by Rick Rozoff
December 15, 2009
Yemen will become a battleground for a proxy war
between the United States and Saudi Arabia - whose state-to-state relations
are among the strongest and most durable of the entire post-World War II era
- on one hand and Iran on the other.
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact moment at which a U.S.-
supported self-professed holy warrior - trained to perpetrate acts of urban
terrorism and to shoot down civilian airliners - ceases to be a freedom
fighter and becomes a terrorist. But a safe assumption is that it occurs
when he is no longer of use to Washington.
A terrorist who serves American interests is a
freedom fighter; a freedom fighter who doesn't is a terrorist.
Yemenis are the latest to learn the Pentagon's and the White House's law of
the jungle. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan which counterinsurgency
specialist Stanley McChrystal used to perfect his techniques, Yemen
is joining the ranks of other nations where the Pentagon is engaged in that
variety of warfare, fraught with civilian massacres and other forms of
so-called collateral damage: Colombia, Mali, Pakistan, the Philippines,
Somalia and Uganda.
BBC News reported on December 14 that 70 civilians were killed when aircraft
bombed a market in the village of Bani Maan in northern Yemen.
The nation's armed forces claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, but
a website of the Houthi rebels against whom the bombing was ostensibly
"Saudi aircraft committed a massacre against
the innocent residents of Bani Maan." 
The Saudi regime entered the armed conflict
between the (eponymous) Houthis and the Yemeni government on behalf of the
latter in early November and since has been accused of launching attacks
inside Yemen with tanks and warplanes. Even before the latest bombing scores
of Yemenis have been killed and thousands displaced by the fighting.
Saudi Arabia has also been accused of using
Moreover, the rebel group known as Young Believers, based in the
Shi'ite Muslim community of Yemen which comprises 30 percent of the
country's population of 23 million, claimed on December 14 that,
"US fighter jets have attacked Yemen's
Sa'ada Province" and "US fighter jets have launched 28 attacks on the
northwestern province of Sa'ada." 
The previous day's edition of Britain's Daily
Telegraph reported on discussions with U.S. military officials, stating
"Fearful that Yemen is in danger of becoming
a failed state, America has now sent a small number of special forces
teams to improve training of Yemen's army in reaction to the threat."
One unnamed Pentagon official was quoted as
"Yemen is becoming a reserve base for
al-Qaeda's activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan." 
The conjuring up of the al-Qaeda bogey,
however, is a decoy.
The rebels in the north of the nation are
Shi'ites and not Sunnis, much less Wahhabi Sunnis of the Saudi variety, and
as such are not only not linked with any group of groups that could be
categorized as al-Qaeda, but instead would be a likely target thereof.
In service to American designs in the region, the British and American press
lately has been referring to Yemen as the "ancestral homeland" of
Bin Laden comes from a prominent billionaire
Saudi Arabian family, of course, but as his father had been born in what is
now the Republic of Yemen over a century ago the Western media are
exploiting an insignificant historical accident to suggest Osama bin Laden's
active role in the nation and to establish a tenuous link between the South
Asian war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi and American armed
intervention in a civil conflict in Yemen.
In 2002 the Pentagon dispatched an estimated 100 soldiers, by some accounts
Green Beret special forces, to Yemen to train the country's military.
In that instance, coming as it did two years
after the suicide bombing attack against the Navy destroyer USS Cole in the
southern Yemeni port of Aden, attributed to al-Qaeda, and accompanied by
drone missile attacks against identified leaders of the same, Washington
justified its actions as retaliation for that incident as well as the
attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. the year before.
The present context is different and a U.S.-backed counterinsurgency war in
Yemen will have nothing to do with combating alleged al-Qaeda threats, but
will in fact be an integral part of the strategy to expand the Afghan war
into yet wider concentric circles taking in South and Central Asia, the
Caucasus and the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and the Gulf of Aden, the Horn
of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The eagerly awaited departure of President
George W. Bush may have led to the end of the official
war on terror, now referred to as
overseas contingencies operations, but nothing except the name has
On December 13 the top commander of the Pentagon's Central Command in charge
of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, General David Petraeus,
told the Al Arabiya television network that,
"that U.S supports Yemen's security in the
context of the military cooperation provided by America for its allies
in the region" and "stressed that U.S. ships in the territorial waters
of Yemen [are there] not only to control but to impede the infiltrations
of weapons to Houthi rebels." 
