By Dr Leon Tressell
In his first speech on foreign policy, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would end its support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen. This would include a ban on selling weapons that facilitated ‘offensive operations’ by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen.
However, Biden went on to qualify his comments by stating that the United States would continue to defend the Saudi dictatorship, which means that weapons of a defensive nature such as Patriot missile systems would continue to be supplied to Riyadh.
Biden has not specified whether US support for Saudi ‘offensive operations’ includes the continued supply of American surveillance, such as satellite imagery and other intelligence.
In his first speech on foreign policy, Biden went further by declaring that he would step up US diplomacy to bring an end to the conflict and that he had appointed a special envoy to Yemen. Apparently, the pretext for this was the president’s desire to bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe that is enveloping the people of Yemen.
This is quite ironic considering that Biden and Obama helped bring about the war in the first place when they gave Saudi Arabia the green light to invade Yemen back in 2015 and supplied it with billions of dollars-worth of offensive weaponry.
If you delve beneath the surface of the diplomatic fanfare accompanying Biden’s announcement, then it is clear that this change in American policy is motivated primarily by events on the ground in Yemen. Over the last five years, the Saudi-led ‘coalition of the killing’ has spent billions of dollars trying to crush the Ansar Allah movement, otherwise known as the Houthis, and ignominiously failed in its efforts.
The Houthis have not only held onto the capital Sanaa and their northern heartlands, but taken the fight into the southern regions of Saudi Arabia such as Jizan, inflicting severe losses in terms of casualties. Large quantities of Saudi weapons and military equipment have also been captured by the Houthis.
In a recent statement, Brigadier General Yahya Sari, a spokesman for the Houthis, said that in January alone the Saudi-led coalition had suffered 1,283 casualties, along with the destruction/damage of 92 armoured and military vehicles. Many will dismiss this as Houthi propaganda.
Yet the Houthis regularly put out videos showing footage of battles on different fronts of the war showing the capture of large amounts of Saudi coalition weaponry and military material and the destruction of large numbers of armoured personnel carriers and other military vehicles. Besides this, the videos reveal how the Houthis have captured large numbers of soldiers from the Saudi-led coalition, many of whom are mercenaries.
We should also recognise that there are other factors that have influenced Biden’s decision to change American policy towards the war in Yemen. Undoubtedly, the sustained efforts of anti-war activists in the United States have had some impact on both public opinion and the Democratic Party.
The change in American policy towards the Yemeni conflict is also influenced by geopolitical concerns. The American Empire recognises the negative impact of the Yemeni war upon its allies in the Gulf region. In 2017 Qatar withdrew its support for the Saudi-led war which led to Saudi Arabia imposing a blockade upon Doha. Qatar then was free to more fully pursue its own independent foreign policy, which included restoring some trade relations with Iran and moving firmly into the orbit of Turkey.
Of course, the United States also saw the danger to its own position in the Middle East when its bloc of allies among the Gulf dictatorships were now squabbling and threatening each other. It is clear that the Biden Administration wishes to force Iran to the negotiating table and force it to cease its nuclear programme under even more restrictions than the Obama nuclear deal of 2015. To achieve this, Biden needs all of his allies in the Middle East to be unified under American direction.
It is also clear that the Biden regime seeks to impose an end to the Yemeni war on its terms, to meet its geopolitical and economic interests. Professor Isa Blumi, author of Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us about the World, said in a recent interview with award winning journalist Aaron Maté of the Grayzone, that the United States and its allies would like to get their hands on the huge natural resources of Yemen.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the oil reserves of Yemen amount to 3 billion barrels and its gas reserves amount to 6.9 trillion cubic feet.
The United States and Saudi Arabia also see Yemen’s strategic location as a means of bypassing the choke point that is the Strait of Hormuz. Saudi Arabia has built several pipelines that bypass the Strait of Hormuz which take oil to the Red Sea, which can then be shipped to China and other important Asian markets.
However, the Bab El-Mandeb Strait is a narrow choke point. It is located between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, and it connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
We shouldn’t forget that the Trump regime’s recent classification of the Houthis as a terrorist organisation came after Ansar Allah forces attacked Saudi oil tankers in the Red Sea.
Besides the oil and gas angle, the United States and the Gulf dictatorships are also fully aware of the vast mineral resources of Yemen which include gold, silver, copper, zinc, cobalt and nickel.
According to the World Atlas, Yemen has large industrial mineral deposits of limestone, magnesite, scoria, sandstone, gypsum, marble, perlite, dolomite, feldspar, and Celestine. Yemen also contains the most fertile land in the Arabian peninsula, which contrasts sharply with Saudi Arabia, which is heavily dependent on food imports for its growing population.
Over the next period the United States and its allies, both in Europe and the Middle East, will seek to exert huge pressure upon the Houthis to come to the negotiating table to bring the conflict to an end. Let us be very clear that this so-called peace initiative will be on American terms. The American Empire will not countenance any peace deal that is favourable to the Houthi resistance.
It remains to be seen if the Houthis together with the separatist forces in the south of the country, the Southern Transitional Council, will capitulate to the demands of American imperialism and stand their forces down.
Leon Tressell is a geo-political historian who has written extensively about the new Cold War between the US and Russia/China as well as the persecution of whistle blowers such as Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
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