Why is the US supporting al Qaeda and the Islamic State in their fight against the Shia in Yemen? The answer to that question, more than any other, will define the legacy of the Trump Administration
Saudi Arabia vs Iran
the 'Ultimate War'* within the Muslim world, ... it was only a matter of time
Eric LaMont Gregory
The execution of a popular Shia Cleric in Saudi Arabia exacerbates an already precarious situation, while a highly destabilizing direct conflict between Sunni and Shia militias in Yemen remains largely unreported, until now.
Since March (2015), Saudi Arabia and nine of its Sunni regional allies, have been engaged in a war, Operation Decisive Storm, against the Houthi Shia in Yemen. The Houthi captured the capital city of Yemen, Sanaa, and deposed the US-backed Yemeni president Hadi in February of this year.
The Sunni-majority gulf states, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have joined Saudi Arabia in its war against the Shia in Yemen include Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
The Saudi military action in Yemen is supported by the US, UK, France, Belgium and Turkey. While Russia, China and Iran oppose it.
Why is the US supporting the Saudi-backed Sunni terror groups i.e., al Qaeda and the Islamic State in their fight against Iran-backed Shia Muslims in Yemen, while the very same Sunni radical groups are at war against us in Iraq and elsewhere, in fact globally?
US tacit support for al Qaida and the Islamic State in Yemen at the behest of Saudi Arabia, represents the fundamental error in judgement of the civilian and military advisers on which President Trump relies for both strategic and tactical approaches to the quagmire that the Near East theater of operations presents.
The lesson that history has taught us is that if we send in ground troops, the bad guys will just wait until we leave and then begin their insurgency anew. While that is a lesson from history, when it applies to the circumstances on the ground, it is not the most germane lesson that we have learned as it relates to US tacit support for Saudi Arabia and by association the Islamic State and al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in the conflict that pits Saudi Arabia and Iran in a surrogate conflict in the Yemen. (For a critical understanding of this issue see: Kitson - Low Intensity Operations).
The lesson that is most important to current circumstances in the Middle East is that those insurgency groups, from the Islamic World, that we supported in anyway in their holy jihad, have all come back to wage war against us. Trump, like his predessesor, Obama, and his advisers are not alone in not coming to grips with this basic fact.
President Eisenhower did not understand it, nor did Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, or Carter. Reagan, like President Obama, while distracted by his tête–à–tête with Iran, was blind to the insidious nature of Sunni (Saudi) Islamic radicalism and actually assisted in the growth of several Islamic radical groups into the major insurgency forces they have become today. GHW Bush, Clinton and GW Bush all relied on the same quality of civilian and military advice that Obama did, and Trump does now, and the result is the quagmire that finds the US supporting the Islamic State and al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in the Sunni vs Shiite war in the Yemen.
There were two things that I thought I would never see, Reagan ordering the tipping of the US flag to a Soviet Premier and Obama bowing to a Saudi king. And, neither of them, and now Trump came or has come to realize what Roosevelt and Truman came to understand fully, and that is that illiberals, in or out of uniform, cannot protect the United States of America, because they are blind to the essential nature of the problem that spawns radicalism -- their own discriminatory behavior.
The fish is the last one to become aware of the existence of water.
That Trump’s statements are being been used by radical Islamic terror groups as propaganda and recruitment tools is undeniable. Therefore, there is an apology owed.
The population of Yemen is 60% Sunni Muslim and 40% Shia, in and of itself this statement of a demographic reality is just that, a demographic reality.
But within the Islamic World the mere proximity of Sunni and Shia Muslims, more often than not, is destabilizing.
A reasonable starting point for the current outbreak of violence in the Yemen dates back to 2004, when the Shia population began to protest publicly against what they claimed was, stated mildly, widespread discrimination at the hands of the majority Sunni population.
The violence against the Yemeni Shia population, as this contribution will make evident, and clearly so, is representative of a broader regional narrative in which the Shia community is largely a victim of the Saudis relentless pursuit to spread its strict form of Islam, the Wahhabi creed, and to have all Shia living in Sunni majority countries to be declared non-Muslims. In the Sunni Muslim world, and worldview the Shia are not true Muslims, and are not part of what the Sunni recognize as the worldwide community of Muslims, the Ummah.
Yemen, like Pakistan and other Gulf States have long been fronts in a battle for regional influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the patronage of violent extremist groups primarily by the Saudis have been employed to counter potential Iranian influence in the region.
