Saturday, April 4, 2015

Not Everything You Want To Know About The Civil War In Yemen

I'm sure. But then, it's so much more complicated than:

In coverage of the Yemeni civil war the word "Houthi" is hardly ever mentioned without being preceded by the words "Iran-backed" and "Shiite." 

And this is true. "The Shiite Houthi rebels are backed by Iran" is a true statement.

But the prevalence of this cheap bit of short-hand about a conflict decades in the making does far more to obscure and confuse than it does to enlighten. 

If you do want to know more, avoid Tom Friedman's lazy, clownishness: 

his glib reductions make for palatable reading, they can also lead to enormous error. He wrote:

In fairness, Sisi is trying to dig Egypt out. Nevertheless, Egypt may send troops to defeat the rebels in Yemen. If so, it would be the first case of a country where 25 percent of the population can’t read sending troops to rescue a country where the water comes through the tap 36 hours a month to quell a war where the main issue is the 7th century struggle over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad — Shiites or Sunnis.

Pat Lang, a former defense attaché there points out:

Egypt sent troops to Yemen in 1962 to aid the republican side that ended up winning North Yemen and ultimately bringing Saleh – a Zaydi Shiite just like the Houthis – to power. An estimated 25,000 Egyptian troops died. It wasn't about a "7th century struggle over who is the rightful heir" to Muhammad then, just as that's not what it's about now.

As we have done so many times in the past, we backed an asshole to be in control of the government of Yemen. Yes, I know, you're shocked. 

The man handed power over the whole country at reunification, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was for many decades America's man in Sanaa, and the Saudis came around to his side too.

Saleh does belong to the Zaidi group which, yeah I know, how did we live with him being in charge when he would have been closely linked to the evil Iranians except that:

There does not exist a natural affinity between the Yemeni Zeidis and the 12er [i.e. follower of the 12th imam] Shia of southern Iraq and Iran. The zaidiya follows a system of religious law (sharia) that more closely resembles that of the Hanafi Sunni "school" of law than that of the Shia of Iran or Iraq. The Zaidi scholars profess no allegiance to the 12er Shia scholarship of the Iranian teachers... In short there is little religious connection with Iran. For a Zaydi to "convert" to 12er Shiism is as big and alienating a step as "conversion" to Sunnism. Such a change would normally lead to family, clan and tribal ostracism. - Pat Lang


Yes, he'd been a reliable ally in intelligence sharing and assassinating Al Qaeda members operating in the country – he gave the US drone program a particularly free hand.


No one wanted to get behind the massacres of civilians that probably would have been required for him to hang on to power. 

I guess that's a step in the right direction for American foreign policy. Although, through our usual bungling we have managed to Iraqify the country:

When it comes to Saudi vs. Iranian influence in Yemen, the Sunni monarchy and the US have been far more involved in creating the current mess – and a potential opportunity for Iran – than Tehran could have dreamed of.

Some, like the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, say that what's happening in Yemen (and Iraq, and Iran) is all down to Iranian "aggression." 

I'm starting to this Trump/Palin feeling every time I see Bibi's name nowadays. But, I'll put up a link for him, too. 

Certainly, I'm all in favor of congressional study and oversight, but that opinion has been tempered rather seriously by the fact that Congress at the moment has demonstrated all the maturity of a toddler with a hand grenade, especially in the area of foreign policy. But, more importantly, this latest episode illustrates something that I think is a serious problem with the way we are governed, and with the way we operate our politics.

The idea that a deal can be struck with Iran, given our spectacularly wrongheaded history with that country, should be something that every American should see as a real cause for optimism. But, in American politics, optimism has been rendered the ultimate in naivete, a sucker's game for people who are not serious.

I'm paying peripheral attention to the Pave The Path For The Iranian Nukes Deal, but I'm warning John Cornyn that if there's anymore of his wingnut shit in my morning paper, it's Hell to pay from Wayne Judge and me. Yeeha! 

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