Saudi Arabia and UAE wage counter-revolution in Yemen

Saudi Arabia and UAE wage counter-revolution in Yemen
4 min read
09 Apr, 2019
Comment: The US is colluding in a Saudi-UAE-led war on democracy, writes Sam Hamad.

A Saudi-led coalition soldier by a mural of UAE's Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, Yemen[AFP]
In recent weeks US Congress has sought to curtail US military involvement in Yemen. Both chambers voted to discontinue all US support for the current war in Yemen on the basis that none of it was ever authorised by Congress.  

It might be tempting to dismiss Yemen as a 'quagmire', or write off the conflict as being such a complex mess that even trying to understand it is folly. For so long, we heard this same rhetoric over Syria as a means to justify genocide.

But there should be no hesitation in pointing out the primary forces to blame for the current catastrophe in Yemen - Saudi Arabia, the UAE and, their ally-enabler, the US.

It should also be understood that this war, as part of a wider, regional counter-revolution following the so-called Arab Spring, is a war against democracy. 

This is something that Congress doesn't want to know about. It's an element that most US lawmakers are unlikely to know or admit exists within the context of Yemen.

Unlike with the rebellion in Syria, which was overwhelmingly - if haphazardly - supportive of democracy and liberty in the face of tyranny, the Houthis do not constitute a progressive force.  

Their coup, aided by former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and forces loyal to him, was an anti-democratic one, which served to interrupt Yemen's already stuttering 'democratic transition' and the provisional government that had emerged following the popular revolution.

Yemen's revolution for democracy and dignity has been very deliberately drowned in blood

To make matters more complicated, the transitional government never had the full backing of the UAE, due to its general hostility to regional democracy, and its specific disdain for the role played in it by Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Al-Islah.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia had been delaying the democratic transition precisely to ensure that someone from the old regime remained in power.

This enabled the Houthi coup. What has ensued since has been the complete destruction of the country, with the US acting as the primary source of the means of destruction.

So destructive is the fight in Yemen, that even proxy forces of the two nominal allies - Saudi Arabia and the UAE - are fighting each other. Saudi Arabia has been forced to take a pragmatic approach by allying with Al Islah, but this alliance could disintegrate at any moment.

Read more: Yemen school children killed by unexploded bomb in capital

This is primarily because the UAE is singing to a very different tune. As reported by the Guardian last year, the UAE now only aids fighters willing to prioritise fighting not the Houthis, not even Islamic State, but Al Islah - it has arrested the regional leaders of Al Islah and sought to eradicate its presence from its sphere of influence.  

It now focuses most of its resources on arming secessionist fighters in the south of the country, known as the Southern Movement, and 
almost all of the arms come from the US.

Democracy, democratic transition, or anything even remotely progressive could not be further from the UAE's mind. The Emirates' main aim is to project itself against alleged enemies such as Turkey and Qatar, as a new regional force that maintains a tyrannical order from which it profits. Democratic forces are crushed, while Salafi-jihadi forces rise, and Saudi-UAE backed authoritarians then swoop in claiming to be necessary in the fight against 'terrorism'.

Yemen's revolution for democracy and dignity has been very deliberately drowned in blood.  

This Saudi-UAE counter-revolutionary rampage has consisted of attacks on democracy in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia and Qatar. And if even under Obama this was being aided, the rise of the quasi-authoritarian Trump administration has made its task easier, with US arms sales to the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, amounting to $110 billion going ahead, and deliberately bypassing Congress.

This Saudi-UAE counter-revolutionary rampage has consisted of attacks on democracy in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia and Qatar

Though it was under Obama that the US became involved in the bloodbath in Yemen, on behalf of its key regional allies, the vote in Congress was widely seen as a rebuke of the Trump administration's policy towards Yemen.

Of course, any attempt by Congress to halt US involvement in and potentially improve conditions in Yemen - which now constitutes the worst humanitarian crisis on earth - can only be welcomed.  

But that's not what's on the cards here. Congress might be able to pass resolutions, but given the veto power Trump has, the Saudi-Emirati murder machine in Yemen shows no signs of slowing, nor does the US money and weapons that keep it in motion.  

Wars such as this usually end when the aggressors start to lose resources, but Yemen's destruction continues to generate both monetary and geopolitical profit for the Saudi-Emirati-US axis, as does Saudi Arabia's and the UAE's new era of imperialist adventurism in general.

With this dynamic in mind, Congress seems increasingly caught between futility and an absence of the principles necessary to recognise the anti-democratic and counter-revolutionary nature of the threat posed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.   

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.