Cunningham: Al-Qaeda in Yemen Assisted by US, Saudi Intel. Operatives
Finian Cunningham, a prominent Irish expert in international affairs, says that US and Saudi intelligence operatives have long been colluding with al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen to stop the advances of the Ansarullah popular fighters.
“There are reliable claims out of Yemen that US and Saudi military intelligence have been covertly working with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to undermine the Houthi fighters. Given the close collusion between Israel and the US and Saudi Arabia in other conflict theatres, such as Syria and Lebanon, it would be most probable that the Israeli regime has been doing likewise in Yemen on a stealth basis. These elements work hand-in-hand,” Cunningham said in an exclusive interview with FNA.
He also said that US and its western allies’ policies towards Yemen flatly contradict their claims of supporting democracy and indicate the West’s posturing on human rights.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is now located in East Africa working as a freelance columnist for Press TV and Strategic Culture Foundation (Moscow).
What follows is the full text of the interview:
Q: Saudi Arabia began its aerial bombardments on Yemen on March 26 in an attempt to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi. The monarchy declared end to Yemen airstrikes after four weeks of bombing and killing around 2900 innocent people. Meanwhile, the attacks continued despite the fact that Riyadh declared an end to them on Tuesday. Certain regional and western countries including the US have been supplying Riyadh with critical support in air refueling, surveillance and logistics. What lies behind attacking another Middle-Eastern country?
A: US and western policy towards Yemen indeed exposes the hypocrisy and duplicity of these states and all their self-righteous fraudulent claims of supporting democracy and human rights. The double-think is glaring when we compare the West’s policy towards Ukraine. In the latter, a democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukoych, and his government were overthrown in an illegal and violent coup in February 2014. Yet Washington and its European allies immediately declared that coup to be a “democratic uprising”, and the western media pumped out the narrative that the ousted president was a “Russian stooge” and deserved to be deposed.
Whereas in Yemen, the dubiously-elected President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (he was elected in a non-contested poll in 2012) actually served as an American and Saudi “stooge” by continually reneging on a democratic transition for the past three years. Previously, Mansour Hadi served as a vice-president under the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh who for 30 years was a loyal puppet of Washington and Riyadh until a popular Yemeni uprising in 2011 finally succeeded in making him stand down despite American and Saudi resistance to that democratic mandate. Mansour Hadi was thus very much part of the old keptocratic regime and the Yemeni people wanted rid of him and all his ilk. Hundreds of civilian protesters were killed by the Yemeni armed forces since 2011. Finally, the Houthi popular fighters assumed power by force of arms at the end of 2014 after battling against the repressive regime. Seizing power by force of arms can be a moral and legitimate means if it is against a repressive regime and leads to a more democratic outcome, as the revolutionary people of Iran well know. Mansour Hadi eventually fled the country to seek refuge in his paymaster’s territory of Saudi Arabia. But note the West lionizes this figure as the “legitimate president of Yemen” when in fact Hadi is a discredited, corrupt holdover from a discredited and corrupt regime that ruled over Yemen for 30 years with an iron rod, enriching itself and its cronies while the majority of Yemenis were mired in poverty and deprivation.
This surely points to a risible contradiction in western policy if the latter is taken at superficial face value. But to many observers, this contradiction is neither new nor surprising. It is very much how the US and its western allies operate in the real world as opposed to the rarefied world of public relations and vain proclamations. Washington and its western minions prefer, promote and protect regimes and dictators who are loyal to their economic and political interests. But if a popular uprising leads to a democratic government that attempts to serve the interests of the people of the country, as opposed to western elite interests, then in that case the West will denounce such a development as undemocratic and will try by every means to thwart it, including launching wars of aggression, subversion and suppression, and economic sanctions.
We see this clearly in Bahrain as well where a genuine pro-democracy movement that arose in February 2011 has since been isolated and ignored by western governments who support the Al Khalifa dictatorship in that Persian Gulf state and its Saudi patrons in their brutal suppression of the popular movement. We see this in Yemen currently, where a popular armed resistance to dictatorship has succeeded in getting rid of a despotic, pro-western, pro-Saudi regime, only for the western governments to promptly turn around and give consent and military support to the Saudi-led foreign aggression on that country.
Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen several times in the past, such as in 2009 when it lost some 200 troops in battles with the Northern Yemen based Houthis. Then the Saudis backed off with a bloody nose not to return.
The present Saudi-led military strikes are admittedly taking aggression to a higher and more serious level. But again the campaign may peter out, as before. What the Saudis would settle for, in my view, is not so much the national reinstatement of the old regime and the defeat of the Houthis; but rather for the air strikes to turn Yemen into a chaotic, failed state, with the Houthis ruling over Northern Yemen, and the Southern part of the country ruled as a separate entity wracked by al-Qaeda-type extremism. What the Saudis and their western patrons want is for Yemen to not be a strong, unified, democratic, prosperous state. Such an outcome would pose a grave challenge to the western status quo in the region where anti-democratic regal despots lord it over their respective nations, serving western geopolitical interests as a priority. If the Saudis and other members of this so-called bombing coalition, including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, are reckless enough to invade Yemen with ground troops then, yes, they run the risk of sliding into a military quagmire. The Houthis are well-armed and they are seasoned fighters. A foreign invasion of Yemen will also probably galvanize other sections of the population to take up armed resistance. So any invaders, especially an unimpressive no-record Saudi army, will face very serious dangers and no doubt defeats. That’s why I think the Saudis and their US-backed allies will continue bombing the country and covertly supporting Al Qaeda terror groups on the ground with the objective of turning it into a failed state. That is the Syrian model that the Arab monarchies and their western backers have pursued for the past four years in the Levant. And, of course, such conduct is despicably criminal and warrants prosecution under international law.
Q: Both the Saudi kingdom and the US claim that the ongoing strikes are aimed at restoring democracy to Yemen. What’s your take on that?
A: It is notable that Washington and London, while supporting the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, are also calling for UN-brokered peace talks. Those talks are not a genuine effort to facilitate democracy in Yemen, but rather are an attempt to restore elements of the old western-serving regime, under the guise of “a compromise”. This kind of “compromising” is what the western powers and the Saudis have been doing ever since the popular uprisings of 2011 threatened to oust their puppets in Sana’a and to instate a new democratic polity, one that does not kowtow to the West or the Saudis but serves the needs of the people instead. So, the Saudi-led bombing campaign is one part of the vice; the other part of the vice is the western-exhorted UN “peace talks”. It can be cynically surmised that the bombing campaign will be used to try to force the Houthis to the negotiated table where they will be pressured by the western powers into accepting a shoddy compromise which actually sells the people of Yemen short of their democratic rights.
Q: Experts believe that the Israeli regime is also siding with Riyadh in Yemen and in fact is benefiting from the Saudi airstrikes. What do you think?
A: For political, public relations, Israel cannot be seen to take an overt role in the western-backed aggression on Yemen. That would inflame public opinion across the 350 million-population Arab region in particular and it would undermine the illusion that the Arab League is acting on behalf of Arab interests by policing Yemen. But certainly on this issue, Israel is on the same strategic side as the West and the Saudis, as it is over Syria, the nuclear impasse with Iran and other issues. There are reliable claims out of Yemen that US and Saudi military intelligence have been covertly working with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to undermine the Houthi fighters. Given the close collusion between Israel and the US and Saudi Arabia in other conflict theatres, such as Syria and Lebanon, it would be most probable that the Israeli regime has been doing likewise in Yemen on a stealth basis. These elements work hand-in-hand.