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Why Paris Reveals the Horror – and the Hypocrisies – of Global Terrorism
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
23 November 2015
Originally posted at Occupy.com on 17 November 2015
The world was shocked and horrified at the terror inflicted upon Paris on the night of Friday the 13th, 2015, when ISIS-affiliated militants killed well over 100 civilians in one of the world’s most iconic cities. An outpouring of grief, solidarity, support and condolences came in from across the world. The tragedy, and tyranny, of such terror cannot be underestimated, but it should also be placed in its global context: namely, that the chief cause of terrorism is, in fact, terrorism, and that the chief victims are the innocent, wherever they may be.
While ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, following attacks the group undertook in previous days in both Beirut and Baghdad, it is worth remembering and reflecting on what led to the development of ISIS itself. The so-called Islamic State had its origins in the Iraq War, launched by the United States and closely supported by the United Kingdom in March of 2003. After overthrowing Saddam Hussein, a dictator once favored by the U.S., the occupying powers struggled to deal with a growing Sunni insurgency against their military occupation. In response, the U.S. helped create death squads in Iraq that further fueled a sectarian conflict between Shi’a and Sunni communities, which likewise fueled a growing regional rivalry between Shi’a Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
The resulting civil war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands, and the U.S. aligned itself even more tightly with Saudi Arabia, a country the West considers to be “moderate” in comparison to both Iran and Syria, yet it was the primary financier of al-Qaeda. The broader aim, in Iraq and across the Middle East, was to support the regional hegemony of the West’s allies – Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab dictatorships – against their chief rivals, Iran and Syria. If it meant supporting the countries that supported al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, so be it.
After all, it has never been much of a secret that the Saudis and their Gulf neighbors were the major financial backers of global terrorists; even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted as much in a memo leaked by Wikileaks. Nor was it a secret that Saudi Arabia was responsible for more destabilization and terrorism inside Iraq than Iran, which nonetheless received most of the blame.
The Saudis and the Gulf dictatorships are U.S. and Western allies, with immense oil riches that have made them some of the largest investors and shareholders in Western banks and corporations. Iran and Syria, on the other hand, are not.
Al-Qaeda did not exist inside Iraq until after the U.S. invasion and occupation. Over the years, since the war and occupation began, the group has undergone a number of name changes and transitions. One such evolution of the group is the al-Nusra front. And another is now known as the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Origins of the Current Terror
When the Arab uprisings began against Western-supported dictators back in late 2010 and early 2011, the U.S. and its key Middle East allies faced an unprecedented crisis. The longtime French and U.S.-supported dictator of Tunisia, Ben Ali, fled his country in January of 2011. The following month, it was Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, a “family friend” of Hillary Clinton’s, who had to leave.
The Saudis and other Arab dictators were furious that the U.S. could toss one of its major regional clients aside, fearful that if Mubarak could be removed, any of them could be next. Thus, Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictators led a counter-revolution against the Arab Spring, pouring in money to support dictators they considered friendly (such as in Jordan), sending in troops to violently crush uprisings (such as in Bahrain), and arming rebel groups and terrorists against long-time foes in an effort to take advantage of the uprisings and undermine their rivals (such as in Libya).
In Libya, NATO led a war against long-time dictator Colonel Gaddafi in cooperation with many extremist rebel groups, including al-Qaeda. France and Britain were the main proponents of the war against Libya, which is hardly surprising given that both countries have hundreds of years of experience invading, occupying, colonizing and waging war against peoples of the Middle East and Africa. The war in Libya was of course a monumental disaster. While it removed a dictator long despised by both the Western powers and the Gulf Arab dictators, its ultimate effect was to plunge the country into civil war and chaos, terrorism and collapse.
Meanwhile, the weapons looted in Libya during the war began making their way into neighboring Mali and the more-distant Syria. As the arms crossed borders, so too did terror and warfare, and the French weren’t far behind. In early 2013, France launched airstrikes in Mali, leading to a ground invasion that ended in 2014. Around the same time, France also military intervened in the Central Africa Republic.
In 2013, Western powers including France, the UK and U.S. began increasing their participation in the Syrian civil war, which was already a full-blown regional proxy war pitting Syria’s government, led by Bashar al-Assad allied with Iraq and Iran, against Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Turkey. The Gulf dictatorships armed and funded religious extremist sects to fight against the Syrian government, and were aided in this process by Western countries.
The U.S., France and Britain provided training and support to so-called “moderate” rebels inside Jordan to fight against the Syrian government. The CIA has been involved in arming and training Syrian rebels at least since 2012, in close cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The official line stressed that the CIA’s efforts aimed to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of extremist groups like al-Qaeda – yet virtually all of the rebel groups it was aiding inside Syria were hardline religious extremists.
Even as reports emerged that secular and moderate rebel groups had all but collapsed, the CIA continued to funnel more sophisticated weapons (in cooperation with Saudi allies) to these mythical “trustworthy” rebel groups. France was not far behind in delivering arms to Syrian rebel groups.
Around the same time, an internal CIA study noted that in its decades of experience arming insurgencies against regimes that the U.S. opposed, the agency’s efforts had largely failed. The main “exception” to the litany of failures, ironically, was when the CIA armed and trained the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. That “success,” as we now know, led directly to the creation of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
A Plan Backfires
With all the support given to Syrian rebel groups in the form of training and arms, those same groups quickly became enemies of the West that had armed and trained them. This includes ISIS, whose rise was fueled by U.S. involvement in both Syria and Iraq, and who is funded and supported by key U.S. allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
In fact, a report prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 predicted the rise of ISIS, noting that such al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” and added that they were being supported in their efforts to take over large parts of Syria and Iraq by “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey.” Further, the document noted, this was “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” A former Pentagon official who ran the DIA even suggested that the U.S. not only didn’t “turn a blind eye” to its support of such groups, but that “it was a willful decision.”
Here is the takeaway: the Syrian civil war, combined with the effects of the Iraq war, Libyan war and other conflicts in the region that were fueled by Western powers and their regional allies, has resulted in the massive refugee crisis Europe faces today, as millions of civilians flee the conflicts plaguing their nations while Western powers continue to pour weapons and money into them. Conflict and terror has bred further conflict and terror.
Yet when terrorism hits inside Western nations, like it did Friday in Paris, the reaction by Western governments is fairly, and tragically, typical. The Paris attacks occurred less than two months after France began launching air strikes against ISIS inside Syria, and have already prompted calls for a more aggressive strategy against ISIS in the future. So what can we expect as a result? Simply, more terror.
In short, if the objective is to oppose or prevent terrorism, the most logical strategy is not to dismantle civil liberties at home and send militaries and weapons abroad, but to stop participating in terrorism itself. This does not take away from the tragedy of the lives lost in Paris on Nov. 13, but the hypocrisy in how we acknowledge and address terrorism only enhances the tragedy. French President Francois Hollande called the attacks that killed 129 people an “act of war,” which it was. But in turn, he declared that “France will be merciless” in its response, and this is something we have yet to see.
If 200,000 dead Syrians, millions of refugees, and regional warfare spreading from state to state is considered “merciful” participation by Western nations in Middle East conflicts, the terror that might now be unleashed abroad – and the new terror that will, inevitably, once again wash ashore as a result – is indeed something to fear. To end terror, perhaps Western states should consider stopping its own participation in terror. In the very least, it would be a first step in the right direction.
In the Arms of Dictators: America the Great… Global Arms Dealer
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The following is a first draft sample from a chapter currently being written for The People’s Book Project. Read more about The People’s Book Project here, and please consider donating to help the Project continue.
The American imperial system incorporates much more than supporting the occasional coup or undertaking the occasional war. Coups, wars, assassinations and other forms of overt and covert violence and destabilization, while relatively common and consistent for the United States – compared to other major powers – are secondary to the general maintenance of a system of imperial patronage. A “stable” system is what is desired most by strategic planners and policy-makers, but this has a technical definition. Stability means that the populations of subject nations and regions are under “control” – whether crushed by force or made passive by consent, while Western corporate and financial interests have and maintain unhindered access to the “markets” and resources of those nations and regions. Since the 19th century development of America’s overseas empire, this has been referred to as the “Open Door” policy: as in, the door opens for American and other Western economic interests to have access to and undertake exploitation of resources and labour.
As the only global imperial power, and by far the world’s largest military power, America does not merely rely upon the “goodwill” of smaller nations or the threat of force against them in order to maintain its dominance, it has established, over time, a large and complex network of imperial patronage: supplying economic aid, military aid (to allow its favoured regimes to control their own populations or engage in proxy-warfare), military and police training, among many other programs. These programs are largely coordinated by and between the Defense Department, State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Arms sales are a major method through which the United States – and other powerful nations – are able to exert their hegemony, by arming and strengthening their key allies, directly or indirectly fueling civil wars and conflicts, and funneling money into the world’s major weapons manufacturers. The global economic crisis had “significantly pushed down purchases of weapons” over 2009 to the lowest level since 2005. In 2009, worldwide arms deals amounted to $57.5 billion, dropping 8.5% from the previous year. The United States maintained its esteemed role as the main arms dealer in the world, accounting for $22.6 billion – or 39% of the global market. In 2008, the U.S. contribution to global arms sales was significantly higher, at $38.1 billion, up from $25.7 billion in 2007. In 2009, the second-largest arms dealer in the world was Russia at $10.4 billion, then France at $7.4 billion, followed by Germany, Italy, China and Britain.
There are two official ways in which arms are sold to foreign nations: either through Foreign Military Sales (FMS), in which the Pentagon negotiates an agreement between the U.S. government and a foreign government for the sale and purchase of arms, and through Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), in which arms manufacturers (multinational corporations) negotiate directly with foreign governments for the sale and purchase of arms, having to apply for a license from the State Department.
Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. arms sales totaled roughly $101 billion, with direct commercial sales (DCS) accounting for more than half of the total value, at $59.86 billion, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) accounting for $40.85 billion. The top seven recipients of U.S. arms sales between 2005 and 2009 were: Japan at $13.14 billion, the United Kingdom at $8.32 billion, Israel at $8 billion, South Korea at $6.53 billion, Australia at $4.17 billion, Egypt at $4.07 billion, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at $3.98 billion.
The United States experienced a slight decline in global arms sales over 2009, though it maintained its position as the world’s number one arms dealer, holding 30% of the global market. However, the Obama administration in 2010 decided to change certain “export control regulations” in order to make arms deals easier and increase the U.S. share of the global market. The stated reason for the legal change was “to simplify the sale of weapons to U.S. allies,” though it had the added benefit of “generating business for the U.S. defense industry.” The U.S. National Security Advisor at the time, General James Jones, claimed that without the changes, the existing system of arms sales “poses a potential national security risk based on the fact that its structure is overly complicated.”
In early 2010, the Obama administration began pressuring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf dictatorships (aka: “allies”) to increase their purchases of U.S. arms, upgrade their defense of oil installations and threaten Iran with overwhelming military superiority. In the lead were Saudi Arabia and the UAE in undertaking a regional “military buildup” – or arms race – resulting in more than $25 billion in U.S. arms sales to the region over the previous two years. A senior U.S. official in the Obama administration commented: “We’re developing a truly regional defensive capability, with missile systems, air defense and a hardening up of critical infrastructure… All of these have progressed significantly over the past year.” Another senior official stated, “It’s a tough neighborhood, and we have to make sure we are protected,” adding that Iran was the “number one threat in the region.”
Of course, Iran is actually a nation that exists within the region, and thus has the right to defend itself, whereas the United States cannot “defend” itself in a region in which it does not exist. But then, geographical trivialities have never been a concern to imperialists who believe that the world belongs to them and it was a mere accident of history that all the resources exist outside of the empire’s home country. Therefore, with such a rationalization, the United States – and the West more broadly – have a “right” to “defend” themselves (and their economic and political interests) everywhere in the world, and against everyone in the world. Any other nation which poses a challenge to Western domination of the world and its resources is thus a “threat” to whichever region it belongs, as well as to U.S. “national security.”
Iran is of course not the only competition for the United States and the West in its unhindered access to and control of the world, but China is another and arguably much more significant threat (though not an officially sanctioned U.S. enemy, as of yet). Around the same time the U.S. was pushing for increased arms sales to the Persian Gulf dictatorships (no doubt, to advance the causes of “democracy” and “peace”), the Obama administration secured an arms deal with Taiwan worth over $6 billion, incurring the frustration of China. The deal included the sale of 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, and communications equipment for Taiwan’s fleet of F-16s, with the possibility of future sales of F-16 fighter jets.
The Chinese vice foreign minister expressed “indignation” to the U.S. State Department in response to the arms deal, adding: “We believe this move endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts [with Taiwan]… It will harm China-U.S. relations and bring about a serious and active impact on bilateral communication and cooperation.” In response, the U.S. National Security Advisor General James Jones stated that the announcement shouldn’t “come as a surprise to our Chinese friends.”
In September of 2010, the Obama administration announced the intention to undertake the largest arms deal in U.S. history, the sale of advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion for fighter jets and helicopters (84 F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks, and 36 Little Birds), as well as engaging “in talks with the [Saudi] kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more,” according to the Wall Street Journal, with “a potential $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s naval forces.” The stated objective was to counter the role of Iran in the region, though no agreement had been initially reached. The U.S. was selling the idea to Congress as a means of creating “jobs,” a political euphemism for corporate profits. One official involved in the talks noted, “It’s a big economic sale for the U.S. and the argument is that it is better to create jobs here than in Europe.”
The arms deal would purchase equipment and technology from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and United Technologies. In recent years, Saudi Arabia had been purchasing more European and Russian-made arms from companies like BAE Systems. U.S. officials were also attempting to ease the fears of Israel while massively building up the arsenal of a close neighbor, ensuring that the planes sold to the Kingdom wouldn’t have long-range weapons systems and further, that the Israelis would purchase the more advanced F-35 jet fighters. The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, commented, “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.” The potential $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis would be stretched out over several years, though there was talk that the Saudis might only guarantee a purchase of at least $30 billion, at least, initially.
The Financial Times reported that the Arab dictatorships in the Gulf “have embarked on one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history, ordering US weapons worth some $123 billion as they seek to counter Iran’s military power.” Saudi Arabia’s $60 billion was the largest, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signing arms deals worth between $35 and $40 billion in purchases of a “high altitude missile defence system” known as THAAD, developed by Lockheed Martin, as well as purchasing upgrades of its Patriot missile defense systems, produced by Raytheon. Oman was expected to purchase $12 billion and Kuwait $7 billion in arms and military technology. The CEO of Blenheim Capital Partners, a consultancy firm which helps arrange arms deals, noted that Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries were replacing Western European nations as the largest arms purchasers, adding: “They are the big buyers.”
Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the United States was seeking to create a “new post-Iraq war security structure that can secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy.” These massive arms sales would then “reinforce the level of regional deterrence” – or in other words, expand American hegemony over the region through local proxy powers and dictatorships – and thus, “help reduce the size of forces the US must deploy in the region.” As a Saudi defense analyst noted, “[t]he Saudi aim is to send a message especially to the Iranians – that we have complete aerial superiority over them.”
According to three of four members of an ‘Expert Roundup’ published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the $123 billion arms deals with the Arab dictatorships are “a good idea for the United States and the Middle East.” One of the “experts” is Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as having served in several other State Department and NATO staffs, and has been a regular consultant to the Afghan and Iraqi occupation commands, U.S. embassies, and was a member of the Strategic Assessment Group which advised General Stanley McChrystal in developing a new strategy in Afghanistan for 2009. He also regularly consults with the U.S. State and Defense Departments and the intelligence community. Cordesman wrote that the US “shares critical strategic interests with Saudi Arabia,” notably the control of oil for “the health” of the global economy.
