Aggression against Yemen is "an imperialist war by an autocratic kingdom against an impoverished people fighting for liberation," says Prof. Colin S. Cavell.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): An interview with Colin S. Cavell, a full professor of political science at Bluefield State College, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.
Here is the full text of the interview:
What are the main reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s failure in reaching its aims after six years of war in Yemen?
In order to answer this question, let us analyze a recent article by a supporter of the Saudi effort to retain control over Yemen so as to provide your readers with contrasting perspectives on the Saudi-Yemeni conflict:
In his March 16, 2021 article “Yemen is More Complicated Than Biden Thinks”, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar, an outlet which aligns itself with the Democratic Party side of the U.S. capitalist duopoly and which continuously aims to provide some coherence and rationality to the western Middle Eastern alliance by attempting to weave together possible points of agreement between the interests of Saudi Arabia and the region's monarchies with those of Israel and the United States. Ibish, in fact, is perhaps one of the few theorists who understands that the western imperial alliance necessitates some congruity and consistency if its coalition partners are ever going to be able to sell their imperial policies to a very reluctant and distrustful public.
Commenting on the western quagmire in the country of Yemen, Ibish writes as follows:
During the Trump presidency, Yemen was primarily viewed as Saudi Arabia’s problem. The war was cast as the consequence of Saudi aggression — specifically, Riyadh’s leadership of the Arab alliance against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. As a result, it was assumed that ending the fighting was just a matter of compelling the Saudis to get out of Yemen….
But the Houthis, a Shiite militia that overthrew the Hadi government in 2015, have never shown any serious interest in peace. Since the war has gone fairly well for them, they have little incentive to stop fighting. And their Iranian patrons are certain to press them to keep the Saudis bogged down. The conflict in Yemen has given Tehran plausible deniability while repeatedly striking at its main regional rival in its exposed underbelly.
In theory, it shouldn’t be that difficult to incentivize the Houthis to come to terms. A political agreement would have to recognize and institutionalize the power they have accumulated over the past five years.
However, there are a number of serious challenges. Since the war started, no one has been able to ascertain what the Houthi bottom line is, much less what kind of deal they might accept. Not only are they fanatical in the extreme —their rallying cry is “God is great! Death to America! Death to Israel! A curse upon the Jews! Victory for Islam!” — they are also internally divided. Their representatives at previous peace talks apparently did not represent the views and commitments of commanders on the ground.
Thus, from a pro-imperialist perspective, one may conclude with Ibish that:
1) The war on Yemen commenced with the overthrow of the Hadi regime in 2015, thus ignoring the overlordship of a foreign-imposed Saudi puppet regime since North and South Yemen united in May 1990;
2) The Yemeni liberation forces are merely “Iran-backed Houthi rebels” and that it is solely within the power of Iran to control what the Yemenis do or not do, thus repeating the racist and condescending tactics of imperialist everywhere in denying agency to its foes;
3) Trump was not complicit in Saudi crimes in Yemen, because he viewed Yemen as only a Saudi problem, and yet it was Trump who sold over $460 billion of U.S. weaponry to Saudi Arabia;
4) The Yemeni liberation forces “have never shown any serious interest in peace”, and by this usage of the word “peace”, Ibish implies a capitulation to Saudi suzerainty and/or hegemony over Yemen; indeed, by making such an absurd statement, Ibish indicates he holds little appreciation for the difficulty of life in Yemen, living under the rule of a Saudi puppet and its attendant everyday violence while continuously subjected to indiscriminate Saudi bombing campaigns which, as reporter Russ Wellen notes: “In their bombing (using American aircraft and with intelligence and targeting help from the United States), the Saudis have been about as discriminating as the Israelis in Gaza (in other words, not) (Wellen, August 6, 2015);
5) It is impossible to ascertain “what the Houthi bottom line is”; meanwhile, the Yemenis’ repeated cries for FREEDOM and STOP THE BOMBING and END THE BLOCKADE are consistently ignored;
6) And, finally, the ultimate insult from a western imperialist perspective—arrogant, paternalistic, snobbish, condescending, and patronizing—by criticizing the Yemenis for their rallying cries of “God is great! Death to America! Death to Israel! A curse upon the Jews! Victory for Islam!”, as if a country undergoing “the world's worst humanitarian crisis with nearly 80% or more than 24 million of its people needing humanitarian assistance and protection and more than 13 million in danger of starving to death” (UN Humanitarian Office, January 12, 2021) can afford more eloquent slogans such as “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” and other bourgeois shibboleths which initially helped rally the masses behind the capitalist revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, at least until the masses realized the bourgeoisie had no intention of liberating the working masses, fighting for equality, or instilling fraternity amongst all its peoples. And while Ibish is ensconced in cosmopolitan Washington, D.C., I write at present just 338 miles away in rural Appalachia in the state of West Virginia where some of the most popular bumper stickers are: “Jesus Is Lord!”; “Pro God, Pro Gun, Pro Life!”; “STAND FOR THE FLAG, KNEEL AT THE CROSS!”; “No Jesus, No Peace – Know Jesus, Know Peace!” And let us not forget the Proud Boys t-shirt slogan of “6MWE” (i.e. ‘Six Million Weren’t Enough’ -- a reference to the six million Jews who died in the Nazi holocaust); “CAMP AUSCHWITZ: WORK BRINGS FREEDOM” (a reference to the sign at the entrance of the German concentration camp of Auschwitz which stated: ‘Arbeit macht frei’); the large wooden cross carried around on the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Congress building where at least five people were killed and where QAnon followers claimed to be protesting against “white genocide”. So, yes, the U.S. has its questionable rallying slogans as well!
