of a negotiated peace, it really is the equivalent of herding cats.

We're not built for this stuff.  We like our combat "old war" style.  Good guys versus bad guys; winners and losers; war and peace.  We don't know what to do when peace is not a realistic option, certainly not an outcome we can dictate. That's when we do what we Westerners have been doing since Algeria and Viet Nam.  It's what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq and it's partially responsible for the hot mess that is the Middle East today.  We go into a place, toss it over, hang around for a decade or so and then leave.  We cannot accept, despite our persistent lack of success, that we're on a path to near certain failure.  It's right there in the user guide - our side gets to win.  End of story.  What, can't these people read?

UPDATE - The United Nations has thrown in the towel, pulling all UN personnel out of Yemen, a measure that's seen as dashing all hopes of a negotiated deal of any sort.

One other thought.  If this business in Yemen is the opening salvo in a grand, Sunni versus Shiite regional war, let's hope Harper has plans to get our people out of the Middle East on short notice.  If this thing blow up, everyone might start looking like the enemy.


Dana said...

Anything for the rapture.

The Mound of Sound said...

You know, Dana, that's really not funny.

Dana said...

What gives you the impression I intended it to be funny.

These asshats are deadly serious about bringing on the rapture.

The Mound of Sound said...

Danam that very thought does run through my mind every now and then. It's hard not to discern apocalyptic instincts underlying this mess.

Dana said...

Why isn't "conspiring toward global genocide" or "suspected of conspiring to commit global genocide" listed among terroristic activities?

Because that's a pet activity of the crazy assed fundagelical movement of North America, that's why - and everyone must know by now that white chritian people are incapable of terrorism, we're simply not brown enough.

Dana said...

One further thing, related to your update.

If Harper leaves the CF in place, or FSM forbid increases the footprint, you'll know that the prayers are working.

Steve said...

At least the price of oil should go up. In our Orwellian superworld that now is good news.

Scotian said...


Dana really isn't joking. He and I have interacted far too long for me to not know EXACTLY what he is basing it on, and there are more than a few days I find myself more in agreement with him on this point than not. He has a very bleak and dark pov these days, and as much as I wish I could say I think he is being overly so, given the reality of our world today, both foreign and domestic...*shrug* *sigh*.