Silver Lining

Food for thought

Yemen; US’s new frontline

by Catherine Shakdam, source

Following weeks of a protracted terror alert in Yemen, Americans and Yemenis are slowly waking up to a new reality, that Washington has moved its new frontline to Yemen, the poorest, most populous and most instable country in the Arabian Peninsula.

While rights activists were left dissecting Yemen President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi visit to Washington last July, hoping his meeting with US President Barack Obama would herald the prompt return home of Yemen’s 56 cleared-for-release terror detainees, little did anyone realize that Hadi’s American trip would instead signal the unleashing of drones onto the unsuspecting Yemeni nation.

Just as politicians were hailing America’ support of Yemen through its so-called democratic transition, the Pentagon was carefully laying out its plan for the Peninsula, keen to shift its focus back onto Yemen now that the core of its troops have left Afghanistan and Iraq.

With only one card left to play; convince the people of the legitimacy of the drones, America moved into action by declaring a terror emergency across the Middle East and most sensitively Yemen.

It is important to note that while the US waited until July 3rd to announce to the world it had gathered intelligence pointing to an imminent al-Qaeda attack on its interests both at home and abroad, Washington had already authorized several drone strikes in Yemen. America’s largest air campaign in Yemen preempted the terror alert by over a week.

On July 27th, a night-time strike on two vehicles traveling in convoy reportedly killed at least four alleged militants in the al Mahfad district of Abyan – southern province -; some sources put the death toll as high as eight. It was the first reported attack in seven weeks.

Nine additional strikes have since then been accounted for, all led and authorized by the Pentagon.

As the world is quickly catching on to what is really going on in Yemen, Ron Paul quite tellingly noted in his latest publication, “Most Americans are probably unaware that over the past two weeks the US has launched at least eight drone attacks in Yemen, in which dozens have been killed. It is the largest US escalation of attacks on Yemen in more than a decade.”

What Ron Paul failed to mention is that for every alleged al-Qaeda militant killed by America’s drones, just as many, if not more civilians have been killed.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism counted nearly 1,150 deaths between 2002 and April 2013 due to US attacks.

Dennis Kucinich, a representative of the US Congress, placed the number of deaths in Yemen at 1,952. In a speech to Congress he said, “We have not declared war on any of these nations [Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia], but our weapons have killed innocent civilians there. Highly reputable research shows that the number of high-level targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is estimated at about 2 percent.”

Several security experts and political analysts have already warned that America’s military footprint could actually be understood quite simply as a prelude to a military intervention which Washington will lead conjointly with the British government if the current civil war in Syria leads to an attack on Iran in the future.

The Gulf of Aden is a strategic waterway for oil exports vital to America’s interests. Moreover, widespread anti-American sentiment in the region and the growing influence of Iran over the Peninsula has accelerated the need for control.

Gregory Johnson of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen said on Washington’s drone campaign, “The US government is clearly at war in Yemen. It is claimed they are fighting al-Qaeda, but the drone strikes are creating as many or more al-Qaeda members as they are eliminating.

Resentment over civilian casualties is building up the danger of blowback, which is a legitimate threat to us that is unfortunately largely ignored. Also, the US is sending mixed signals by attacking al-Qaeda in Yemen while supporting al-Qaeda linked rebels fighting in Syria.

This cycle of intervention producing problems that require more intervention to “solve” impoverishes us and makes us more, not less, vulnerable. Can anyone claim this old approach is successful? Has it produced one bit of stability in the region? Does it have one success story? There is an alternative. It is called non-interventionism. We should try it. First step would be pulling out of Yemen.”

Oblivious to the storm which is gathering against his government over the use of drones, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi seems to have relinquished all control to the United States America, its master puppet, in exchange for political back-up.

Having inherited a profoundly divided country, racked by poverty and instability, President Hadi is hoping Washington’s political, military and economic weight will guarantee him political longevity.

Already hailed a bulwark against terror by the US, Hadi has received nothing but praises from his American allies.

“He is everything his predecessor wasn’t in terms of his determination, his understanding of the threat … his determination to destroy al Qaeda,” said Daniel Benjamin, who was deeply involved in Yemen policy as former head of the State Department’s counter-terrorism office.

At home opinions on Hadi’s alliances could not be more antipodal.

Abdelrazzaq al-Jamal, a Yemeni journalist who specializes in al Qaeda warns against a backlash over drones. “There is no province in Yemen, no city, where there are no victims of American drone strikes,” he said. “The desire for revenge is growing. This is not in the government’s interest but only in the interest of the U.S. war on terrorism.”

With America’s focus having shifted from Pakistan back onto Yemen, one cannot helped but wonder what wreckage drones will have on fragile Yemen. If what Afghanistan and Iraq went through as a result of Washington’s intervention — sectarianism and widespread violence — are but a warning of things to come, then Yemen is indeed facing a bleak future.

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