The following is based on a presentation by Richard Becker at a PSL forum in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2018.
Since the U.S. emerged a main power following World War II, its objective in the Middle East has been to dominate that resource-rich and strategically key area. How is U.S. strategy playing out today in Yemen, Iran and Palestine? Will it be successful?
In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, a civil war lasting more than three years, has been made a thousand times worse by the intervention of the imperialist powers, led by the U.S., and their monarchist allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The results of the U.S./Saudi/UAE intervention on the side of a former president, Hadi, have been unimaginable. Aid organizations call Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
• Nearly 18 million people out of a total population of 28 million are dependent on food aid to survive, according to relief organizations.
• The Saudi navy and allies maintains a naval blockade on the country, which has been a main factor in the crisis and also in a cholera epidemic, which the shortage of medicines made much worse.
• Five million Yemeni children face imminent danger of starvation, and tens of thousands have already died.
• According to the World Health Organization, between April 2017 and July 2018, there were more than one 1.1 million cholera cases there, and close to 3,000 people died, mostly children. The epidemic was caused by contaminated drinking water, rotting garbage, the bombing of sewage systems and water filtration plants. and the lack of fuel cause by the relentless bombing and the blockade
• With the full support of the U.S., including providing warplanes, bombs and aerial refueling, the Saudi-UAE alliance is attempting to conquer Hodeidah, the one remaining port able to receive large-scale humanitarian aid.
Yemen was two countries, one allied with socialist camp
Until 1990 Yemen, which had been a British colony until the 1960s, was two countries, the Republic of Yemen, North Yemen, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, South Yemen. In the 1960s, Egypt, under the progressive nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser, sent troops that fought on the side of the South. Saudi Arabia and Britain supported the North.
South Yemen (the PDRY) was led by the Yemeni Socialist Party, which was organized by elements who came from the same current as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and which had relations and received aid from the Soviet Union and the socialist camp. When that assistance abruptly ended, North and South Yemen united into one state.
But the conflict broke out again in 1994 between the North and South, and there was sporadic fighting, which intensified after the mass protests of 2011 in what was known as the Arab Spring.
In the civil war that broke out in 2015, forces who are known as the Houthis from the northern part of the country and followers of the Zaydi wing of Shia Islam along with allies, defeated the Saudi-backed national army and took control of Sana’a, the capitol, and most of western Yemen, under the government of the Supreme Revolutionary Council. The name “Houthi” comes from the al-Houthi family, members of which have led that movement since the 1990s. They are labeled in the mass media and Washington “as agents of Iran.” While Iran is sympathetic to them, there is very little in the way of evidence that they have received anything but minor support from Iran.
Corrupt monarchies and imperialists vs. forces supported by the population
On one side in the conflict is an alliance of monarchies – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Morocco, Bahrain and Jordan – along with Egypt and Sudan, backed by U.S. Green Berets and Navy, French Army Special Forces Command, Academi (formerly Blackwater) mercenaries, Britain, NATO, some elements of the Yemeni military and more.
On the other side are the forces of the Supreme Revolutionary Council including Ansar Allah (Houthis), large units of the Yemeni National Army, some Popular Committees and elements of the Yemeni Socialist Party.
The main forces attacking Yemen from outside and blockading the country, which is dependent on imports for 85% of its food and medicine, are the Saudi and UAE. The battle for the key port of Hodedah where most of limited relief supplies come has been underway for several months.
There have been more than 17,000 air strikes by Saudi and UAE planes, most by the Saudi air force, which is supplied by the Pentagon. U.S. forces are with the Saudi military, training and advising them. U.S. tanker planes are continually refueling, in mid-bombing run, the U.S. made Saudi planes which are every day dropping U.S.-made bombs on schools, hospitals, weddings, market places, school buses, homes etc, etc.
