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Page added on March 30, 2015

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The battle for the Middle East’s future begins

The battle for the Middle East’s future begins thumbnail

Saudi Arabia has jumped into the abyss.

Its air attacks on Yemen are a historic and potentially fatal blow to the Kingdom and to the Middle East.

Who decided that this extraordinary battle should take shape in the poorest of Arab nations? The Saudis, whose King is widely rumoured in the Arab world to be incapable of taking decisions of state? Or the princes within the Saudi army who fear that their own security forces may not be loyal to the monarchy?

The “story” of Yemen appears simple. Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, have captured the capital of Sanaa with the help – so say the Saudis – of the Iranians. The legitimate President – Abed Rabou Mansour Hadi – has fled to the Saudi capital of Riyadh from his bolthole in the old southern Yemeni capital of Aden. The Saudis will not permit an Iranian proxy state to be set up on their border – always forgetting that they already have an Iranian-proxy state called Iraq on their northern border, courtesy of the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The real “story” is more important. Perhaps half of the Saudi army is of Yemeni tribal origin. Saudi soldiers are intimately – through their own families – involved in Yemen, and the Yemen revolution is a stab in the guts of the Saudi royal family. No wonder King Salman of Saudi Arabia – if he indeed rules his nation – wishes to bring this crisis to an end. But are his bombing raids on Sanaa going to crush a Shia Muslim rebellion?

An armed member of the Houthi militia stands in the rubble of houses which were allegedly destroyed by a Saudi air strike (EPA) An armed member of the Houthi militia stands in the rubble of houses which were allegedly destroyed by a Saudi air strike (EPA)
You can understand what it looks like from Riyadh. To the north, the Shia Muslim Iranian Revolutionary Guards are assisting the Shia-dominated Iraqi government in their battle against Sunni Muslim Isis. To the north-west, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are assisting the government of Alawite (for which read, Shia) president Bashar al-Assad against Isis and al-Nusrah and whatever is left of the so-called “Free Syrian Army”. The Shia Hezbollah from Lebanon are fighting alongside Assad’s army.  So are Shia Muslims from Afghanistan, wearing Syrian uniforms. Saudi Arabia claims the Iranians are in Yemen with the Houthis. Unlikely. But be sure their weapons are in Yemen.

Unprecedented in modern Arab history, a Sunni Muslim coalition of 10 nations – including non-Arab Pakistan – has attacked another Arab nation. The Sunnis and the Shia of the Middle East are now at war with each other in Iraq, in Syria and Yemen. Pakistan is a nuclear power. The armies of Bahrain and the Gulf states include Pakistani soldiers. Pakistanis were among the dead in the first great battle against Iraqi troops in the 1991 Gulf War.

But already, the battle for Yemen is dividing other Arab countries. In Lebanon, the former Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Saad Hariri has praised the “brave and wise” decision of King Salman to attack. Mr Hariri is not only a Sunni – he is also a Saudi citizen. But the Shia Hezbollah, who oppose Saudi intervention, called the Saudi assault an “uncalculated adventure”. These words were chosen with care. They are exactly the words the Saudis used against Hezbollah after it captured three Israeli soldiers in 2006, a stupid political act which started the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon that year.

The battle for Yemen is dividing Arab countries (AFP/Getty) The battle for Yemen is dividing Arab countries (AFP/Getty)
The Americans do not know what to do. They cannot give the Saudis direct military assistance – their nuclear talks with Iran are more important – and so their soft verbal support for King Salman is supposed to mollify their Sunni allies and avoid antagonising the Iranians. But the closer a nuclear deal comes between the US and Iran, the more forcefully their partners in the Arab world will push their cards. What provoked the Saudis into their extraordinary adventure in Yemen was not the approach of Houthis towards Aden but the approach of US-Iranian agreement at Lausanne.

Hezbollah may call the Saudi attacks a “Saudi-American conspiracy” – an overused phrase which contains some truth – but the reality, evident to every Arab, is that the Saudis, armed (or over-armed, as many might say) by the US, are clearly prepared to use their firepower against another Arab nation rather than the traditional enemy further north. Listening to the rhetoric of the Saudis, you might think that they were bombing Israel.

 

Independent



17 Comments on "The battle for the Middle East’s future begins"

  1. GregT on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 9:00 am 

    Mission accomplished?

  2. paulo1 on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 9:02 am 

    Some good news out of this article: “The Americans do not know what to do.”

    Great, maybe they’ll keep out of it and go home. Saudi Arabia is doomed over time, anyway. As is the new Egyptian dictatorship, and every other autocratic despot holding down their citizens. A pox on them all.

    Those poor civilians. Everywhere, under the thumbs of those who always want more (power, money, intrigue….whatever).

    Yemen, the Obama ‘success story’. “We droned some folks”. This won’t end well because there is no possible good outcome in a failed state divided up on religious grounds, that is running out of oil and economic prospects of any kind, and does not even have enough water!!

  3. shortonoil on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 9:25 am 

    repost,

    As the price of oil continues on its long term downward trend, expect increasing instability in the Middle East:

    http://www.thehillsgroup.org/depletion2_022.htm

    The Western powers, that have attempted to buffer inter tribal warfare to secure the life blood of industrial civilization, will find their efforts ever more difficult. Depletion is intensifying 1,600 years of enmity. The 21’st century Crusade to secure the Holy Land of Petroleum will whither like the French Knights did on barren Levant sand. In place of burning Christian infidel crosses, will be burning oil wells.

    http://www.thehillsgroup.org

  4. JuanP on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 10:07 am 

    Yemen is no more, the only question is how long and bloody the process of retribalization will be. Did I just invent a new word? 😉

  5. BobInget on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 10:38 am 

    WHEN the inevitable happens, KSA is counter-attacked, don’t forget, it’s Saudi Arabia doing the bombing predicated entirely on religious grounds. Houthi are a Yemeni tribe, not some invading foreign force.
    Saudi Arabia opened aggressive fire on its neighbor. For this massive blunder KSA, will pay dearly.

