US and Saudi war on Yemen

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

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February/March 2013

 

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