ROVING EYE Billion-dollar Obama rocks
Yemen By Pepe Escobar
To follow Pepe's articles on the Great
Arab Revolt, please click here.
Go, go, you coward; you are an
American agent - Protesters chanting in
Sana'a, March 24
So far no R2P
("responsibility to protect"). No United Nations
resolution. No no-fly zone. No "coalition of the
willing". No Tomahawks. No Predator drones. No
C-130 gun ships. No humanitarian imperialism.
Yet so far, protesters are being killed; a
dictator refuses to step
down; al-Qaeda is thriving,
and in the open; counter-insurgency rolls; there's
a lot of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the
ground; and civil war looms. Welcome to the
curious case of
United States President Barack Obama's
mantra on Libya is that "Muammar Gaddafi must go".
Pentagon supremo Robert Gates, asked about the
Yemeni Gaddafi, President Ali Abdullah Saleh,
answered, with a straight face, that Washington
had no opinion, because it does not interfere in
internal affairs of other countries.
evidence points otherwise. The first
African-American president - a Nobel Peace Prize
laureate - now also holds the dubious distinction
of being the only American president to launch a
war on an African nation. He has also launched his
re-election campaign, which is bound to gobble up
a cool US$1 billion.
Meanwhile, Saleh kept
killing his own people, and injuring hundreds -
like in the southwestern city of Taizz this
Monday. Obama had to do something, so he has
"quietly shifted positions", in the quaint words
of the New York Times; the new mantra is "Saleh
must go". Contorted rhetoric suggests Washington
now wants Saleh to go because it has come to the
conclusion that his days in power are gone, even
though for over two months, killing spree
included, he enjoyed full US backing.
Our cunning bastard Yemen
festers with George W Bush-era special forces-led
counter-terrorism - widely expanded under Obama.
Saleh is the local contractor. The target is
bogeyman al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP),
which is hit by frequent bursts of "kinetic
military action" (in White House speak).
"Collateral damage" may have reached the low
A March 2011 Glevum Stability
Assessment found out that no less than 96% of
Yemenis believe "the West is at war with Islam";
only 4% approve of the US "war on terror" chapter
in their lands; and a majority regards AQAP as
involved in "self-defense". Yet as far as
Washington is concerned, the only thing that
matters in Yemen is counter-terrorism - not what
the locals think.
There are at least 60
million lethal weapons in Yemen. Yet the Yemeni
youth uprising has been a model of pacifism.
Saleh, truthful to the standard Arab dictator
script, branded them "drug dealers", money
launderers and a "small minority".
Yemen and South Yemen were united in 1994. Saleh
delegates control over much of Yemen to tribal
sheikhs whose loyalty is dodgy, to say the least.
Saud Arabia runs riot, buying everyone in sight
and bankrolling the influence of hardcore
Wahhabism. AQAP is just a minor detail in a
complex political landscape.
In the north,
Zeydi Shi'ites are fighting for autonomy. Saleh's
tactics are to massively bomb their villages,
displace hundreds of thousands of civilians, and
then attack them. No, no one will slap him with a
no-fly zone for it. In the south a peaceful
secessionist movement struggling for more equality
has been savagely crushed. Some of its members
went the guerrilla way.
Saleh has been
very clever into instrumentalizing AQAP against
his domestic enemies, while using the AQAP threat
to extort weapons, intelligence and hundreds of
million of dollars from the Americans. It worked,
up to now. Obama ramped up "military assistance"
for Yemen from $67 million in 2009 to $150 million
WikiLeaks widely exposed dirty
deals between Washington and Saleh - including
General David Petraeus lying to Yemenis about who
was killing Yemeni civilians during the "war on
terror". But unlike demonized terrorist/rehab/thug
Gaddafi, Saleh is one of "our bastards". He's
cunning enough to smash Zeydis, southern Yemenis,
journalists and peaceful student protesters
instead of smashing his golden egg, AQAP.
