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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis Yemen Could be Trump’s Vietnam

Yemen Could be Trump’s Vietnam

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Yemen Could be Trump’s Vietnam

CDHR Commentary: It’s being reported that the Trump administration is considering “deeper involvement in the devastating Yemen war.” This would be an ill-advised move. Getting entangled in Yemen would be disastrous, as the Saudi-led coalition has discovered. Given its political, economic, historical and geographic landscape, Yemen could become the US's second Vietnam. President Trump's military and strategic advisors ought to know this fact and spare America the anguish of another costly, prolonged and needless military calamity in the Middle East.

The Saudi-led coalition of six of the richest and most powerful Arab countries have been bombarding, blockading and starving the 26 million Yemenis for 2 years and the result has been described as “catastrophic” in human and material terms. By all accounts, the only beneficiary of the costly invasion of Yemen is America’s sworn enemy Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The terrorist group has not only captured substantial swaths of territory close to the strategic strait of Bab-Al-Mandeb, but attracted large numbers of angry and disillusioned Yemeni recruits.

It’s no secret that the Saudis have “exhorted the Americans to” ‘cut off the head of the snake,’ the Persian theocrats, who are competing with the Saudi oligarchy for strategic supremacy in the Muslim World. Having failed to beat the mostly bare-footed and machete-brandishing Yemeni rebels into submission, the Saudis are trying to tempt the Trump Administration into doing what its predecessors (going back to JFK’s Administration) rejected, getting involved in the costly, ruinous and unwinnable internal conflicts in Yemen.  US generals, historians and strategists should have known that, like the Vietnamese, the Yemenis are nationalists, have very little to lose and have defeated both Muslim and non-Muslim invaders who have attempted to conquer them.

The Saudi monarchy’s invasion of Yemen in March 2015 is neither accidental nor merely in reaction to Iran’s “meddling” in Saudi affairs, as the Saudis and their lucratively paid lobbyists claim. If anything, the Iranian theocrats are seen as defenders of the oppressed Yemeni Zaidis, an offshoot of Shi’a Islam, the followers of Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali.

The Saudi rulers have had strategic and economic interests, especially in southern Yemen, for decades. Most of the Gulf region’s oil exports (including Iranian’s), passes through the strategic strait of Bab Al-Mandeb (the narrowest segment of the Red Sea), whose security and political influence rest with whomever controls south western Yemen (Aden), the former British protectorate.

The all-out Saudi invasion of Yemen did not come as a surprise to those who know the Saudis’ historical view of and designs on Yemen.  Since the Saudi/Yemeni war of 1934 (detailed here), consecutive Saudi monarchs have considered Yemen their backyard geographically and strategically. Geographically, Saudi Arabia and Yemen share more than 1,000 miles of forbidding desert and mountainous borders. Strategically, the Saudis have considered South Yemen (Aden) to be vital real estate because of its location.

The Saudis know that controlling Aden and its strategic surroundings will be a powerful bargaining chip they can use regionally and globally. Thus, it is safe to assume that focusing on the recapturing of Aden and  designating it a provisional governing region is a top political and strategic priority for the Saudis. They want to prove that they are not only an indispensable strategic actor, but a power to be reckoned with.

The Saudis know a good opportunity when they see one. They know that given the raging subverting revolutions against repressive regimes in the Arab World, it’s unlikely that the US and its democratic western allies will seriously object to the intent of the Saudi regime’s military adventures and current belligerent regional policies. To maintain economic stability in their countries and globally, western powers want stability in the Middle East at any price. They know that they can always count on the Saudis and other wealthy ruling dynasties to do what is asked of them in exchange for continuing protection not only from foreign threats, but from each other.

Colonizing Aden directly or via a government of their choice is believed to be the Saudis’ ultimate objective. This is how some experts in Saudis tactics interpreted the Saudis’ delayed invasion of Yemen until the insurgents, the Houthis, reached and occupied Aden. By establishing a stranglehold on the strategic Southern Yemeni region, the Saudis know that they will gain considerable leverage, including continued US protection for decades to come.

Instead of getting drawn into an unwinnable and costly war in Yemen, the Trump Administration can best serve the US interest by refraining from military adventure in the Yemeni civil war, which does not pose quantifiable threat to US national security. The Saudis’ declared reason for invading Yemen is to prevent Iran from turning it into a Hezbollah-like proxy. If this is indeed the Saudis’ and their wealthy Gulf allies’ overriding reason for invading Yemen, they could have averted any possibility of the Yemenis becoming an Iranian colony decades ago.

This analyst (born and raised on the Saudi Yemeni borders) wrote an unsolicited economic development proposal for Yemen and handed it to top Saudi officials in 1996. The proposal simply stated that Yemen was, and is, a ticking bomb that would explode unless the Saudi regime invested substantially in modernizing Yemen’s infrastructure in a manner that would provide jobs, improve people’s lives and give the Yemenis hope for a better future. That did not happen then, but it’s not too late for the threatened wealthy Gulf dynasties to invest $100 billion (Yemen Mohammed Plan) not only to repair the unjustified damage they have inflicted on the poverty stricken Yemenis, but to modernize the dilapidated Yemeni infrastructure, including building hospitals, roads, irrigation systems, trade and non-sectarian educational institutions. This will ensure the Yemenis’ independence, pride in themselves and create good will toward their Muslim brethren, especially the Saudis, with whom they share long boarders and historical kinship.

The Trump Administration ought to focus on encouraging the Saudi regime to pursue a peaceful solution to the Yemeni civil war. Selling the Saudis more sophisticate military hardware and sending American advisors to train the Saudi soldiers will only prolong the war and potentially draw regional and global powers into the fray.

https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/yemen/174-yemen-s-al-qaeda-expanding-base



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