Cordesman also emphasized the role of pliant dictatorships in carrying out U.S imperial objectives in the region, writing that the U.S. “needs allies that have interoperable forces that can both fight effectively alongside the United States and ease the U.S. burden by defending themselves,” meaning, to defend America’s interests, which then become the interests of America’s proxies – or “allies.” The arms sales would be a helpful counter to Iran in the region, and secure a strong relationship between “the current Saudi government as well as Saudi governments for the next fifteen to twenty years,” the suggested timeline for delivery of all purchases, providing Saudi Arabia with a “strong incentive to work with the United States” over the long-term.
Loren B. Thompson, the Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Institute, also participated in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, writing that the arms deal “appears to be a careful reconciliation of Saudi requirements with Israeli fears, while also offering a strategic balance against Iran.” Whatever the differences between Saudi Arabia and the United States, he wrote, casting aside the fact that the Kingdom is one of the most brutal and dictatorial regimes in the world, “the Saudis have been reliable allies of America for decades and have exercised a moderating influence on the behavior of other oil-producing states.” Helping the Saudis, Thompson wrote, “means helping ourselves.”
F. Gregory Gause III, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Vermont wrote that the arms deal “will not buy much security in the long run in the Persian Gulf,” but, he added, “there are no good reasons not to sell the Saudis those weapons, and there are some potentially positive results (besides the economic benefits to the US),” such as opposing the “Iranian regional challenge,” with which he included Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, “various Iraqi parties,” Syria, and “Shia activists in the Gulf monarchies.” One could not object to the arms sale on the basis of supporting a regime with a horrible record on democracy, women’s rights, Islam, and human rights, Gause wrote, adding: “Moral purity would be purchased at the price of reduced American regional influence.” In other words, it’s a terrible regime, but it’s America’s terrible regime, and thus, challenging or changing the nature of the regime could undermine and erode America’s influence through the dictatorship and over the region.
William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, was another “expert” in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, providing the one “cautionary note” on the arms deal on the basis that it could amount to fueling an arms race in the region, building up the forces of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchs, and Israel, thus providing pressure on Iran “to ratchet up its own military capabilities.” The Saudi deal “consists primary of offensive weapons,” though it is stated to be for defensive purposes, and if Saudi Arabia were to undertake aggressive military actions in the region, such as in Yemen (as it has), it would more likely “inflame passions” against Saudi Arabia instead of solving security problems.
The United States has for years dominated the arms market of the Persian Gulf, supplying military equipment to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional governance association. A Middle East “defense analyst” with Forecast International, stated: “The U.S. arms sales to these countries are meant to improve the defense capabilities of the recipient nations, reinforce the sense of U.S. solidarity with its GCC partners and, finally, create a semblance of interoperability with American forces.” After the United States, the largest arms dealers to the region are France, Russia, Britain and China. Russian and Chinese arms mostly went to Iran, while Israel received $2.78 billion in U.S. military aid in 2010.
In October of 2010, the United States assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, Andrew Shapiro, formally announced the intended Saudi arms deal for the U.S. Congress to approve for a program to last from 15 to 20 years. Shapiro stated that, “This is not solely about Iran… It’s about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs… they live in a dangerous neighbourhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security.”
For an average of $13 billion per year in arms sales between 1995 and 2005, the Department of Defense announced in 2010 that it intended to sell up to $103 billion, though presumably achieving a lower number, such as $50 billion, over the course of the year. A defense industry consultant, Loren Thompson, stated that, “Obama is much more favorably disposed to arms exports than any of the previous Democratic administrations.” Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association stated that there was “an Obama arms bazaar going on.” While the discussion about the massive arms sales in most of the press and political discourse was focused upon supporting 200,000 workers in the ‘defense’ industry, industry consultant Thompson was less ambiguous: “It’s about U.S. allies, it’s about maintaining jobs, and it’s about America’s broader role in the world – and what you have to do to maintain that role;” the role being – of course – that of the global imperial hegemon.
Military contractors spread their factories and workforce out across several U.S. states in order to use their leverage as “major employers” with the U.S. Congress and other political powers. Boeing has facilities in over 20 U.S. states, and the corporation’s head of business development for military aircraft, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, was previously responsible for overseeing arms exports for the Pentagon. The entire industry of military contractors is entirely dependent upon massive state subsidies to survive, doing 80-90% of their business with the Pentagon. And, as CNN Money reported, “business recently has been good,” with the U.S. more than doubling its military spending since 2001 to roughly $700 billion, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world spends combined.
Congress agreed in December of 2010 to spend $725 billion on ‘defense’ for 2011. Military contractors were largely seeking “growth” – a euphemism for exploitation and profit – by turning to foreign arms sales. The military contractor EADS sought to establish a headquarters in Asia, Honeywell created a new “international sales” division, and Lockheed Martin was planning to increase its revenue share acquired outside the United States from 14 to 20% by 2012, Boeing aimed to increase international sales from 17-25%, and Raytheon had the largest percentage of revenue from overseas at 23%. But sadly, for the arms dealers, it’s not so easy to sell weapons to foreign governments, since each deal requires a license from the U.S. State Department, a pesky barrier to “growth.” The countries with the “biggest appetite for U.S weapons” are “oil-rich nations in the Middle East,” with roughly 50% of foreign military sales by U.S. contractors between 2006 and 2009 being sold to countries in the region, with Boeing reaping the most overall profits. Mark Kronenberg, the head of Boeing’s international business development, noted: “The last time we had a period like this in the Middle East was the early ‘90s,” during the lead up to and aftermath of the first Gulf War, adding, “Here we are, 20 years later, and they’re recapitalizing.”
A report prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service and published in December of 2011 detailed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements between the United States and other nations for the period of 2003 to 2010. Between 2003 and 2006, the top ten largest recipients of U.S. arms through FMS (and excluding Direct Commercial Sales and Foreign Military Aid programs) were: Egypt ($4.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($4.2 billion), Poland ($4.1 billion), followed by Australia, Japan, Greece, South Korea, Kuwait, Turkey, and Israel. For the years 2007 to 2010, the top ten recipients were: Saudi Arabia ($13.8 billion), UAE ($10.4 billion), Egypt ($7.8 billion), followed by Taiwan, Australia, Iraq, Pakistan, UK, Turkey, and South Korea. In 2010, the top ten purchases of U.S. arms were: Taiwan ($2.7 billion), Egypt ($1.8 billion), Saudi Arabia ($1.5 billion), followed by Australia, UK, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, and Singapore.
In April of 2011, Leslie H. Gelb, the President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that in light of “the possible consequences of the new popular awakenings” across the Middle East, and the fact that as dictatorships increasingly “crack down even harder against the protesters… enabled by Western arms,” Americans “don’t like thinking of themselves or having others think of them as merchants of death.” The “nightmares” of Western policy-makers “comes from their hopes for Arab democracy” – that is, the emergence of “stable democracies over time” – and “their fears that fledgling Arab democracies will go awry.” So naturally, arms deals are a good means to secure U.S. interests in the region.
In May of 2011, Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, spoke to the U.S. Department of State’s Defense Trade Advisory Group, at which he said the “demand” for U.S. arms and military technology “will remain strong because the U.S. has longstanding defense commitments to allies around the world,” and “we will remain very busy no matter the fluctuations of the global market.” The “dynamic nature of the geopolitical landscape” would require the U.S. “to adapt to changing situations.” Shapiro stated that, “we are witnessing another geopolitical shift, which may have broad implications for U.S. foreign policy,” referencing the popular uprisings across the Middle East as “perhaps the most significant geopolitical development since the end of the Cold War.” In his speech, Shapiro praised his audience at the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG) as “valuable” in “giving us a formal channel to the private sector,” enabling the State Department “to better evaluate U.S. laws and regulations, especially during times of immense change.”
The members of the DTAG included top executives and officials from such companies as BAE Systems, ITT Defense, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, EADS North America, Intel, General Electric, General Dynamics, United Technologies, Tyco, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell International, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, among a total of 45 individuals. According to its website, the DTAG advises the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs “on its support for and regulation of defense trade to help ensure that impediments to legitimate exports are reduced while the foreign policy and national security interests of the U.S. continue to be protected and advanced.”
Shapiro told these corporate representatives that, “It is important to emphasize that arms transfers are a tool to advance U.S. foreign policy. And therefore when U.S. foreign policy interests, goals, and objectives shift, evolve, and transform over time, so will our arms transfer policy.” As always, stated Shapiro, “we urge you to provide your thoughts and ideas over how we should move forward.” Foreign military sales – especially to the Middle East – will continue as “a critical foreign policy instrument” allowing the U.S. to “gain influence and leverage, which can be used to help advance our foreign policy goals and objectives.”
As an example, the United States approved $200 million in military sales from U.S. corporations to the government of Bahrain in 2010, just months before pro-democracy protests erupted in the country, resulting in “a harsh crackdown on protesters,” killing at least 30 and injuring hundreds of more people in a matter of months.
In December of 2011, Andrew Shapiro announced the formal signing with Saudi Arabia to sell the dictatorship $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to be delivered by 2015, as well as other plans to sell $11 billion in arms to Iraq. The Saudi deal was the result of extensive lobbying efforts by top government officials, including Obama making several phone calls to Saudi King Abdullah, and the U.S. National Security Advisor, Thomas E. Donilon, twice traveling to Riyadh while Vice President Joe Biden led a “high-level delegation” to a funeral for a Saudi Prince in October of 2011.
Embracing the World with Open “Arms”
In 2009, worldwide arms sales stood at $65.2 billion, dropping by 38% to $40.4 billion in 2010, the lowest number since 2003, with the United States contributing $21.4 billion – or 52.7% – of the global arms deals, Russia in second place at $7.8 billion over 2010, followed by France, Britain, China, Germany and Italy, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Over 75% of global arms sales in 2010 were for ‘developing’ countries, with India in top place at $5.8 billion in arms deals, followed by Taiwan at $2.7 billion, Saudi Arabia at $2.2 billion, Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Syria, South Korea, Singapore and Jordan.
This relative decline in global arms sales over 2010 was not to be repeated for 2011, with the number skyrocketing to $85.3 billion, with the U.S. contribution tripling to $66.3 billion, accounting for more than three-quarters of global arms deals. Russia stood in a distant second place with $4.8 billion in arms sales. While the United States controls roughly 75% of the global arms trade, it would be wrong to ignore the role of the other major players, though they are far from even competing with the U.S.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that the rise in arms sales had increased by 60% in real terms since 2002, with the total sales of the top 100 arms companies reaching $411.1 billion in 2010. The arms industry is “increasingly concentrated” to the point where the top ten firms account for 56% of all sales, with Lockheed Martin at the top with sales of $35.7 billion in 2010, followed by Britain’s BAE Systems at $32.8 billion, Boeing at $31.3 billion, and Northrop Grumman at $28.5 billion. Other major companies on the top 100 list of arms manufacturers include: General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, L-3 Communications, United Technologies, Thales, SAIC, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, KBR, Hewlett-Packard, and DynCorp.
Following the beginning of the Arab Spring and the toppling of the Western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, British Prime Minister David Cameron continued with a pre-planned tour of the Middle East in February of 2011, leading what the British Green Party leader called a “delegation of arms traders,” with almost 75% of the businessmen accompanying the Prime Minister on his trip to the region representing the defense and aerospace industries. As the first Western leader to visit Egypt following the fall of Mubarak, Cameron praised the pro-democracy movement: “Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square [in Cairo] was genuinely inspiring,” adding: “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.” Immediately after praising Egypt’s revolution and expressing his own ‘beliefs’ in democracy, Cameron flew to Kuwait with his arms dealer delegation to sell weapons to other Arab dictatorships. When criticized for the excessive hypocrisy of his democracy-praising and dictatorship arms-dealing tour of the Middle East, Cameron simply asserted that Britain had “nothing to be ashamed of,” as there was nothing wrong with such transactions.
As dictators across the region were becoming increasingly belligerent toward protesters, seeking to violently crush resistance after the successful examples of Tunisians and Egyptians toppling their long-standing dictators, increasing arms shipments to the region’s despots seemed to be only natural for Western imperial powers seeking stability and control. Kevan Jones, the British Shadow Defence Minister noted: “The defence industry is crucially important to Britain but many people will be surprised that the prime minister in this week of all weeks may be considering bolstering arms sales to the Middle East.” Accompanying David Cameron on his trip were 36 corporate representatives, including Ian King, the CEO of BAE Systems, as well as Victor Chavez of Thales UK, Alastair Bisset of Qinetiq, and Rob Watson of Rolls Royce. When questioned about his ‘arms dealer delegation,’ Cameron stated: “I have got a range of business people on the aeroplane, people involved in infrastructure and people involved in the arts and cultural exchanges. Yes, we have defence manufacturers as well. Britain does have a range of defence relationships with countries in the region. I seem to remember that we spent a lot of effort and indeed life in helping to defend Kuwait. So it is quite right to have defence relationships with some of these countries.”
As Cameron was hopping around the region selling weapons, the largest arms fair in the Middle East – the Index 2011 – was taking place in Abu Dhabi, bringing thousands of arms dealers to an exhibition hall with fighter jets flying overhead, tanks in the sand, with Predator drones and assault rifles on display, models fully dressed in the latest riot police outfits, and all choreographed to a hip-hop soundtrack. Meanwhile, not very far from the booming arms fair, protesters in Bahrain were being violently repressed by a dictatorship armed and supported by the West. The British delegation to the arms fair was led by the Defence Minister, Gerald Howarth, helping represent British companies which were displaying and selling their latest tools for ‘crowd control,’ showcasing teargas grenades, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.
A British officer from the government’s Trade and Industry stand at the arms fair was explaining the benefits of a particular fragmentation bomb to a top military official from the Algerian dictatorship. Howarth explained, “I am here as the minister for national security strategy, supporting this important exhibition.” While in 2011 the British had to revoke export licenses to Bahrain and Libya following the violence erupting in both countries, over the previous year the British issued 20 licenses for exports of “riot control weapons,” such as teargas, smoke and stun grenades, to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, as well as nearly 200 million pounds in “crowd control ammunition” to the government of Libya.
Weapons manufacturers stated that they felt the increased criticism inflicted upon their industry following the start of the Arab Spring had left them “battered and bruised.” One arms trader, commenting less than two weeks after Mubarak was toppled, stated that, “[t]he Middle East was a growing market until a few weeks ago,” while a representative from BAE agreed that the market for arms was insecure: “It is too early to say where it will end up… Given what is going on at the moment, nobody is likely to be talking about how to spend their defence procurement budget.” When a representative for the British arms exporter Chemring was questioned about selling CS gas shotgun cartridges and stun grenades, he explained, “we have an ethical policy in place and look closely at the countries we are considering exporting to and see if they fit that.” A representative for Primetake, a British firm selling rubber ball shot, teargas, and rubber baton rounds, defended his firm: “We are a very respectable organization and we take very careful advice from the Ministry of Defense and the business department.”
Between October of 2009 and October of 2010, the British exported arms and military equipment to multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including over 270 million pounds in materials to Algeria, including combat helicopters, roughly 6.4 million pounds in arms deals with Bahrain, nearly 17 million pounds with Egypt, 477 million pounds with Iraq, 27 million pounds with Israel, 21 million pounds with Jordan, 14.5 million pounds with Kuwait, 6.2 million pounds with Lebanon, 215 million pounds with Libya, 2.2 million pounds with Morocco, 14 million pounds with Oman, 13 million pounds with Qatar, 140 million pounds with Saudi Arabia, 2.6 million pounds with Syria, 4.5 million pounds to Tunisia, and 210 million pounds to the UAE. These sales included assault rifles, tear gas, ammunition, bombs, missiles, body armour, gun parts, gas mask filters, signaling and radar equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-riot shields, patrol boats, military software, shotguns, “crowd-control equipment,” tank parts, military cargo vehicles, air surveillance equipment, armoured personnel carriers, small arms ammunition, heavy machine guns, and a plethora of other products, almost exclusively delivered to dictatorships (with the exception of Israel).
