I recently received a “news” alert from The Washington Post informing me that the “U.S. will provide logistical and intelligence support to Saudi operation in Yemen.” I clicked on the link, in the hopes of perhaps finding out, you know, what is going on in Yemen.
What was I thinking.
SANAA, Yemen — Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country.
The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces last week.
Yes, truly a startling turn of events. When U.S. Special Operations forces evacuate a military base in your Middle Eastern country, it’s a bewildering mystery what will happen next.
The military operation was announced Wednesday evening in Washington by Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, who said it would last until Yemen’s “legitimate government” was restored.
After 33 years of rule by [US-friendly dictator] Saleh, a popular uprising in 2011 led to an internationally backed deal and an election, in which there was only one candidate: Hadi, Saleh’s long-serving deputy.
Wow, that government sounds totally legitimate! What more could the Yemeni people possibly ask for? Anyway, back to WaPo:
The United States was not involved in the operation, [al-Jubeir] said. But the White House announced late Wednesday that President Obama had authorized U.S. forces to provide logistical and intelligence support to the operation. American forces were establishing a “Joint Planning Cell” with Saudi Arabia to coordinate military and intelligence assistance, the statement said
So what targets are the Saudis bombing?
“The operations are limited to defending the government and preventing its collapse,” [al-Jubeir] said.
Oh, I guess that sounds fine. Were there civilian casualties?
For that information, you’d have to go elsewhere:
The Saudi airstrikes targeted the presidential palace and the police and special forces headquarters in the capital, Sanaa where loud, house-shaking explosions resonated in the night.
Strikes were also reported on targets in the Malaheez and Hafr Sufyan regions of Saada, a main Houthi stronghold on border with Saudi Arabia, AFP reported.
A witness told Reuters that four or five houses near the Sanaa airport had been damaged. Rescue workers put the death toll from the air strikes at 13, including a doctor who had been pulled from the rubble of a damaged clinic.
Civil defense sources told AFP news agency that at least 17 civilians were killed in Sanaa during the overnight offensive.
Houthi-run al-Masirah television reported that the Saudi-led air strikes had hit a residential neighbourhood north of Sanaa and caused dozens of casualties. It also urged medical personnel to report to hospitals in Sanaa immediately.
All righty, then.
That the Saudis are acting at the behest of the US is not even debatable: the Obama administration itself cemented a $60 billion deal to provide the Saudis with F-15s and train their air force pilots—in Idaho.
According to the ever-informative Washington Post, “Yemen represents a potential proxy battlefield for Shiite power Iran and the Sunni Gulf Arab states allied with Washington.” OMG IRAN!!!
That’s news to Toby Jones, professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University:
[Jones] said possible Saudi intervention would mark a steep escalation of a conflict that has teetered on the verge of civil war for some time. But noted that Riyadh’s sectarian framing of Yemen as a proxy war may be a simplification. For one, there is no convincing evidence Iran is even behind the Houthis, he noted.
For their part, “Houthi leaders have said their advance is a revolution against Hadi and his corrupt government.” Read: another puppet government beholden to the US.
And what did the US ever do to the Yemeni people? It’s not like our government drone bombs their kids or anything. Or backed the 32-year reign of Yemen’s brutal dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. Or brokered deals with the d00d on behalf of US weapons manufacturers so he could slaughter his own people.
Nope, nothing like that. Obviously these silly Yemenis only hate us for our Freedom™.
So if by chance you want to know what is actually going in Yemen, you could start by recognizing that the US has heavily armed repressive and autocratic regimes in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere in the region), and with a straight face claims this is for “stability operations.” You could read this excellent (and prescient) analysis from last September. Then see this piece that at least includes actual reporting, not just stenographers dutifully writing down what our government officials say with nary a hint of skepticism. Hey, it’s not like they’ve ever lied to us before! Then take a look at this map:
Yemen Oil & Gas “Concessions”
Consider who benefits—and who does not. But whatever you do, if you want to know what is going in Yemen, don’t look to The Washington Post.
The ‘defense’ budget is three quarters of a trillion dollars. Profits went up last year well over 25%. I guarantee you: when war becomes that profitable, we’re going to see more of it. -Chalmers Johnson
[a version of this post appeared at perry street palace.]