    Adding to the confusion is the fact that ISIS and AQ both Saudi creations, are also fighting Houthi
    rebels.

    How can Arabs call for unity while bombing each other?

    WE are seeing similar situations in South Sudan, Libya. The poster child is of course Syria whose
    proxy war between Iran and KSA has been raging four going on five years.

    Eventually, Iran and Saudi Arabia would have
    clashed directly in any case. Yemen gives Iran
    the casus belli opening.

  6. Plantagenet on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 10:54 am 

    Its true that Obama doesn’t know what to do in Yemen. But then he doesn’t know what to do in Iran Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria either.

  7. penury on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 12:13 pm 

    Plant, You probably would be more accurate to say “no one knows,what to do with the ME”As the nations of the world continue to spiral out of control, due to a failure of their energy source. more areas of the world will come to resemble the ME. Look no further than the S. Border of the U.S. It is not a sign of stability when tens of thousands of people cross a border on a daily basis it demonstrates that there are problems where they are coming from and there will be problems where they are going. Without jobs, residents of developed countries have no income. Consumers who cannot consume grow dis-satisfied and troublesome. With 58 million people on EBT cards and more arriving daily the predicaments are beginning to stress the system, It will not take much and the rest of the worlk will resemble the M.E.

  8. Plantagenet on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 12:39 pm 

    Hi Pen:

    Your claim that “no one knows what to do with ME” just isn’t true. The Iranians know that they want to extend their influence beyoond Irag, Syria and Lebeon to include Yemen. The Saudis know they and other Sunni Arabs oppose the Shia Iranians. israel knows it down’t want to be nuked by Iran.

    But Obama has no clue—he’s fighting with the Shia in Iraq and Syria, but supports the KSA against the Shia in Yeman. Obama promised not to allow Iran to get nukes, but by all accounts the new treaty will provide Iran a path to nuclear weapons. The man’s policies are a mess, and have helped contribute to the mess in the ME.

  9. Perk Earl on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 1:03 pm 

    Take a dusty, hot, dry terrain where the people are religiously extreme, add trillions in oil money over the decades supporting new, complex infrastructure and a population explosion, toss in depletion and you’ve got all the ingredients for a full on attrition bloodbath to determine which sect/s make it through the bottleneck.

    That process has already begun.

  10. Plantagenet on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 1:40 pm 

    The Shia and Sunni have been fighting for 1300 years. They’ve been fabulously wealthy in the past (the Badghdad Caliphate, the Ottomon Caliphate) and they’ve been busted. Didn”t matter—they fought anyway. The fighting is nothing new.

    The only important new element is nuclear weapons. Obama’s confused policy of abandoning the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) will inevitably result in Shia Iran and Sunni KSA both having nukes.

  11. Bob Owens on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 3:32 pm 

    After a few rockets and truck bombs go off in SA and the oil flow stops, the Western world will find itself bubbling in the ME stew along with everyone else. Hopefully we will find conservation of resources and wind/solar to be the best path forward. Pray for that outcome and not the alternatives.

  12. Dredd on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 5:44 pm 

    “The battle for the Middle East’s future begins”

    This must be a history lesson about the year circa 1912 (The Universal Smedley – 2, Viva Egypt – 2, The Peak Of The Oil Wars – 10).

    Or residue from a cultural trance.

  13. Keith_McClary on Tue, 31st Mar 2015 12:01 am 

    Perk Earl on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 1:03 pm wrote:

    “Take a dusty, hot, dry terrain where the people are religiously extreme, add trillions in oil money over the decades supporting new, complex infrastructure and a population explosion, toss in depletion and you’ve got all the ingredients for a full on attrition bloodbath to determine which sect/s make it through the bottleneck.”

    Are you referring to the SW US?

  14. Keith_McClary on Tue, 31st Mar 2015 12:07 am 

    Plantagenet on Mon, 30th Mar 2015 10:54 am wrote:

    “Its true that Obama doesn’t know what to do in Yemen. But then he doesn’t know what to do in Iran Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria either.”

    But Plant knows what to do, and he will tell us after he is elected POTUS.

  15. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 31st Mar 2015 5:49 am 

    Plant would be preferable to the candidates who are going to run.

  16. Steve O on Tue, 31st Mar 2015 8:28 am 

    Plant,

    No American president, or for that matter any leader, has ever known “what to do” about the ME. They have all known what they wanted to do, but that’s not the same thing.

  17. ghughes on Tue, 31st Mar 2015 8:47 am 

    As we see, oil supply/price wars and the Neo-cons are all over this from keeping the Middle East infighting and distracted as the price of oil probly goes astro. When the oil price pops, Putin smiles at the world, (so does Iran). As China’s supposed to inherit the world financially in the near future, Russia comes along as the smart (KGB)Tough Cop next to China’s rich Good Cop with all that gold. The Neo-Cons can huddle with Netanyahu and Dick Cheney types but they’re running out of time. Meanwhile, it’s always time to incite uncivil wars to reduce what the Neo-cons call “useless eaters”. With increasing robotization and AI killing the majority of jobs, most workers in the West may be outsourced soon anyway, and fighting mad!

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