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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Yemen war: Amerikan “blackmailing” of Saudi Arabia discussed in Iranian media
December 2, 2016
Five months ago it was said “this writer suspects an element of compulsion in the u.$.-Saudi partnership in Yemen despite Saudi leadership.”(1) The context of that statement included an acknowledgment of Saudi Arabia’s independent interests, that Saudi Arabia wasn’t merely a proxy or that the alliance with the imperialist polytheists in Washington obscured an underlying contradiction with them. Saudi or affiliated casualties in Yemen are in the hundreds; amerikan casualties are virtually nonexistent. Regardless of who plays the largest leadership role in some sense, or who serves who, Saudi Arabia isn’t just following the amerikans voluntarily. Given the economic and political contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the United States, not just over oil, the idea that Saudi and amerikan interests in Yemen were identical was never really believable even in the short run. Nor was the narrative of Iranian-Saudi rivalry being of principal importance. In an odd way, those emphasizing Iranian-Saudi conflict in Yemen are serving the interests of shortsighted Saudis who don’t want to embarrass or agitate Americans with too much talk of conflict between them. If Saudi Arabia has to be involved in Yemen and is present there more than just as a shell for u.$. aggression, it is because Saudi Arabia is actually in conflict with the united $tates.
It is in this context that the reader may view with interest an article published on Iran’s PressTV website last week.(2) Recall that amerika’s stooges including Ban Ki-moon were six months ago accusing Saudi Arabia of “blackmail” or excessive pressure over Yemen-war-related allegations against Saudi Arabia, and accusing Saudi Arabia of betraying Palestinians in the midst of non-amerikan struggle for a two-state outcome in Palestine. Nevermind that the amerikans were probably blackmailing both Ali Abdullah Saleh, when Saleh was President, and Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi before 2015, over alleged terrorists in Yemen. Certainly there was pressure. And AmeriKKKa now has a President-elect who has at times openly rejected or failed to support the Palestine two-state solution, and supported the occupation of al-Quds in its entirety.
Last week, Houthi Ansarullah movement spokespersyn Mohammad Abdulsalam “warned that the US is blackmailing Saudi Arabia and this practice will intensify in the future.” Abdulsalam reportedly gave this warning after highlighting “the negative role of Washington in the war on Yemen, saying the US is among the states that are involved in the aggression against the impoverished country rather than a mediator between the Yemeni forces and the Riyadh regime.” The article on PressTV begins with, “Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has accused the US, which has recently put forward a peace plan for the war-torn country, of leading the ongoing aggression against Yemen along with Saudi Arabia.” Toward the end of the article appears, “Washington used to rely on Riyadh on issues related to Yemen, but it was forced to put aside the kingdom and directly engage with the Yemeni side, he added.”
In other words, Iranians themselves are indirectly suggesting the united $tates isn’t a mediator, leads the aggression, “used to rely” on Saudi Arabia, had to put aside Saudi Arabia, and is blackmailing Saudi Arabia. This is obviously far from saying that Saudi Arabia or “Wahhabism” is an enemy greater than the amerikans. And it, along with many other signs, indicates a basis for Iranian-Saudi unity against the amerikans. Iran has been strongly critical of Saudi Arabia, of course, and at times portrayed Saudi Arabia as an enemy of both amerikans and Iranians. But Iran has also recently spoken of the amerikans as dominating and betraying the Saudis.
Iran’s official IRNA yesterday suggested(3) that OPEC’s latest decision to limit production(4) was potentially a prelude to “a major understanding” with Saudi Arabia. “The third breakthrough has to take place in the area of politics and security of the Persian Gulf region which requires the wisdom of South Persian Gulf countries in a summit meeting next week, Aboutalebi [Deputy Chief of Staff of the President for Political Affairs] said.” “After the OPEC meeting, if Saudi Arabia decides to stop killing Muslims, it can return to the path of a major understanding, Aboutalebi said.”
