Should America intervene in Yemen? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 19, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:23 AM, October 19, 2016

STRANGER THAN FICTION

Should America intervene in Yemen?

Signs are ominous! On Thursday, October 13, US Tomahawk cruise missiles destroyed pro-Iranian/anti-Saudi Houthi rebels' radar sites in Yemen, “retaliating after failed missile attacks this week on a U.S. Navy destroyer”, US officials claimed. Washington has again complained about Houthi missile attacks on a US naval ship on Saturday, October 15. Meanwhile, Iran has deployed two warships off Yemen threatening to further escalate tensions after the US missile attacks. It's most likely – if not inevitable – that the US military machine may get directly involved in Yemen. 

One believes the allegation against the Houthi rebels is a part of the US design to stage another Gulf of Tonkin type false flag operation to justify another US-sponsored long-drawn out war in the region a`la Vietnam and Iraq. We know the North Vietnamese “attack” on a US naval ship on August 4, 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin – that never happened – was an American fabrication to justify a full-fledged invasion of North Vietnam, in the name of protecting Southeast Asia from “communist aggression”. It was very similar to Saddam Hussein's non-existing Weapons of Mass Destruction that prompted the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

While Americans are engrossed in Donald Trump's vulgar and offensive comments on women, and allegations about his sexual misconduct with multiple women in the past, seemingly the US Administration is busy teaching the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels a lesson, with a view to intimidating and eventually getting directly involved with Iran! It's least likely that Houthi rebels, who have been simultaneously fighting the pro-Saudi Yemeni regime and Saudi Arabia itself, would open another front against America, which has the most powerful and reckless military in the world. 

Now, what is the Houthi insurgency or rebellion all about? This sectarian and class rebellion against the autocratic Yemeni government began in 2004. By 2015, the Zaidi Shiite Houthis captured around half of the country, including the capital, Sana'a. Shiite Houthis in southern Saudi Arabia also joined the rebellion. What was originally a class movement of Houthis (slightly less than half of the Yemeni population) turned into a civil war, and the Saudi and Iranian interventions in Yemen turned the rebellion into a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. The US is solidly behind the Saudi monarchy. Some Sunni Muslims have also joined the Houthis in their struggle to overthrow the autocratic President Mansour al-Hadi. By now around 7,000 people have been killed and around 40,000 injured. 

Seemingly, it's almost inevitable that the US is going to turn its proxy war against the Houthis through Saudi Arabia into a direct US-Houthi confrontation, as a prelude to direct intervention in Syria and Iran. Since Iran is a common enemy of some of Washington's staunchest allies in the region, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, it can't stomach a Saudi reversal at the hands of Houthi fighters, or any pro-Iranian forces, at all. The US' direct involvement in Yemen and Syria is likely to happen while Obama is the lame duck President after November 8, or soon after Hillary Clinton enters the White House in January. All polls indicate she's going to trounce Donald Trump. Then again, as President Eisenhower implied in a speech, there are lobbies more powerful than the President to drag the country into unnecessary wars.

In his televised farewell speech from the White House on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower singled out the Military-Industrial Lobby – an informal alliance between US military and the defence industry, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy – as the mastermind behind all post-WWII conflicts in the world. Interestingly, the unedited version of his speech also included “Congressional Lobby” as the third most important contributory factor behind US-sponsored wars. His warning against the Military-Industrial Lobby was particularly significant.  

Arundhati Roy has also raised two very interesting questions in this regard: “Do we need weapons to fight wars? Or do we need wars to create markets for weapons?” In 2007, General (ret.) Wesley Clark spelled this out in the most unambiguous terms that the US would get directly involved in several countries in the Middle East at the dictates of the powerful Military-Industrial Lobby. He exposed Pentagon's hidden agenda of allegedly 'invading' “seven countries in five years” – all Muslim-majority in Africa and Middle East, including Iran – just for the sake of it (for the rich dividends or “profits” of war). So, there's no room for any imagination about what's on the cards.

So, one may surmise with a little bit of scepticism and tonnes of worry and anxiety about the suffering of innocent civilians in Yemen and Syria, both at the hands of Saudi troops, and members of the US armed forces. It's not that relevant here if Iran would disintegrate like post-Saddam Iraq, or would become a resolute adversary, or even become a winner against America like Vietnam. It would be too trite an assumption that Russia would remain a casual observer of the joint US-Saudi (and possibly Israeli) involvement in Iran. As Eric Zuesse, investigative historian and author of books on the Holocaust and the Iraq War believes, if elected, Hillary Clinton would “do this again”, get directly involved in Syria as she did in Libya. He is also positive about Russia taking an active role on behalf of the victims of any such eventuality in the near future.

Last but not least, let's hope the new leadership in the US would take lessons from the past: America hasn't won a single war since Korea, but its illegitimate armed interventions in scores of countries in the East and West during the last seven decades were directly responsible for millions of deaths of unarmed civilians in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Let's hope peaceniks like Bernie Sanders would prevent the hawks in the next Administration from getting embroiled in direct hostility with any country, including Iran, Syria, and Yemen. What former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told fellow Americans at the Eisenhower Library last year is very pertinent to this discussion:

Does the number of warships we have, and are building, really put America at risk, when the US battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined — 11 of which are our partners and allies? Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China? These are the kinds of questions Eisenhower asked as commander-in-chief. They are the kinds of questions I believe he would ask today.”

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: tajhashmi@gmail.com 

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