Saudi Attempts to Use the
Houthis against the Muslim Brotherhood Backfired in Yemen
By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
April 11, 2015 "ICH"
-- Yemen is being bombed into accepting a Saudi-mediated pseudo-dialogue that
really aims to reinstate Al-Hadi and restore
Yemen as an authoritarian state that follows
Saudi Arabia and the US. In this context, a mixture of Arabian intrigues,
petro-politics, and geopolitics are all at play.
Arabian Game of Thrones
It might be hard to imagine,
especially since Riyadh and the Houthis fought a war in Saada earlier in 2009
and 2010, but the House of Saud has actually worked with the Houthis before the
Kingdom launched Operation Decisive Storm on March 25, 2015. The Kingdom’s
engagement of the Houthi movement was part of the House of Saud’s hoary and
trite dirty game inside Yemen. In this regard, the House of Saud has been
playing different Yemeni governments, the Houthis, the Muslims Brotherhood, and
Al-Qaeda all against one another in a Saudi real life version of George R.R.
Martin’s best-selling book series Game of Thrones.
During the Cold War the US, the
House of Saud, Britain, and Israel all supported the royalists in North Yemen
and supported the idea of Zaidi imamate against Yemeni republicans. Once the
republicans won the war, the Saudis began funding Wahhabi programs and schools
to convert the Zaidis and to create sectarian divisions in North Yemen.
After South Yemen fought Britain
to become independent in 1967, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Britain began to
support a Muslim Brotherhood insurrection with the aim of toppling the People’s
Democratic Republic of Yemen. When North Yemen and South Yemen were unified in
1990 the Muslim Brotherhood insurgents founded Al-Islah as the Saudis continued
funding the Wahhabi programs that would help produce Al-Qaeda and sympathies for
While Ali Abdullah Saleh was the
president of a Yemen, the Kingdom used Al-Islah to keep President Saleh and his
General People’s Congress in check. After the ousting of Saleh during the
so-called Arab Spring and the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and
North Africa, the Kingdom got nervous and opted to exploit the Houthis as a
counterweight against Al-Islah as a means of preventing the Muslim Brotherhood
from controlling Yemen.
To varying degrees the Saudi
strategy to manipulate the Houthi movement against Al-Islah contributed to the
ascendency of the Houthis in Yemen.
Nothing less than suzerainty over
Yemen is enough for the House of Saud. Despite the fact that the Houthis were
willing to reassure the Kingdom for months and approached the House of Saud to
sue for peace days before the war, the Kingdom wants total obedience from the
Houthi movement. The Houthis and most the other political factions in Yemen —
including Al-Hadi’s own General People’s Congress — cannot accept this. So the
Saudis opted to force Yemen into submission by means of a war.
Echoes of the Cold War in
Echoes of the Cold War seem to be
at play in Arabia as history is repeating itself.
The so-called pan-Arab that the
House of Saud is promoting is a reincarnation of US containment policies from
the Cold War when NATO had a sister-alliance in the Middle East named the Middle
East Treaty Organization (METO), which was colloquially called the Baghdad Pact.
METO was interlocked with NATO and had common members and officially consisted
of Britain, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan. The US was officially an associate
member, but it was really the force behind METO. This was another case of
Washington “leading from behind.”
The Baghdad later morphed into the
Central Treaty Organization (CETO) after Iraq ousted its Hashemite monarchy in a
revolution and left the military alliance in 1959. CETO was officially disbanded
in 1979 after the Pahlavi monarchy was toppled in a revolution in Iran.
While the US has clenched as
nuclear deal with Iran, it has never given up its quest to control Tehran. The
so-called pan-Arab is a combined rehash of the Cold War’s METO/CETO alliance(s)
and Washington’s “GCC+2” arrangement that in 2007 sought to create a military
alliance against Syria and Iran composed of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) —
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — plus Egypt and Jordan.
What this scheme effectively does is reserve the military option for the US.
Using a sectarian narrative the Saudis and Israelis are trying to portray this
as a so-called Sunni axis against Iran and its regional allies.
The contours of the Cold War
coalition that existed during the civil war in North Yemen against the
republicans have re-emerged too. During the Cold War, Israel helped the House of
Saud intervene in Yemen through military aid, advisors, operatives, and weapons
during the civil war in North Yemen. Both countries worked with the US, Britain,
and Pakistan to help the royalists against the republicans.
The Israeli-Saudi alliance in
Yemen is being relieved as the Kingdom and Israel have united with the US
against the Houthis. Like the Cold War, mercenaries and foreign fighters will
eventually enter the picture too.
© Strategic Culture Foundation