The latest reports of British special forces injuries fighting in the Saudi led war on Yemen once again provides further evidence the British political establishment are the main Western backers behind the war launched in March 2015. It’s not for the first time British elite forces operating in Yemen are reported to have been injured. Yet western commentary, especially before these injuries became known, largely blames the United States as the main instigator behind the current destruction of Yemen. For example, former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband’s latest article on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen claims that the war is a “strategic failure” and only the United States possesses the might to put it right. Above all else, he implies the US is the nation most responsible for the dire situation. Last year, the same Miliband was forthright and declared after a visit to Yemen, that the United States, has a “threefold responsibility” for the crisis in Yemen without mentioning the British role in assisting the Saudis. But in the light of these latest reports of British injuries how accurate is it to say or imply that the United States is the main global power behind the war on Yemen?
To establish clarity of the situation on the ground in Yemen, let’s turn to an observation made by veteran anti-war campaigner Professor Noam Chomsky on American foreign policy towards the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The US during this period was not only supporting right-wing Contras who were waging a violent war on the Sandinista government, it was also trying to paint the Sandinistas in the worst possible light in the Western media which during this time was in the thralls of the Cold War. So when the Sandinista government attempted to purchase military aircraft from France, the United States successfully objected or as Chomsky writes,
“The Sandinista leadership…would have been pleased to obtain jet planes from France. But their efforts to obtain arms from France were blocked by pressure from Washington, which insisted that Nicaragua be armed solely by the Russians, so that commentators could refer in suitability ominous tones to “the Soviet-supplied Sandinistas”…whereas “French-supplied” just doesn’t have the same ring.”
What does this have to do with Yemen you may ask? In the same vein, referring to “American backed” Saudi war on Yemen, one instantly knows something, a priori, sinister is happening. But if I were to say the Saudi war on Yemen is actually and predominately backed by the British establishment therefore it is mainly a “British backed” war on Yemen, in the words of Chomsky, it “just doesn’t have the same ring.”
Although Britain has hundreds of years of imperial and colonial aggression behind it, one needs to still specifically qualify the very meaning of “British backed” war. At the very least it doesn’t sound as sinister as “American-backed” war. The same thing happened in the build up for military intervention in Libya and Syria. It was British political leadership that led the cry for intervention in these countries but once the wars began, they became known as “American led” military interventions. This is certainly not an attempt at absolving American imperialism, but to establish a more honest grasp of reality. Obviously, there is much more oppositional currency referring to Western military interventions in the Middle East as “American backed” than “British backed” but this shouldn’t take away the need to establish who is behind the nightmare that has been visited upon Yemen by this so-called “Saudi-led” war.
From the beginning of the war, Britain has been in the cockpit. Whether it was announcing the imminence of war in an Orwellian manner to British military personnel in Saudi military bases fixing Saudi aircraft bombing Yemen to even calling on Germany to lift its military embargo on Saudi Arabia military requirements, Britain has led the line in a war which has by some estimates killed 60 thousand people, devasted the civilian infrastructure and created millions of refugees. When the war began then British foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond stated that Britain was supporting the Saudis, “in every practical way short of engaging in combat” but now there is hard evidence that this falls short of describing British involvement in the war on Yemen – not only are there British special forces on the ground fighting in Yemen but also 6000 staff from Britain’s leading arms manufacturer, British Aerospace working in Saudi Arabia. One technician who was deployed at a Saudi air base told Channel 4’s investigative documentary programme, Dispatches, “We [Brits] have to do all their [Saudis] work, from the ground up. The Brits don’t touch the bombs, but that’s the final 5%. If you didn’t do the 95%, that final 5% couldn’t happen.”
Once it’s indisputably confirmed the British political elite are more involved in the War on Yemen than the Americans, the default position is then to place the blame on arms contracts and business. That is, Britain is supporting the Saudis for money and as such, the detractor would argue that it is beneath Her Majesty’s Government to assist the Saudis, or its partner the UAE, for money. But this explanation is a case of placing the cart before horse. The tens (possibly hundreds) of billions of dollars received by the British industrial military complex from the ruling clans of Saudi Arabia or the UAE is what is expected of them. It is important to keep in mind that British weaponry is not sold to democratically accountable governments but to nepotistic dictatorial dynasties that were originally installed by the British Empire. Every one of the ruling families that now ostensibly rules in the Persian Gulf, including the Saudi clan, were installed and maintained by the Empire and therefore accountable first and foremost to their British masters and not its own populace. Hence, not one of these Gulf states is a democracy.
