April 21, 2015—US intervention in Yemen deepened this week as the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-fueled aircraft carrier, led eight other US naval ships to the coast of Yemen. But what exactly are the national interests being served?
In Yemen, rebels known as Houthis have overthrown the US and Saudi Arabian-backed government, even succeeding in occupying the capital city, Sana’a. Led by Saudi Arabia, nine other Sunni Islamic countries are pushing back against the Yemeni rebels as well as what they perceive to be Iran’s growing influence. Iran is a Shiite country and is thus opposed by the Sunni countries who have been against US talks with Iran over their civilian nuclear program. As a nuclear deal nears, the US is under pressure to reassure these Sunni countries that it has their backs.
Ilan Goldenberg, former State Department and Pentagon official under President Obama told Politico:
“Our involvement in Yemen is a direct function of the talks, and it’s a decision by the administration to try to reassure our Arab partners.”
“I’m not sure what we’re doing in Yemen is good Yemen policy. In fact I would probably venture that it’s bad Yemen policy. But I would say that it’s good U.S.-Saudi relationship policy.”
How does this candid assessment measure up against the Obama Administration and mainstream media talking points?
In soundbite-driven TV news, the situation in Yemen has been summarily described as “confusing” or “complicated,” stressing “Tehran’s support of the Shiite rebels fighting the Saudi-led coalition.” Well, that is confusing because Tehran’s alleged support hasn’t been quantified or qualified with any evidence from the US. The “Shiite rebels” characterization fogs up the fact that they are Yemenis resisting foreign bombers, not simply a “coalition” led by a US ally.
The alleged Iranian support of the Houthis is nothing compared to what the US has done for the Saudi airstrike mission in Yemen. From intelligence to air refueling, the US has made the Saudi bombing campaign all the more damaging, though no more effective. Some 60 Houthis and 45 civilians were killed in just one series of Saudi strikes. Many more civilians have died and the Houthis have not let up their resistance. Is the US supporting the Saudis’ own Vietnam quagmire?
What the naval blockade of Yemen is accomplishing, now with direct involvement of the US, is keeping humanitarian aid off shore. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, depending on imports for over 90 percent of its food. Those deliveries will be stalled or not made at all. Is this good for “stability” as the US claims its involvement is?
Besides Saudi Arabia, the Houthis are also battling al Qaeda and the Islamic State who benefit from the chaos created in Yemen. If the Houthis are fighting enemies of the US, what good is the US doing by allying with Saudi Arabia, a country that has been reluctant to do the same?
The recent increase of media hype about Iranian weapon shipments to Yemen runs parallel with their claims about Iran developing a nuclear bomb. Neither of these notions are backed up with evidence, but the international politics driving those talking points are quite evident.
Though the Obama Administration is committed to working out a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia must be appeased. Why? And for how long?
These are the questions that can’t be avoided unless the US adopts a more non-interventionist foreign policy.
Do you think US intervention in Yemen will lead to a greater regional war? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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