On Aug. 4, the Washington Post reported that U.S. troops are on the ground in Yemen: “The announcement comes a day after the United Arab Emirates said in a statement that its forces, along with U.S. troops, were supporting the Yemeni military in the Shabwa governorate in a bid to oust al-Qaeda fighters entrenched there.”
This is curious–what exactly does the Washington Post mean by “the Yemeni military?” If you didn’t know anything about Yemen you might not even really pay attention to that part of the article. After some thought and research, one can only assume the Post means those military forces loyal to government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was the interim president deposed by the so-called Houthi forces in 2015. Many would characterize the Hadi government as a “government in exile.” What is not mentioned is that prior to the genocidal U.S.-supported Saudi bombing campaign, Yemen was already suffering from a multi-party civil war which we have described in some detail in the past.
Which “Yemeni military?” Yemen’s civil war
In the process of this civil war the Houthis ended up in control of the most populous and agriculturally productive northern portions of Yemen. Yemen has a population currently estimated at 24 million and the rainfall totals in the agricultural provinces of Ibb and Ta’izz rivals that of Seattle, U.S. This makes Yemen the most populous and agriculturally productive region of the Arabian Peninsula. By all accounts, the Houthis are now supported by forces loyal to Ali Abdallaah Saleh, who was the long term U.S. supported “strong man” president deposed by the Arab Spring Democracy movement in Yemen in 2012.
The U.S. military/ruling class establishment and its ally Saudi Arabia are supporting the Hadi government and those forces allied with it, allegedly because the Houthis are being supported and supplied by Iran. But anybody with any knowledge of Yemen, its recent history, demography and geography can tell you that if those forces loyal to the former government of Ali Abdallaah Saleh are siding with the Houthis, then the majority or very large portion of the former military is fighting alongside the Houthis.
Without foreign intervention the Hadi government in the south would be vastly outnumbered and outgunned. The Northern part of Yemen, controlled by the Houthis and those forces loyal to the pre-Arab Spring government is home to 85 percent of the population and something close to 90 percent of the viable agricultural regions. The coalition backing the Hadi “not quite in exile” government include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain and the Sudan. The civil war was in progress in 2015, and it is not clear who would have won. However, the Saudi led coalition has perpetrated heavy bombing campaigns in populated cities in the north with heavy civilian casualties and much destruction of civilian infrastructure. By all accounts the humanitarian crisis is quite severe with cholera and starvation now being leading causes of death in the North.
So, to baldly state the U.S. is supporting “the Yemeni military” in this context, without calling out exactly who those military forces are, lends an air of legitimacy that no one faction in Yemen currently possesses. In fact, with the rampant destruction by the “Saudi led coalition” and the indiscriminate drone strikes carried out by the U.S., it seems safe to believe that the Hadi government has less popular support now than it did when it was deposed in 2015. Given that the Hadi forces control only half of the southern part of Yemen with at best 15 percent of the population, while accepting support from foreign forces responsible for so much destruction of civilian life and infrastructure, to state in a decontextualized way, “the Yemeni military” is so disingenuous as to amount to outright lying.
The U.S. military establishment is so intent on establishing and maintaining the appearance of control over Yemen, they would rather destroy everybody and everything in Yemen than to allow a government not completely loyal to U.S. imperialism come into existence.
U.S. and Al-Qaeda
The ostensible goal called out in the Washington Post article is to aid in attacking and eventually uprooting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Qaeda (in general) is arguably an off-shoot of U.S. defense establishment interference in the affairs of the Muslim and Arabic speaking worlds. This interference goes back to U.S. support for the most reactionary forces imaginable in its covert war against the socialist government of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the isolation, blockade against Iraq and final fragmentation and destruction of Iraq from 2003 up to the present day.
The AQAP is allied with ISIL and the Salafi movement that has been attempting to create a theocratic state in Syria and Iraq. In Iraq, the U.S. military is fighting them and in Syria they have been giving them aid and support in an attempt destroy one of the last remaining independent, secular states in the Arabic speaking world, Syria. With the help of Russian forces, the Syrians have regained control over much of the city and province of Aleppo. It is clear, that had it not been for Russian diplomatic and military support of the Syrian government, the U.S. State Department would have allowed ISIL to take over Syria.
According to the Washington Post article the U.S. has perpetrated approximately 80 air strikes in Yemen since February 28. These air strikes, mostly drone strikes, have been notoriously sloppy, often taking out large numbers of civilians along with the intended targets. These targets are usually Al-Qaeda operatives who have been variously identified through informants, satellite surveillance or even electronic surveillance of invitation lists to wedding parties. The drone strike takes out the house where they are living or even the entire wedding party where the operative is in attendance with very little regard for any “collateral damage,” which is Department of Defense double speak for the war crime of intentionally killing unarmed non-combatants not offering resistance or posing a threat. Even with the goal of taking out Al-Qaeda, the large number of civilian casualties can only make the U.S. and its policies ever more unpopular among the victims of these indiscriminate attacks.
The United Nations has called Yemen “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.” What is needed is for the U.S. to stop intervening in Yemen. The U.S. funded, Saudi-led coalition needs to stop its brutal bombing campaign in Yemen. Yemen needs to be free from all foreign intervention, and in a just world the U.S. and the Saudis wouldpay to rebuild the Yemeni infrastructure. All progressive and revolutionary people should defend the right of the Yemeni people to determine their own fate.