“Should the Saudi-led aggression in Yemen succeed in crushing the Houthis, al Qaida would be the clear winner.”By Glenn Ford, BAR executive editor
In Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, the decades-long U.S.-Saudi strategy to deploy Islamic jihadists as foot soldiers of imperialism is disintegrating – in flames. Although western and royal Arab media depict this week’s murderous Saudi assault on Yemen and the formation of a combined Arab military force as a counterweight to both Iran and Islamist “extremism,” it is not Shiite Tehran, but Sunni Muslim jihadists that represent an existential threat to the oil-rich rulers of the Gulf. The leader of Shiite Hizbullah movement put it best, in a televised speech from Lebanon, last weekend. “Your intelligence...financed and armed ISIL,” said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, directing his remarks to the Saudi regime. “Then, tables were turned. You were terrified by ISIL, which escaped your grasp and control as Al Qaeda did before.”
The jihadist genie has been definitively out of the bottle since ISIS declared war on all rival “emirates, groups, states and organizations” within range of its fighters, last summer, lumping Saudi Arabia and the neighborhood’s other hereditary regimes into the same heretic-infidel camp as American “defenders of the cross” and “the dirty French.” Al Qaida, from which ISIS sprang, will almost certainly arrive at a similar theological-political juncture at a time of its own choosing, pulling with it most of the remainder of the armed Islamist spectrum. Not just a crisis of legitimacy, but the prospect of physical annihilation by Sunni jihadists, hangs over the House of Saud and all its royal brethren. What goes around, comes around. The swords of the Sunni faithful are a far greater danger to royal Arab necks than Persian Shiite mullahs.
“Egypt’s army is to be rented out as a mercenary force.”The jihadist storm troopers’ declaration of independence – an inevitability that we at Black Agenda Report predicted four years ago – necessitates a circling of conventional Arab armies around the filthy-rich potentates of the Gulf. Egypt’s army, the largest in the Arab world, is to be rented out as a mercenary force in lieu of the tens of billions gifted to dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for toppling the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, in 2013. El-Sisi has agreed, in principle, to send troops to fight on the ground in Yemen. It would not be the first time. Half a century ago, pan-Arab socialist president Gamal Abdel Nasser sent 26,000 Egyptian soldiers to their deaths in an attempt to crush royalist Shiite Houthi fighters in northern Yemen. Saudi Arabia and Jordan took the Shiite Imam’s side against his secular rivals – proof that the Saudis are much more concerned about royal privileges than “heresy.”
The Houthis are al Qaida’s fiercest opponents in Yemen, having been marked for extermination by the jihadists – a rough replica of the situation in Syria, where the secular government and the Shiite population are the bulwark against ISIS/al Qaida. Should the Saudi-led aggression in Yemen succeed in crushing the Houthis, al Qaida would seem to be the clear winner. However, in the new jihadist environment, such an outcome can no longer be counted as a plus for the Saudis, who will also face the wrath of every genuine Yemeni nationalist. If the war devolves into a quagmire, it will likely destabilize Saudi Arabia, itself. Many Yemenis live and work in the Kingdom, and Saudi Shiites, who make up 15 to 25 percent of the population and are concentrated near the eastern oil fields, suffer cruel persecution. Wahhabist war hysteria will further alienate the Shiite minority, while fueling sectarian passions among jihad-prone Sunni youth in the Kingdom and the region – chickens that will, sooner rather than later, come home to abolish the throne.
“The ‘rebellion’ in Syria is firmly in the hands of Osama bin Laden’s heirs.”The jihadist cancer is metastasizing in the body politic of its royal hosts – a catastrophe for the United States, which depends on the royals to project power in the region. The U.S. is so universally hated in the Arab world that a sustained American “boots on the ground” strategy is unthinkable. In Iraq, the U.S. is reduced to withholding air support for the fight to dislodge ISIS from the city of Tikrit. The Americans brag that they insisted the Iraqi government withdraw its militias and, presumably, their Iranian advisers, from the battlefront before resuming air reconnaissance and bombing. The fit of imperial bullying may have made Washington feel “indispensable,” but the ability to withhold assistance is not the same as the power to project decisive force. The episode only served to demonstrate that Washington is only interested in turning Iraq’s perils to U.S. advantage. Rather than limiting Iran’s influence with Iraq, the incident showed Iraqis that the U.S. is incapable of behaving being like an ally, under any circumstances.
In Syria, al-Nusra, the al Qaida affiliate, led a coalition of jihadist groups in the capture of Idlib, the second provincial capital to be lost by the government. The other capital, Raqqa, is held by ISIS. Before taking Idlib, the al Qaida fighters had routed and disarmed two American-supported rebel groups. Thus, the “rebellion” in Syria is firmly in the hands of Osama bin Laden’s heirs. Al-Nusra has not yet cut the umbilical to the U.S. and its allies, but it is only a matter of time and battlefield conditions.
In Libya, the Misurata brigades that sodomized and murdered Muammar Gaddafi and wiped out the Black Libyan town of Tawerga, refused for weeks to dislodge fighters loyal to ISIS in the city Sirte. It turns out the ISIS troops were actually defectors from Misurata. Just as in Syria, ISIS in Libya grows by absorbing other jihadist outfits – somewhat like the “borg” on StarTrek. In the end, the process will bring down the houses of the filthy hereditary rich of the region, who tried to save their feudal privileges through the jihadification of political life. And the United States will lose much of its capacity to project power on the ground in energy basin of the planet.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.