Exclusive: Wikileaks Reveal How the US Got Involved in Yemen Civil War Hell with Saudis - Mike Swanson (12/27/2016)
Recent Wikileaks releases reveal how the US became involved in a civil war in Yemen that has become a total humanitarian disaster with mass starvation everywhere.
Here is a BBC report on the starvation in Yemen.
Now Yemen is a poor country there is no doubt about that.
Even before the 2015 civil war broke out, Yemen was considered one of the poorest countries in the Arab world. In 2010, the average Yemeni made only $950 per year.
However, almost one year since the war broke out, the country is desolate with estimates of at least 10,000 people killed and many more injured. This article seeks to answer key questions regarding the origins of the civil war, the actors involved, and the extent of US involvement. While it is well known that the United States has been supplying Saudi Arabia with billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and has been conducting drone strikes in Yemen for years, the extent of US involvement in Yemen has been shrouded in mystery.
US TV media outlets have practically put a news blackout on it.
For the past few years they have focused on reporting Aleppo nonstop and making it a social cause for the coffee shop class, while totally ignoring the death in Yemen. In fact talk to a listener of PBS and ask them about the mass starvation in Yemen and they will shrug their shoulders. They just don't care, because their shows have said nothing to them about what is going on in Yemen.
In reality Americans know almost nothing of how the US has gotten involved in Yemen and most of them they only care about what TV tells them to care about.
However, on November 25, 2016 WikiLeaks provided some clarity in regards to US role in the country when it released over 500 documents detailing how the US provided funding, money, weapons, and training to the Yemeni government in the years leading up to the civil war.
How did the Civil War Begin?
In 2011, inspired by the protests that began in Tunisia, Yemenis took to the street to demand that president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for over thirty years, step down. Saleh attempted to remain in power by using a mixture of suppression and appeasement. For instance, in an attempt to appease the protestors he claimed that he would not run for re-election and that he would not pass on leadership to his son. Yet he also authorized brutal violence against protestors.
The most well-known act of violence occurred in March 2011 in Sanaa when pro-regime snipers killed at least 52 people and injured over 200. However, no amount of violent suppression or promises would dissuade the protestors and Selah stepped down in November 2011 handing power over to his vice president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was to aid with the political transition from an authoritarian state to a democracy. However, the transition to democracy was beset with problems from the start. Hadi struggled to govern in the midst of attacks by Al Qaeda, unemployment, food scarcity, a growing separatist movement in the south, and the continued loyalty that some factions of the military continued to have towards Saleh. In 2014, thousands of Yemenis, including those supporting the Houthis, protested what they perceived to be an ineffective government.
Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi demanded the reinstatement of fuel subsidies that had been cut and for the government to be dissolved and a more inclusive one formed. In 2014, the Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa. In January 2015 the Houthis captured the presidential palace.
The United Nations, however, rejected this new government and “condemned the ongoing unilateral actions taken by the Houthis that were undermining the political transition process and jeopardizing the country’s security and stability.”
Why did Saudi Arabia get involved?
On March 25, 2015 Saudi Arabia and a coalition made up of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan launched “Operation Decisive Storm” and began bombing Houthi held areas.
A spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian led coalition, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asiri, justified involvement in Yemen by saying, “It is not in the interest of one of the countries in the region if Yemen becomes another Somalia or another Libya, so we decided to go and to give help in a military manner to the government.”
Although Yemen is an extremely poor country and would thereby seem to be of little importance to the likes of Saudi Arabia, the geography of Yemen makes it extremely vital to Saudi Arabian interests. The country is a key point of entry for the Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait is a vital entry point for oil making its way to Europe. King Abdulaziz, who died in 2015, supposedly told his sons, “"What is good for you and what is bad for you comes from Yemen."
In addition to Yemen’s geopolitical significance, evidence suggests that the Houthis are reciving support from Iran. While Western officials reject the narrative that the Houthis are simply Iran’s proxy force, it is believed that the Houthis are receiving weapons and some monetary support from Iran.
Tensions between Iran, a predominately Shi’ite country with, Saudi Arabia, a predominately Sunni country have facilitated between hostile and reluctant cooperation since the 1979 Iranian revolution The Yemen civil war is another chapter in Iran and Saudi Arabia’s long, best documents in a Rand Corporation report on their contentious history.