Therefore, when these Gulf puppets purchase weapons from Britain, they are acting in accordance with the needs of Britain. They are ploughing money into the British economy as is expected of them. Purchasing weaponry is one of the ways a Gulf puppet pays tribute to the Empire otherwise his life-expectancy may suddenly appear over the horizon. Furthermore, the Gulf despots are central to keeping all aspects of the British economy afloat with their “investments” in the UK. One of them even built the tallest building, the Shard, in London for nothing. Actually whether there was a war in Yemen or not, the Saudis and the other ruling Gulf clans would still be purchasing British weapons because this is one of the key sectors in the British economy.
Additionally and just as importantly, the role of the puppet is not limited to the purchase weapons or pouring other types of monies into the British economy but also to do the geo-political bidding of Britain. Indeed, the very idea of ‘Saudi Arabia’ has its roots in British imperialist geo-political bidding. The re-establishment of the Saudi clan in Riyadh in 1902 after their exile in Kuwait was done with weapons supplied by the British. The rule of the Saudi clan in Riyadh then provided the British Empire with another cat’s paw against its regional antagonist, the Ottoman Empire. After World War One, the Saudi clan, at British bidding moved further north into the peninsula and then finally eastwards to eventually occupy Mecca and Medina. There is evidence that the latter were occupied after Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill sent T.E. Lawrence (of “Arabia”) to threaten the former ruler of Islam’s holiest places that if he did not comply with British Empire’s demands then Ibn Saudi (ruler of the Saudi clan) would be unleashed. The British then named the territory in that part of the peninsula nominally under Saudi clan’s rule, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the early 1930s – a certain George Rendel took the credit. In the 1960s the UK took the lead in military coordinating Yemeni tribes against the new North Yemen republic igniting an eight year civil war. It actually sided with the grandfathers of the people it is now helping to bomb! In the 1970s, Britain dropped more bombs on South Yemen than it did during the entire duration of the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982. We can now say for certain that if the Saudis or UAE had the military capabilities in the 1970s they have today then Britain would have attacked South Yemen using Saudi or UAE airforce. From another angle, when the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman was asked last year about the promotion of Wahhabism, which is the well-spring of al-Qaeda and ISIS, he answered that this is what the West wanted their Saudi puppet to do to help Britain and America counter the Soviet Union.
So, whether we are looking at the foundations of the Saudi Kingdom or the Cold War, the Saudi ruling clan has always implemented the geo-political bidding of the British Empire and later British interests. It would be far-fetched to deny that the current “Saudi-led” war on Yemen, is not done at British bidding.
On this historical basis, it is not difficult to see that British arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom is merely one factor, if it is factor, of this British co-ordinated war on Yemen. This author has previously written on how the British are using the War on Yemen to train Saudi pilots by using Yemen as the laboratory theatre so in the future the Saudis can military intervene in nations without direct British input – similar to the way British taught the Zionists settler forces in the mid-1930s how to crush, oppress and dispossess Palestinian villages. However, there is also another element to Britain’s war on Yemen and that is to cordon off or ring fence the entire Arabian Peninsula with British military bases. There is currently a permanent British base in Bahrain which was built at Bahraini expense; one can securely assume there are military bases in the UAE. An agreement has been reached to establish a another permanent naval base in Kuwait. There is an outpost in Qatar and of course there are three spy (GCHQ) bases and a military base in Oman. A British victory, that is ostensibly a Saudi victory, in Yemen will potentially deliver further military bases to Britain. Also, as Socotra Island off the coast of southern Yemen is now in the hands of the UAE, will it only be a matter of time before the latter “invites” or “allows” Britain to build a base there? Britain and Saudi enemies in Yemen, the Houthis have no external allies (although Iran pays lip service to them) so when their inevitable defeat materialises, it is certain the British will establish military bases or at the very least have a military presence in Hodeidah and Mocha on the Red Sea overlooking the Bab al-Mandab strait which is considered one of the most important chokepoints in the Middle East. And who knows, maybe there are plans for a return to Aden port where Britain had ruled for almost 130 years if southern Yemeni separatists are successful.
In conclusion, when the cart is firmly placed behind the horse, the current war on Yemen is not simply a matter of Saudi Arabia destroying the already poorest country in the Arabian peninsula under the pretext of supposedly restoring the legitimate government of Yemen (as though the Saudi clan is itself legitimate) but it is also Britain establishing a cordon around the Arabian Peninsula with naval military bases. As mentioned in the introduction, last year David Miliband rhetorically asked, “after all, who wins when a country like Yemen – 28 million people, a large country in the Middle East – is left in chaos? It’s not the people of Yemen.” He is absolutely correct it isn’t Yemen – but he naturally fails to mention that Britain is the main winner and as ever, the British political elite are using its Saudi puppet as a front for this military enterprise which has devasted Yemen.