Germany, which stood as the world’s third-largest arms exporter in previous years (after the US and Russia), had doubled its share of the global arms trade over the previous decade to 11%, totaling roughly 6 billion euros in arms deals for 2008 alone, with companies like EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch leading the way. Even Russia was becoming a big customer for German military equipment, purchasing armoured plating and tanks.
In 2009, the European Union had established new export rules for arms and military technology, much-praised as preventing the export of arms that “might be used for undesirable purposes such as internal repression or international aggression or contribut[ing] to regional instability.” With the EU rules in place, member countries were free to completely disregard them. A European Commission study leaked to Der Spiegel in 2012 revealed that combined exports from EU nations made the European Union “the world’s largest exporter of weapons” to Saudi Arabia, delivering at least $4.34 billion in equipment in 2010 alone. Sweden helped the Saudi dictatorship build a missile factory, Finland delivered grenade launchers, Germany sold tanks and Britain provided fighter jets. The arms exporters were unfazed by the fact that equipment such as the tanks were used by Saudi Arabia in its “invitation” to invade Bahrain and help the Bahraini dictatorship crush the pro-democracy movement in early 2011. An official with the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society noted that the Swedish support for building a missile factory in Saudi Arabia has meant that, “we are legitimizing one of the most brutal regimes in the world.” Pakistan had meanwhile become China’s biggest customer for arms exports, while India purchased 10% of the world’s arms exports in 2010 “to defend itself against neighbor and arch enemy Pakistan.”
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the Munich Security Conference in 2011, she mentioned the “obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy,” and has often argued that “no compromises” can be made on issues of human rights. As part of Merkel’s respect for “human rights” and “value-based foreign policy,” weapons sales have increased as a significant factor in Germany’s foreign policy strategy, quietly changing the rules for arms exports to increase weapons sales to “crisis regions” as “a major pillar of the country’s security policy.” The objective would be to strengthen countries within “crisis regions” and therefore reduce the possibility that the German military would itself have to participate in “international missions.”
The German publication Der Spiegel referred to this as the “Merkel doctrine” of “tanks instead of soldiers.” Among the key countries to support, identified by Merkel and eight other ministers who met behind closed doors under the aegis of the Federal Security Council, were Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Qatar, India, and Angola. Merkel explained her doctrine in a speech at an event in Berlin in September of 2011 where she stated that if the West lacks the will and ability to undertake direct military intervention, “then it’s generally not enough to send other countries and organizations words of encouragement. We must also provide the necessary means to those nations that are prepared to get involved. I’ll say it clearly: This includes arms exports.” This, of course, Merkel added, would nicely manifest as a foreign policy “that is aligned with respect for human rights.”
As part of the “Merkel doctrine” of engaging in a “value-based foreign policy” with “respect for human rights,” Germany increased its arms sales to the Algerian dictatorship from 20 million euros in 2010 to nearly 400 million euros in 2012, with German military manufacturer Rheinmetall planning to produce 1,200 armored personnel carriers for Algeria over the next ten years. According to published European Union documents, over 2011, the top five arms exporting countries in the EU were France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, and Spain, collectively exporting over 80% of 37.5 billion euros in arms from EU countries. The European Union, winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, increased its arms exports by 18.3% since the previous year, with an increase in export licenses to Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. There were arms licenses issued to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and over 300-million euros-worth of arms for Egypt. The EU increased its arms exports to “areas of tension,” including India, Pakistan, and a record 465 million euros in arms to Afghanistan, “a country still under partial arms embargo.” However, ‘partial’ is apparently debatable.
With the United States reaching a record-breaking $60 billion in arms deals over 2011, Andrew Shapiro at the State Department stated that 2012 was set to be an equally – if not larger – bonanza for arms dealers. Revealing the role of diplomats and top government officials as glorified lobbyists and corporate representatives, Shapiro told a group of defense writers in the Summer of 2012: “We’ve really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies,” adding, “I’ve got the frequent-flyer miles to prove it.” Shapiro had traveled to more than 11 countries over 2012 promoting arms deals, noting that sales were at a record level for the third quarter of 2012, already passing $50 billion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made “advocacy” for arms dealers “a key priority” for U.S. diplomats and State Department officials who “were now expected to undertake such efforts on all trips abroad.” Shapiro and others had been lobbying for American military contractors in deals ranging from Japan’s $10 billion purchase of aircraft from Lockheed Martin to India’s increased arms purchases, where Shapiro saw “tremendous potential” for U.S. arms sales, and to Brazil, where Boeing was competing with France’s Dassault company for a multibillion-dollar defense contract, of which Shapiro stated, “We’re eager to make the best possible case for the Boeing aircraft, and we’re hopeful that it will be selected.”
By March of 2013, the world’s five largest arms exporters were the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and China overtook the UK for the first time in fifth place, having increased its arms exports by 162% between 2008 and 2012, increasing its share of the global arms trade from 2 to 5%, over 50% of which are delivered to Pakistan, with other large recipients being Myanmar, Bangladesh, Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco. Li Hong, the secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association noted: “Military exports are one way for China to increase its international status,” explaining that, “China needs to increase its influence in regional affairs and from that perspective it needs to increase weapons exports further.” As China increased its own military budget in recent years, it had turned to developing its own weapons industries, thus moving from being the world’s number one arms importer (of conventional weapons) between 2003-2007 to taking second place behind India in the 2008-2012 period, acquiring roughly 69% of its arms imports from Russia.
British Prime Minister David Cameron again traveled to the Middle East, accompanied by his Defense Secretary Philip Hammond and another delegation of arms dealers in 2012, seeking to sell up to 100 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, built by EADS and marketed by BAE, competing with France’s cheaper Rafale strike jet made by Dassault Aviation. The increased – and increasingly profitable – arms race in the Middle East was largely facilitated by America’s policies toward Iran. William Cohen is a former U.S. Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, current Counselor and Trustee to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), former member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1989 to 1997, current Vice Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council, on the board of directors of CBS Corporation, and is Chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, an international business consulting firm. Commenting on the growing arms race in the Middle East, Cohen repeated the usual American propaganda, stating that there was “A very legitimate concern about Iran being a revolutionary country,” though also adding that terrorism, cyberattack threats, and “the implications of the Arab Spring” spurred each country in the region “to make sure it’s protected against that.” Cohen added that military contractors, information technology firms and other corporations “have an enormous opportunity” in the region.
When British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Indonesia to promote arms deals for British military contractors like BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, he explained that increasing military ties with notoriously corrupt Indonesia, posed “manageable” risks. He commented: “From the companies I have talked to, they recognize that there is a challenge but they think that it is manageable, and they can operate here successfully while observing the UK and US legal requirements to address anti-corruption issues.” This statement came amid accusations of Rolls-Royce engaging in bribery to acquire business in China, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Hammond noted that in light of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia, Britain was “looking east in a way we have not done before.” Indonesia had recently purchased F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters from the U.S., Sukhoi fighters from Russia, missile systems from China, anti-aircraft missiles, Hawk jets and small arms from British companies. Prime Minister David Cameron defended arms sales to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, declaring it to be “completely legitimate and right.”
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a major think tank, projected that defense spending in Asia would overtake that of Europe for the first time in 2012, noting that Asia was in the midst of an arms race between China and other states in the region. The expenditure of European members of NATO on defense spending over 2011 was just under $270 billion, whereas in Asia it had reached $262 billion (excluding Australia and New Zealand). As China announced increased defense spending, the United States announced a “shift in military strategy” which treats the Asia-Pacific region “as one of the Pentagon’s priorities at a time when forces in Europe are being sharply cut.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that large and rising powers like China “have a special obligation to demonstrate in concrete ways that they are going to pursue a constructive path.” Leon Panetta, the U.S. Defense Secretary, noted that America’s “military posture in Asia will be increased.”
Indeed, in 2012, Asian defense spending surpassed that of Europe for the first time, reaching a record level of $287.4 billion, though the United States continued to account for 45.3% of total global military spending, meaning that the United States spends almost as much on military expenditures than the rest of the entire world combined. The United States, as part of its Pacific ‘pivot’ in military strategy, increased its arms sales to countries neighbouring China and North Korea. Fred Downey, vice president of the U.S. trade group, Aerospace Industries Association, which includes top U.S. military contractors, noted that the Pacific pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends.” U.S. arms sales to the region increased to $13.7 billion in 2012, up more than 5% from the previous year. There were 65 individual notifications to the U.S. Congress over the previous year regarding total foreign military sales brokered by the Pentagon with a collective value exceeding $63 billion. The State Department, responsible for issuing licenses for direct commercial sales between military contractors and foreign governments, noted that 2012 saw a new record increase with more than 85,000 license requests.
As Obama set a new record for arms sales to the Middle East in 2012, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro noted, “If countries view the United States unfavorably, they will be less willing to cooperate on security matters,” and for this reason, “the current administration has sought to revitalize U.S. diplomatic engagement, especially relating to security assistance and defense trade.” The growth in arms sales, noted Shapiro, speaking to the Defense Trade Advisory Group in November of 2012, “has been truly remarkable,” that in spite of the global economic crisis, “demand for U.S. defense sales abroad remains robust” with “significant growth both in direct commercial sales and in foreign military sales.”
As part of America’s Pacific ‘pivot,’ the United States announced a $5.9 billion arms deal with Taiwan in 2011, upgrading the country’s fleet of 145 F-16 fighter jets. Zhang Zhijun, a Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, commented: “The wrongdoing by the US side will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and co-operation in military and security areas.” Upon the announcement of the arms deal, Zhijun summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and informed him that, “China strongly urges the US to be fully aware of the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue, [to] seriously treat the solemn stance of China, honour its commitment and immediately cancel the wrong decision.” A top Obama administration official replied, “We believe that our contribution to the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan will contribute to stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The Chinese Ministry of Defense warned that the arms deal “will create a serious obstacle to developing normal exchanges between the two militaries” and that the “U.S. has ignored China’s firm opposition and insisted on selling arms to Taiwan.” Obviously, there are different definitions of “stability” at play.
In April of 2012, the Pentagon announced an arms deal with Japan of four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 38 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin at an estimated cost of $10 billion. In late 2011, Japan announced its intention to relax a ban on weapons exports which dated back to 1967, which, the Financial Times reported, could open “the way for Japanese companies to participate in the international development and manufacture of advanced weapon systems.” Japan’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, praised the move as “epoch-making.” Following the “relaxing” of controls, Japan and Britain announced that they would jointly develop weaponry, the first time that Japan would work with another country (apart from the United States) on constructing military equipment.
In October of 2012, the United States announced an arms deal in which South Korea would get longer-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in North Korea, “altering” (or violating) a 2001 accord which barred the U.S. “from developing and deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300km (186 miles),” in order to avert a regional arms race. Obviously, a decision was made to create a regional arms race, so the accord was “altered” and the US agreed to sell South Korea missiles with a range of 800km. South Korea’s defense ministry praised the new deal, stating that they would then be able to “strike all of North Korea, even from southern areas.” The 2001 accord also ensured that the U.S. would not deploy or develop missiles for the South with a payload of more than 500 kg (1,100lbs), since the “heavier a payload is, the more destructive power it can have.” So obviously, that pesky restriction also had to be “altered,” and while long-range missiles maintain the 1,100lb payload, missiles with shorter ranges will be permitted to hold much more. South Korea will also be able to operate U.S.-supplied drones, permitted to hold payloads up to 5,510lb with a range of more than 300km, and no payload restrictions on drones with a flying distance less than 300km. South Korea can also acquire cruise missiles with unlimited range, and some media reports suggested that South Korea had already deployed cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,000km, though officials “refused to confirm” if that were true. The South Korean Defense Ministry reported that North Korea had missiles that could reach South Korea, Japan, and Guam, a Pacific territory of the United States. Thus, the United States intends to counter the “threat” of North Korea by instigating a massive arms race in the region.
Arms Trade Diplomacy: “Chief Commercial Officer” or Ambassador?
As the massive release of diplomatic cables from Wikileaks revealed, U.S. and other diplomats are often little more than glorified lobbyists and salesmen for the Western arms industry. Lockheed Martin got help from the U.S. State Department in selling C-130 military transport planes to the government in Chad starting in 2007. The U.S. Embassy in Chad noted that the government likely could not afford the aircraft, not to mention that it would probably use the aircraft “to defend the regime against a backlash provoked by its refusal so far to open its political system and provide for a peaceful democratic transition.” In other words, the government of Chad wanted to use the military equipment to crush a pro-democracy movement. Nevertheless, noted the U.S. Embassy, we “would concur in allowing the sale to go forward.”
With Chad’s air force chief, its ambassador to the U.S. and a representative from Lockheed Martin promoting the deal with the State Department, the Embassy noted that the sale “would provide a healthy boost to U.S. exports to Chad” and “strengthen U.S. military cooperation.” While Chad told the State Department that it wanted the aircraft “to go after terrorists or help refugees,” the U.S. Embassy noted that in reality, “it needs them to support combat operations against the armed rebellion in eastern Chad,” and commented: “A decision to approve the sale would be met with dismay by many Chadian supporters of peaceful democratic change.” Our conclusion, noted a U.S. Embassy cable, “is that, like it or not, our interests line up in favor of allowing the sale in some form to go forward.” However, the U.S. would have to promote the sale with full knowledge of how Chadians will perceive it, and will have to undertake “a strategy to counter these perceptions.”
Ben Berkowitz wrote for Reuters that Wikileaks cables painted “a picture of foreign service officers and political appointees willing to go to great lengths to sell American products and services,” where, “in some cases, the efforts were so strenuous they raise the question of where if anywhere the line is being drawn between diplomacy and salesmanship.” A State Department spokesperson said in response that the U.S. government “has broad, though not unlimited, discretion to promote and assist U.S. commercial interests abroad.” Such practice became official policy shortly after the end of the Cold War when U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger introduced a bill which gave corporations a direct role in foreign policy. One former U.S. diplomat in Asia noted, “Until (then), U.S. diplomats were not particularly encouraged to help U.S. business. They were busy fighting the Cold War.” Suddenly, he noted, “we were given new direction: if a single U.S. company is looking for business, we should advocate for them by name; if more than one U.S. company was in the mix, stress buying the American product.” The former diplomat added: “It was great to see how influential the right word from the U.S. ambassador was.”
Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero had informed the U.S. Embassy, “to let him know if there was something important to the (U.S. government) and he would take care of it,” according to a 2009 diplomatic cable. The embassy took up the offer when General Electric was bidding against Rolls-Royce to sell helicopters to the Spanish Ministry of Defense (MOD), with GE informing the U.S. Embassy that if it did not get the contract, it would close part of its business in Spain. The U.S. Embassy passed the information along to Zapatero’s economic adviser, and, although there was “considerable” evidence that the government was going to award the contract to Rolls Royce, the Zapatero’s office “overturned the decision and it was announced that GE had won the bid,” and the U.S. Ambassador was “convinced that Zapatero personally intervened in the case in favor of GE.”
The U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates promoted the interests of Halliburton to participate in a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in 2003, a time at which Halliburton’s former CEO, Dick Cheney, was Vice President of the United States. The contract was eventually awarded to Halliburton. The U.S. Ambassador to the UAE at the time, Marcelle Wahba, noted, “I can’t think of a time when a month went by when a commercial issues wasn’t on my plate… Some administrations put more of an emphasis on it than others, but now I think, regardless of who’s in power you really find it’s become an integral part of the State Department mandate.”