To be recalled the next time the al-Qaeda/bin
Laden canard is used to justify expanding U.S. military involvement on the
The Yemen Post of December 13 wrote that the Houthi media office,
"accused the U.S. of participating in the
war against Houthis" and released photographs of what were identified as
U.S. warplanes "involved in bombing operations in Sa'ada province [in]
The source estimated there have been twenty U.S.
bombing raids coordinated with satellite surveillance. 
The Western press is again leading the charge in linking the Houthis, whose
religious background of Zaydi Shi'ism is quite distinct from the Iranian
version, to sinister machinations imputed to Tehran. Even U.S. government
officials have to date acknowledged no evidence that Iran is supporting much
less arming the Yemeni rebels.
That will change if the script goes according to
precedent as is indicated by Petraeus's comment above, and Washington will
dutifully echo the Yemeni government's claim that Iran is arming its Shi'ia
brethren in Yemen as it is accused of doing in Lebanon.
Yemen will become a battleground for a proxy war between the United States
and Saudi Arabia - whose state-to-state relations are among the strongest
and most durable of the entire post-World War II era - on one hand and Iran
on the other.
In an editorial of five days ago the Tehran Times accused all parties
to the Yemeni conflict - the government, the rebels and Saudi Arabia - of
recklessness and issued a warning:
"History provides a good example. Saudi
Arabia funded extremist groups in Afghanistan and still, two decades
since the withdrawal of the Soviet army from the country, the flames of
war in Afghanistan are overwhelming the allies of Saudi Arabia. And a
similar scenario is emerging in Yemen." 
The comparison between Yemen and
Afghanistan alluded in particular to Riyadh, in the second case
hand-in-glove with the United States, exporting Saudi-based
Wahhabism to expand its political
Saudi Arabia is attempting to promote its own version of extremism in
Yemen as it did earlier in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is currently doing
Far from the U.S. and its Western allies
expressing any objection, the Saudis and their fellow Persian Gulf
monarchies will be in the forefront of what is estimated to be $100 billion
worth of Middle East arms purchases from the West over the next five years.
"The core of this arms-buying spree will
undoubtedly be the $20 billion U.S. package of weapons systems over 10
years for the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia,
the U.A.E., Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain." 
Saudi Arabia is also armed with state-of-the-art
British and French warplanes as well as U.S. missile defense systems.
What the earlier cited Iranian commentary warned about regarding "the flames
of war" in Afghanistan is perfectly confirmed by the Commander's Initial
Assessment of August 30, 2009 issued by top American and NATO military
commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and published by
the Washington Post on September 21 with the redactions demanded by the
The 66-page document served as the blueprint for
President Barack Obama's December 1 announcement that 33,000 more American
troops are headed to Afghanistan.
In the report McChrystal stated,
"The major insurgent groups in order of
their threat to the mission are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (05T), the
Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)."
The last two are named after their founders and
current leaders, Jalaluddin Haqqanni and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Mujahideen
darlings of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s when the
Agency's deputy director (from 1986-1989) was Robert Gates, now U.S.
Secretary of Defense in charge of prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. And in
In his 1996 book From the Shadows, Gates boasted that,
"CIA had important successes in covert
action. Perhaps the most consequential of all was Afghanistan where CIA,
with its management, funneled billions of dollars in supplies and
weapons to the mujahideen..." 
The New York Times in 2008 divulged these
"In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was
cultivated as a 'unilateral' asset of the CIA and received tens of
thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in
Afghanistan, according to an account in 'The Bin Ladens,' a recent book
by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin
Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll
Coll is also the author of the 2001 volume
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from
the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
Haqqani's colleague Hekmatyar,
"received millions of dollars from the CIA
through the ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence]. Hezb-e-Islami
Gulbuddin received some of the strongest support from Pakistan and Saudi
Arabia, and worked with thousands of foreign mujahideen who came to
This past May the (superlatively) pro-American
president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, told the American NBC news
network that Taliban is,
"part of our past and your past, and the ISI
and CIA created them together... It (the Taliban) was (a) monster
created by all of us..." 
