Thursday, April 2, 2015
By THOMAS C. MOUNTAIN
Still stinging from their last military humiliation 6 years ago at the hands of the Houthi tribal fighters in Yemen, the Saudi Arabian royal family has embarked on what is highly likely to turn into Saudi’s “Vietnam”with their latest attempt at invading Yemen.
In 2009 the Saudi military’s incompetence was exposed when their major offensive against the Houthi’s along the Saudi/Yemen border was routed and in the following Houthi counter offensive a large chunk of Saudi territory was captured by the lightly armed Houthi fighters.
The last time a “Pan-Arab Army” tried to invade and occupy Yemen, in the early 1960s, Egyptian General turned President Nasser was forced to tuck his tail between his legs and pull his army of over 50,000 out of what he was to later sorrowfully admit had become “Egypt’s Vietnam”.
The problems in Yemen are not about Shiite vs Sunni or Iran vs. Saudi Arabia. Its not about Obama, whose particularly inept administration has been forced to sit on the sidelines as the Saudi royal family launched this ill advised misadventure.
The problems in Yemen are all about tribal conflicts going back centuries and the only way to solve them is by a long, tedious process of negotiations. Back in 1990 a peace deal was painstakingly constructed that resulted in the reunification of Yemen. This peace deal which held for over two decades was mediated by what was then the leadership of a rag tag band of independence fighter calling themselves the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front, a fact yet to be acknowledged by anyone covering the present conflict.
The Saudi are launching this war on the Yemeni people in an act of hubris and arrogance, paranoia almost, supposedly fearful of being surrounded by a ring of “Shi’ite enemies lead by Iran”, or at least that is what the talking heads in the western media would have us believe.
The fact is the Saudi royal family is brim full of a fanatically Wahabi fired hatred towards anything resembling a Shi’ite movement, though historically Shi’ites in west Asia hardly considered the Houthi’s of Yemen real Shi’ites.
Saudi paranoia of Iran is based on little in the way of threatening Iranian actions, with the complete lack of Iranian involvement in support of the Bahrain Shi’ite uprising a point of fact. For all the talk of Iranian military support for the Houthi take over of Yemen the evidence to support this charge is not supported by anything concrete.
The Houthi’s, fed up with their continuing neglect by the Yemeni government, and driven by the politics of hunger stalking Yemen, made a deal with former President Saleh, whose son headed the Yemeni army under the deal the Saudi/Gulf States forced down the Yemeni’s throats two years ago, and launched their offensive to take over the country.
Right from the get go the Houthi’s were calling for negotiations, though they did make it clear they were not going to allow the Wahabist “Al Queda in the Arab Peninsula” (mainly composed of exiled Saudi fanatics) any further presence in Yemen.
Having been previously humiliated militarily in 2009, and fearing been seen as weak and incompetent by their subjugated Shi’ite population who reside in the oil rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia, the Wahabist Saudi regime has embarked on what by all appearances will turn out to be their “Vietnam”.
Of course they are doing this under the cover of a Pan Arab banner, with Egypt promising troops in support of the anticipated invasion and occupation of Yemen.
Egypt’s latest General turned President Al Sisi is a particularly reluctant ally, having grown up with the memory of Egypt’s humiliating defeat in its attempt to subjugate Yemen. It is no coincidence that a just a few weeks earlier Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States sent their leaders to Sharm al Sheik to announce over $20 billion in aid and investments for Egypt’s tottering economy, hard cash President Al Sisi came hat in hand to beg for.
Fighting is reported to be raging on the Yemen/Saudi border and it is interesting to note that the Saudi military has yet to make any serious advances there. Being that the bulk of the Houthi fighters are concentrating for their push to capture Aden in the oil rich south of Yemen the Saudi military attempts to invade the Houthi heartland is not going very well.
At this point the Saudi military is still mainly an air war massacre against the defenseless Yemen people. If and when the promised ground offensive begins in earnest will see battle hardened Houthi militia pitted against a supposedly pan Arab army with little experience in real warfare. Fighting to defend their homes and families, as the Viet Cong did in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia will find its self in a Yemeni quagmire, Saudi’s “Vietnam” in Yemen.
By Eugene Bai
. According to Russian political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky, “In terms of realpolitik, it would suit Moscow for the war to last as long as possible: Oil prices might creep up and a new bout of instability in a region where Russia still wields influence would increase its clout in Middle East politics.”
But in fact, , which, given the aggressive attitude of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is seeking to become the spiritual leader of all Russian Muslims, is becoming dangerous.
. He and many other foreign experts are convinced that given today’s strained relations and the Kremlin’s aggressive emotional disposition over Ukraine, any other course of action would not only be ill-advised, but ruinous for the entire world.
Others, on the contrary, believe that no amount of goodwill in the joint struggle against Islamic radicals will save Moscow. But perhaps . The main thing is for politicians on both sides to display enough wisdom and patience to start untying the Gordian knot, rather than trying to slice through it.
The preliminary agreement between Iran and the major powers is a significant achievement that makes it more likely Iran will never be a nuclear threat. President Obama said it would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Officials said some important issues have not been resolved, like the possible lifting of a United Nations arms embargo, and writing the technical sections could also cause problems before the deal’s finalization, expected by June 30. Even so, the agreement announced on Thursday after eight days of negotiations appears more specific and comprehensive than expected.
