America's War in Yemen
January 06, 2012 dave
By Richard Walker
While much of the media focus has been elsewhere, two secret wars are being
fought in Yemen by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel.
For several years, U.S. Special Forces and the CIA, with the support of
Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have launched hundreds of drone
attacks against alleged Islamists. At the same time, the Saudis have fought
against Shiite tribesmen in the north, claiming they are financed by Iran
and will link up with Shiites in Saudi Arabia to attack its oil fields. In
2009, the Saudis sent an invasion force into Yemen, killing hundreds of
To understand why Yemen, a nation of 24 million people, is strategically
vital, one has to look at its location. The nation's small oil reserves are
due to run out in approximately five years. Yemen faces Djibouti and
Eritrea, across the narrowest part of the Red Sea, where it enters the
20-mile-wide Mandab Strait, known in Arabic as the Bab-el-Mandab ("Gate of
If the Mandab were to be closed, much like the Strait of Hormuz in the same
region, the price of oil would skyrocket. Closure would lock down all
traffic from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, where
it makes its way to the Mandab before reaching the Gulf of Aden and the
Indian Ocean. Much of Saudi Arabia's oil is shipped through the Red Sea; so
too are Israel's imports and exports.
The vulnerability of the Mandab is well known. In 2002, for example, suicide
bombers in a small boat rammed a French tanker, releasing a large quantity
of oil. The subsequent closure of the Mandab for a cleanup was short but
The Israelis, in conjunction with the Saudis and other Arabs in the region,
have persuaded the Obama White House and Washington hawks that Yemen is an
important prize. The Israelis have also provided intelligence to the Saudis
about Shiite tribesmen in the north of the country and have helped the U.S.
identify targets for drone strikes. The Saudis are worried that Yemen, whose
population is equally divided between Shiites and Sunnis, could split apart,
creating a Shiite-led part of the country located close to its border and
The secret wars have all taken place against a bizarre political backdrop,
with Washington and Riyadh supporting the corrupt president of the country,
who tortured and killed opponents of the regime.
Students of history know Washington savagely cut aid to Yemen following the
Cold War. It was only after Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, took
the advice of the Saudis and Israelis to make Yemen a military priority that
massive aid flowed into Yemen's government coffers. That will not have been
lost on the Yemeni opposition, who heard nothing from Obama throughout most
of 2011. Many young Yemeni protesters will not forget how Obama ignored
their "Arab spring" as he and the Saudis backed a corrupt president and a
vicious military regime.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.
Yemen Drone Strikes
The U.S. is interested in Yemen solely for its strategic location. Its oil
reserves are due to run out in approximately five years.
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Received on Fri Jan 06 2012 - 07:39:30 EST