On September 11, 2001 there were only three
nations in the world that recognized Taliban rule in Afghanistan:
the United Arab Emirates
U.S. President George W. Bush immediately
afterward singled out seven so-called states supporting terrorism for
Only Sudan, which expelled Osama bin Laden in
1996, had any conceivable connections to al-Qaeda. Of the nineteen accused
September 11 airline hijackers, fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two from the
United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remain highly-valued American political and
military allies and the United Arab Emirates has troops serving under NATO
command in Afghanistan.
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact moment at which a
U.S.-supported self-professed holy warrior - trained to perpetrate acts of
urban terrorism and to shoot down civilian airliners - ceases to be a
freedom fighter and becomes a terrorist.
But a safe assumption is that it occurs when he
is no longer of use to Washington. A terrorist who serves American interests
is a freedom fighter; a freedom fighter who doesn't is a terrorist.
For decades the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela
and the Palestine Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat
were at the top of the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist groups. No
sooner had the Cold War ended than both Mandela and Arafat (and Sinn Fein's
Gerry Adams) were invited to the White House. The first shared the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1993 and the second in 1994.
If a hypothetical self-styled jihadist left Saudi Arabia or Egypt in the
1980s for Pakistan to fight against the Afghan government and its Soviet
ally, he was a freedom fighter in the U.S.'s eyes. If he then went to
Lebanon he was a terrorist. In the early 1990s if he arrived in Bosnia he
was a freedom fighter again, but if he showed up in the Gaza Strip or the
West Bank a terrorist.
In the Russian North Caucasus he was a reborn
freedom fighter, but if he returned to Afghanistan after 2001 a terrorist.
Depending on how the wind is blowing from Foggy Bottom, an armed
Baloch separatist in Pakistan or a Kashmiri one in India is either a freedom
fighter or a terrorist.
Contrariwise, in 1998 U.S. special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard
described the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighting the government of
Yugoslavia as a terrorist organization:
"I know a terrorist when I see one and these
men are terrorists." 
The following February U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright brought five members of the KLA, including its
chief Hashim Thaci, to Rambouillet, France to offer an ultimatum to
Yugoslavia that she knew would be rejected and lead to war.
The next year she escorted Thaci on a personal
the United Nations Headquarters and the
State Department and invited him as a guest to the Democratic Party
presidential nominating convention in Los Angeles.
This November 1st Thaci, now prime minister of a pseudo-state
only recognized by 63 of the world's 192 nations, hosted former U.S.
President Bill Clinton for the unveiling of a statue honoring the latter's
crimes. And vanity.
Washington supported armed separatists in Eritrea from the mid-1970s until
1991 in their war against the Ethiopian government.
Currently the U.S. is arming Somalia and Djibouti for war against
independent Eritrea. The Pentagon has its first permanent military base in
Africa in Djibouti, where it stations 2,000 troops and from where it
conducts drone surveillance over Somalia. And Yemen.
In the words of Balzac's character Vautrin,
"There are no such things as principles,
there are only events; there are no laws, there are only
Yemenis are the latest to learn the Pentagon's
and the White House's law of the jungle.
Along with Iraq and Afghanistan which
counterinsurgency specialist Stanley McChrystal used to perfect his
techniques, Yemen is joining the ranks of other nations where the U.S.
military is engaged in that variety of warfare, fraught with civilian
massacres and other forms of so-called collateral damage:
BBC News, December 14, 2009
Press TV, December 14, 2009
Daily Telegraph, December 13, 2009
Yemen Post, December 13, 2009
Tehran Times, December 10, 2009
United Press International, August 25,
BBC News, December 1, 2008
New York Times, September 9, 2008
Press Trust of India, May 11, 2009
BBC News, June 28, 1998