Why is the US Involved?
Christopher Murphy, a senator (D) from Connecticut has stated, “The United States provides the bombs. We provide the refueling planes in mid-air. We provide the Intel. I think it's safe to say that this bombing campaign in Yemen could not happen without the United States." In 2015, the US provided Saudi Arabia with $20 billion worth of weapons and support.
In August 2016, the Pentagon announced that they were selling Saudi Arabia even more weapons and support, totaling $1.5 billion. US support for Saudi Arabia has come under increased pressure as the war has raged on and as Saudi Arabia has been accused of committing war crimes and intentionally targeting civilian institutions such as hospitals, schools, and mosques. For instance, in October 2016, the Saudi led coalition admitted to “mistakenly” targeting a funeral that killed 141 people. The funeral may or may not have led to the Houthis firing three missiles at a US Navy ship in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
US Senator Christopher Murphy, amongst other critics, has questioned US involvement, in the region. During a congressional meeting in 2015, Murphy stated, “As I read the conflict in Yemen, I have a hard time figuring out what the U.S. national security interests are.” He goes on to say, “the result of the coalition campaign has been to kill a lot of civilians, has been to sow the seeds of humanitarian crisis, and to create space for these groups — these very extremist groups that we claim to be our priority in the region — to grow.”
Senator Murphy gave a speech on the Senate floor revealing the disasters that Saudi creates in the Middle East.
His speech begins at the 2:00 minute mark in the Youtube video:
It is speculated that the US chose to support Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen has to do with wanting to placate their allies after the Iranian nuclear deal. However, while that may very well be one reason for US involvement in Yemen, the reality is that the US did not just suddenly get involved in Yemen when the civil war started. Since 9/11, Yemen has been viewed as a vital arena in the “war against terrorism.” Prior to the start of the civil war, American Special Forces were there and the US conducted numerous drone strikes aimed at Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP.
WikiLeaks: The Yemen Files
On November 25, 2016 WikiLeaks released more than 500 documents from the United States embassy in Saana, which closed in February 2015. The files, which include hundreds of emails and PDFs, span from 2009 until early 2015. WikiLeaks explains that, ‘The Yemen Files offer documentary evidence of the US arming, training and funding of Yemeni forces in the years building up to the war.” In other words, US involvement did not begin with the civil war in 2014. Years before the outbreak of the civil war, the US was providing the Yemeni government with billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, equipment, and training.
One PDF, from 2010, is an IOMAX catalogue filled with planes that can be modified for surveillance or weapon capabilities. IOMAX describes itself as, “a full spectrum provider for signals intelligence and airborne system solutions servicing customers across the globe.”
This catalogue features the Paris 2013 Archangel Manned Border Patrol and Surveillance aircraft. In addition to having, what at that point, was the latest in aircraft technology to enable surveillance, the aircraft could also be outfitted with different weapons. For example, one modification would allow it to hold twelve Hellfire AGM-114K missiles, while another modification would allow it to hold six GBU-58 Laser Guided Mk-81 missiles.
Another PDF, dated October 6, 2010 details the estimated cost of providing the Yemeni government with 4 Huey 11 helicopters and the training and support to maintain them:
* 4 Huey II A/C $20.0M
• Customer Training $ 0.9M*
• Spares / Tools - SE $ 1.9M*
• In Country Support $ 2.5M*
• Transportation $ 1.5M*
• Misc $ 0.2M*
The documents reveal that three years later, the US once again sought to provide the Yemeni government with aircraft. A March 2013 PowerPoint discusses US plans to send Yemen, “25 light observation aircraft for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) work.”
While some of the documents WikiLeaks uncovered provide basic information about the type of aircraft and weaponry sold to the Yemeni government, other documents go into much more detail, attempting to justify the reason why the US national security state bureaucracy needs to provide the Yemeni government with millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. An August 2013 document from the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC), located in the US embassy provides a list of weapons and services the Yemeni government needs and reasons why the US should provide them.
