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Author Topic: Yemen conflict  (Read 180 times)

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Offline kylieTopic starter

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Yemen conflict
« on: April 26, 2015, 09:00:07 AM »
    For discussion of the present conflict in Yemen specifically.  There are/have been lots of other threads about Islam, drones, Obama more generally, terrorists versus freedom fighters, Benghazi, the list goes on.  While these won't all stay away entirely...  Kindly, please bring something about the war in Yemen and/or its immediate implications.

    Does anyone feel they have a good sense of this??  I will be the first to admit: I don't feel like I know much of what's been going on there the past few years (to say nothing of anytime before oh, 2010).  I would go so far as to say at least before 9/11/01, very few Americans had a clear idea of where the country was.  That's not withstanding a few quick references to the bombing of the USS Cole.  And while I've been out of the country and mainly only following "headline" stories on one or two news sites, I have a general feeling that all most Americans heard was, yes, we send over a few drones and special forces to help the government chase down terrorists.  It did have a feeling much like the post-occupation Iraq War: Who are all these people the government is periodically bombing (or for that matter -- supporting too), do we really know?  Cause I rarely heard much detail at all in the "mainstream" international news.

      Now, lately we do get a bit of higher profile (?) news when it comes to Americans stuck in Aden amidst the advance of various rebels and local powers -- a bit of imperiled "adventure" story, and I presume the old Benghazi rhetoric of who to hold responsible is also stalking there in the wings someplace.  But on the background of U.S. policy in the conflict?  I doubt most people know who was who any better than most people had a clue which militia was which in post-Saddam Iraq.  And I wonder how many American policymakers (broadly speaking) really did, either -- or really "cared" or were not cynical about what they knew -- but there I'm beginning to speculate more.

      Recently I stumbled upon this column by Zunes arguing that essentially, the US set itself up against a popular resistance there (and "for" leadership considered tied to a repressive regime).  The reverse of Egypt at the end of Mubarak, some commentators like to say.  Others seem to be painting this more as a symbolic conflict between US-backed factions and proxies of Iran (and then there's nudging away? the Iranian naval group), whatever else may be going on in Yemen itself.  I find Zunes' history persuasive on the face of it (he presents enough detail and cross-talk that it seems at least plausible, unlike much of the government and even news soundbites!)...  But again, I don't know the broader history and the people involved well at all. 

      If anyone has other pertinent sources, I'd be interested to hear some discussion of this:  Is this actually a case where the US has basically sided with "the devil we know" and perhaps been sending drones after a basically popular (maybe even pro-democracy?) opposition?  In any case, what will be the impact on the balance of power in the region?  Or what do you make of the US government response or lack there of, whether to the conflict in general on the ground (while supporting Saudi air attacks) -- or to the stranded persons story?
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 09:02:50 AM by kylie »

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Yemen conflict
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2015, 09:24:38 AM »
My take? This is the starting point of a regional war. You have Iran on one side with the Saudis on the other. Our prestige and influence is so low, and so many Americans (and to a lesser extent Europeans) are becoming more and more isolationist that we won't get involved till it's too late and there is a shooting war between the Saudi alliance and Iran with all the little rabid insurgent groups both sides have been sponsoring over the years.

The big question mark is where ISIS falls into this

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: Yemen conflict
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2015, 12:24:51 PM »
both the saudis and iranians pretty much hate ISIS as far as I can tell. They can't be bought, bribed, or won over by either side. They are also square in the crosshairs of the various western powers and present a threat to the "traditional" powerstruggle between the two of them.
That isn't to say there probably aren't people within both governments trying to calculate how things could/would go.
But supporting the group is a political death sentence on the world stage. Right now Iran needs the US to not freak the fuck out and put sanctions back in place lest their already shaky economy stagnate again and lead to unrest or worse. The Saudis have been a long time ally of the US in the region, regardless of their reasons for it, and I think our intervention and political position is more for their sake than Yemen's

Offline Cassandra LeMay

Re: Yemen conflict
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2015, 12:42:58 PM »
My take? This is the starting point of a regional war. You have Iran on one side with the Saudis on the other. Our prestige and influence is so low, and so many Americans (and to a lesser extent Europeans) are becoming more and more isolationist that we won't get involved till it's too late and there is a shooting war between the Saudi alliance and Iran with all the little rabid insurgent groups both sides have been sponsoring over the years.
Personaly I doubt it. Iran would be foolish to get involved in a direct military confrontation with Saudi Arabia at a point when there is at least a little thaw in Iranian / U.S. relations. Iran needs the sanctions lifted if it doesn't want its economy to deteriorate to the point where they will have their own popular uprising against the government.