The Yemeni Shia population, have been the collateral damage in this battle as wealthy Gulf donors have armed and funded Sunni death squads to wreak havoc against the Shia as well as all other religious minorities in the Sunni-majority Gulf States that have joined Saudi Arabia in Operation Decisive Storm in the Yemen.
Interestingly, this is not an analysis that is forthcoming from our current Secretary of State or the Trump White House.
When we needed the cooperation of Putin most in the Middle East, the former administration was content to waste diplomatic resources lambasting Putin for what the former administration described as his desire to reignite the Soviet Union, while they failed to chastise Saudi Arabia for its desire to violently rid Islam of Iran and all Shia Muslims and reign supreme in the Islamic world as the reignited Caliphate.
The problem is that the former is false, while the latter is true.
In fact, several Years ago the Pakistani Parliament (with Saudi prodding) passed a law declaring the Shia non-Muslims. Remembering that in a Muslim society non-Muslims do not have rights. An international effort was mounted to quietly convince the supreme court of Pakistan to declare the law unconstitutional. And yet, thousands of Shia in Pakistan and throughout the Gulf States have been slaughtered. And, for the most part the assailants are known, and yet there are no convictions in these cases.
In fact, the Shia like all non-Muslims in the worldview of radical Sunni Islam do not occupy a status whereby killing them actually constitutes a crime.
The salient feature to be understood is that the Saudis finance these genocidal autocracies throughout the Gulf States where there is a significant presence of Shia and other non-muslim religious groups.
Therefore, the protests the Shia in Yemen began in 2004 were against acts by the Sunni majority and radical Sunni Islamic groups like al Qaeda that were real and convincing, and in fact, a matter of life or death.
The Sunni dominated government led by UN-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, neither acknowledged the genocide against the Shia, nor mounted an attempt to slow the pace of attacks on the Shia. It is beyond the scope of this contribution, but a closer look as the inner workings of the UN and how various countries vote on matters like the Yemen, is indicative of how a bloody religious war can be conducted, which involves the US giving material as well as logistical support to al Qaeda and the IS in the Yemen.
And Trump wonders why Russia goes after the Sunni insurgents in Syria, when it was (is) Saudi backed Sunni-Muslims who wreaked violent havoc in Russia proper and also in the southern republics of the Russian Federation. It was the Saudis that finessed the US into a surrogate war with the Soviet Union, when in actuality, we should have been fighting with Russia to stop the spread of radical Sunni Islamic terror. And, with Trump and band of discriminators in the White House we are in for a long bloody struggle, and the death toll will be in the 10's of thousands.
The simple truth is that our current Secretary of State is not equal to the task of Secretary of State in this time and in this era.
The Shia Houthi rebellion against Sunni genocide culminated in their capture of the capital city of Yemen, Sanaa, in February 2015, forcing the Hadi government to flee to the southern coastal city of Aden, and from there to Saudi Arabia, proper. Saudi Arabia and nine other Sunni states back President Hadi, and in March 2015 they sent warplanes to bomb the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Conflict in Yemen is a power struggle between Shai Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Yemen is also the base of the Sunni terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Al Qaeda militants and other Sunni terror groups associated with the Islamic State have joined the fight against the Shia Houthi rebels.
Islamic State suicide bombers killed some 150 people at Shia mosques.
As a further complication the US backs Saudi Arabia, in spite of the fact that the Sunni Saudi led war in Yemen may help the Islamic State and al Qaeda to bring more territory under their (its) control.
* e-book titled, ‘Black Flags from the Islamic State’ (2016) released online on jihadist platforms on Tuesday, 1 December 2015
There are important differences in the fundamental beliefs of Muslims. While, the two major groups are the Sunni and the Shia, within Sunni Islam, which represents the majority of Muslims, there are two major creeds the Wahhabi and the Deobandi.
The Wahhabi creed has its roots in the 18th century movement to purify Islam led by Muhammad ibn Adn al-Wahhab. The Wahhabi is the official (and rather strict) creed of modern Saudi Arabia. And, since the 1970s an important aspect of Saudi foreign policy, as explained above.
The Deobandi represent an Islamic Revivalist sect which surfaced in British Colonial India in the 19th century. The followers of this sect are largely credited with the resurgence of the concept of jihad, as it is practiced today by radical Islamists.