Tom Niles, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, the European Union and Greece, as well as former president of the “pro-trade group” the U.S. Council for International Business, stated: “By the time I was retired from the Foreign Service, which was 1998, things had changed fundamentally and being an active participant in the commercial program and promoting trade using the prestige of the ambassador and receptions held at the ambassador’s residence was an important part of what I did.” Niles suggested that a U.S. ambassador was as much a “chief commercial officer” for corporations as a diplomat. “We might have been a little bit late to the game. The Europeans understood the crucial role of foreign trade in the growth and development of their economies before we did.” A former ambassador to the UAE noted: “Oftentimes European ambassadors, that’s all they’re there for.” Of course, that’s only logical, considering that European ambassadors do not have to be concerned with managing the world in the same way the United States does. Therefore, their interests are specific: economic.
In the Arms of America
With all the flowery rhetoric of “democracy” and “freedom,” American – and the Western world’s – hypocrisy can easily be revealed with a brief look at the global arms trade: supporting ruthless and repressive dictatorships, as well as creating and supporting regional arms races which increase instability and the threat of war. The objective is simple, and from the imperial perspective, very practical: support regional proxy states to do our dirty work for us. If this happens to increase regional instability and even lead to war, well, such things are inevitable within and as a result of an imperial system. So long as the final result is that the United States and the West maintain their “access” to and control over regions, resources, and populations, the means are incidental.
To put it another way: if our nations were actually interested in concepts and ideas of “democracy” and “freedom” for all people, around the world, why do we sell billions of dollars in weapons and military technology to the countries which most enthusiastically crush democracy and prevent freedom?
The answer to that question reveals the true nature of our society.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
 Thom Shanker, “Bad Economy Drives Down American Arms Sales,” The New York Times, 12 September 2010:
 Matt Sugrue, “GAO Report on U.S. Arms Sales, 2005-2009,” Arms Control Now, 29 September 2010:
 Maggie Bridgeman, “Obama seeks to expand arms exports by trimming approval process,” McClatchy, 29 July 2010:
 Joby Warrick, “U.S. steps up weapon sales to Mideast allies,” The Washington Post, 31 January 2010:
 Helene Cooper, “U.S. Approval of Taiwan Arms Sales Angers China,” The New York Times, 29 January 2010:
 Adam Entous, “Saudi Arms Deal Advances,” The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2010:
 Roula Khalaf and James Drummond, “Gulf states in $123bn US arms spree,” The Financial Times, 20 September 2010:
 Anthony H. Cordesman, et. al, “Is Big Saudi Arms Sale a Good Idea?” Expert Roundup, the Council on Foreign Relations, 27 September 2010:
[12 – 15] Ibid.
 “U.S. dominates Middle East arms market,” UPI, 28 December 2010:
 “US confirms $60bn Saudi arms deal,” Al-Jazeera, 20 October 2010:
 Mina Kimes, “America’s hottest export: Weapons – Full version,” CNN money, 24 February 2011:
 Richard F. Grimmett, “U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2003-2010,” U.S. Congressional Research Service, 16 December 2011, page 3.
 Leslie H. Gelb, “Mideast Arms Sales Not So Bad,” The Daily Beat, 12 April 2011:
 Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:
 DTAG Activity 2010, “2010-2012 Membership,” The Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG), U.S. Department of State:
 Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:
 Agencies, “US arms sales to Bahrain surged in 2010,” Al-Jazeera, 11 June 2011:
 Mark Landler and Steven Myers, “With $30 Billion Arms Deal, U.S. Bolsters Saudi Ties,” The New York Times, 29 December 2011:
 Thom Shanker, “Global Arms Sales Dropped Sharply in 2010, Study Finds,” The New York Times, 23 September 2011:
 Harry Bradford, “U.S. Arms Sales Tripled In 2011 To $66.3 Billion: Report,” The Huffington Post, 27 August 2012:
 Thom Shanker, “U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market,” The New York Times, 26 August 2012:
 Richard Northon-Taylor, “Arms sales rise during downturn to more than $400bn, report reveals,” The Guardian, 29 February 2012:
 Ami Sedghi, “Arms sales: who are the world’s 100 top arms producers?,” The Guardian Data Blog, 2 March 2012:
 “Cameron Middle East visit ‘morally obscene’ says Lucas,” BBC News, 23 February 2011:
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 Nicholas Watt and Robert Booth, “David Cameron’s Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:
 Robert Booth, “Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Index 2011,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:
 Simon Rogers, “UK arms sales to the Middle East and North Africa: who do we sell to, how much is military and how much just ‘controlled’?” The Guardian, 22 February 2011:
 Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Hoges, “Democracy or Dollars?: Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny,” Der Spiegel, 1 April 2011:
 “Weapons Exports: EU Nations Sell the Most Arms to Saudi Arabia,” Der Spiegel, 19 March 2012:
 Ulrike Demmer, Ralf Neukirch and Holger Stark, “Arming the World for Peace: Merkel’s Risky Weapons Exports,” Der Spiegel, 30 July 2012:
 “Tanks in the Desert: Germany Plans Extensive Arms Deal with Algeria,” Der Spiegel, 12 November 2012:
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 Andrea Shalal-Esa, “U.S. government advocacy said boosting foreign arms sales,” Reuters, 27 July 2012:
 Michael Martina, “World’s Top 5 Arms Exporters: China Replaces UK In Weapons Trade,” Reuters, 18 March 2013:
 Jamil Anderlini and Victor Mallet, “China joins top five arms exporters,” The Financial Times, 18 March 2013:
 “Defense contest over major gulf arms buys,” UPI, 20 November 2012:
 Ben Bland, “UK defence minister bullish on arms sales,” The Financial Times, 16 January 2013:
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 FT Reporters, “Asia defence spending to overtake Europe,” The Financial Times, 7 March 2012:
 Myra MacDonald, “Asia’s defense spending overtakes Europe’s: IISS,” Reuters, 14 March 2013:
 “US Arms Sales to Asia Set to Boom on Pacific ‘Pivot’,” Reuters, 2 January 2013:
 “Obama set record in 2012 for Mideast defense exports,” World Tribune, 4 December 2012:
 Richard McGregor, “US agrees $5.9bn arms deal with Taiwan,” The Financial Times, 21 September 2011:
 Kathrin Hille, “China hits at US over Taiwan arms deal,” The Financial Times, 22 September 2011:
 “U.S. Government Says Japan’s Cost to Buy 42 F-35s Around $10 Billion,” Ottawa Citizen, 2 May 2012:
 Mure Dickie, “Japan relaxes weapons export ban,” The Financial Times, 27 December 2011:
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 07NDJAMENA43, “C-130’s for Chad?”, 12 January 2007, Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables:
 Ben Berkowitz, “Wikileaks reveals extent of State Department’s involvement in arms sales, oil deals,” Reuters, 4 March 2011:
Fighting the “Rising Tide” of Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Syrian Crisis
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The following sample is a compilation of unedited research, largely drawn from official government documents of the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House, and National Security Council, outlining the development of the Eisenhower Doctrine and the American imperial perceptions of the threat of ‘Arab Nationalism.’
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The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Threat of Arab Nationalism
Following the Suez Crisis, Nasser’s influence and reputation was enormously strengthened in the Arab, Muslim, and wider decolonizing world, while those of Britain and France were in decline. Nasser’s support for nationalist movements in North Africa, particular Algeria, increasingly became cause for concern. Pro-Western governments in the Middle East stood on unstable ground, threatened by the ever-expanding wave of Pan-Arab nationalism and indeed, Pan-African nationalism spreading from North Africa downward. The United States, however, noting the power vacuum created by the defeat of Britain and France in the conflict, as well as the increasing support from the Soviet Union for nationalist movements in the region as elsewhere, had to decide upon a more direct strategy for maintaining dominance in the region.
As President Eisenhower stated in December of 1956, as the Suez Crisis was coming to a final close, “We have no intention of standing idly by… to see the southern flank of NATO completely collapse through Communist penetration and success in the Mid East.” Secretary Dulles stated in turn, that, “we intend to make our presence more strongly felt in the Middle East.” Thus, the Eisenhower Doctrine was approved in early 1957, calling for the dispersal of “$200 million in economic and military aid and to commit armed forces to defend any country seeking assistance against international communism,” explaining that, “the existing vacuum… must be filled by the United States before it is filled by Russia.” Thus, Eisenhower told Congress, this new doctrine was “important… to the peace of the world.” Some Senators opposed the doctrine; though, with powerful political figures supporting it, as well as the New York Times providing an unfailing endorsement, it was approved in early March of 1957. In the Middle East, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan endorsed the doctrine in the hopes of receiving economic and military aid (even before the U.S. Congress approved it), King Hussein of Jordan endorsed it, and funds were further given to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The main opposition to the Eisenhower Doctrine came from Syria and Egypt. Nasser later reflected that the doctrine appeared to be “a device to re-establish imperial control by non-military means,” and therefore he would “have nothing to do with it and felt it was directed at Egypt as much as at any communist threat.” This was not, as it turned out, far from the truth. A State Department Policy Planning Paper from early December of 1956 discussed the formation of a new regional policy (which resulted in the Eisenhower Doctrine), and while focusing on the notion that, “[t]he primary threat to the interests of the United States and the West in the Middle East (especially oil, Suez Canal and pipelines) arises from Soviet efforts at penetration,” Nasser and Egypt figured prominently in this formulation, but couched in the rhetoric of the Cold War. In fact, “Soviet penetration” of the Middle East was stated to rest on three main factors, the first of which was identified as the “ambitions of Nasser and the willingness of Nasser and the Syrians to work with the Soviets, especially to obtain arms.” The other two main factors were identified as, “instability and divisions among the other Middle Eastern nations,” referring to Western puppet governments in the region, and “increased animosity toward the UK and France resulting from their military action against Egypt and intensified by the fact that their action was taken in conjunction with Israel’s invasion of Egypt.”
Thus, while the strategy was presented as a means to prevent Soviet “penetration” of the Middle East, the actual content and objectives of the strategy being formulated were directly related to checking Egyptian influence in the region and beyond. Of course, Soviet advances in the area were of concern to the Americans, that cannot be denied, but the prevalence of Egypt and Nasserist influence as a decisive “Third Force” was undeniable as a source of fear among imperial strategists. The strategy overtly stated that “efforts to counter Soviet penetration” in the region “must include measures to… [c]ircumscribe Nasser’s power and influence.” Noting that the American stance during the Suez Crisis has “greatly increased our prestige and opportunity for leadership,” in presenting the view that the United States is “firmly committed to support[ing] genuine independence for the countries concerned,” the State Department document noted that the U.S. would have to avoid “counter suspicion that our aim is to dominate or control any of the countries or to reimpose British domination in a different form. For this reason, our actions will be largely self-defeating if they create a general impression that our objective is directly to overthrow Nasser.” That of course, implies that it is the “indirect objective” of the policy to overthrow Nasser. Noting that Egypt would likely oppose all the measures put forward by the United States in its regional policy, the Policy Planning Paper stated that, “We should play upon [Nasser’s] opposition to stigmatize Egypt as an impediment to peace and progress in the Middle East,” of which the objective would be “to mobilize opinion against Nasser and to circumscribe his power and influence.” The paper stated that it would be important to inform the U.K. and France that the U.S. objective of the program “is directed toward countering Soviet penetration in the Middle East and circumscribing Nasser’s power and influence,” and thus, it would “serve their interests as well as ours,” having in mind “the vital importance of the Middle East to Western Europe.” As such, the U.K. and France should be convinced to “avoid injecting themselves in the Middle East and leave to the US the primary responsibility of restoring the Western position in the area.”
A National Security Council (NSC) report explained that the “opportunistic and nationalistic Nasser government of Egypt gained in influence throughout the area and other Arab heads of state were less able to resist the formation of governments which catered to this surge of nationalism.” Syria was an obvious example; however, even Western friendly governments had to submit to various nationalistic pressures, as Jordan abrogated the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty with Britain, and “King Saud, while publicly friendly to Nasser and the Arab cause, maintained an independent position using his influence for moderation on nationalistic elements, steering a course between the extreme pro-Soviet and strongly pro-West Arab groups.” It’s important to note how Arab nationalism is described as “the extreme pro-Soviet” course when it actually represented a “Third Force” not allied to either the West or East. While the U.S. had an “extremely favorable” position in the Middle East following the Suez Crisis, the USSR was subsequently “given the greatest credit in the Arab world for the cessation of hostilities in Egypt.” Egypt and Syria increased their economic and military ties with the Soviet bloc, and through such support to these and other Arab nations, “the Soviet Union appeared as the defender of the sovereignty of small countries and of Arab nationalism against the threats of Western ‘imperialism’.” Explaining the “major operating problems” facing the United States in the region, nationalism was identified as the primary threat. The NSC Operations Coordinating Board report stated:
Throughout the Arab area there have been increasing manifestations of an awakened nationalism, springing in part from a desire to end both real and imagined vestiges of the mandate and colonial periods, but stimulated by opportunism, Soviet propaganda, aid and infiltration, and by Egyptian ambitions and intrigue. Because the former mandatory and colonial powers were from Western Europe, the nationalism has assumed generally an anti-Western form. This situation has created opportunities for Soviet exploitation, and has, at the same time, placed the United States in a difficult position. The natural U.S. sympathy with those genuinely desirous of becoming free and completely sovereign nations runs, at times, into sharp conflict with actions required to maintain the strength of the Western alliance and to support our closest allies.
Further problems include the threat to Western economic interests in the area, with the potential for nationalization following the example of the Suez Canal, which could put at risk substantial U.S. private investments in the Arab world. Another major problem was with the divides within the Western alliance itself on how it viewed the Arab world and its problems. Significantly, “the United States sees in nationalism much that represents a threat to the West,” but “it tends to regard this nationalism as an inevitable development which should be channeled, not opposed,” whereas “Britain and France have seen this nationalism… as a threat to their entire position in the area.” The NSC paper lamented that, “It is likely that for the time being Nasser will remain the leader in Egypt,” but “the United States cannot successfully deal with President Nasser.” The United States, then, must determine “the degree to which it will actively seek to curb Nasser’s influence and Egyptian activities in the Near East and Africa.”
Syria became an important part of this equation. Increasingly left-leaning, with major pipelines carrying oil to the Mediterranean supplying much-needed oil for Western Europe’s recovery, and the largest Communist Party in the Arab world, Syria was a strategic nightmare for Western interests. After the Suez Crisis, Syria and Egypt both edged toward closer ties with the Soviet Union, not out of an ideological proclivity toward communism, but because of a pragmatic approach toward preserving and expanding Arab nationalism, which the West was actively opposed to while the USSR had endorsed, naturally, as a means to gaining strategic inroads into the Middle East, not out of any benevolent conception of justice for colonized peoples. In 1956, President Eisenhower stated:
Syria was far more vulnerable to Communist penetration than was Egypt. In Egypt, where one strong man prevailed, Colonel Nasser was able to deal with Communists and accept their aid with some degree of safety simply because he demanded that all Soviet operations be conducted through himself. In Syria, where a weak man was in charge of the government [Quwatli], the Soviet penetration bypassed the government and dealt directly with the various agencies, the army, the foreign ministry, and the political parties. Syria was considered ripe to be plucked at any time.
The fears of Soviet penetration were of course exaggerated beyond the on-the-ground realities, as per usual. The real fear was the potential for Syria to more closely align with Egypt and become a strong partner in Nasser’s non-aligned “Third Force” which happened to be in a location of major strategic interest to the West. As the Eisenhower Doctrine framed the language in terms of the Cold War confrontation between the West and East, the internal documents leading to the formation of the doctrine pointed to the isolation and diminution of Egyptian influence in the region as the main objective. Britain’s only remaining pseudo-protectorate in the region through which it could protect its oil interests was in Iraq, while its relationship with Jordan was faltering under nationalistic pressure. The British then, had a major interest in Syria, a an idea was being pushed through Iraq where the leader of the country, Nuri al-Said, “had sought to take the leadership of the Arab nationalist movement away from Egypt by instituting a ‘Fertile Crescent’ union of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.” The British objective and vision for the region, not coincidentally, “corresponded with this ambition.” Syria was viewed as a potential point through which to secure access to oil by ensuring a pro-Iraqi government, as well as checking Arab nationalism and Nasser.