For observers still unsure of whether Yemen or Saudi Arabia deserves your support or condemnation, consider the following:
1) The U.S. is acting to disrupt the May 2021 presidential election in Syria;
2) The U.S. is acting to disrupt the Iranian presidential election in June 2021;
3) The U.S. is heavily involved in attempting to influence and/or disrupt the next parliamentary elections in Iraq, currently schedule for October 2021;
4) Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy ruled by the unelected Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salmon [MbS] who launched the imperialist war against Yemen in March of 2015 and who is notorious for his order to kill and cut up with a bone saw dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, amongst other numerous crimes.
In short, this is an imperialist war by an autocratic kingdom against an impoverished people fighting for liberation. The Saudis want to maintain their decades-long hegemony over Yemen as a raison d'être for their continued support by the USA and the UK in order to safeguard western oil tankers and their 21 million barrels per day traversing the Strait of Hormuz, and retain control of the Kamarān archipelago, the Ḥanīsh Islands, and Perim Island in the Red Sea, and Socotra and The Brothers islands in the Arabian Sea. If indeed Iran has any say in subsequent Yemeni politics, it is logical to conclude that democratic elections will be recommended as part of the governmental structure and that any pretension towards monarchy will be absolutely deemed out of the question.
How do you assess the role of the Western countries in the continuation of the war?
The Saudi coalition of the U.S., the U.K., Israel, et al. are concerned not only with the continued military victories on the ground by the Yemeni liberation army but, as well, by the lackluster fighting on the part of their Saudi ally. Wiser analysts amongst this western imperial coalition, however, recognize that Saudi soldiers are largely mercenaries whose only incentive to fight is their paycheck, for the average Saudi soldier is quite conscious of the fact that the regime they are fighting for is as corrupt as the Arabian desert is wide and that their monarchical rulers are MINOs (Muslims In Name Only). Alternatively, the Yemenis are fighting for their lives, for liberation, and for freedom, and no amount of imperial weaponry will be able to dissuade them from continuing their struggle.
What is your take on recent decisions adopted by the Biden Administration regarding Yemen, such as removing Ansarullah from the terrorist list? Do you believe the US will take a practical step in ending aggression against Yemen?
The Biden Administration removed the Yemeni liberation forces from the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, thus reversing a final insult from the previous Trump Administration’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for by removing Yemen from this list allows the U.S., the U.N., and other aid agencies to tactically influence war developments on the ground. Pompeo’s move was merely an outgoing political gesture which he will remind the American people of should he run for the U.S. presidency in 2024. And, secondly, by removing this designation, the U.S. will be able to resume openly supporting the Saudi war effort in a last-ditch desperate attempt to keep the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi hands. Remember, an imperial power always prefers to deal with only a single corrupt dictator rather than face the wrath of a democratic populist government.
The United Nations has also failed to put a halt to the devastating war in the past six years, how do you assess the UN role?
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, on November 2, 2018, pointed out the utter devastation the Saudi imperial war has brought upon the Yemeni people, putting over 80% of the 24 million people of Yemen in what the UN Secretary General called “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” with over 13 million on the brink of starvation (Guterres, November 2, 2018). The UN could help to facilitate further dialogue between the Yemeni liberation forces and neighboring countries, as such dialogue could engender not only an exchange of ideas amongst the warring parties but, more importantly, allow each side to clarify its goals and how it plans to achieve them. Currently, however, the UN appears only to be used as a pawn by the United States to stay silent on the multiplicity of war crimes being committed against the Yemeni people.
Interview by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas
Dr. Cavell is a tenured Full Professor of Political Science at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia, and also an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts.