Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Wed, Oct 7th, 2015

The Usual Suspects

There is a classic line near the end of the 1940s classic film Casablanca when Bogart’s character kills a German officer. The local French captain, not a great fan of the Germans but aware who did the shooting, tells his men to round up the usual suspects.


Yesterday there was an attack in Aden on the shuttle government supported by the Saudis in which several ministers were targeted. The politicians escaped but at least 15 Saudi soldiers died. Immediately the Saudi/Emirati coalition blamed the Huthis. Never mind that the Huthis have supposedly been driven out of Aden. But it seems that it was not a well-aimed Huthi/Salih missile after all. Rather it was a suicide attack by ISIS/Daesh.

The propaganda of the Saudi coalition has been predictable from the start. If news comes out of civilian deaths, then it could not be a bomb from a Saudi plane. So last week when 130 people died at a wedding in the coast, the Huthis were blamed, even though the Huthis and Salih have no planes. Since the Saudi forces can do no wrong, it must always be the Huthis that get blamed.  This is not to say that the Huthis or Salih’s loyal troops are angels, but they are clearly not responsible for the bulk of civilian deaths as is clear from reports of several human rights organizations. The Saudis have friends (at least for the moment) in high places, since they managed to stop a Dutch request for an independent query on war crimes in Yemen. I suppose the fact that the Obama administration has sold the Saudis some 90 billion dollars worth of weapons and military equipment since coming to office is enough for the U.S. to accept that a Saudi is appointed to the U.N. Human Rights Council. To be proverbial, the fox is now in charge of the henhouse, although perhaps the term “henhouse” is too weak a term for the current state of the United Nations.

As the war in Yemen nears its seventh month, the absurdity gets even worse. While the war started solely as a bombing campaign and a blockade, a weak force of untrained Saudis and Emiratis (and mercenaries) retook Aden, bought the allegiance of some northern tribes so they could find a rest stop in Marib and have threatened to invade Sanaa. Without tribal support, which is always temporary and often goes to the highest bidder, this force would get nowhere. In recent days there has been almost total destruction from the air of the bridges and roads leading to Sanaa, cutting off its residents from food, water and gasoline. But there is still no end in sight.  Neither the real Huthis, who are certainly not a majority of the population in Sanaa, nor the former military loyal to Salih have anywhere to go. Sa’da and towns to the north have been devastated.  Unlike the case in Iraq and Syria, there literally is no way out past the blockade. Nor would any Yemeni seriously want to go to Iran, even if offered the chance.

If indeed, as it now seems, the Saudi/Emirati coalition has a new enemy, it should not be a surprise. In their one-sided pseudo Blitzkrieg against the Huthis and Salih, no attempt has been made to stop the advance of either Al-Qaida (and its metamorphosis Ansar Shariah) or ISIS/Daesh. The Huthis tried to rid Yemen of these groups, which are now slaughtering Yemeniswho do not conform to their rules. But the Saudi campaign has made it possible for both groups to grow and take advantage of the anger and frustration Southerners have for Salih and his cronies. Imagine if ISIS/Daesh had succeeded in killing the Yemeni Vice President. No doubt the Huthis would be blamed, if for no other reason than to deny the responsibility on themselves. For the Saudi coalition and its only too willing American and British supporters there is only one usual suspect. It is one that has been there all along: a steady stream of lies.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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