According to corporate media reports, the Saudis are worried about recent advances in war-torn Yemen.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, a former Goldman Sachs adviser and member of the CFR, says al-Qaeda must be defeated in Yemen.
Earlier this month, as the Saudi bombing campaign against the Houthis intensified, al-Qaeda captured al-Mukalla, a coastal city in south Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula then took control of a military base, an airport, oil terminal and other facilities near the fifth largest city in Yemen’s Hadramawt province.
“The calculation was that as long as this chaos in Yemen continues, al Qaeda will take advantage, which has a huge impact on Saudi security. It’s a major reason they acted in Yemen and convinced the United States to join them,” Mustafa Alani, a security analyst connected to Riyadh’s Interior Ministry, told reporters in Riyadh.
Following the capture of the airport the Moon of Alabama blog noted that al-Qaeda’s control of the facility would be a plus for the Saudis, not a negative.
“That was meant more as a joke but now turns out to be likely spot on,” the blog noted on Thursday.
Now Sauids can fly in ammo and men RT Al-Qaida captures major airport in southern Yemen: http://t.co/3JVujo2KNa
— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) April 16, 2015
The brigade reportedly overrun at the airport was the 27th Infantry brigade in Mukalla. Its commander is Mohammed Ali Mohsen, who is linked to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islah. Unlike other branches of the Brotherhood — a documented intelligence asset of US and British intelligence — Islah is supported by the Saudis.
Ali Mohsen ordered his troops to put up no resistance to the al-Qaeda takeover of the city and the airport. According to news reports, al-Qaeda then rebranded themselves:
Qaeda fighters have seized the airport, government buildings and a refinery around Al Mukalla, establishing themselves as the most powerful local force. In an effort to win popular support, they have begun calling themselves the Sons of Hadhramaut and have promised to quickly return control of the city to local civilian leaders. When they seized a major army base outside of the city on Friday, they allowed the soldiers inside to leave unharmed, according to a local tribal leader.
The Moon of Alabama comments:
To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are “extremist groups”. Al Qaeda, especially in the form of “popular committees” like the “Sons of Hadhramaut”, are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the “popular” “Sons of Hadhramaut” will soon be indeed very busy.
The Obama administration fully supports the Saudi onslaught that continues to mercilessly slaughter Yemenis. Earlier in the week, Obama tried to make it appear his administration is a peace broker.
“Top Obama administration officials have failed for several days to persuade Saudi Arabia’s government to limit the scope of its airstrikes on cities and towns in Yemen, a campaign that authorities said killed nearly 50 people Monday in Sana, the capital,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Saudis quickly rebranded their offensive and offered a kinder and gentler propaganda — they promised to be a bit more mindful as they kill civilians by the dozens — and the Obama administration backed down its disingenuous rhetoric.
The US, however, will continue to provide intelligence, logistical aid, arms shipments, and a naval flotilla including an American aircraft carrier tasked with monitoring Iranian ships to make sure the Houthis do not receive anti-aircraft missiles to combat the relentless Saudi airstrikes.
Doug Bandow, writing for The American Spectator, says “the entire campaign is built on a lie” and “President Barack Obama is holding the Saudi royals’ coats as they intervene in the Yemeni civil war. At least Washington has not complied with Riyadh’s demand that America oust President Bashar al-Assad, who threatens U.S. interests less than does the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). But the Saudis and their allies may yet find a way to maneuver America into that war as well.”
The Saudis and their American partners now have an airfield and a captured military base in al-Mukalla. These assets will be needed if the Sunni war against the Shia Houthis in Yemen will be successful.
Success, however, will remain elusive.
“Security experts question whether the coalition can achieve its goals through airstrikes alone,” the Los Angeles Times reported after the Saudis announced their new air campaign in mid-April. “Saudi officials have not ruled out sending in tanks, artillery and other ground forces massed along the frontier. But Saudi leaders appear wary of such a move against the Houthis, hardened guerrillas who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam known as Zaidism.”
“This (war) will turn Yemen into Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam,” said Mohammed al-Kibsi, a veteran journalist the Yemen capital of Sana, where the Houthis seized control in September.