Jan 18, 2010

US and the Yemeni mess

Zeenia Satti

The US-led occupation of Afghanistan brought a nuclear-armed Pakistan to its knees as a state. If the US follows the same policies in Yemen that it followed in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia will crack at its foundations. Just as the Pakistani nukes have no danger from Al Qaeda but plenty from Pentagon, the largest oil reserves in the world will be cited as dangerously vulnerable to Al Qaeda take-over, as the US positions to provide them security in return for purchasing oil at a discount that can be used in tough economic times. For this, all the US has to do is “sit” on the Yemeni coastline to prevent Al Qaeda incursions, as Yemen has scant coastal defence of its own.

The American presence will, of course, exacerbate the Yemeni mess and Saudi Arabia will start getting infiltrated with what the US generals will insist is Al Qaeda (they may be just a bunch of very angry armed Muslims for good reason). In a repeat performance of Afghanistan, Barack Obama will try to “conceptualise” a politico-economic solution to the Yemen problem. The ruling Arab political “thought”, in turn, will fail to offer a solution to the crisis and the Arab militant nationalists will be hell-bent on US departure. The American generals, goaded by the intelligence and corporate elite, will start pressuring the oval office for a surge, raising a chorus of scary security and economic concerns. Washington’s easiest option will be Saudi Arabian military, which will be given fancy counter-insurgency equipment “to do more.” Riyadh suffers from the same mindset as Islamabad. Its capacity to distance itself from the US for the sake of internal stability is zero. Political instability from Yemen will start flooding into Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading exporter of oil. Like Pakistan’s nukes, Saudi oil fields will be presented by US-based powerful media outlets as extremely vulnerable to capture by “Al Qaeda.”

To make matters worse, Bin Laden and Co will start issuing videos from an “undisclosed location.” Because disruption in supply of Saudi oil to world markets will have dire consequences for western economies, the Pentagon would be “obliged” to rush in to safeguard Saudi oil fields in the interest of international economic stability.” Should the US do so, its act will destabilise the entire Islamic region. Enraged Muslims, who flock to Mecca every year from all four of its corners for pilgrimage, will start lighting the fires of war north, south, east and west.

Stoking the fires further, the US will offer to train Islamic states to fight “terror.” Any such cooperation will jeopardise the latter’s security even more. The US will become the self-appointed gendarme of the region till such time as Al Qaeda (or some morphed version by then) is disrupted, dismantled and destroyed, that is, till an alternative to fossil fuel is discovered.

Till then, the US will entitle itself to purchasing Gulf oil at a discounted price in return for ensuring the security of Gulf states while providing arms to peripheral and more populated states in the throws of perpetual insurgency. The US arms exports will greatly benefit from an expanding theater of war of “enraged people versus confused governments”. The US will be spared harm due to its geographic isolation. Britain too, is secure compared to the rest of Europe, where the fall-out could bring political harm of its own. The countries most directly endangered will be India and Israel as they lie in the midst of what could become a thoroughly destabilised region. India’s economic gains and Israel’s diplomatic gains in the Arab world will both be jeopardised in such a scenario.

Ever since the young man from London burned his bottom and airplane’s seat after boarding a US airliner and announced he was “trained” by Al Qaeda in Yemen, the international media has started drawing analogies between Yemen and Afghanistan (tribes and arms, weak centre etc). Yemen is NOT Afghanistan. It is not peripheral. It sits atop a land whose eruption could trigger a political earthquake on a Richter scale that may blow the Pentagon’s generals into far-off corners with painful landings despite their unrivalled hardware.

Japan has already foreseen this and has started to demand the closure of US bases on its soil. In a historic bid to distance itself from the US, Japan, the world’s second largest fossil fuel dependent economy, has started moving closer to China. Tokyo’s strategic assessment of the ultimate fate of US’ resource wars seems bleak. The US is over-stretching militarily under the assumption that the majority of states will cooperate with it in what it has marketed as the war on terror. However, as the negative fate of Muslim states, which cooperate with the US, begins to materialise, (for example, Pakistan) there will be an inevitable region wide retreat from this policy. This in turn will create a strategic space for China which the US may find hard to contain.

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