Following the failed terrorist bombing onboard a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, the United States has seized the opportunity to further their destructive foreign policy in Yemen, all while advancing corporate interests in the security industry at the expense of civil liberties. Although the only man arrested, Umar Abdulmutallab, was a Nigerian citizen, he had apparent ties to Al-Qaeda and had received his training in Yemen.
This shift of attention to Yemen could not be more opportune for the United States, or more importantly, for their imperial allies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is incredibly important to underscore the strength of the ties between the Saudi royals and the American government when analyzing their actions in Yemen.
The Saudis have the largest oil reserves in the entire world, making it critical for the U.S. to tend to their needs, so long as the Americans receive their share of the black gold. Yemen, the last republic in the Arabian Peninsula and the only country without a monarchy, has been viewed as a threat to Saudi sovereignty, especially since Yemen is predominantly Shi’ite.
Indian diplomat M.K. Badhrakumar explains: “The archetypal Saudi fear — which is scrupulously left unspoken due to its extreme sensitivity — is that the Houthi-dominated region of northern Yemen also borders Saudi Arabia’s restive eastern province, which is Shi’ite (and oil-rich) and seething with resentment over Wahhabi intolerance.”
This perspective gives insight into why both the Saudis and Americans alike have reason to fear civil unrest in northern Yemen. The Shia Muslims living in eastern Saudi Arabia (making up 10-15 per cent of the population) are politically dominated by the Wahhabi Royal Family, and with lack of freedoms of speech and assembly there are growing signs of discontent toward the royal family.
The Shia-minority lives on top of some of the world’s largest oil reserves, and if they were to declare independence, those resources would go with them. Naturally to those in power, that would be unacceptable. In Qatif, right in the heart of Shia territory in Saudi Arabia, sits the world’s largest petroleum processing plant, and its field development services are operated by Halliburton.
While the Saudi government attempts to quell any signs of civil unrest in their own country, especially anywhere near American processing plants, they also recognize the Houthi tribes living in northern Yemen to be a threat that could inspire their Shia brethren in Saudi Arabia to revolt, and succeed in gaining independence.
The United States have since used the failed Christmas bombing attempt to reiterate rhetoric about Yemen becoming a “failed state” in need of democracy-building, and that it is becoming a safe-haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists. The Houthi rebels have denied any relation to the attempted bombing and have denied any relation to Al-Qaeda. This becomes more obvious when understanding that Al-Qaeda is based on Wahhabi Islam of the Saudi kind, which would actually make them more likely to attack the Shia Houthis than to defend them.
The most important aspect of all of this is that Umar Abdulmutallab was already a suspected terrorist prior to boarding the Northwest Airline plane in Amsterdam. What this means is that when he attempted to board the plane, his passport would have been swiped, and instantly silent alarms should have been going off all over the airport.
Hell, those alarms should have been ringing at airports all over Europe as a head’s up. Somehow, it seems he was allowed on a plane without a passport. Whether it was sheer incompetence or government compliance is not the point. The point is, now even more tax dollars will be spent on companies connected with members of the political elite, while further encroaching our civil rights.
We must learn from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the U.S. is never actually interested in democracy-building. They have specific goals to further enrich multinational corporations with zero regard for human rights, or human life. Yemen will soon be completely under U.S. guidance, furthering their conquest of the Middle-East and South Asia.
Ian Hunter is a first-year global political economy student at the University of Manitoba.