In October of 1957, the United States produced a National Intelligence Estimate analyzing “probable developments affecting US interests” in the Middle East “during the next several years.” The outlook for the United States and the West in the Middle East “has deteriorated,” stated the estimate. The USSR’s influence has increased by “supporting the radical element of the Arab nationalist movement,” meaning Nasser. The NIE stated that, “radical Arab nationalists control only Egypt and Syria” at the moment, however, “sympathy and support for their strong anti-Western, revolutionary, and pan-Arab policies come from a substantial majority of the Arabs of the Near East,” while the indigenous support for the West in the region “comes largely from the outnumbered and often weakly-led conservative nationalist elements.” Acknowledging that the regimes in Syria and Egypt were likely to maintain for a few years, their reliance upon the Soviet Union would likely increase, and, moreover, “Nasser and the Syrian leaders will probably continue to exert a powerful influence over radical Arab nationalists throughout the area, except in the unlikely event of their emerging clearly as Soviet puppets.” Even if these specific regimes collapsed, noted the NIE, “the radical Arab nationalist movement will continue as a basic element in the Near East situation.”
The “conservative grouping” which supports the West in the region, consists of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, “forms a loose coalition of regimes that look to the US for aid because of their common interest in the existing system and opposition to the forces of revolution represented by the radicals.” While they do not oppose Arab nationalism in general, for it also justifies their own self-rule, they remain conservative and opposed to radical elements typified by Nasser. The NIE noted that the potential “for broadening or consolidating the position of the conservative forces in the Arab states are poor, although these forces will continue to be an important factor in the area.” One of the main problems was the continued Arab-Israeli dispute, of which prospects for a solution were poor. The NIE warned that the United States believed “that there will almost certainly be some armed conflict in the area during the next several years,” likely in Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and potentially with Israel. While France and the U.K. have lost influence in the region, the USSR has increased its own, with supplying arms to Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, and the U.S. is the main representative of the West in the Middle East. As such, the NIE stated, the region “has thus become a principal arena of the contest between the US and the USSR.”
Since the Suez Crisis, “Nasser has become… the spokesman and symbol of radical Pan-Arab nationalism.” Yet, the conservative forces in the region, especially Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, remained increasingly distrustful of Nasser, and thus welcomed the Eisenhower Doctrine “as an opportunity to strengthen their own positions,” resulting in “a division of the Arab Near East into two loose groupings.” The radical Pan-Arab nationalist movement of Nasser and Syria “advocate the union of all Arabs in a single state,” and are “both the most dynamic and the most violent in their anti-Westernism, the most interested in a military buildup as a symbol of Arab strength, and at the present time the most activist in their hostility toward Israel.” Nasser and the Syrian leaders, stated the NIE, “are revolutionaries who believe in replacing many traditional social and economic institutions with a state socialism of their own devising.” Importantly, the NIE observed that, “[t]he majority of politically conscious Arab Moslems throughout the Near East, particularly the middle class intelligentsia, are sympathetic to this concept of Arab nationalism,” and believe that the interests of the West in the region are “Israel, oil, and domination of the area.” Further, they “also believe the West to be opposed to their concept of Arab unity.” The conservative elements, which reject the radical notions of Arab nationalism, reject ties to the Soviet Union, and draw themselves close to the West, are “largely confined to the upper and professional classes and [have] little popular support.” In other words, the pro-West regimes are simply dominated by “conservative and traditional” elites, while the majority of the population of the region support Nasser’s vision of Pan-Arab nationalism.
Oil interests in the region remained paramount for the West. The NIE took note of the fact that the “non-Communist world looks increasingly for its petroleum requirements to the vast reserves of the Middle East,” which was “particularly true of Western Europe,” which in 1957, “consumes almost three million barrels of oil per day, of which 72 percent comes from the Middle East,” and that rate was expected to increase by 1965. Nationalistic governments and movements in the region were exerting increasing pressure upon the “existing pattern of oil production and transportation” in seeking “increased revenue and more control over oil operations.” Luckily for the West, the conservative elements control the major oil producing areas, but transportation of oil through pipelines and waterways go through areas dominated by the radical Arab nationalist regimes. In fact, 35% of oil going to the West from the region was transported by pipeline, while 65% went through the Suez Canal. The NIE noted, however, that “Egypt and Syria are unlikely, except under extreme provocation, to exercise their capability to stop the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf area to the Mediterranean.” Opposition to Israel was identified as “the principal point of agreement among all factions of Arabs and acute tension between the Arab states and Israel will continue.” The Cold War struggle between the West and East “is regarded as a battle of giants which concerns the Arab world only insofar as it intrudes in Arab affairs or offers opportunities to the Arabs to advance their own interests.” Thus, Arab views toward the Soviet Union and the West are not framed in the Cold War dialectic of the “Free World” versus “Communist dictatorship,” but rather “the result of past experience, present friction, and future aspirations,” which naturally put the West in the part of imperial aggressors, while the Soviet Union can legitimately portray itself as ‘anti-imperial.’ The United States will continue to represent the West in the region, but “Britain, France, and other Western states will be critical of US policy if it does not act effectively to protect Western interests, particularly in petroleum, when threatened.”
Western influence had increased among the conservative Arab regimes over the preceding year, but has failed to be recognized “among the Arab public,” who fail “to understand Western indignation at Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal Company and at his taking Soviet arms.” The French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt confirmed the radical Arab nationalist portrayal of “Western imperialists,” and, while U.S. actions during the crisis increased its favor in the region, the “Soviet threats against the UK made an equal or greater impression on the Arab public.” The U.S. stance during the crisis “was misinterpreted among the Arabs as an indication that the US intended to back the Pan-Arab program against the UK and France, and many became confused and disillusioned when this turned out not to be the case.” While radical Arab nationalism will continue over the following years, stated the NIE, “[t]he forces of conservative Arab nationalism are likely to continue to be generally identified with the West,” and in some areas this could lead to “instability.” Israel, for its part, “will continue to receive outside financial and diplomatic support [largely from France] and will persist as a dynamic force within the area,” as well as seeking “to keep its armed forces qualitatively superior to those of its Arab opponents.”
For Western interests in the region, a number of factors had to dictate American policy. Naturally, the possibility of cooperation with Syria and Egypt remained slim, while conservative Arab governments were “likely to become progressively more dependent upon the US,” which would mean that “economic progress in these states will be regarded in the area as an index of the value of association with the US.” The increasing “public expectation of improvement in economic standards and welfare will impose difficulties upon governments,” as the “radical nationalist governments of Egypt and Syria are committed to ambitious social and economic reforms,” though they may likely fail to “fulfill their expectations, even with Soviet assistance, and they will probably experience political difficulties as a consequence.” For the conservative governments, which are home to the vast oil reserves of the region, they will have the “financial resources with which to effect reforms which would probably broaden the base of popular support and thus ultimately strengthen their position and that of the conservative grouping.”
Syria and Jordan: The Evolution of a Crisis
The Syrian Crisis emerged between July and October of 1957, after the Ba’ath Party (an Arab Socialist party) won control of the Parliament and Cabinet in early January, with increased Syrian disputes with Turkey over territory, reluctance to grant the Saudi ARAMCO company a pipeline across the country (owned by the Rockefeller Standard Oil Company), and the acceptance of left-wing Arab groups, the “moderate” Syrian leadership was increasingly sidelined. The United States and its Western allies, particularly Britain, had been involved for a number of years in supporting various coups in Syria. One coup was supposed to take place in 1956, but was outflanked by the importance of the Suez Crisis. Codenamed Operation Straggle, it was felt that the plans could be resumed once the British and French had left Suez. Thus, in late 1956, the British and Americans began again discussing “certain operational intentions regarding Syria,” and the CIA stated that “the UK, France, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq all… would welcome US participation and support in strong measures to check or counter the leftward trends in Syria.” With the passing of the Eisenhower Doctrine, Syria had been identified “as evidence of Russian intent” in the region. Syria, of course, denounced the doctrine, and American strategists, such as Allen Dulles at the CIA, increasingly painted Syria with a Soviet brush.
Jordan played an increasingly important role in this situation. King Abdullah, long supported and in fact, put in power by the British, had been assassinated by a Palestinian in 1951. In 1953, King Hussein emerged as the conservative leader of the country. Jordan, situated between Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, was a pivotal player in any schemes at regional “stability” and preventing the spread of Pan-Arab nationalism. As Britain’s influence in the region dissipated, King Hussein sought to cement his regime’s ties with the Americans. Jordan had, for years, been subjected to cross-border raids from Israeli commandos, and the conservative pro-Western government of Jordan had to subdue national public opinion to refrain from striking back. The U.S. attempted to pressure Jordan into a peace settlement with Israel, but when Colonel Ariel Sharon destroyed a West Bank village in 1953, killing sixty-nine Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, “such a hope [had] been dashed to smithereens,” said a U.S. official at the time. Jordan had to wrestle with the reality of being home to a massive Palestinian refugee population, which was the source of enormous instability and caution for any regime in power. While King Hussein, due largely to domestic pressures, refrained from joining the Baghdad Pact (an alliance between Britain, Iraq, and Turkey), once Nasser had purchased Soviet arms in 1955, both the UK and United States began to see Hussein’s Jordan as “virtually impotent” in the confrontation of “universal popular Jordanian enthusiasm for [the] flame of Arab political liberation ignited by Nasser’s arms deal.” Thus, reported an American official in Amman, the capitol of Jordan, the “[p]olitical situation in Jordan is disintegrating and resulting instability is playing into [the] hands of anti-Western nationalists and Communists.”
The British, in response, attempted to entice Jordan to join the Baghdad Pact, which was looked favourably upon by King Hussein. However, when news of this spread to the West Bank, wrote Douglas Little, “anti-Western demonstrations erupted and pro-Nasser Palestinians demanded that Hussein sever his ties with Britain and rely instead on Soviet arms and Saudi gold.” Thus, lamented a British official, “If Saudi/Egyptian/Communist intrigue can prevent Jordan joining the Pact… despite the King and Government wishing to do so… how far has the rot spread?” The “rot” referred to by the British official, of course, was Arab nationalism. Many American officials felt that Britain would be completely extricated from Jordan, leaving CIA Director Allen Dulles to comment in early 1956 that, “The British… have suffered their most humiliating defeat in modern history.” King Hussein shortly thereafter removed the head of the Arab Legion, which was the British-controlled Jordanian army, and put the army under absolute Jordanian control, leading the British to cut Jordanian economic and military aid in retribution. The Americans, however, felt this was a smart move by Hussein, as the “King is now [a] hero and no longer [a] puppet.” Hussein put in place a new leader of the Arab Legion, described by some as an “anti-Western opportunist,” of whom the British presented as having an objective for Jordan that, “is likely to be a military dictatorship on the lines of Colonel Nasser.” This leader, Abu Nuwar, even invoked many concerns among the Americans, who were wary of his pro-Nasser stance and his ties to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. With the Suez Crisis under way, Jordan requested Iraq send hundreds of military advisers, to which Israel responded with “savage blows” against the Arab Legion, in Eisenhower’s own words, increasing the fear that, “Jordan is going to break up… like the partition of Poland.”
In October of 1956, elections in Jordan led to the formation of a Government coalition of Communists and anti-Western nationalists, “led by Sulieman Nabulsi, a pro-Palestinian East Bank activist whom [King] Hussein reluctantly named prime minister on the eve of the Suez war.” As British participation in the Suez war became clear, Jordan’s government threatened to toss out the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948, leading Arab Legion chief Abu Nuwar to warn U.S. diplomats that, “If [the] US wants to salvage anything in Jordan,” it would have to act quickly to “furnish military and economic aid… [to] compensate for British aid which will soon be ended.” Hussein warned the Americans that Nuwar and Nabulsi were even considering Soviet aid as a replacement for British subsidy. Thus, the United States jumped into Jordan with $30 million in aid. With the Eisenhower Doctrine unveiled in early 1957, Hussein quietly endorsed the program, to which he was rewarded with suitcases of cash from the CIA, and in April, Hussein forced the prime minister to resign, instigating large anti-Western protests. At that time, however, Allen Dulles informed the National Security Council, “The situation in Jordan had reached the ultimate anticipated crisis… The real power of decision rests largely with the Army, whose loyalty to the King is uncertain.” Two days later, amid protests denouncing the Baghdad Pact and the Eisenhower Doctrine, Nuwar, the head of the Army, attempted to oust King Hussein in a coup. The King, however, was not taken by surprise. With the help of the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt, he had mobilized loyalist army factions who forced Nuwar into exile in Syria. The crisis, however, continued, as massive anti-US demonstrations took place in Amman and Jerusalem, leading Hussein to ask Secretary of State John Foster Dulles if he could count on US support in proposing “to take a strong line in Jordan, including martial law on the West Bank.” Dulles then urged Eisenhower to send a battalion of US Marines into the Eastern Mediterranean “to signal US support for the embattled Hussein.”
The United States then immediately granted $10 million in economic aid to Jordan, followed closely with $10 million in military aid, both provided through the auspices of the Eisenhower Doctrine, designed to ensure that the Arab Legion remained as “as effective force for the maintenance of internal security,” which translates into domestic repression. Jordan got a new Prime Minister, ostensibly pro-Western, and America increasingly replaced the British as the imperial master of Jordan. Problems persisted, however, as Secretary Dulles noted, as within “wretchedly poor” Jordan, the Palestinians “were a continuing menace to stability,” and “the King sat on dynamite where the refugees were concerned.”
The Syrian Crisis
At the same time, as the crisis began to boil over in Syria, Eisenhower stated that, “If by some miracle stability could also be achieved in Syria,” by which he means pro-Western subservience, “American would have come a long way in an effort to establish peace in that troubled area,” by which he means domination. The CIA, for its part, was already encouraging right-wing factions of the Syrian military to “join forces effectively against the leftists.” In May of 1957, the CIA was attempting to remove “the pro-Communist neutralists” and “achieve a political change in Syria.” With Syrian elections, both Communists and Ba’athist made large gains, while an oil refinery was being constructed at Homs by Czech engineers from the Soviet bloc, and Soviet military advisers made inroads into the nation, resulting in a $500 million grain-for-weapons deal signed with Soviet Premier Khrushchev in July of 1957. In August, the National Security Council’s Operations Coordinating Board produced a report explaining that, “Syrian leaders seem more inclined to accept Soviet influence blindly than in any other country in the area… There was evidence that the Soviets are making Syria the focal point for arms distribution and other activities, in place of Egypt.” Within two days, the United States gave authorization for the covert operation against Syria, which the CIA had been planning for months, aiming to install the former Syrian pro-West leader, Shishakli. This operation, however, according to the U.S. Ambassador to Syria in 1957, was “a particularly clumsy CIA plot” which had been “penetrated by Syrian intelligence.” It was later revealed that, “[h]alf a dozen Syrian officers approached by American officials immediately reported back to the authorities so that the plot was doomed from the start.” Therefore, on August 12, the head of Syrian counterintelligence expelled known CIA agents, arrested their local assets, and put the U.S. Embassy under surveillance. Eisenhower expelled the Syrian ambassador to the United States, which was reciprocated with Syria expelling the American ambassador. Painting the picture of a Syria which was about to “fall under the control of International Communism and become a Soviet satellite,” Secretary Dulles supported invoking the Eisenhower Doctrine.
