It is not often that world events offer us a true window into the covert world of global politics – by global I mean this secret inner political sanctum, us, common mortals, are never ever allowed to look upon, never mind discuss … And though many have felt the weight of this unseen, and unheard back dealings, acutely aware that it always behind tightly closed doors that deals are really brokered, once in a while we are treated to a glimmer of truth.
Interestingly enough such “glimmer” came by way of utmost arrogance on the part of Saudi Arabia – this new political terror which has stretched and clawed its way out of the box Western powers contained it into. As we look upon the kingdom, we might do well to remember Ancient Greece wisdom. It was Zeus I recall who gave the beautiful and alluring Pandora a box; a box he warned should never be opened … Eaten away by curiosity and yearning for power maybe, Pandora could not resist. And so evil was released onto the world. At the end, lying deep at the bottom of the box, was hope.
If you were to translate Pandora’s tale to our modern day political conundrum, I would personally argue that Zeus (the Western world) made the mistake of entrusting Saudi Arabia (Pandora) with too much power (the box). As Pandora opened her box, all manners of evil were released: al-Qaeda, Daesh, Boko Haram etc …
Still, amid such darkness hope, aka the Resistance endures.
How this story ends will very much depend on us opening our eyes to those realities our ruling elite would like still to shield us from.
But back to Saudi Arabia.
By now you ought to now that Saudi Arabia has been waging a brutal and implacable war against its Southern Arabian neighbour: Yemen. Keen to castigate Yemen for its political impudence, Riyadh unleashed its fire and its lead on a very unsuspecting Yemen on March 25, 2015 – a conflict we were all told would allow for democracy to prevail over tyranny, tribalism, and nepotism.
What the headlines should have read of course is that Saudi Arabia was not about to tolerate one of its client-state to go rogue. What the world should have realised is that Riyadh was never going to allow for a truly democratic republic to rise south of its borders, and challenge its position with both the Islamic world, and the Middle East.
Yemen I need to remind you is absolutely key geo-strategically speaking – it sits at a crossroad in between continents, overlooks the word oil route through Bab al-Mandab, and guarantees much need access to clean water and arable lands. And then of course there is this little thing called natural resources: oil, natural gas, gold … Yemen might be poor, and underdeveloped but it does not mean it lacks potential.
In other words, Saudi Arabia very much need Yemen should it ever hope to assert itself a mighty empire over the MENA (Middle East and North Africa).
But today is not the day I will argue my way through Saudi Arabia’s plan for Yemen, or even the covert agenda which motivates it still as it lays waste an entire people. As you look upon Yemen, and the devastation the kingdom has rained on the impoverished nation, recognize not the imperial hand of a tyrant, but see also the genocidal thirst of a zealot.
A dangerous power, Saudi Arabia is together an imperial force and a religious extremist.
But how exactly did Saudi Arabia betray its hand? … Through the UN dear readers … through the United Nations: the one international body which very purpose is to sit above all political arenas to safeguard those principles, nations have pledged themselves to: human rights, justice, and peace.
Breaking the code of silence
In June 2016 the United Nations broke away from its usual silence vis a vis Saudi Arabia to condemn the kingdom’s atrocious human rights track record. Beside the persecution, and oppression of its own people, Riyadh has been actively engaged in butchering Yemeni civilians, arguing of course that all victims were inherently at fault.
Their crimes: standing upright while Yemeni.
For Saudi Arabia any Yemeni: man, woman, or child, rooting in favour of the Resistance movement aka the Houthis, is guilty of lese majeste, a crime Riyadh deems worthy of death.
Since March 25, 2015 the kingdom has rained death on Yemen, hoping that the rivers of blood it would open would force the mourning nation to capitulate before its wannabe monarch, and thus abandon its dreams of freedom.
But Yemen has resisted a great resistance. Rooted in the belief that Freedom is not an ideal to be lightly abandoned, Yemen has looked onto its Resistance fighters with renewed conviction.
This fight for freedom, and political self-determination has come at a great price. Thousands have died … thousands stand still to die should the kingdom has its way.
So far the United Nations has put the death toll shy of 4000 souls. This number has been challenge by both the Mona Relief Organization, and Sheba Rights, both independent non-profit based in Yemen.
The Mona Relief has estimated that in between March 25, 2015 and early June 2016 about 12 000 people have died as a result of under Saudi bombing and Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian blockade. Sheba Rights has put the number at 9136, and casualties at 16 690.
As Dr Riaz Karim, the director of the Mona Relief Organization noted in an interview we conducted in early June: “Yemen’s death toll and casualties have been shamelessly under-estimated, and under-reported so that Saudi Arabia would not be made to answer uncomfortable questions. Riyadh has broken more international laws and human rights conventions than the international community cares to admit. I found troubling the fact that Western capitals have systematically work to rationalize, and legitimize the horrors Saudi Arabia has perpetrated against the Yemeni nation, while still claiming to hold to principles of justice and decency.”
Saudi Arabia’s imperial outing began with the much unexpected publication of a damning UN report (June 2016), which detailed, listed, and accounted for Saudi Arabia grave human rights violations against children.
