US and Saudi war on Yemen / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February/March 2013

In the face of an unstoppable economic crisis which is causing poverty and instability in the heartlands of global capitalism, the imperialist powers are bringing war and death to the Middle East and North Africa. To save their sinking ship, Britain and the US are turning to old allies like Saudi Arabia to aid in the brutality needed to control global resources and stamp on dissent. Assisting drone strikes on Yemeni villages, channelling arms to rebels in Syria and cracking down on the poor at home, Saudi Arabia is a trusted client of imperialism.

The US is waging an undeclared war on the impoverished population of Yemen, which it calls a partner state in the war on terrorism. It says the target of these attacks is Al Qaeda, yet they come at a time of rising discontent in the poorest country in the region. Protests continue more than a year after demonstrations brought down the autocratic, pro-imperialist president Ali Abdullah Saleh. During protests in 2009, Saudi troops and fighter jets took part in Yemen’s military crackdown on Houthi Shias in northern Yemen. In a US-sponsored transition, Saleh was replaced by his deputy Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, unopposed in ‘elections’ last year. Since then, Hadi has repeatedly given the CIA permission for drone strikes, often when there is no clear link between the target and Al Qaeda.

Figures for drone attacks in Yemen were three times higher in 2012 than 2011, for the first time totalling more than US drone strikes on Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has reportedly provided fighter jets to assist in this war. In January, The Times quoted a US intelligence source admitting that ‘some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions’. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal denied this but admitted to aiding the US by providing ‘intelligence’.

According to the Long War Journal, 223 people were killed by drones in Yemen in 2012. Any reports of deaths in the Western media are short and sketchy, usually labelling the dead ‘Al Qaeda suspects’ or ‘suspected terrorists’. A 132-word Associated Press report on 19 January reports at least eight dead as a result of a drone attack in Marib province – ‘at least three of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.’ US or Yemeni officials usually only claim responsibility when ‘senior militants’ are killed, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: ‘Only in December – three months after a dozen civilians died in Rada’a [sic] – did anonymous US officials admit that an American drone or plane had carried out an attack.’

Protests in Yemen have now taken on an explicitly anti-US and anti-Saudi content. On 4 January, protesters in the southern town of Redaa blockaded a government building following more than five deadly attacks in ten days. One protester told Reuters, ‘If the authorities don’t stop the American attacks then we will occupy the government institutions in the town.’

There is also rising anger at the treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, who make up more than half the workforce. There have been protests as far way as Colombo, after a Sri Lankan maid was beheaded when the baby she looked after died. There are more than 45 maids awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia. On 20 January, a huge rally outside the Saudi embassy in the Yemeni capital Sana’a called for the release of Yemeni prisoners held without charge in Saudi Arabia. Last year, it was reported that an 18-year-old Yemeni youth died as a result of torture by Saudi intelligence agents. The war on Yemen is part of a war on the working class.

Louis Brehony

US and Britain manoeuvre in Yemen

us_and_britain_manoeuvre_in_yemenHundreds of thousands of people continue to join protests across Yemen in opposition to President Saleh's authoritarian and corrupt government. On 15 July at least ten people were killed and many wounded in clashes between government forces and tribes people supporting protestors in Taiz. 7 civilians were killed and 30 wounded when government forces fired mortars in the several neighbourhoods in Taiz.

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Yemen / FRFI 220 April/May 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

Months of protests in Yemen against the government and President Saleh have gained in strength. Many people have been killed and wounded by police, military and pro-Saleh forces, but the demonstrators have succeeding in isolating the President as leading generals and clan leaders turn against him.

Yemen has an unemployment rate of 40%, with 45% of its nearly 20 million people living on $2 a day or less. Recent months of sharp rises in food prices have magnified the poverty suffered in the country. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 32% of Yemenis lack access to sufficient food and around 58% of all children are malnourished. The UN ranks Yemen with the lowest Human Development Index of any Arab country. Illiteracy exceeds 50%.

Saleh has been an ally of the US in its campaign against Al Qaida, receiving military aid and hosting US drones. Britain provides SAS troops working as mentors to Yemeni forces in strike operations and interrogation techniques.