On August 21, 1957, an emergency meeting on Syria was held at the White House, and Secretary Dulles asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend, stating that, “We are thinking of the possibility of fairly drastic action… so come with anybody he needs in that respect.” Though the actual minutes of the meeting remain classified, Eisenhower’s memoirs reflect on some of the discussion that took place: “Syria’s neighbors, including her fellow Arab nations, had come to the conclusion that the present regime in Syria had to go; otherwise the takeover by the Communists would soon be complete.” The U.S. would then encourage Iraq and Turkey to mass troops along their borders with Syria, and “if Syrian aggression should provoke a military reaction” – note how it’s defined as “Syrian aggression” as opposed to “reaction” or “defense” to an aggressive military buildup on its borders – the United States would “expedite shipments of arms already committed to the Middle Eastern countries and, further, would replace losses as quickly as possible.” As such, the U.S. Sixth Fleet was again ordered to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, as it was during the Jordanian crisis earlier that year, while U.S. jets were sent from Western Europe to a NATO base in Turkey. Over the following two weeks, the Americans slowly backed down from their aggressive strategy, which threatened to provoke a major regional war drawing both the Soviet Union and the United States directly into the conflict. Soviet leader Khrushchev wrote a letter to Eisenhower in early September warning him not to intervene in Syria. John Foster Dulles claimed that the crisis had created “a period of the greatest peril for us since the Korean War,” saying that Khrushchev was “more like Hitler than any other Russian leader we have previously seen.” In typical Orwellian fashion, changing the actual crisis from that of a major covert and potentially overt American aggression in the region, Dulles, when speaking to the press, expressed his “deep concern at the apparently growing Soviet Communist domination of Syria.”
While the conservative Arab allies were hesitant to pursue aggressive American policies against Syria, Turkey seemed to be ready for war, as even “despite words of caution from American diplomats and NATO officials,” Turkey “refused to demobilize the 50,000 troops they had massed along the Syrian frontier.” Dulles attempted to placate the Soviets, explaining that Eisenhower was convincing the Turks to retract, and Khrushchev warned, “if Turkey starts hostilities against Syria, this can lead to very grave consequences, and for Turkey, too,” which was a NATO ally, and thus, if Turkey was “to go it alone in Syria,” the Soviet Union would “attack Turkey, thereby precipitating an open, full scale conflict between ourselves and Russia.” With this in mind, U.S. officials bribed Turkey with economic and military aid to demobilize the border in late October. Following the crisis, Syrian leaders saw a dual threat of either Soviet domination of their country or Turkish invasion. In response to this, they promoted a formal union with Egypt along the lines espoused by Pan-Arab nationalism, and in early 1958, the United Arab Republic (UAR) was formed between Syria and Egypt. The Americans then feared that Nasser would use the UAR “to threaten Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and perhaps engulf them one by one.” However, despite the American fears that the UAR would seek to absorb other Arab states, the United States felt that a merger with Egypt would repress Communist elements in Syria, and that open hostility to the UAR would only incur Arab resentment. Thus, while the UAR was formed on 1 February 1958, the United States formally recognized it on 25 February, and the Syrian crisis came to an end.
U.S. Policy After the Syrian Crisis
On 24 January 1958, a National Security Council report on “Long-Range U.S. Policy Toward the Near East” was issued which explained that the Middle East was “of great strategic, political, and economic importance to the Free World,” as the region “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world and essential facilities for the transit of military forces and Free World commerce.” Thus, it was deemed that the “security interests of the United States would be critically endangered if the Near East should fall under Soviet influence of control,” and that the “strategic resources are of such importance” to the West, “that it is in the security interest of the United States to make every effort to insure that these resources will be available and will be used for strengthening the Free World,” noting also that the “geographical position of the Near East makes the area a stepping-stone toward the strategic resources of Africa.” The Report went on note:
Current conditions and political trends in the Near East are inimical to Western interests. In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism. They believe that the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress, and that the United States is intent upon maneuvering the Arab states into a position in which they will be committed to fight in a World War against the Soviet Union. The USSR, on the other hand, had managed successfully to represent itself to most Arabs as favoring the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism and as being willing to support the Arabs in their efforts to attain those goals without a quid pro quo. Largely as a result of these comparative positions, the prestige of the United States and of the West has declined in the Near East while Soviet influence has greatly increased. The principal points of difficulty which the USSR most successfully exploits are: the Arab-Israeli dispute; Arab aspirations for self-determination and unity; widespread belief that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with “reactionary” [i.e., dictatorial] elements to that end; the Arab attitude toward the East-West struggle; U.S. support of its Western “colonial” allies [France and Britain]; and problems of trade and economic development.
These points of “exploit” are, further, accurate. The United States, affirmed the NSC report, “supports the continued existence of Israel,” and “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries – Chamoun of Lebanon, King Saud, Nuri of Iraq, King Hussein [of Jordan].” These relations, stated the document, “have contributed to a widespread belief in the area that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with ‘reactionary’ elements to that end,” while the USSR can proclaim “all-out support for Arab unity and for the most extreme Arab nationalist aspirations, because it has no stake in the economic, or political status quo in the area.” In its look at the advances of Communism in the region, the report stated that, “Communist police-state methods seem no worse than similar methods employed by Near East regimes, including some of those supported by the United States,” while the “Arabs sincerely believe that Israel poses a greater threat to their interests than does international Communism.” Lamenting against perceptions of the West in the region, the NSC document noted that the Arabs “believe that our concern over Near East petroleum as essential to the Western alliance, our desires to create indigenous strength [i.e., police-states, dictatorships, strong militaries] to resist Communist subversion or domination, our efforts to maintain existing military transit and base rights and deny them to the USSR, are a mere cover for a desire to divide and dominate the area.”
Unfortunately for the United States reputation, the NSC report stated, “[t]he continuing and necessary association of the United States in the Western European Alliance makes it impossible for us to avoid some identification with the powers which formerly had, and still have, ‘colonial’ interests in the area.” In other words, yes, the United States supports colonialism and imperialism in the Middle East. Further, “[t]he continuing conflict in Algeria excites the Arab world and there is no single Arab leader, no matter how pro-Western he may be on other issues, who is prepared to accept anything short of full Algerian independence as a solution to this problem,” and thus, this creates “fertile ground for Soviet and Arab nationalist distortion of the degree of U.S. and NATO moral and material support to the French in Algeria.” While the area is rife with “extremes of wealth and poverty,” the blame is put on “external factors” such as “colonialism” as well as “unfair arrangements with the oil-producing companies, and a desire on the part of the West to keep the Arab world relatively undeveloped so that it may ultimately become a source of raw materials and the primary market for Israeli industry.” The NSC document then stated that, “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area,” but that, “we must recognize that the use of military force might not preserve an adequate U.S. political position in the area and might even preserve Western access to Near East oil only with great difficulty.”
As an American objective in the region, the NSC document stated that, “[r]ather than attempting merely to preserve the status quo, [the United States should] seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” However, the report went on to essentially counter this point with the policy objective of seeking to “[p]rovide military aid to friendly countries to enhance their internal security and governmental stability,” or in other words, to maintain the status quo, and, “where necessary, to support U.S. plans for the defense of the area.” The document did, however, recommend that when a “pro-Western orientation is unattainable,” to “accept neutralist policies of states in the area even though such states maintain diplomatic, trade and cultural relations with the Soviet bloc… so long as these relations are reasonably balanced by relations with the West.” The United States should “provide assistance… to such states in order to develop local strength against Communist subversion and control and to reduce excessive military and economic dependence on the Soviet bloc.”
In dealing with the “threat” of Pan-Arab nationalism, the NSC report recommended that the United States should proclaim its “support for the ideal of Arab unity,” but to quietly “encourage a strengthening of the ties among Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq with a view to the ultimate federation of two or all of those states.” The aim of this would be to create a “counterbalance [to] Egypt’s preponderant position of leadership in the Arab world by helping increase the political prestige and economic strength of other more moderate Arab states such as Iraq, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.” In Syria, the aim was simply to seek “a pro-Western, or if this is not possible, a truly neutral government.” Further, it was essential to continue “friendly relations with King Saud and continue endeavors to persuade him to use his influence for objectives we seek within the Arab world.” Referencing the potential use of covert or overt warfare and regime change, the document stated that the United States had to “[b]e prepared, when required, to come forward, as was done in Iran [with the 1953 coup], with formulas designed to reconcile vital Free World interests in the area’s petroleum resources with the rising tide of nationalism in the area.”
The preceding was a research sample of a chapter on the American Empire in the Middle East in The People’s Book Project. This chapter was made possible through donations from readers like you through The People’s Grants. The new objective of The People’s Grants is to raise $1,600 to finance the development of two chapters on a radical history of race and poverty. If you find the following research informative, please consider donating to support The People’s Book Project.
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Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
 Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), pages 39-40.
 Ibid, page 41.
 Document 161, “Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and the Policy Planning Staff,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 5 December 1956.
 Document 178, “Operations Coordinating Board Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 22 December 1956.
 Ivan Pearson, “The Syrian Crisis of 1957, the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, and the 1958 Landings in Jordan and Lebanon,” Middle Eastern Studies (Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2007), pages 45-46.
 Ibid, pages 46-47.
 Document 266, “National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 8 October 1957.
[11 – 15] Ibid.
 Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 68-69.
 Douglas Little, “A Puppet in Search of a Puppeteer? The United States, King Hussein, and Jordan, 1953-1970,” The International History Review (Vol. 17, No. 3, August 1995), pages 512, 516-519.
 Ibid, pages 519-522.
 Ibid, pages 522-524.
 Ibid, pages 524-525.
 Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 69-71.
 Ibid, pages 71-73.
 Ibid, pages 73-74.
 Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), page 44.
 Document 5, “National Security Council Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 24 January 1958.
The U.S. Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil: “One of the Greatest Material Prizes in World History”
The U.S. Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil: “One of the Greatest Material Prizes in World History”
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
NOTE: The following is a research sample from The People’s Book Project. It is unedited and in draft format, but is intended as an excerpt of some of the research that is going into the book. This research sample is drawn from a recently written chapter on the history of American imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. Please support The People’s Book Project by contributing a donation to The People’s Grant to reach the target goal of $1,600 to fund two major chapters in the book on a radical history of race and poverty.
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In the midst of World War II, Saudi Arabia secured a position of enormous significance to the rising world power, America. With its oil reserves essentially untapped, the House of Saud became a strategic ally of immense importance, “a matter of national security, nourishing U.S. military might and enhancing the potentiality of postwar American hegemony.” Saudi Arabia welcomed the American interest as it sought to distance itself from its former imperial master, Britain, which it viewed with suspicion as the British established Hashemite kingdoms in the Middle East – the old rivals of the Saudis – in Jordan and Iraq.
The Saudi monarch, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al Saud had to contend not only with the reality of Arab nationalism spreading across the Arab world (something which he would have to rhetorically support to legitimate his rule, but strategically maneuver through in order to maintain his rule), but he would also play off the United States and Great Britain against one another to try to ensure a better deal for ‘the Kingdom’, and ensure that his rivals – the Hashemites – in Jordan and Iraq did not spread their influence across the region. Amir (King) Abdullah of Transjordan – the primary rival to the Saudi king – sought to establish a “Greater Syria” following World War II, which would include Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and not to mention, the Hejaz province in Saudi Arabia. The image and potential of a “Greater Syria” was central in the mind of King Abdul Aziz. The means through which the House of Saud would seek to prevent such a maneuver and protect the ‘Kingdom’ was to seek Western protection. As the United States had extensive oil interests in the Kingdom, it seemed a natural corollary that the United States government should become the ‘protector’ of Saudi Arabia, especially since the British, long the primary imperial hegemon of the region (with France a close second), had put in place the Hashemites in Transjordan and Iraq. For the Saudis, the British could not be trusted.
The Saudi King rose to power and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1927 and made formal ties with the United States in 1931. An oil concession was soon granted to the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil of California, and thereafter, large quantities of oil were discovered in the Kingdom, thus increasing the importance of the Saudi monarch. This was especially true during World War II, when access to and control over petroleum reserves were of the utmost importance in determining the course of the war. In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged as much when he signed Executive Order 8926, which stated that, “the defense of Saudi Arabia [is] vital to the defense of the United States.” United States Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, several months earlier, suggested to President Roosevelt that the United States be more involved in organizing oil concessions in Saudi Arabia not only for the war effort, but “to counteract certain known activities of a foreign power which presently are jeopardizing American interests in Arabian oil reserves.” That “foreign power” was Great Britain. In fact, there was immense distrust of British intentions in the Middle East, and specifically in Saudi Arabia, on the part of the State Department’s Division of Near East Affairs (NEA). A great deal of this tension and antagonism, however, emerged from Saudi diplomacy which sought to play off the two great powers against one another in the hopes of securing for itself a better deal.
Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary (and later Prime Minister), wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill in September of 1943 that, “our difficulty is to keep the Americans in line,” in relation to Saudi Arabia. As Roosevelt’s Executive Order categorized Saudi Arabia as “vital to the defense of the United States,” this allowed Saudi Arabia to qualify for the Lend-Lease program during the war, reducing Saudi dependency upon the British, and which included arms sales to the Kingdom. Following this event, British Foreign Office officials lamented, “We would not dream of entertaining a direct application for arms from a South American country for example, without at once consulting the American arms representative in London and deferring to his views.” This, of course, was a reference to Latin America in the context of the Monroe Doctrine – America’s “backyard” – and thus, was implying, that the Middle East was Britain’s “backyard.”
Adolf A. Berle, Roosevelt’s Assistant Secretary of State explained to the British the objective of American designs for the Middle East. As Simon Davis summarized, European imperial “spheres of influence were to give way to open political and economic circumstances in which Americans interests were not to be demarcated by other great powers.” In short, it was to be the demise of formal imperialism for the rise of informal empire, led by the United States. The “open political and economic circumstances” desired by American officials were in no small part influenced by petroleum concerns. Technical studies had been undertaken which pointed to the Middle East as the most oil-rich region in the world. At the time, Saudi Arabia was the only country in which American oil interests had established themselves prior to World War II. The British had actually approached the United States on behalf of the House of Saud in the early 1940s to secure funds for the Saudi government, as the British were stretched thin by the war in Europe. The United States had at first rejected the proposals, suggesting that Saudi Arabia was British responsibility. The American Minister in Cairo, Alexander Kirk, complained that such a move suggested to the Arab world that the United States was “resigning to the British all initiative in the Near East generally and in Saudi Arabia particularly.” The Saudis then approached American oil companies for support in 1942, who in turn approached the State Department’s Division of Near East Affairs, raising fears that leaving “responsibility” for the Near East and Saudi Arabia to the British would eventually mean a loss of oil concessions in Saudi Arabia to British interests. At the same time, Saudi officials were also quietly approaching the British to increase their interest in the Kingdom, suggesting that the Americans were attempting to maneuver the British out of the Near East. The Saudi Foreign Minister told a British official in December of 1942 that, “although [King Ibn Saud’s] relations with United States are friendly both in themselves and because United States is Britain’s ally… yet his relations with United States could never be so close and friendly as with His Majesty’s Government with whom he has so many interests in common.”
A deceptive diplomatic game between the United States, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia ensued. As the Americans shifted their interest in Saudi Arabia in 1943, Gordon Merriam, the assistant chief of the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs suggested in January of 1943 that the possibility of the British pushing their way into America’s oil concessions in the Kingdom after the war “has been very much on our minds.” Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote that, “It should be kept clearly in mind that the expansion of British facilities serves to build up their post-war position in the Middle East at the expense of American interests there.”