The 40-page report, which was mainly penned by Leila Zerrougui, the UN chief’s special representative for children and armed conflict — asserted the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for about 60 percent of 1,953 child deaths and injuries in Yemen since last year. It is important to remember that however horrific this number may stand; it falls short of describing the sheer extent of Riyadh’s crimes in Yemen. This window, the UN was compelled to open on Yemen, is but a glimpse of a reality far harsher and far more sickening.
Yemen has been earmarked for absolute obliteration. Children’s death is but the result of Saudi Arabia’s genocidal campaign in Yemen – a testament to Riyadh’s true agenda, not the side effect of an elegant pro-democracy conflict.
While Zerrougui’s findings clearly ruffled Saudi Arabia’s feathers – firmly sitting the kingdom as a serial human rights offender, her findings were not exactly news breaking. Saudi Arabia’s track record has long left something to be desired; might it be in Yemen, or even within its borders. In early 2016, King Salman welcomed the new year with the execution of some 46 political prisoners, among whom Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Regardless of the depth of its pockets, the kingdom has not yet been able to wash off the blood from its hands.
Such criticism against Riyadh was not going to be tolerated of course … Saudi Arabia long broke away from its political silence, to instead position itself a leader of nations. In this case Western nations.
Do not fool yourself into believing that Riyadh sit still under US patronage. Now that Riyadh quite literally owns Washington … and a few other western capitals by the proverbial economical bakhlavas (excise my French) Riyadh is not prepared to play kneel any longer. Under Salam’s kingship it is the world which will learn to curtsey its true king.
Actually it would more accurate to say Prince Muhammad bin Salman … An ailing monarch Salman only serves a decorative role. It is his son, Muhammad, who really wields power in the kingdom.
Angered by the UN defiance Saudi Arabia called for its name to be immediately removed from the infamous blacklist. It is this one move, this one yearning for political reparation which essentially revealed the kingdom for the neo-imperial powerhouse it really is.
How else would you qualify Riyadh’s semi-declaration of war against the United Nations?
If you missed the Shakespearian play Riyadh warned it would:
- break ties with the UN and call on all its Arab partners to follow suit – emphasis on ALL. Do remember that Saudi Arabia partners, aka client-states do command many barrels of oils, and many lucrative contracts.
- withdraw all funding from all UN agencies. This is what most certainly broke the camel’s back. The United Nations cannot afford to lose Riyadh’s chequebook … not without jeopardizing the very fabric of its institutions.
Ironically, it is capitalism, and western powers’ eternal race for wealth which proved to be the greatest challenge to their projection of power. Now that Saudi Arabia more or less hold the economic future of the Western world, political dynamics are set for a major axis shift.
The sun now rises and sets in Riyadh.
It was Foreign Policy which wrote: “The threats were issued in a series of exchanges between top Saudi officials in Riyadh, including Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, according to U.N.-based officials.”
Beyond the obvious political scandal, lies a new reality: a very belligerent Saudi Arabia is flexing its muscles, and there is very little the West can do about it.
If Western capitals assumed they would forever tower over their former colonies, on account of their ability to project political and military power, they might be in for a rude awakening.
So rude in fact that UN Secretary General Bank Ki Moon has felt compelled to blow the whistle. It can only mean once thing … Mr Moon is about to step down; or rather, be made to step down.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, confirmed on June 9, 2016 he was essentially blackmailed into removing the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen from a UN blacklist of countries, rebel movements, and terrorist groups that have killed, maimed, or otherwise abused children in conflict.”
Ban Ki Moon could not help but lash out at the kingdom, although vaguely, telling reporters he continues to stand by the report’s finding that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni children.
While Moon refrained from singling out Riyadh, he did confirm that “unnamed countries” threatened to cut off financial support for vital UN programs if Saudi Arabia and its allies were not removed from the list.
Foreign Policy wrote: “Privately, UN-based officials said senior Saudi representatives, including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, threatened to cut funding to such vital programs as those for displaced Palestinians and destitute Yemenis. They also said Riyadh raised the spectre that other Arab nations, principally the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, would also follow suit, risking billions of dollars in humanitarian aid commitments.”
In candid comments to the press Moon did say that “Delisting the Saudi-led coalition was one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make … I … had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many U.N. programs. Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and so many other places would fall further into despair.”
“It is unacceptable for UN members to exert undue pressure,” Ban added.
True to form Saudi Arabia denied any wrongdoings …
“We cannot break relations with the United Nations. We are a founding member; this is our organization,” Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, told reporters shortly after Ban spoke. “We did say that such listing and such unfair treatment of Saudi Arabia and the coalition forces would obviously have an impact on relations with the United Nations. But we did not use threats or intimidation, and we did not talk about funding or anything else.”
“I agree with the secretary-general that undue pressure on the United Nations is unacceptable, and undue pressure was not exercised,” Mouallimi added. “We made our point clear; we made it firmly. We said this cannot be accepted.”
Indeed, Saudi Arabia most vehemently made its case … that only its will would prevail.
How is that for a wake-up call!
Now can once again look at Yemen, and finally see things from Yemen’s perspective? From the perspective of a nation under threat by a neo-imperial power with genocidal ambitions.
Catherine Shakdam is the Associate Director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.