The document states that the Yemeni Air Force needs the following equipment and services:
a. Unmanned Air System quantity: 1 Eagle Scan hub and spoke system
b. Joint Terminal Attack Control (JTAC) Teams, quantity: 7 teams of 6 personnel each
c. F-5 Refurbishment, quantity: 6 aircraft
d. Mk-82 conversion kits to Precision Guided Munitions capable, quantity: 30
The document states that the reason for the equipment and training support is to fill gaps that prevent the Yemeni government from “fully finding, finishing, and exploiting violent extremist organizations (VEO) with precision”. These groups not only threaten the stability of the “fragile central government” but the groups also present a direct to “both the U.S. homeland and its citizens.” The document does not however, specify how exactly these violent extremist group that operate in Yemen, threaten the US homeland. The program would be financed for two years through the Department of Defense’s Section 1206 program. The 1206 program seeks, to “build partnership capacity for time-sensitive ‘new and emerging’ counter-terrorist operations or to participate in or support military and stability operations in which the U.S. armed forces are a participant.”
In addition to providing weapons and training for said weapons, the US also provided English Language training to select members of the Yemeni military. In one letter sent to the Yemeni military’s chief of staff, Randolph Rosin, the US Senior Defense Official and Defense attaché, claims that because a student refused to attend the language course two days before it was scheduled to take place, that, “$25, 469 from Yemen’s International Education and Training budget was forfeited and will not be replaced.” Another letter, in which a Yemeni officer is declared AWOL, demonstrates that the training takes place in the United States.
In another interesting letter, written in 2014 just before the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, Rosin seeks to reassure Yemen that the US will continue to play an active role in the region. Rosin writes: “We will place even more emphasis on building the capacity of our partners in order to complement our strong military presence in the region. Specifically, DOD will work closely with our regional partners to enhance key multilateral capabilities including integrated air and missile defense, maritime security, cyber security, and Special Operations Forces…” The letters goes on to give assurance that the US remains committed to ensuring that Iran does not gain the ability to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon.
While the official letters, PowerPoints, and other documents that WikiLeaks uploaded demonstrate a close working relationship between the US and Yemeni military, the emails provide a glimpse of how the embassy staff viewed the disintegrating situation in Yemen. To be sure, a good portion of the emails reference other emails or attachments that for whatever reason, are not available to via WikiLeaks. But occasionally, the emails reveal a deteriorating situation.
On September 4, 2014 an email was sent detailing a Houthi-led protest that would be occurring later that night in the capital. Including were the chants that were expected to be shouted:
- Allah Akbar, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the
Jews, victory to Isalm. (Repeat three times)
2- The people want to topple the government. (Repeat three times)
3- The people want to cancel the ‘dose’ (increase of fuel price).
(Repeat three times)
4- The people want the implementation of the NDC outcomes. (Repeat
In an email dated November 12, 2014 officials share a joke about the worsening situation in Yemen:
Thomas Savoie, Lt Col USAF- “Of interest near the bottom of the page…
“The Facebook page of Ansarallah, the political wing of Huthists, (36,000 fans) posted a statement in Arabic claiming that the US State Department ordered reducing employees of the US Embassy in Yemen to limited staffing and urged its citizens to leave Yemen. The posting, which was shared 26 times, generated 180 likes and a number of comments, most of which denounced the US presence in Yemen and the use of US drones (11 November)”
Segura, Luis A Maj USAF- “Only 180 likes? Losers! A picture of my cat can get that many....”
In response to Maj. Segura’s comment: “Ironically, due to the dwindling number of non-rejected Candidates, your cat has just been named the new Yemen Minister of the Interior. We'll see if the Houthis approve.”
The war between the Yemeni central government and the Houthis has wreaked havoc on the lives of Yemeni citizens. The war has been prolonged and supported by forces outside of the country including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. However, it is important to note that the United States was involved in Yemen years before the outbreak of the civil war. The documents and emails released by WikiLeaks demonstrate that the US has been supplying the Yemeni government with millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and training for years without it ever being an issue debated about by American voters or hardly ever talked about and covered in the US media.
The Yemen Civil War is a hidden war never in the minds of most Americans who just let the American military-industrial complex operate at will in the hopes that it always knows what is best even if the events and wars since 9/11 would seem to argue otherwise. At the same time they often get caught up propaganda over events that are made into causes in the mainstream media like Aleppo with no real knowledge of what is going on in the world or an ability to put such events into context with past history or the overall world situation. Yemen doesn't fit into the narrative they are fed and so it is a subject to blacked out.
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