Britain, however, was not trying to exclude the United States, but to include it in an Anglo-American approach to the region. British Foreign Office documents stressed that the British were “by no means prepared to sacrifice a century of hard-earned political influence in the Middle East to their upstart American cousins,” however, the British sought to “coopt rather than preempt US interests.” Churchill even wrote to Roosevelt to stress “the fullest assurance that we have no thought of trying to horn in upon your interests and property in Saudi Arabia.” The British even acknowledged in their internal correspondence that, “it seems probably that sooner or later the United States will become the foreign power most concerned with Saudi Arabian affairs.” The aim of the British, then, was not to expand their influence at the expense of the Americans, but to maintain their influence as the U.S. increased its own.
In July of 1944, British diplomat Lord Halifax wrote to the United States, “We have made it perfectly plain that we have no wish to oppose increased American influence in Saudi Arabia so long as it does not seek to crowd us out. But it would be helpful if the Americans would realize that they cannot hope to achieve overnight quite the same position that we have built up over long years.” The United States was pressuring Britain to replace their representative in Saudi Arabia, S.R. Jordan, over State Department fears that Jordan was the primary British antagonist of expanding American influence in the Kingdom. Jordan was ironically, at that time, writing in cables to the British that, “Strategically, it would appear that we have little to fear from the presence of increasing US participation in Saudi Arabian affairs.” What became most frustrating to the British, however, was not the expansion of American power, but rather the perspective of Americans at the State Department (with fears stoked by the oil companies and Saudis) that the British were trying to keep the US out of Middle Eastern affairs. As the British Minister of State in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, observed, “I am afraid it is another of the many cases we have had in the Middle East where the local American idea of cooperation is that we should do all the giving and they all the taking.” As the British realized the Saudi role in creating these fears among the Americans, Moyne wrote, “It has subsequently turned out that the Finance Minister and the King’s Syrian advisers have been furnishing misleading figures and exploiting their position for political ends.”
In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a memo to the American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East in which he made clear: “The Middle East is an area in which the United States has a vital interest.” That interest, of course, was oil. Roosevelt made assurances that Middle Eastern oil belonged to the Western imperialist nations and not the Middle East itself, as he wrote that “the objective of the United States” in the Middle East “is to make certain that all nations are accorded equality of opportunity,” and that “special privileges… should not be afforded to any country or its nationals.” This was, of course, indirectly referring to France and especially Great Britain, the imperial hegemons of the Middle East. The “equality of opportunity” to exploit the resources of the Middle East was simply referring to the expansion of America’s “vital interest” in the region.
In 1945, the British were increasingly frustrated with the American approach to Middle East relations. Some internal documents from the British Foreign Office reflected the varied positions of their diplomats:
The Americans are commercially on the offensive… we shall enter a period of commercial rivalry, and we should not make any concession that would assist American commercial penetration into a region which for generations has been an established British market.
For some years the United States have been showing an increasing interest in the Middle East. They worried us by an obstructive and disapproving attitude, the basis and reason of which remained obscure… On the American side there is the lively conviction that the USA have the right to go where they wish and to the extent that they wish… But we, on our side, feel that the Americans, irrespectively of any suspicion on their part that we are trying to exclude them, are trying by means that seem to us both aggressive and unfair to build up a position for themselves at our expense, or at any rate without regard to our established interests.
It seemed, then, that both the Americans and the British feared and suspected each other of attempting the same thing: to increase their own influence in the region and decrease that of the other power. The Saudis, in the middle, were playing a game between two great powers in the hopes of securing their own interests. And they had good leverage which allowed them to play such a game: oil.
There was continuous reference to Britain’s apparent ‘right’ to the Middle East, drawing the comparison to the United States Monroe Doctrine (of 1823) declaring a U.S. ‘right’ to Latin America. As one British official wrote, “The U.S. hasn’t invited us to share her influence in Panama… we are entitled to our Monroe Doctrine in the Arab countries.”
In 1945, President Roosevelt held a formal meeting with the Saudi King aboard the USS Quincy. The issue of Palestine was an important one in discussions, and was viewed as a major challenge to the cause and potential of Arab nationalism across the Middle East. Roosevelt informed Aziz that the U.S. would make “no decision altering the basic situation of Palestine… without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews,” and that, “he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no hostile move to the Arab people.” Aziz, in the meeting, also stressed the issue of Syrian and Lebanese sovereignty, seeking to ensure they kept separate from a potential Hashemite “Greater Syria,” to which Roosevelt ensured that if Saudi sovereignty were ever under threat, the United States would undertake “all possible support short of the use of force.”
King Ibn Saud asked Roosevelt, inquiring on the future of Saudi-US ties, “What am I to believe when the British tell me that my future is with them and not with America? They constantly say, or imply, that America’s principal interest in Saudi Arabia is a transitory war-interest… and that America, after the war, will return to her preoccupations in the Western Hemisphere… and that Britain alone will continue as my partner in the future as in the early years of my reign.” To this, Roosevelt assured the King that the United States would maintain an interest and added that the America wanted freedom and prosperity for all, while the British wanted “freedom and prosperity” which was marked: “Made in Britain.” The King replied, “Never have I heard the English so accurately described.”
American interest in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East more broadly did not die with Roosevelt. His successor, Harry Truman, was just as eager to “open the door” to the Middle East. A 1945 memorandum to President Truman written by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. State Department, Gordon Merriam, stated: “In Saudi Arabia, where the oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history, a concession covering this oil is nominally in American control.” Adolf A. Berle, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisers, particularly in relation to the construction of the post-War world, years later remarked that controlling the oil reserves of the Middle East would mean obtaining “substantial control of the world.”
For King Abdul Aziz, his main concerns continued to be focused on his rivals, the Hashemites, and the possibility of “Greater Syria.” This naturally increased his interest in promoting the Palestinian cause of self-determination, and thus also put him at odds with the United States on issues related to Palestine. Abdul Aziz had spoken out against policies in Palestine, and was increasingly framing himself as the leader of the Arab world. The rivalry between the Arab kingdoms of Transjordan and Iraq on one side, and Saudi Arabia on the other, prevented the Arabs from uniting on the issue of Palestine. The American Minister to Saudi Arabia, James Rives Childs, warned that, “Unless we proceed with the utmost circumspection in considering all phases of the possible repercussions of the Palestinian question… we may raise difficulties for ourselves in this most strategic area of vital national interest which will plague the United States constantly in years to come.” However, while King Abdul spoke out publicly against Western interference in Palestine, he privately informed American officials that he intended “never to let Palestine interfere with his relations with the United States… I’m talking big because everyone else is… it seems to be the most effective course.”
King Abdul was increasingly worried about the British possibly supporting Jordan’s King Abdullah in his plan for a “Greater Syria” as they sought to end the British Mandate in Palestine and find a new alternative to the “Palestinian question.” Between 1946 and 1947, Saudi princes relayed the King’s concern to President Truman that there existed a British conspiracy with the Hashemites to depose him and destroy the Saudi dynasty. The State Department informed the Saudis that the United States had no information “which would cause it to believe that the British government was giving support to any scheme for the extension of British influence in the Middle East through the establishment of a Greater Syria.” Abdul Aziz was not convinced, and felt “that the development of strong economic ties with the United States offers the greatest possible available insurance from invasion.” As the British handed the Palestine Mandate to the United Nations in 1947, the Saudi King relayed to the United States that the question of Palestine, and thus ‘Greater Syria,’ was “the only thorn in Saudi-American relations.” However, as the United Nations partitioned Palestine, despite Saudi protests against the United States on the issue, King Abdul Aziz wrote:
I occupy a position of preeminence in the Arab world. In the case of Palestine, I have to make a common cause with the other Arab states. Although the other Arab states may bring pressure to bear on me, I do not anticipate that a situation will arise whereby I shall be drawn into conflict with friendly western powers over this question.
In 1948, after a great deal of diplomatic back-and-forth on the Palestine issue, the Arab states invaded after months of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population by militant Zionists in the British Mandate. Saudi Arabia, together with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and even Jordan and Iraq, invaded Palestine immediately after the Zionists declared the State of Israel in May of 1948. However, as the Arabs were distrustful of one another, their incursion was doomed to failure, and they grossly underestimated the military strength of the Zionists, which was built up under the British Mandate.
The United States took a stated position of neutrality amid the conflict, in order to prevent upsetting its relations with the Arab world, which already were so damaged as a result of recognizing the state of Israel, an act which had created immense protest and condemnation from the State Department. In January of 1949, a cease-fire was signed between Israel and Egypt, and Israel emerged the obvious victor in the 1948-49 war. Thereafter, the United States lifted its arms embargo to the Middle East to provide the Saudis with military aid. The United States had emerged from the birth of Israel with a deeply scarred image in the Arab world, and with that, increased fear over Soviet expansion into the area led the U.S. to conclude that it had to support “strong men” in the region, such as Abdul Aziz. In 1949, a U.S. survey mission was sent to Saudi Arabia to examine the potential for building up a strong Saudi military force. King Abdul desired “a military force equal to or greater than the forces [of] Jordan and Iraq.” The U.S. mission recommended “the training and equipping of a Saudi defensive force totaling 43,000 officers and men, composed of 28,000 combat troops and 15,000 Air Force support and logistic personnel.” Thus, a strong Saudi-American relationship was established as one of the main outposts of U.S. influence in the Middle East, control over oil, and containment of the Soviet Union.
The aim, as articulated by State Department strategists, was to maintain “substantial control of the world” through control of Middle Eastern oil: “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” In a 1948 State Department Policy Planning Paper written by George Kennan – the architect of the ‘containment’ policy toward the USSR – it was explained that following World War II, America held 50% of the world’s wealth, yet had only 6.3% of the world’s population, a “disparity [which] is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia,” thus, destined to create “envy and resentment.” The real task for America, then, wrote Kennan:
is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.
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Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
 Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), page 257.
 Ibid, pages 257-258.
 Ibid, pages 259-260.
 Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), page 253.
 Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), page 96.
 Ibid, page 97.
 Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), pages 254-255.
 Ibid, page 256.
 Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), pages 97-98.
 Barry Rubin, “Anglo-American Relations in Saudi Arabia, 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1979), pages 257-258.
 Ibid, pages 260-261.
 Letter from President Roosevelt to James M. Landis, American Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East, Concerning the Vital Interest of the United States in the Middle East, Foreign Relations of the United States, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, 6 March 1944.
 Amikam Nachmani, “‘It’s a Matter of Getting the Mixture Right’: Britain’s Post-War Relations with America in the Middle East,” Journal of Contemporary History (Vol. 18, No. 1, January 1983), pages 120-121.
 Ibid, page 117.
 Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), pages 260-261.
 Simon Davis, “Keeping the Americans in Line? Britain, the United States and Saudi Arabia, 1939-45: Inter-Allied Rivalry in the Middle East Revisited,” Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 8, No. 1, 1997), pages 125-126.
 Report by the Coordinating Committee of the Department of State, “Draft Memorandum to President Truman,” Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Near East and Africa, Vol. 8, 1945, page 45.
 Lloyd C. Gardner, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II (The New Press, 2009), page 96; Noam Chomsky, “Is the World Too Big to Fail?” Salon, 21 April 2011: http://www.salon.com/2011/04/21/global_empire_united_states_iraq_noam_chomsky/
 Maurice Jr. Labelle, “‘The Only Thorn’: Early Saudi-American Relations and the Question of Palestine, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2011), pages 264-265.
 Ibid, pages 266-268.
 Ibid, page 270.
 Ibid, pages 274-279.
 George F. Kennan, “Review of Current Trends U.S. Foreign Policy,” Report by the Policy Planning Staff, 24 February 1948.
Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire
Global Research, October 5, 2010
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his least known and ultimately one of his most important speeches ever, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he spoke out against the American war in Vietnam and against American empire in all its political, military and economic forms. In his speech, King endorsed the notion that America “was on the wrong side of a world revolution.” Dr. King explained:
This is the nature of war of today: during King’s time, the pretext for war was to stop the spread of Communism; today, it’s done in the name of stopping the spread of terrorism. Terror has since time immemorial been a tactic used by states and governments to control populations. Al-Qaeda is no exception, as it was created and continues to largely function as a geopolitical extension of the covert apparatus of American empire. In short, al-Qaeda is an arm of the covert world of American intelligence agencies. In particular, the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], US Special Forces, and multinational mercenary companies such as Blackwater [now Xe Services]. Where they go, al-Qaeda goes; where al-Qaeda goes, they accumulate; where they lay the groundwork, the American empire stands behind.
Yemen is perhaps an excellent example of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution,” as the secret war in Yemen being exacerbated in the name of “fighting al-Qaeda” is in actuality, about the expansion and supremacy of American power in the region. It is about the suppression of natural democratic, local, revolutionary elements throughout the country seeking self-autonomy in changing the nation from its current despotic, authoritarian rule sympathetic to American interests, into a nation of their own choosing. It is about repressing struggles for liberation.
This brings in the involvement of Saudi Arabia, itself interested in ensuring Yemen is a loyal neighbour; so they too must suppress indigenous movements within Yemen seeking autonomy, especially those that are Shi’a Muslims, as the Saudi state is a strict Wahhabist Sunni Muslim regime. Shi’as are primarily represented in the region through the state of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s “natural” enemy; both vying for influence in Iraq and both vying for influence in Yemen. Through this we see another key American imperial aim in this war, that of seeking to stir up a conflict with Iran, perhaps through a proxy-war within Yemen, or perhaps in hopes that the proxy war would expand into a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, naturally drawing in Israel, Egypt and the United States. Finally, we have the strategic location of Yemen to consider, bridging one of the largest oil transport routes in the world, parallel to Somalia and the Horn of Africa (where America is waging another war, again on the “wrong side of a world revolution”).
Just as American geopolitical strategists had chosen to favour Tutsis over Hutus in Central Africa in an effort to expand the American presence and business interests in the region; so too have American strategists chosen to favour a brand of radical Sunni Islam over the Shi’a or moderate Sunnis, and thus they support oppressive Sunni governments (such as Saudi Arabia), and denounce Shi’a governments as oppressive (such as Iran). Not to say that there is no oppression within Iran (there is oppression within all states everywhere in the world, Iran is no exception), but compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran is a bastion of freedom. Al-Qaeda is manifestly a significant facet of the pro-Wahhabist fundamentalist Sunni strategy of American imperialists. If they finance, train and arm the Sunni rebels or send in already-trained, armed and well-funded terrorists (commonly known as ‘al-Qaeda’ – the “database”), then they create a counter to any other domestic opposition or regional Shi’a dominance.
This essay examines the American war in Yemen as a war of empire, as a war against the rising tide of people’s movements and the “global political awakening” that is taking place around the world.
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Art of Empire
To understand the current conflict in Yemen, as with all conflicts, we must go to history. To simply cast the conflict aside in the light of “fighting al-Qaeda” is a gross misrepresentation. Yemen’s history is deeply entwined with that of Arab nationalist politics in the Middle East, adding to that a balance of imperial power in the region.
The location of modern Yemen is vital in the notion of Yemen’s significance to imperial powers. Millennia ago, a settled civilization was established in the fertile south-west region of Arabia, and was “comprised by the kingdoms of Ma’in, Saba, and Himyar.” These kingdoms “were significant in the broader history of the Middle East, in part because of the long-distance trade links to India and the states at the top of the Red Sea.” When Islam arose:
When the Ottomans left in 1918, following their defeat in World War I, Zeidi Imam took over North Yemen, which was run by the Imams, while South Yemen was controlled by the British. From the late eighteenth century, the British being the dominant power in the Arabian Peninsula, “sought to protect its imperial communications by entering into a series of treaties with the ruling shaykhs of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and by bringing the strategic southern tip of the peninsula under direct British control as the Aden Protectorate [South Yemen].”