Some seem to view foreign involvement in Yemen more negatively than foreign involvement in Syria, but there have been many, many times more casualties in the Syria conflict than in the Yemen conflict even just on an annual/monthly basis. The populations of Syria and Yemen including migrants are roughly the same size. Nevertheless, Iran and Russia operate in Syria because the Syrian government wants it; it doesn’t want the united $tates to operate in Syria. Period. Of course, if a neo-colony were to invite in the united $tates, the oppressed would have to view that a certain way. Since the united $tates has been hegemonic for decades now, some of the excuses for such an invitation, that might have been made at the end of the 1960s or 1970s, are no longer possible. The Soviet Union, which was a socialist country for decades and later turned into an imperialist superpower trying to beat the amerikans in oppressing or bullying the world, is no more. Problematically, the government in Iraq that began as an amerikan puppet hosts both Iranian and amerikan troops. Iran considers that government to be legitimate.
The legitimacy of the Hadi so-called government is in dispute. China, while both struggling with the Saudis and recognizing Hadi as President, seems to suggest it is too soon or complicated to make a strong decision about supporting one side or another(5). Hadi was backed by the amerikans before Hadi resigned, but Iran views the Hadi government as illegitimate after Hadi resigned in January last year. For example, in Iranian media currently, Hadi is “the resigned president,” “the fugitive former president,” etc. That has been Iran’s view though the Ansarullah spokespersyn in Yemen just claimed, “The war on Yemen is a US-Saudi one, with Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi having no role in the offensive . . . stressing that history will prove this assertion,” according to Iranian media. No role in the offensive. That statement could allow either Hadi, Iran, or both, to save face if the war were to end in different ways. In any case, Iran views opposing the amerikan/Saudi involvement in Yemen as a matter of supporting Yemeni sovereignty, not unlike supporting Syrian sovereignty.
Press TV reported recently, “The head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council warns Saudi Arabia and the United States that the country’s forces are determined to reclaim its soil, one step at a time. / Saleh Ali al-Sammad made the remarks in a Facebook post on Saturday, saying, sooner or later, Yemen will defeat all those who violate its sovereignty under whatever pretext.”(6) Al-Sammad drew attention to amerikan leadership: “Yemen will take back its soil from Al Saud and its American masters, he said.” “Death to America” is still visible on flags waved by many apparent Houthi movement supporters.
The destiny of Saudi Arabia
The destiny of Saudi Arabia is to be close to its Muslim sister across the gulf, even the atheists in Beijing, and others. It is not to be with the citadel of polytheistic idolatry ten thousand kilometers away in the united $tates.
Saudi Arabia is a rich (in per-capita-GDP terms) country involved in killing thousands of people in Yemen, a poor country. However, if even close ally Britain can have disagreements with the amerikans – or Iraqis can have disagreements with them despite cooperating in the killing of thousands of people in their own country – there can be unity with Saudi Arabia against the united $tates in some struggles. At the same time, Saudi Arabia isn’t a country even like Italy, New Zealand, or Spain, economically.
Saudi Arabia has millionaires who don’t have to work and who invest in assets involved in the exploitation of Third World workers. So does India though India is in the Third World. Though India is dozens of times more populous, the number of (US$) millionaires in India may be almost equal to the number of millionaire households in Saudi Arabia, which is a rich area of the Muslim world with internal inequality. Saudis have difficulty attracting foreign investment in non-oil sectors of their economy. They also are in a weak position – even now still despite the planned Aramco IPO – to divest itself of a majority of now- state-owned, non-public Aramco even though many foreign investors are interested. Saudis have difficulty investing and spending their own money in Saudi non-oil sectors other than real estate. All of these are just a few signs of a lack of development of finance capital. Without this development and if exports were mainly non-petroleum goods and services, Saudi Arabia would have difficulty maintaining revenue.
An article on Zawya last month suggested Saudi Arabia was going to have economic growth in 2017 at less than 1%.(7) If it weren’t for the oil sector, the rate could be negative. “While local fundamentals are still reflecting a growing economy, any further measures to reduce the fiscal deficit could potentially lead to negative growth in non-oil economic activity, the [Jadwa Investment] report pointed out.”
Saudi Arabia has been having to divest itself of large amounts of foreign assets to make up for a decline in oil revenue. An article on Bloomberg suggests that as Saudi Arabia’s economic and financial problems worsen, “a large pool of unemployed youth could be susceptible to extremism.”(8)
The situation is ripe for blackmail and bullying. The U.S. Congress passed the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” and overrode Obama’s veto.(9) Obama had accused the Saudis of being free riders. Now there is President-elect Trump, who has amplified what many Democrats and phony leftists said. As it does with its other allies, the amerikans spy on the Saudi government. Spying aside, the amerikans can force the Saudis to do things by exerting economic pressure.