Yemen’s strategic importance for imperialism is determined by its bordering of Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, and the Bab Al Mandab strait, through which 3 million barrels of oil pass every day. Imperialism has ties to the dissenting generals and will hope that they can contain the revolt.

Anthony Rupert

British and US imperialism take aim at Yemen / FRFI 213 Feb / Mar 2010

FRFI 213 February / March 2010

The US and Britain have declared Yemen as the next hotbed of Al Qaida activity and have prepared their military targets. Britain has now imposed a ‘no fly’ ban on the entire Yemeni civilian population. From 1839 southern Yemen was an important geo-strategic colony of the British and later a gateway to the Suez Canal. Today, with the excuse of ‘the war on terror’, Britain and the US once again seek to gain influence on the Arabian peninsula, scrambling for the chance to intervene.

The recent failed attack of the ‘Underwear Bomber’ on 25 December 2009 has allowed the US to force the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to accept further drone attacks and surveillance (which began in 2002), imperialist military funding and the influx of US and British military advisers. Their military intervention could lead to the occupation of the whole country.

Since August 2009 the Yemeni government has waged Operation Scorched Earth, a military offensive on northern Shia-Zaidi Muslim civilians, known as Houthis. In December 2009 an air strike in northern Yemen by either US or Saudi jets killed 120 Houthi people. On 17 December, the Yemeni government attacked a site north of the capital Sana’a, killing an alleged 34 Al Qaida militants. However, local officials reported the deaths of 49 civilians, among them 23 children. The total casualties are unknown due to a media blackout, but deaths run into hundreds and wounded into thousands. US, British and Saudi influence over these manoeuvres has long been apparent and is increasing.

Saudi Arabia is by far the most important foreign power in Yemen, providing $2 billion in budget support. The Saudis are reported to be using white phosphorous shells to bomb northern Yemen. The struggle of the Houthis in north Yemen is not unlike that of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza in that they have demanded an end to the collusion between the ruling authority and the US and Israel. The contempt and hostility of Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi establishment for Shia Muslims is an important reason why they have provided material support to Saleh’s attempt to put down the northern uprisings. In 1990 Yemen refused to join the war against Iraq and consequently Saudi Arabia expelled 850,000 of its two million Yemeni workers.

The recent disclosure that Britain had a military training presence in the country even before the failed 25 December airline attack, comprising members of the SAS working as mentors to Yemeni forces in strike operations and interrogation techniques, follows the announcement last month that the US will be sending special forces to the country in the fight against ‘terrorism’. The US has already conducted covert operations in Yemen, using unmanned Predator drones from bases in nearby Djbouti to attack ‘terrorist’ safe houses and provided intelligence and missiles for three recent air strikes in Arhab, Abyan and Shabwa provinces.

Even though US intelligence estimates only about 200 Al Qaida members in Yemen, by 1 January 2010 the US had doubled its security assistance to Yemen’s government to $140 million from $67 million in 2009. Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently announced that the US and Britain have agreed to fund and train a counterterrorism police unit in Yemen. Britain also plans to support Yemeni coastguard operations – strategically vital for imperialism as Aden and Yemen face a major world shipping lane linking Europe and the Middle East to East Asia.

Yemen has depended on oil reserves which are now running out. Its population is officially the poorest on the Arabian peninsula and has an unemployment rate of 35%. The average person in Yemen survives on one-fifth of what the World Health Organisation considers to be an adequate amount of water in a country where about 45% of the people live on less than $2 a day. UNICEF has indicated the number of internally displaced people now totals 175,000 since the conflict in the north began; half of them are children.

Now the US and Britain will face a difficulty in Yemen similar to that in Afghanistan, by supporting an unpopular and corrupt government. It is not that Al Qaida is strong but that it will be swimming in sympathetic waters because the government is in a weak position. A high proportion of the captives still held by the US at Guantanamo are Yemenis and the US does not want to return them to Yemen, fearing that they will join Al Qaida.

However, the Yemeni people have a history of anti-imperialist struggle and evicted the British occupation forces from Aden in 1967. With the oil reserves running dry, President Saleh’s ability to buy off his opponents and former friends has begun to wane. The imperialists may find themselves wading into quicksand yet again.

Anthony Rupert