Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Great Game.
An article by Martin Reardon, a 21 year veteran of the FBI, explain the complex relationships in the Middle East. He compares them to a chess game with Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, and Iran as the leader of the Shia Muslim world.Boris Johnson’s speech in the House of Commons was described by MPs as forensic in its clarity. (click on link, then scroll down to column 345).
A precis of his main points is here.
Background. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf States did not attack Yemen. They are responding to a crisis forced on them in September 2014. It is important to remember this is part of an political chess game that has gone on for centuries.
The Houthi rebels, with the previous President Saleh (and alledgedly Iran,) overran Yemen and overthrew the government. The rightful President, Hadi fled and formally appealed for help. Foreign Secretary Boris said it is vital that we stand by the 26 million Yemeni people, over half of whom are under 18.
Terrorist Al Qaeda has a presence in Yemen.
Vital importance of the Straits to world trade. Mortar bombs, rockets and scud missiles were being fired into Saudi territory. Yemen lies alongside vital Straits, between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. All world shipping needs to access the Straits. The Houthi fired on a US destroyer in the Straits, and also on several civilian ships, attempting to ply their trade.
Every nation in the world, said Boris, particularly our own, has a vital interest in passage through those Straits. They must be kept open and protected.
Our Foreign Secretary said passionately: “It was absolutely right to support President Hadi and to recognise the scale of the crisis that Yemen faces. As I have been explaining to the House—I am glad that the hon. Gentleman accepts that I am laying out the case in a forensic manner—Britain has important interests at stake. …….. Furthermore, I can assure the House that, over the past few months, this country has been leading the way in a sustained diplomatic effort to try to settle that conflict.”
Political Settlement The Foreign Secretary, with UN Special Envoy Ahmed, is working to get a political settlement. They called for a ceasefire and achieved a ceasefire of 3 days.
Boris said forcefully: I say to the Houthis and those loyal to former President Saleh who say they want peace—that is what they say—that their actions suggest otherwise. They promised to obey UN resolution 2216, joined the framework for the talks and turned up in Kuwait for the negotiations, but, at the same time, they have taken a series of unilateral steps that have gravely damaged the cause they claim to espouse. The Houthis have announced the creation of a Supreme Political Council and set up a shadow Government to rival the legitimate Administration of President Hadi, which is emphatically not the way forward.
It is vital that this matter be resolved politically.
With regard to sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, that country has been ” a key strategic and defence partner of the UK for decades, which is of immense value to this country, as Members on both sides of the House have rightly pointed out in this debate.” (We need defence, that is why we have Trident. AK)
Sale of arms to Saudis. The Rt. Hon. Emily Thornberry at first demanded sales of arms to the Saudis should cease, but then retreated substantially from that position, commented Boris.
He added: ” Important distinctions need to be made with the carnage taking place in Syria, where poison gas and barrel bombs are being used on the civilian population in a campaign of barbarism that has cost 400,000 lives and driven 11 million people from their homes. She (Emily Thornberry) should not let analogy replace analysis in what she says.”
Investigations into undue force. The UK is pressing for an investigation into accusations that the Saudis have used undue force.
Boris emphasised this country has a far more responsible attitude to the sale of arms than other nations. He said: We take our arms export responsibilities very seriously indeed. This country operates one of the toughest control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the established criteria. The most relevant test is whether there is a clear risk of those weapons being used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. We keep this under careful and continuous review.
Ex military man keeping check on Saudis. Bob Stewart MP, ex military said: ” I have visited the air operations centre in Riyadh, where British air force personnel are helping the Saudis in their target planning. I have also talked to the pilots and the operational planners there. They assure me—and I believe them—that they are doing everything in their power to stop innocent civilians in Yemen dying. We should get that point across.”
British aid to the Yemen. The UK has raised £100 million for food, water and medical supplies for the people of Yemen.
Conclusion. Our Foreign Secretary concluded: ” Britain is at the forefront of efforts to hold the Assad regime in Syria to account, and we are at the forefront of delivering humanitarian aid to the entire region. We can be proud of our efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen—the whole House can be proud of what we are doing.
…….Some 7 million people in Yemen face severe food shortages. Last month my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development hosted an event in New York that raised $100 million for the people of Yemen, on top of the £100 million contributed by the people of this country. We in Britain stand ready to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of the innocent, and the best service we could perform would be to help them secure a peaceful settlement.”
UPDATE. The Telegraph says the Saudis are bombing Yemen to bring peace and stability to the region.
Middle East Monitor reports: Daesh and Al Qaeda are working together in Yemen says CIA.
Fact Check gives a balanced view on the Saudis and terrorism.