Saturday, 10 September 2016

What Does Saudi Arabia Want in Yemen?

The Carnegie Endowment for Intenational Peace asked the question  'What Does Saudi Arabia Want in Yemen?' and published four differing assessments. Here I offer an alternative simplistic viewpoint, in less than 700 words. Note that this discussion does not address the cause of the internal conflict within Yemen, but concentrates just on the motivations of Saudi Arabia regarding their "intervention". I am a peace activist, not a political expert. My comments are intended to provoke debate and I welcome constructive criticism.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the youngest minister of defence in the world, is the driving force behind the Saudi bombardment of Yemen. He is described as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman, and is considered likely to jump the succession line to be the next to claim the throne.

He is considered by some to be a dangerous, calculating megalomaniac; such characteristics are qualities to be found in leaders of genocide. He is ambitious in his plans to rise to power and exert his influence, both within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and also regarding Saudi Arabia's influence on the world.

In the eyes of Prince Mohammad, Yemen is an inconvenience, that he would rather was a part of his own future land. It acts as a hurdle between Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Sea for Saudi's oil exports. Currently Saudi Arabia depends on exports via the Red Sea constricted by the Bab-el-Mandab, or via the Persian Gulf constricted by the Strait of Hormuz, when ideally it would just run a pipeline down through the centre of Yemen. The rise and spread of power in Yemen of northern Yemen's Houthis, long established enemies of the Kingdom, is problematic for Prince Mohammad's plans for Saudi's future.

In addition, there is a paradox in the invincible mindset of this young prince, in that the Saudi royal family feels their hold on power threatened, due to the rise of democracy and calls for equality, as well as a preoccupation with perceived increasing Iranian influences in their vicinity. Driven by the need to exert influence and power, and carried by the fears of the Saudi population who had been led to believe a border invasion was imminent, Prince Mohammed initially thought he could easily bomb Yemen into submission, thus imposing his puppet of choice to run the country. The desired result would have seen a victory awarded to his name, which would have served him well in his ascent to the throne. However, Yemen proved more difficult to conquer than he had imagined, so realizing he could not win this war as initially planned, he has set about destroying all of Yemen's infrastructure in order to weaken the country until it is no longer a threat and is entirely dependent on the generosity of Saudi Arabia in order to survive.

An unfortunate consequence of this global power game is the thousands of civilians who are killed by the bombing and the thousands more who die from starvation and untreated disease. Saudi Arabia feigns its concern for the protection of civilians in order to placate the increasing voices of outrage from parts of the international community, but one only has to look at the brutality the Saudi rulers display towards their own people to be totally unconvinced by any show of humanity from this autocratic regime.

The objectives of Saudi Arabia in regards to Yemen are clear: to squeeze the life out of it, through the blockade of food, destruction of water resources, bombing of  bridges, health facilities and all educational establishments, until it is so weakened that it is no longer considered any threat to Saudi Arabia and submits entirely to Prince Mohammad's vision for the region.

What remains to be asked is: what are the objectives of the UK and USA? For without their continued support, the bombardment of Yemen would prove to be logistically impossible, and with their continued support, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to stop its destruction.

Few are convinced by Western expressions of desire to restore any so called 'legitimate government', but instead believe that Western objectives are those of profiting from war, securing lucrative contracts that arise out of Yemen's destruction and the exploitation of natural resources of this impoverished nation. In addition, one may wonder if the long term goal of some powers may actually be the weakening of Saudi Arabia by enabling it to bomb itself into debt and instability. One consequence of the Saudi led bombardment is that whereas the Houthis were not threatening the border of Saudi Arabia before the bombardment, they most certainly are now.