Trump has business interests in Saudi Arabia, but other amerikans may be successful in getting Trump to divorce from those.
Saudi Arabia is the third-biggest military spender in the world, but it is economically vulnerable. At the same time, it is one of the weaker allies of the united $tates in different ways. It isn’t a NATO member, for example.
Capitalist-roader Deng Xiaoping used false economic ideas to justify “opening up.” Deng, but also others years before 1977, referred to a Soviet threat to justify rapprochement or at least détente with the united $tates. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union vanished and China was a neo-colony for the Dollar Empire. By the late 1970s, the united $tates was already on its way to becoming an unrivaled superpower, so it easy to say there was a big mistake strategically speaking and that thinking about class struggle in national terms somehow led to counterrevolution. Also, imperialist countries often cooperate or coordinate against the oppressed as even the Soviet Union and the united $tates did on occasion. But the idea of having peace and even a global united front to focus on a main, chief or most-dangerous enemy is still correct. The Saudis have the potential to be part of such a united front against the united $tates.
The oppressed know about blackmail and are against it. They can forgive Saudi Arabia if that is required for the Saudis to make amends and stop collaborating with the amerikans. ◊
• “US militarily armed Hadi’s govt. before Saudi war on Yemen: WikiLeaks,” 2016 November 25. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/11/25/495142/US-Hadi-Saudi-war-Yemen-WikiLeaks
• “Israel Palestine conflict: West Bank and Gaza Strip economic trouble could cause social unrest,” 2016 November 16. http://www.ibtimes.com/israel-palestine-conflict-west-bank-gaza-strip-economic-trouble-could-cause-social-2447235 “Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority’s most committed donor, has begun focusing on military efforts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates stopped giving altogether in 2015. The Palestinian economy, beset by Israeli occupation, relies on these funds to survive. A report issued by the World Bank in September details the crisis Palestinians face.”
• “Schisms and dissent loom large as Palestinian leadership convenes for first time in years,” 2016 November 29. http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.755846 “Though there has been talk of appointing Barghouti by general acclaim rather than a vote, Barghouti’s associates say he insists on running for election. His associates also plan to use the conference to demand answers about Fatah’s diplomatic policy.” “We’re at a complete standstill,” a delegate affiliated with Barghouti told Haaretz. “There’s an internal schism and the Arab world is torn to pieces. The timing of the conference is very sensitive, and we’re concerned with more than just elections.”
• “The ten-year renewal of sanctions is definitely a violation of JCPOA/Iran will surely react to it,” 2016 December 2. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4384/The-ten-year-renewal-of-sanctions-is-definitely-a-violation-of “I deem it necessary to say here that they have done many things and they have committed many violations. It is not only one, two violations. The most recent one is this ten-year renewal of sanctions. If these sanctions are renewed, this is definitely a violation of the JCPOA. It is undoubtedly a violation of the JCPOA. And they should know that the Islamic Republic will surely react to it [audience chants “Death to America”]!”
• “China, Djibouti discuss ways of strengthening comprehensive cooperation,” 2016 November 25. http://www.ecns.cn/2016/11-25/235340.shtml
• “China not seeking military expansion in Djibouti,” 2016 December 1. http://www.china.org.cn/china/2016-12/01/content_39826012.htm
1. “The Yemen war and how not to criticize Saudi Arabia,” 2016 June. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-06-28-news-Yemen-war-Saudi-Arabia.md
2. “War on Yemen waged by US, Saudi Arabia: Ansarullah,” 2016 November 13. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/11/26/495202/Yemen-US-Saudi-Arabia-Houthi
3. “Presidential aide hails Iran-Russia agreement on oil market,” 2016 December 1. http://www.irna.ir/en/News/82328614/
4. “Oil price perfectly poised for $60,” 2016 December 1. http://seekingalpha.com/article/4027583-oil-price-perfectly-poised-60
“OPEC cuts to drain the oil swamp,” 2016 December 1. http://seekingalpha.com/article/4027549-opec-cuts-drain-oil-swamp
5. See: “Implications of the War in Yemen on China,” 2015 June 10. http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2015/06/2015610104657143413.html
6. “Yemenis to reclaim entire homeland: Senior official,” 2016 November 27. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/11/27/495378/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-US-Houthi
7. “Real estate development playing growing role in Saudi finance sector,” 2016 October 6. https://www.zawya.com/mena/en/story/Real_estate_development_playing_growing_role_in_Saudi_finance_sector-ZAWYA20161006031012/ ““Furthermore, with considerable uncertainty over the path of the global economy, we have revised our overall real GDP growth forecast for 2016 and 2017 to 1.1 percent, and 0.6 percent respectively, down from our earlier forecast of 1.7 percent and 2.4 percent,” said the Jadwa economists.”
