Sunday, December 6, 2015

Note on Yemen

African youngster in Aden, undated image, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

Well, well, look what's happened in the old port of Aden in southern Yemen:
A powerful car bomb killed the provincial governor and at least four of his bodyguards in the southern Yemeni port of Aden early Sunday, according to the head of local security, raising new doubts about the ability of a Saudi-led military coalition to secure one of Yemen’s most important cities.
Hours after the blast, the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement distributed on social media sites, saying it had killed eight bodyguards.
I hope nobody's too shocked by this development.

Almost ten months ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia just couldn't stand it. Their southern neighbor Yemen had acquired a new government, not exactly by democratic means, but that's not what bothered KSA: what had them upset was that the Saudi vote hadn't been counted, and the Yemenis seemed to have forgotten their responsibility to do whatever KSA wants, and their new Houthi government and its military force were composed largely of members of the Fiver Shi'ite sect of Zaidis, which meant to the Saudi royals that the Twelver Shi'ite Islamic Republic of Iran (then in the process of negotiating an agreement with the Powers to suspend its peaceful nuclear energy program, which was driving KSA and its friends in Israel really insane, for psychological reasons I will never understand) was the winner in another installment of the endless contest that exists in their minds as to who in the Gulf has the biggest penis.

So, and as they had done last time Yemen had the temerity to take on a Houthi government, in 2009, KSA decided to beat its poor neighbor into submission, with a bombing campaign, which has been going on ever since, with some kind of US "intelligence and logistics" support. I'm on record as trying really hard to believe the US purpose was to limit the number of civilians killed by the Saudis, but it hasn't been easy:
The Saudis have killed some 5,000 Yemenis since March, including 2,355 civilians, mostly with air strikes but they've added some of those proverbial boots on the ground recently, which is exactly how they started losing their last attempt to kill all the Houthis, in 2009. I don't know what makes them think it'll work any better this time. It's nice to realize they're going to lose once more, but doesn't really make it better, and the US failure to stop this carnage, totally useless by any Realpolitik principle as well as hideous by the moral standards of ordinary human beings, is starting to make me lose my own temper, Mr. President. Can't say I haven't been stretching things to give you the benefit of the doubt.
It's no more possible for Saudi Arabia to impose an agreeable working government on Yemen than it was for the US to impose one on Iraq—these techniques are terrific for creating anarchy, not so good at creating order. My assumption has been that the Saudis are—presumably not intentionally, but if they were doing it on purpose they wouldn't need to change their methodology at all—making a chaotic space in which the very active local al-Qa'eda subsidiary can achieve some kind of broad territorial dominance, but it turns out to be worse than that: they've created a space for the self-denominated Caliphate as well, and the Caliphate has now turned to blowing up KSA's own minions.

It's reached that point, really, where you can no longer imagine any kind of mitigating outcome, just blood, blood, blood for years to come, and it was predictable from the start.

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