The Yemeni have proved their mettle in battle and thwarted the Najdi Bedouins’ plan to impose their hegemony on the impoverished country. The Yemeni fiasco may lead to the loosening of Bani Saud’s grip on power.
On December 15, the second round of UN-sponsored peace talks on Yemen held in Geneva ended in yet another momentous failure for Saudi Arabia. The Najdi Bedouins remained intent on asserting their will on the impoverished nation, instead of respecting Yemen’s right to political self-determination.
And while mainstream media insist on portraying the war on Yemen as a geopolitical play against Iran’s increasing traction in the Muslim East, realities on the ground paint a very different picture. Far from being the villain of the story, the Houthis of Yemen, those militants who back in the 2011 uprising chose to side with popular will to manifest institutional change, have headed a popular resistance movement against imperial Saudi Arabia.
“Those factions Western powers have depicted as Iran-backed rebels are in fact NOT. And while Yemen’s resistance might fly under the banner of Ansarallah [the political arm of the Houthis] the movement includes several political outfits and military figures.” Saleh al-Dhafer, an independent researcher in conflict resolution in Yemen, explained how political bias and a far-reaching refusal to admit to Yemen’s ground political realities have fuelled the Saudi war machine against Yemen, rather than help promote peace. “Saudi Arabia has sold the press a warped vision of Yemen. The resistance movement for example has almost always been labeled under very sectarian-heavy adjectives such as: Shia rebel group, or Iran-backed dissidents,” said al-Dhafer.
“Such political profiling has of course played into the hands of the Kingdom since Riyadh has been keen to position itself as a benevolent force, when in fact it has sowed utter destruction across Yemen on account of Aal Saud Royals’ ambitions to annex their neighbour entirely,” the expert added.
Indeed, Yemen faces a political annexation under cover of democracy-building. It all began in early 2015 when, following the rise in popularity of the Houthis and a quiet takeover of the capital, Sana’a, then-President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi publicly announced his resignation, not once but twice. Within a few weeks of his departure from office, Hadi decided to flee to Aden (former capital of South Yemen) to later reach Saudi Arabia where he sought “refuge.” Intent on crushing what it perceived as a rebellion against its regional diktat, Riyadh unilaterally declared war on Yemen on the night of March 25/26 (in Washington, of all places!), alleging it would restore Hadi to the presidency and thus help Yemen fulfill its democratic dreams. But democracy was hardly the endgame, only the alibi.
Close to 6,000 Yemenis (including 637 children according to UN estimates) have died in the war. It has been reported that 93% of the dead and injured are civilians caught between the two sides. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced, and international humanitarian organizations like Doctors Without Borders have repeatedly reported on the depth of human suffering and misery caused by these hostilities. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also declared that aside from the devastating damage to Yemen’s infrastructure that amounts to billions of dollars, the coalition’s aerial bombardment is responsible for “the majority of the civilian deaths.”
But not only that, Bani Saud has imposed a humanitarian blockade on Yemen. Immune to criticism, as it wields billions of dollars as hush money, the Kingdom has gotten away with acts so inhumane and disgraceful that they would quite easily fall under crimes against humanity. Yet the world has remained silent, undisturbed by the litany of death and suffering this one impoverished nation of Southern Arabia has been made to endure. This is all on account of its religious inclination that has made it a pariah.
“North Yemen has been earmarked for destruction [because] its Islam does not align with those beliefs promoted by Riyadh. North Yemen remains true to Zaydism, an Islamic school of thought dating back to the 8th century, as opposed to Wahhabism that surfaced in the 18th century. For many Yemenis, Wahhabism actually stands as a negation of Islam, a pernicious perversion of the Islamic Scriptures,” says Shaykh Hasan Mohsin, a Muslim scholar and PhD in comparative religious studies in London.
Before the war, Yemen was already the poorest Arab country, and it is now a failed state. In light of this, Riyadh’s ignorance of the futility of its strategic bombardment is quite shocking. The former Soviet Union’s strategic bombardment of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the US aerial bombings of Indochina during the Vietnam War proved time and again that this type of military operation was largely ineffective when targeting an impoverished and destitute country.
After Israel, Saudi Arabia has the most modern armed forces in the Muslim East and is the second closest ally of the US in that volatile region. Considering the far-reaching American involvement with the Saudi military, the US government did not likely miss the signals of an imminent operation by the Royal Saudi Air Force back in the spring. But Saudi Arabia intentionally kept Washington in the dark until a mere hour before the first coalition jet-fighters took off.
For all its might and powerful friendships, the Kingdom has been unable to break Yemen’s resolve. In the face of immense pressure, this impoverished nation has resisted Saudi invasion forces, eroding at Bani Saud in a manner no one could have ever imagined.
And while many have already credited Yemen’s military resilience to the inexperience of Saudi Defense Minister Muhammad ibn Salman, the architect of the coalition operation in Yemen, a prince rumored to be 30-years old, it is really the resistance’s popular legitimacy that has carried the movement and enabled its men to stand down one of the world’s most barbaric regimes.
As it currently stands Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen has led to a military stalemate. And though Yemen has had to pay a heavy price to protect its sovereignty, Riyadh too has lost quite a few feathers and received several blows. For one thing, the Kingdom has seen billions of dollars evaporate in military equipment and financial patronage. Keeping an unnatural alliance intact can only be done at the cost of lavish funding.
Bearing in mind that the price of oil has tumbled and that Saudi Arabia’s economy relies almost solely on oil and gas revenues, it would be fair to say the Kingdom is caught in a growing disadvantage. And since Yemen is unlikely to break, it might be Riyadh that will have to take a blow and withdraw quietly.
How long can Saudi Arabia really commit to a genocidal war? Riyadh as it were may be running out of political favour with the US, especially now that Washington is looking to bridge its differences with Iran, a move the Saudis are intent on frustrating.
Cracks have already appeared between Riyadh and Washington. Referring to Saudi Arabia’s unilateral declaration of war against Yemen, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reportedly said that the Saudis “did not notify us… because they believe we are siding with Iran.”
At the core of Yemen’s war stands Riyadh’s paranoia and fear of Iran. Riyadh remains convinced that the Houthis are Iranian-agents sold to the Islamic revolutionary movement, a theory that bears no relation to reality, and only exists in the mind of Saudi officials. Several regional experts, among them Michael Horton insist that Saudi Arabia has a distorted perception of the Iran-Houthi relations. Horton, a senior analyst for Arabian Affairs at the Jamestown Foundation specializing on Yemen and the Horn of Africa, who was described by veteran Pentagon observer Mark Perry as “close to a number of officers at SOCOM (Special Operation Command) and a consultant to the US and UK governments,” believes that the reports depicting Houthi insurgents as Tehran’s agents and operatives in the Arabian Peninsula are “nonsense.”
While it is difficult to predict the future, it is safe to say that Saudi Arabia has already lost on many counts. True, it has laid to waste many Yemeni cities and villages, claiming the lives of thousands of people, but such feats do not constitute victory. They do however paint an accurate picture of Saudi Arabia’s inner political soul, that of a tyrant.