Now that Obama hinted he must go, bets can
be made on a scenario of the CIA using AQAP
against Saleh. Target: to balkanize Yemen. This is
where the legacy of Said al-Shihri comes in - a
Saudi freed from Guantanamo sent to Yemen by the
Bush administration, and killed on February 12; as
well as the influence of American-born Anwar
Awlaki, a classic CIA double agent.
CIA is already instrumentalizing al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Libya; with or without
Gaddafi in power as part of a balkanized Libya,
AQIM is already a destabilizing factor in the big
picture. The modus operandi is the same: the
CIA/Pentagon use the al-Qaeda specter to justify
the endless war on terror, be it in northern
Africa or in the Arabic Peninsula.
part, the House of Saud has been fighting tooth
and nail for Saleh to stay; he is as much a House
of Saud lackey as the al-Khalifas in Bahrain. But
without support from the Obama administration, the
best the House of Saud can hope for is the usual
"stability" and "smooth transition of power" - as
in yet one more Saudi Arabia-friendly General.
Saudi Arabia wants a "smooth" military coup. They
would not be exactly displeased with hard line
commander Major General Ali Mohsin Saleh Ahmar as
the new leader.
After waves of political,
ministerial, ambassadorial and military defections
either Saleh goes or there's civil war (true to
script, he says there won't be civil war only if
he stays). The new government in Sana'a has
installed a state of emergency. Saleh may last a
while longer - as he counts on the Republican
Guard, Special Forces and internal security, led
by his son and nephews. As for the opposition
party coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP),
it now poses as a true representative of the
masses protesting in the streets when they have
always been court jesters. The fact is Yemeni
power elites have co-opted the peaceful
revolution. What will be precluded is a real road
to democracy, what the people in the streets of
Yemen have been fighting - and dying - for.
The protests in Yemen started on February
11 with less than 200 Sana'a university students
and young activists and only two women. Then the
Zeydi in the north pledged their cooperation, and
the secessionists in the south stopped their
demonstrations and started calling for suqut al
nidham ("the fall of the regime") - the
rallying call across the Arab world.
Yemeni political scientist Abdulghani al Iryani
told Nir Rosen, "We've never had real street
mobilizations ... Before Tunisia the opposition
had a demonstration of 200. After Tunisia they
came in the thousands. After Egypt it became an
avalanche. There is a new appreciation of
collective power. What the formal political
establishment could not do, to bring the people
together, the youth protest has succeeded in
doing." Their key demands remain constitutional
reform and a new electoral law.
what about al-Qaeda? The sprawling US "war
on terror" industry - corporate media included -
considers it as deadly as a Star Wars plot,
unfolding in this ultimate Orientalist dream, the
"dangerous deserts and mountains of Yemen".
Yet AQAP is a joke. Its record of
"success" is a failed underwear bomb and a package
bomb that, well, bombed. Saleh himself knows they
are a joke - an absolutely marginal movement not
only in Yemen but all across the Middle East. The
real reason the US is in Yemen is because the
country is supremely strategic - bordering the Red
Sea, the Gulf of Aden and Saudi Arabia, the key
crossroads between the Middle East and the Horn of
The vicious 2011 Arab
counter-revolution keeps working its mysterious
ways. Turkey and the BRIC countries are perplexed
that the US is now arming the AQIM-infested
"rebels" - and may be showering them with juicy
bits of the $32 billion in frozen Libyan
government assets, plus a share in upcoming oil
Talk about a hot Club Med. Under
the Bush administration, al-Qaeda was used as the
perfect excuse for bombing and pre-emptive wars.
Now, under Obama, al-Qaeda - as in AQIM and AQAP -
is being used in the balkanization of selected
nations, facilitating the breakdown along tribal,
sectarian and criminal lines.
The ghost of
Osama bin Laden continues to pull a Cheshire cat.
The al-Qaeda franchise is booming like never
before. It may even be back in the game in its
original status - as a CIA guerrilla army. There's
no war like an endless war.