It would roll back Iran’s nuclear program sufficiently so that Iran could not quickly produce a nuclear weapon, and ensure that, if Iran cheated, the world would have at least one year to take preventive action, including reimposing sanctions. In return, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations would lift sanctions crippling Iran’s economy, though the timing of such a move is yet another uncertainty.
Iran would shut down roughly two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used to fuel a bomb and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent (a much lower level than is required for a bomb) for at least 15 years. The core of the reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, another key ingredient for producing a weapon, would be dismantled and replaced, with the spent fuel shipped out of Iran.
Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House, insisted he was not relying on trust to ensure Iran’s compliance but on “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program.”
There is good reason for skepticism about Iran’s intentions. Although it pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, it pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for two decades. By November 2013, when serious negotiations with the major powers began, Iran was enriching uranium at a level close to bomb-grade.
However, Iran has honored an interim agreement with the major powers, in place since January 2014, by curbing enrichment and other major activities.
By opening a dialogue between Iran and America, the negotiations have begun to ease more than 30 years of enmity. Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.
The deal, if signed and carried out, would vindicate the political risks taken by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and President Obama to engage after decades of estrangement starting from the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Talking to adversaries — as President Ronald Reagan did in nuclear weapons negotiations with the Soviets and President Richard Nixon did in his opening to China — is something American leaders have long pursued as a matter of practical necessity and prudence.
Yet in today’s poisonous political climate, Mr. Obama’s critics have gone to extraordinary lengths to undercut him and any deal. Their belligerent behavior is completely out of step with the American public, which overwhelmingly favors a negotiated solution with Iran, unquestionably the best approach.
Sunni Arab nations and Israel are deeply opposed to any deal, fearing that it would strengthen Iran’s power in the region. This agreement addresses the nuclear program, the most urgent threat, and does not begin to tackle Iran’s disruptive role in Syria and elsewhere. Iran is widely seen as a threat; whether it can get beyond that will depend on whether its leaders choose to be less hostile to its neighbors, including Israel.
By Frud Bezhan
Pakistan is grappling with a dilemma -- should it join a Sunni Arab military coalition fighting Shi'ite Huthi rebels in Yemen, or keep its troops at home?
A Saudi-led coalition for the past week has been conducting airstrikes against strongholds of Iran-backed Huthi rebels who have seized large swaths of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
Islamabad has said it will defend Saudi "territorial integrity," but has yet to respond to Riyadh's request that it provide troops to the coalition's mission in Yemen. Pakistan's parliament will convene a special session on April 6 to discuss the request.
If Sunni-majority Pakistan chooses to stay out of the conflict it could risk angering Saudi Arabia, a close strategic, religious, and historical ally. But if Islamabad does intervene it risks overextending its armed forces, which are already engaged in a vicious fight against militants at home.
There has been fierce debate over the issue in Pakistan, with Sunni religious groups calling for military action. Civil-society activists, however, warn that foreign intervention could further inflame domestic sectarian tensions.
The army is already battling Pakistani Taliban militants in the country's northwest tribal areas, while also maintaining a heavy troop presence on its eastern border with arch-enemy India.
Talat Masood, a political commentator and former military general, says Pakistan's military resources are too stretched to contribute in Yemen. "The greatest threat for Pakistan is internal," he says. "The military is already heavily preoccupied."
Islamabad is also wary of getting bogged down in a regional ethnic and sectarian conflict pitting regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other.
"It doesn't make much sense to get involved in a conflict which is not going to help Yemen," Masood says. "It's an internal conflict that experience shows should be settled internally rather than through the meddling of foreign powers."
Tehran has a history of supporting proxies in the region, and analysts say the Iran-Saudi rivalry is being played out in part in Pakistan, which has seen a growing number of sectarian attacks and reprisal killings.
Sectarian violence has soared in Pakistan in recent years, most of it targeting the Shi'ite minority, which makes up around 20 percent of the population.
"If Pakistan was to get involved in Yemen, its involvement could inflame tensions between Sunni and Shi'ites at home in Pakistan as its involvement could be interpreted as a sign of the state leaning explicitly toward Sunni Islam," Pakistan observer Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote in the National Interest on April 1.
While Pakistan is wary of fanning sectarian discord at home, it will also be reluctant to anger its neighbor Iran, which has strongly criticized the intervention in Yemen.
Can't Afford To Say No
But Pakistan will find it hard to say no to the Saudis, according to analysts.
Saudi Arabia has provided Pakistan with huge financial support in the form of cheap oil and loans, including one worth $1.5 billion last year. That assistance has been crucial for Pakistan, which is dealing with a struggling economy and energy crisis.
When Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in a military coup in 1999, it was Saudi Arabia that received him in exile.
Muhammad Taqi, a U.S.-based Pakistan political analyst, says Islamabad does not have the luxury of refusing Riyadh's request for military support. "Pakistan is beholden to the Saudis for the last 30 or 40 years, and for Sharif both personally and on a government level," he says, adding that "there is no such thing as a free lunch in geopolitics."
Saudi Arabia could consider holding back on aid and the cut-price oil it provides to Pakistan if Islamabad refuses to get involved in Yemen.
But history suggests that Pakistan will come to Saudi Arabia's aid, says Pakistani security expert Ayesha Siddiqa.
Pakistani forces have helped protect the kingdom on several occasions in the past 50 years.
Siddiqa predicts Islamabad will heed the calls from Riyadh in some capacity because Islamabad "will not risk spoiling the crucial relationship."