“Q2 real GDP trends down, forecast revised,” 2016 October. http://www.jadwa.com/en/download/gdp-update-q2-2016/gdp-report-16-6-2-1-3-3-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 Jadwa Investment noted that construction, utilities, wholesale & retail, and non-oil manufacturing, had negative growth for two quarters in a row (p. 1). The Saudi economy grew in the first half of 2016 at its lowest rate since the first half of 2013. Oil sector growth in H1 2016 was a percentage point less than in H2 2015. Non-oil sector growth was negative, which it had not been in several years (p. 4).
“Reform of the Saudi economy begins to take shape,” 2016 November 24 (date on http://www.jadwa.com/en/researchsection/research/economic-research). http://www.jadwa.com/en/download/macroeconomic-update-november-2016/gdp-report-16-6-2-1-3-3-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 Jadwa Investment forecasted Saudi oil real GDP change to be 0.6% in 2017, and non-oil private sector and non-oil government real GDP change to be 1.0% and -0.7% respectively (p. 13).
“Slow and steady growth outlook forecast for GCC in 2017,” 2016 November 25. https://www.zawya.com/mena/en/story/Slow_and_steady_growth_outlook_forecast_for_GCC_in_2017-GN_25112016_251156/ “Economic growth in Saudi Arabia is forecast to pick up slightly next year, but likely to remain relatively modest overall at 1.8 per cent.” (Emirates NBD)
“The OPEC deal might not be a game-changer for the Saudis,” 2016 November 30. http://www.businessinsider.com/opec-deal-might-not-be-a-game-changer-for-saudi-arabia-2016-11 ““We have penciled in GDP growth of 1.3% in 2017 and 1.5% in 2018, compared with around 1.0% this year.”” (Jason Tuvey, Capital Economics)
8. “Saudi Arabia’s bond success hides its financial peril,” 2016 November 2. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-02/saudi-arabia-s-bond-success-hides-its-financial-peril
9. “JASTA runs counter to legal principles - academics,” 2016 November 25. http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2579254&Language=en
“US gov’t to work with Congress to amend JASTA,” 2016 December 2. http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2579254&Language=en
“Diplomatic Institute seminar discusses repercussions of U.S. JASTA law on Arab security,” 2016 November 23. http://www.qna.org.qa/en-us/News/16112319470067/Diplomatic-Institute-Seminar-Discusses-Repercussions-of-US-JASTA-Law-on-Arab-Security “As for repercussions of the law on international and Arab relations, the Qatar University professor said the main goal of the law is that the United States exercises pressure on other countries, particularly Arab ones, adding that it would undermine international stability because other countries will try to issue similar laws, noting that the act is a tool of political pressure used by the United States to achieve its political goals in the region.”
“Why one big Mideast investor is worried about the U.S.,” 2016 November 28. http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/28/investing/uae-mubadala-us-assets-911/index.html “ Mubadala, one of the United Arab Emirates’ sovereign wealth funds, is bullish about the prospects for the U.S. economy under President-elect Donald Trump. / But the $63 billion fund, which owns stakes in The Carlyle Group (CG) and Viceroy Hotel Group, is concerned about the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).” “Al Mubarak said he was keen to invest more in the U.S. because of the prospects of faster growth under a Trump presidency, but the legal concerns were holding him back.”
“Hold on Jasta minute!” 2016 November 30. http://www.wsj.com/articles/hold-on-jasta-minute-1480551317