Friday, April 10, 2015

In Over Our Heads, Way Over.

Usually when someone orders their life according to alternate realities we consider that person mentally ill.  It's not hard to notice, they do a lot of weird things that just don't make much sense.

Nations can come down with a similar affliction and, like their human counterparts, unless it's diagnosed and treated early, it rarely ends well. Which brings us to the bizarre alternate realities being played out in the Middle East - Iraq, Syria, the US, Canada (et al), the Gulf States, al Qaeda, ISIS and, most recently, Yemen.

While the West has been earnestly doing the bidding of the House of Saud and the sheikhs and princes of the Gulf States, our Sunni Arab masters have been pulling a Sneaky Pete in Yemen that could be putting us in a "one step forward, two back" position.

The Sunni Mafia, apparently confident that we'll do their bidding in Iraq and Syria, have decided to take their own warplanes and armies to attack the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.  Only, like the Israelis raining death from above on Palestinians, the Sunni mob is employing tactics against the Houthi people eerily reminiscent of Israel's Dahiyeh campaigns.

What we're far too polite to mention is that the Sunni Mafia is also providing air support for a couple of outfits that the Houthi are engaged in fighting - ISIS and al Qaeda.  Isn't it curious how these Sunni potentates and these monstrous Sunni terrorist outfits have this habit of lining up?

This is one mini-war where we're keeping our eye on the ball so that we don't have to see the other ball, the one that really matters.  The schizophrenic cast of the Sunni mob's war in Yemen is explored in Foreign Policy:

Amid the chaos and suffering of Yemen’s ongoing, and quickly internationalizing, civil war, one clear winner seems to have emerged: al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al Qaeda affiliate with the closest relationship to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The group, which U.S. officials have long labeled the most dangerous offshoot of the core al Qaeda organization, could be set to find an even more comfortable operations base from which to launch terrorist attacks and claim territory. Just this week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter warned, “AQAP has seized the opportunity of the disorder there and the collapse of the central government.”

...What separates AQAP from other al Qaeda affiliates is the group’s willingness to strike outside Yemen and the Middle East, even making attempts inside the United States and Europe. Since the group formed in 2009, most of its attacks have focused on the Yemeni government. However, U.S. officials have tied it to sophisticated attempts to bomb American airliners in 2009 and 2010, and the group produces Inspire, a stylish English-language online magazine that regularly features anti-Western content, including calls for lone wolves to attack in the United States and detailed instructions for how to make or acquire the weapons to do so. AQAP also took credit for the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in January, and the attackers trained with the group in Yemen.

...Now that Hadi’s government has fallen to the Houthi rebels and civil war has engulfed much of the country, counterterrorism efforts against AQAP have eased. U.S. officials rightly fear that the group will enjoy greater freedom of action: Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, warned on Sunday that “the pressure has been taken off AQAP.” The Washington Post reports that as violence escalated, the United States pulled its military and intelligence personnel from the country, and our Yemeni counterterrorism partners are now in disarray. Last Thursday, AQAP conducted a massive prison break (the usual adjective before “prison break” is “daring,” but given the chaos this one seemed pretty easy), freeing many cadres and at least one senior leader. AQAP militants subsequently took control of the port city of Mukalla, where the prison is located. The group now reportedly controls the checkpoints at all five entrances to the city as well asthe governor’s palace, the central bank, a military base, and several other key local government facilities. Armed tribesmen are trying to launch a counterattack to retake the city and drive out the jihadis but have so far been unable to get past AQAP’s checkpoints.
...One key uncertainty in assessing what comes next for AQAP is Saudi policy. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia opposes al Qaeda in general and AQAP in particular, as the latter has targeted Saudi security forces and, in 2009, even tried to kill Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who is now in charge of Saudi military operations in Yemen. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has a history of working with Salafi-jihadi groups and may believe they are the lesser of two evils in the war against the Houthis, whom the Saudis believe are puppets of Tehran.Tehran has armed and otherwise assisted the Houthis, but the scale of Iranian involvement remains unclear. For the Saudis, the temptation to aid all the Houthis’ enemies, no matter how nasty, will grow should Saudi military operations stagnate.

But how is the Sunni war against Shiites in Yemen going?  Not well at all, even with America's assistance.  Yes, that's right - Alternate Reality Alert - Washington is helping those helping al Qaeda and ISIS.

Through its backing of Saudi Arabia — with bombs, intelligence, refueling, and search-and-rescue capabilities — and Riyadh’s military intervention in Yemen, the United States is effectively at war with the impoverished land that occupies the southwestern heel of the Arabian Peninsula. That war is going spectacularly badly.

Two weeks ago, Riyadh and a coalition of Gulf states intervened in Yemen with a campaign of airstrikes aimed at halting the advance of Houthi rebels and restoring President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

Neither of those goals currently appears achievable. Instead of being halted, the Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia claims are backed by Iran, have gained territory. On Thursday, they took the city of Ataq, a Sunni stronghold. Local residents told Reuters that the city’s security forces and tribal chiefs helped the Houthis enter the city.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in the city of Aden, a city of about 800,000 on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. The city, a port on the southern coast, is currently the scene of street-to-street fighting, and humanitarian agencies report having difficulties delivering aid. International shipping companies are steering clear of Yemeni ports — terrible news for a place that imports about 90 percent of its food and which faces a looming water crisis. “It’s nearly catastrophic,” Marie Claire Feghali, the International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman in Yemen, told Reuters.

Amid this fighting, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist group’s Yemen affiliate, is making territorial gains. On Thursday, the group seized government offices in al-Siddah district, which had previously been controlled by the Houthis. Last week, AQAP, which U.S. spies consider to be al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot, seized the port city of Mukalla.

...Saudi Arabia views this war as a showdown with Iran. And while Iran has some ties to the Houthi movement and has provided it with some support and weapons, allegations of Iranian backing have been exaggerated by Saudi Arabia to cast the intervention in Yemen as part of a broader regional and sectarian struggle between the two powerhouse nations. The Houthis are Zaydi Shiites, but that religion is doctrinally closer to Sunni Islam. 

To a simple minded ideologue with a Wal-Mart worldview, just like our own Stephen Harper, none of this madness matters.  We're on the third string of the varsity team and grateful for it.  Therefore we'll show up with our cleats in good order for game day and drop a few bombs.  Nothing else really matters.   We're there, after all, because these radical Islamists posted a YouTube video threatening to blow up the West Edmonton Mall.  Yet the guys who might actually do something like that are the guys in Yemen and our side is tacitly backing them.


Owen Gray said...

We continue to bumble along in the Middle East, Mound. And we proudly learn nothing.

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