Distortions of corporate media
What is in media here? The establishment media’s “big news” on Yemen is the few occasions when forces of Supreme Revolutionary Council, known as the “Houthis, fire missiles into Saudi Arabia. Dozens have been fired, dozens as compared to the more than 18,000 air strikes on Yemen, taking place day-in-and-day-out, which go unreported here.
The forces of the SRC are always depicted as ‘Iran-supplied,’ and denounced at the UN Security Council by the despicable U.S. Ambassador Niki Haley, who condemns them as “war crimes” while never criticizing the intensive U.S./ Saudi/ UAE aggression. The same goes for the equally despicable U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who is really leading the U.S. aggression today, and Secretary of State John Pompeo, and, of course, Donald Trump himself.
Bombing of Yemen began under Obama
It’s also important to note that the U.S.-supplying and backing of the U.S./Saudi/UAE alliance, and the massive bombing that has destroyed much of Yemen, did not begin with the Trump administration. For the first year and a half, it was a deadly project of the Obama administration.
In May, 2018, the New York Times reported: “Officials said American support for the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels, a campaign that includes the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt, was initially outlined in a 2015 document known as the Rice memo, named after Susan E. Rice, who was then Mr. Obama’s national security adviser.”
This is important to keep in mind at a time when all of liberaldom is resting their hopes on a “blue wave” – a Democratic Party victory in the November election. While there are interntional differences between the Trump grouping and the Demorcats, the Democratic Party is no less imperialist, and even more aggressive in some cases.
While the Saudi leaders predicted in 2015 that the war would be over in a matter of weeks, the vast anti-Yemen alliance have been utterly incapable of defeating the forces of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, which has widespread support among the population.
1991 invasion of Iraq unleashed unpredictable forces
The U.S. war in Iraq in 1991, the 13 years of blockade, and especially the 2003 war and occupation, had the effect of setting in motion events, forces and developments which were entirely unpredictable. The Iraq war was a war of choice on the part of the Bush administrations, all of whose leaders should have been tried and convicted of the most serious form of war crimes, crimes against peace. The destruction of Iraq’s government and disbanding of its army led not to the new, U.S.-style state Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Bush and the rest predicted, but to a massive armed resistance. It also led to the rise of al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State inside Iraq and other countries in the region where they had never existed before. This development was furthered by the U.S./NATO war and destruction of Libya.
Trump seeks to crush independent states and movements
Under the current administration, it is clear that there is a stepped-up drive to crush the independent states and popular movements in the Middle East that are resisting the alliance of imperialism, Israel and the reactionary Arab governments. The intervention in Syria was not only intended to bring about regime change and a compliant government in place of the current secular nationalist Baathist one, but also to isolate Hezbollah which is the strongest political and military force inside Lebanon today. The series of exceptionally hostile actions by the Trump administration against the Palestinians is part of a strategy of liquidating their cause once and for all. The brutal assault on Yemen is intended to crush the Supreme Revolutionary Council government and the independent forces there no matter what the cost in human lives and suffering.
Key target is Iran
The core target of this strategy is Iran. All of the leading foreign and military figures in the Trump administration are extremist Iranphobes. They are seeking to destroy the Iranian economy through a worldwide campaign to shut down Iran’s critical oil exports and foreign trade altogether, by threatening any governments and companies anywhere in the world with huge fines and other punishment if they do business with Iran. The idea is to cause maximum suffering on the people in the hopes that, combined with CIA intervention and military pressure, this will bring about mass upheavals and a split in the leadership in Iran, leading to regime change, and the restoration of Iran to its old status as a neo-colony of the U.S.
There is no doubt that this strategy is causing great suffering. We don’t believe, however, that this strategy will succeed because Washington underestimates the struggle that its repressive policies unleash. For those of us here in the center of world imperialism, it is crucial that we understand what Washington is attempting, and most importantly, be able to explain and oppose it.
As we have chanted in demonstrations, the road to peace, the only road to peace, is U.S. out of the Middle East.