Another reason why I have my doubts that Iran will take an active hand in Yemen is that I am not certain how strong the ties between the Houthis and Iran really are. Ties there may well be, but I think it would be in the Saudi's best interest to play those up for more than they are actually worth and play the "Iran is trying to support a militant group trying to overthrow a legitimate government" card and drive a wedge between the US and Iran.

Offline Mikem

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Re: Yemen conflict
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2015, 12:57:55 PM »
My take? This is the starting point of a regional war. You have Iran on one side with the Saudis on the other.

And then there's Isreal as well. And we all know their lovely relations with the Arab world, and their lovely relations with the western world.

All I've managed to read about the Yemeni situation is an Islamic rebellion against a now exiled Government. And now the larger neighboring militaries have become involved against the rebels since the civil war started to get out of hand. Yeah I know, not much knowledge on my end. I for the most part worry the most about what happens on my own Continent.

Quote
Is this actually a case where the US has basically sided with "the devil we know" and perhaps been sending drones after a basically popular (maybe even pro-democracy?) opposition?
Now I'm not one to just start openly bashing the Government that runs the country I live in, but I know that Governments in the first place aren't above doing things like this and then not telling the whole or complete story to their public. It has been said that the U.S. did have relations with Yemen before the civil war and opposed the Rebels that are trying to take over. So for the sake of trying to maintain the status quo I would believe that they'd be using resources against the opposition, in order to keep a known "asset" in power.

Offline Cassandra LeMay

Re: Yemen conflict
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2015, 02:16:43 PM »
One big problem in Yemen is that it is difficult to tell if there even is a "devil you know". Allegiances shift. Tribes feud over personal or territorial grounds as often, or more, than political ideologies. Tribal leaders can be bought, fall out with former allies, ally themselves with former enemies on purely practical, pragmatic grounds. Facts on the ground can change faster than western intelligence can keep up with or react to.

A look at the history of Yemen may help illustrate some aspects of that: Till 1967 Aaden and the surrounding areas were British. After the British left, Yemen split into two parts in 1970, a Marxist "Democratic People's Republic" heavily sponsored by the Soviets, and an Islamist part. Those two fought till 1990 when the collapse of the Soviet Union meant dwindling support forced the Marxists to seek an arrangement with the Islamic part of Yemen. Complete unification (if you can call it that) only happened in 1994, after a Marxist uprising was put down under the command of Ali Abdallah Saleh, who ruled the country till very recently.

Saleh, by the way, wasn't always all that eager to stand up to Islamist radicals at times, e.g. he was accused at the time of not being exctly helpful with the USS Cole investigation, but was forced to do at least a little bit about them if he didn't want to piss off the Saudis and the US. The US gave Yemen money to help fight in the 'war on terror' (and Yemen is dirty poor, plus we all know how money can often find its way into the pockets of less-than-democratic governments) and Yemen has a long history of border disputes with Saudi Arabia that never did the Yemenis much good. That probably didn't sit so well with at least some of the locals who figured that Saleh was 'their' man.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia, it may be worth noting that what are now the three southernmost regions of Saudi Arabia were claimed by Yemen until the 1920s, when the Saudis annexed those parts. The current Saudi/Yemen border was set down in 1934, but has long been disputed. Under Ali Abdallah Saleh the border was set down again in the Treaty of Jeddah, but there certainly are many Yemeni tribes who are not happy with a border drawn right through what they might consider their traditional lands. That didn't endear the Saleh government to some tribes, Islamism and religious issues aside, even if they may have fought with Saleh against the Marxists only a few years earlier.