Various families competed for power in Arabia, with Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa’ud emerging victorious when in 1924 he exiled the previously imposed leader (supported by the British, but highly unpopular), Sharif Husayn. Britain quickly negotiated an agreement with Ibn Sa’ud in 1927, called the Treaty of Jeddah, which “recognized Ibn Sa’ud as the sovereign king of the Hijaz and sultan of Najd and its dependencies; he, in turn, acknowledged Britain’s special relationships with the coastal rulers [of the Arabian Peninsula] and pledged to respect their domains.” In 1932, the state became known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Following World War II, the United States became the single greatest superpower and it overtook the colonial possessions of the old European empires that collapsed prior to, during, and following World War II. In the Middle East:
The Imams in North Yemen had begun laying claim to all of “natural Yemen,” directly challenging British rule in the south. In the 1940s, “there began to develop political oppositions, to both the Imams in the North and the British in the South.” The “Free Yemeni” movement in the North staged a failed coup in 1948 to free the North from the authoritarian rule of the Imams.
Egypt saw the most significant upheavals in the immediate post-War years. In 1952, a group of junior military officers in the Egyptian Army orchestrated a bloodless coup in which they overthrew the Egyptian Monarchy and Colonel Abd al-Nasser took power, forming the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The RCC’s primary political rival in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood, so when an assassination attempt on Nasser took place in 1954, the RCC outlawed the Brotherhood, arrested thousands of its members and executed several of its leaders. Nasser was not only the primary progenitor of nationalism in the region, but he was considered the exalted leader of the pan-Arab movement for unity.
Nasser set up a Soviet arms deal in 1955, in which Egypt exchanged cotton for Soviet military equipment, which dealt Nasser an impressive propaganda effect among Arab peoples who saw it as a rebuff of the Anglo-American grip on Egypt. Nasser, meanwhile, had been attempting to construct a dam at Aswan, and sought funds to do so from the World Bank in 1955. The World Bank approved a loan package (designed by the British and Americans), which would have required Egypt to accept particular conditions of the loan. Nasser had not made a decision on the package, when, in July of 1956, America announced it was withdrawing the offer.
On July 26, 1956, days following the loan withdrawal, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, giving Nasser incredible support across the Muslim and Arab worlds, as the Canal, “built with Egyptian labour but operated by a French company and used as the lifeline of the British Empire, had stood as a symbol of Western exploitation.” On October 29, 1956, Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and a UN-sponsored cease-fire was signed by Britain and France on November 6, following the condemnation of the attack by both the USSR and America. The Suez Crisis, an Egyptian military defeat, had become a political success for Nasser.
In Yemen, the struggle of the Free Yemenis in the North waged on against both the rule of the Imams in the North and the British in the South. The Free Yemenis were largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt initially, but changed the rhetoric as the 1950s changed the dynamic of politics in the region, with the rise of Arab nationalism, and thus, “the predominant politics of the oppositions in North and South was nationalistic, involving support not only for the general goal of ‘Arab unity’ but also for ‘Yemeni’ unity.” Following the failed coup in 1948, the opposition in the North was split between intellectuals and groups of officers. In 1962, the officers overthrew the Imams and proclaimed the “Yemen Arab Republic.”
When this took place in the North, opposition spread to the countryside in the South where a guerilla movement developed. Between 1963 and 1967, the guerilla movement became a powerful force competing for power in Aden and the countryside, and was split into two: a Nasser-influenced group and a more radical Marxist “National Liberation Front” (NLF). Nasser inserted himself into the Yemeni civil war in 1962. The deposed Imam of Yemen had escaped to the mountains and rallied tribesmen to his cause, with significant support from powerful regional monarchs (and staunch American allies), Saudi Arabia and Jordan. So the new Yemeni regime turned to Nasser for assistance, and by 1965, close to 70,000 Egyptian troops were in Yemen fighting for the military regime in power. After several years of fighting rebels and traversing harsh terrain, Egypt withdrew in 1968.
During the civil war, the British were still holding onto their protectorate in the South, and were still very much politically bruised by Nasser since the Suez Crisis. Thus, the British “devised a scheme with Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, to aid the anti-Nasser forces in Yemen by supplying them with arms and financial help.” This effort was aided by the CIA, as well as Saudi intelligence and the Iranian SAVAK. Throughout the 1960s, the United States rapidly accelerated a program of military support for Saudi Arabia, which included a $400 million Anglo-American air defense program, military bases, infrastructure, “and a $100 million U.S. program to supply Saudi Arabia with trucks and military transport vehicles.” The aim was to weaken Egypt and Nasser through a civil war in Yemen, with each side using various groups for their own geopolitical ambitions.
In 1967, the National Liberation Front (NLF) came to power in South Yemen, as the British left, and South Yemen became an independent state. Subsequently, North and South Yemen supported opposition movements within each other’s territory. In 1972, the two sides briefly went to war with one another, when the North attempted to conquer the South with Saudi and Libyan support. While Yemen’s civil war had seen Yemen divided among itself, it had also become a regional conflict between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, when the radical Marxist NLF government came to power in South Yemen in 1967, the NLF had “pledged its support for the overthrow of all the traditional monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula”:
The situation Saudi Arabia faced to its south created an impetus for the acceleration and growth of the Saudi armed forces. Thus, in the 1970s, “the Saudis allocated between 35 and 40 percent of their total annual revenues to defense and security expenditures.” In 1970, the defense budget had increased to $2 billion; by 1976 it was $36 billion.
In North Yemen, the radical left fought a guerilla war against the government from 1978 until 1982, with support from South Yemen. This movement in the North “saw itself as the vanguard of a mass movement that would bring about unity through overthrowing the military and tribal forces dominating the country.” The North Yemen government was not centralized, and so lacked a strong measure of legitimacy. During the 1970s, the President “promoted closer ties with the South as part of an attempt to strengthen the central government.” Throughout the 1980s, closer ties between the two nations were sought, and “unity” committees were established, but with little if any success. Not until the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1989-1990 was progress on unity made, when “the internal weaknesses of both regimes led them to agree to enter a provisional unification,” which occurred in May 1990.
Each state thought that they could exploit the process of unification to exert their own authority over the other region. Thus, unity was “not a policy aimed at fusion but an instrument for inter-regime competition.” The North, in particular, “believed it could impose its will on the South,” following the 1993 elections and through the process of misleading negotiations. Eventually, this goal started to be realized, and “Yemeni unity was thus achieved by the successful imposition of the Northern regime’s power on the South, in alliance with both Islamists in the North, and with dissident exiles from the South.”
However, these disagreements and problems “led to a de facto split in the country in early 1994, followed at the end of April by an outright Northern attack on the South. On 7 July 1994 Northern forces entered Aden, thus effectively unifying the country under one regime for the first time in several centuries.”
Operation Scorched Earth
During the 1994 civil war in Yemen, the North was aided in its war against the south by Wahhabist Sunni rebels (practicing the strict branch of Islam common to Saudi Arabia as well as al-Qaeda). Following the war and the success of the North, the government had granted the Wahhabis a stronger voice in the government. This is a major complaint of the Zaydis, a Shi’a branch of Islam. The Zaydis had Saada as their main stronghold in the North, but were driven from power in the 1962 revolution, left to a region that remained undeveloped. Saudi Arabia drew increasingly worried about having a rebellious group of Shi’a Islam fighters (the Houthi) so close to their border, with the potential to stir up groups within Saudi Arabia itself.
In 2004, the Yemen government tried to arrest the leader, Hussein al-Houthi, a Zaydi religious leader, which sparked fighting and the leader was subsequently killed in an air strike, leaving the movement to be run by his brothers. In 2004, between 500-1000 people were killed in the fighting. In 2005, the fighting continued, and an estimated 1,500 people were killed. Fighting broke out again in 2007 between the government and the rebels, in which hundreds of people were killed. In 2008, a Shi’a mosque was bombed during prayer in the Northern stronghold of Saada, with the Yemen government blaming the Shi’a rebels, who both denied responsibility and denounced the attack. This spurred on further clashes between the government and the rebels, so that by late 2008, since the outbreak of fighting in 2004, between 3,700 and 5,500 “militants and civilians” had been killed in the fighting.
In June of 2009, nine foreigners were kidnapped while having a picnic in Saada, “the bodies of three of them, a South Korean teacher and two German nurses were discovered. Five Germans, including three children and a Briton, are still missing and their status is unknown.” It was never determined who was behind the kidnappings and murders, but the government blamed the Houthi rebels. The Houthis in turn blamed drug cartels in the region for the murders. Yemen was faced simultaneously with a secessionist movement in both the North and the South, and was reportedly facing a “greater threat from al-Qaeda,” which had been a “growing concern” of the United States. In July of 2009, Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, “and an accompanying delegation, flew to Yemen and met with [President] Saleh,” at which one of the topics of discussion was “how to better combat terrorism.” In August of 2009, Yemen launched a military offensive against Houthi rebels in the North.
This was Operation Scorched Earth, launched by the Yemen military on August 11, 2009. Troops, tanks and fighter aircraft were used in this Yemeni blitzkrieg against the Houthi and Zaydi in the North, with the President vowing to crack down with an “iron fist.”
This led to a refugee crisis in which, by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict. In November, the rebels had a border fight with Saudi Arabia, killing a Saudi officer and injuring several others. Saudi Arabian “warplanes and artillery bombarded a Shiite rebel stronghold,” and Saudi Arabia and Yemen were “cooperating and sharing intelligence in the fight.” Moroccan special forces trained in guerilla warfare were accompanying Saudi soldiers, and Morocco cut off relations with Iran, which was being accused of arming the Houthi rebels. Jordan also reportedly sent 2,000 of its own special forces to help Saudi Arabia.
The American Empire in the Gulf of Aden and Africa
What is America’s particular interest in Yemen, and more broadly, in the region that encompasses the Gulf of Aden, over which Yemen rests at the pinnacle? The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, with Yemen positioned directly across the water from Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The Gulf of Aden is a vital transport route for the shipment of Persian Gulf oil, forming “an essential oil transport route between Europe and the Far East.” Clearly, control of the major oil transport routes is a key strategic imperative of any global power; in this case, America. Yemen, situated beneath Saudi Arabia, positions itself as even more significant to American strategic initiatives, in securing their interests in the world’s most oil-rich nation and key US ally. An American-friendly government in Yemen is a Saudi-friendly government.
Another key facet of American imperial strategy in the Gulf of Aden and Yemen regards the American imperial strategy in Africa. In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the main policy-planning group of the US elite, published a Task Force Report on US strategy in Africa called, “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.” In the report, it was stated that:
The report stated that, “The United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa,” identifying India and primarily China as its main competitors “in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent.” In particular, “China presents a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests.”
Further, “To compete more effectively with China, the United States must provide more encouragement and support to well-performing African states, develop innovative means for U.S. companies to compete, give high-level attention to Africa, and engage China on those practices that conflict with U.S. interests.” In analyzing how the War on Terror had been brought to Africa, the report stated:
As the Guardian reported in June of 2005, “a new ‘scramble for Africa’ is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.” A key facet of this is that “corporations from the US, France, Britain and China are competing to profit from the rulers of often chaotic and corrupt regimes.” In May of 2006, the Washington Post reported that in Somalia, the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”
In December of 2006, Ethiopia, heavily backed and supported by the US, invaded and occupied Somalia, ousting the Islamist government. The US support for the operations was based upon the claims of Somalia being a breeding ground for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. However, this was has now turned into an insurgency. Wired Magazine reported in December of 2008 that, “for several years the U.S. military has fought a covert war in Somalia, using gunships, drones and Special Forces to break up suspected terror networks – and enlisting Ethiopia’s aid in propping up a pro-U.S. ‘transitional’ government.” Again, another case of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution.”
The Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia for a couple years, and in January of 2009, the last Ethiopian troops left the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2007, the UN authorized an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In March of 2007, Ugandan military officials landed in Somalia. Essentially, what this has done is that the more overt Ethiopian occupation of Somalia has been replaced with a UN-mandated African Union occupation of the country, in which Ugandan troops make up the majority. Since Uganda is a proxy military state for the US in the region, the more overt US supported Ethiopian troops have been replaced by a more covert US-supported Ugandan contingent.
In 2007, Newsweek reported that, “America is quietly expanding its fight against terror on the African front. Two years ago the United States set up the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership with nine countries in central and western Africa. There is no permanent presence, but the hope is to generate support and suppress radicalism by both sharing U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID, including well building and vocational training.” The Pentagon announced the formation of a new military strategic command called “Africom” (Africa Command), which “will integrate existing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian programs into a single strategic vision for Africa, bring more attention to long-ignored American intelligence-gathering and energy concerns on the continent, and elevate African interests to the same level of importance as those of Asia and the Middle East.”
The article gave brief mention to critics, saying that, “not surprisingly, the establishment of a major American base in Africa is inspiring new criticism from European and African critics of U.S. imperial overreach.” Some claim it represents a “militarization of U.S. Africa policy,” which is not a stretch of the imagination, as the article pointed out, “the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there.” The article continued:
Ever since the 2007 US-supported air strikes and invasion of Somalia, piracy has been a significant issue in the waters off of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. In 2009, several major nations, including America, Britain and China, sent navy ships into Somali waters to combat the pirates who were negatively impacting trade through the region. As Johann Hari explained in the Independent:
In 2009, an American Navy commander suggested that the Somali pirates were in receivership of not only a great amount of sympathy from Yemeni people (while the government would help combat the piracy), but that “private citizens in Yemen are selling weapons, fuel and supplies to Somali pirates. And maritime experts worry that pirates are increasingly able to find refuge along Yemen’s vast coast.” Some Yemeni officials “suggest the extensive international attention to piracy is just a pretext for big powers like the U.S. to gain control of the Gulf of Aden, a waterway through which millions of barrels of oil pass every day.” One member of the Yemeni Parliament suggested that, “Western powers are allowing piracy to continue as a way to serve their own interests.”
Al-Qaeda in Yemen
The current war in Yemen and US support for it is predicated on the basis of aiding Yemen in the fight against al-Qaeda. Said Ali al-Shihri was arrested by the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan, and was promptly taken to Guantanamo Bay. The Americans released him into Saudi custody in 2007, and he “passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In other words, the US handed him over to Saudi Arabia, who enrolled him in a program for ‘former jihadists’, and then he became the second in command in Al-Qaeda in Yemen. As one American intelligence official stated, “he returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.” One Saudi security official had reported (on condition of anonymity) that, “Mr. Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia [in 2008] after finishing the rehabilitation program.”
In June of 2009, US officials were reporting that Al-Qaeda fighters were leaving Pakistan to go fight in Somalia and Yemen. The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House reported that Al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia were “communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions.” The CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said that, “the United States must prevent Al Qaeda from creating a new sanctuary in Yemen or Somalia.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Brookings Institution, a major US policy think tank, “I am very worried about growing safe havens in both Somalia and Yemen, specifically because we have seen Al Qaeda leadership, some leaders, start to flow to Yemen.” So the American national security establishment had refocused its efforts on Yemen. War seemed inevitable.
In the 1980s, millions of Yemeni men had worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sending remittances back home to Yemen. In 1991, in the lead-up to the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia viewed these migrant workers as a potential security threat, so they expelled 800,000 Yemeni workers back to Yemen, and henceforth, Yemeni labour was banned in Saudi Arabia. Saudi financed Wahhabi madrasas sprung up across Yemen, providing a place for the disenchanted and unemployed Yemeni Sunni population to find an outlet for their political and economic dislocation. President Saleh of Yemen had often used Yemeni Wahhabis “to fight his domestic opponents – first the communists, then the Zaidis, and then the H[o]uthis.”
In August of 2009, as the Saudi assault on the Houthi rebels in the North was underway, a Houthi leader and brother to the slain former leader, Yahya al-Houthi, spoke to a Middle Eastern news agency. He was a former Yemeni Member of Parliament, who had fled to Libya, and subsequently sought political asylum in Germany. He told Press TV:
In other words, according to al-Houthi, Yemen (along with Saudi Arabia) are directly supporting the al-Qaeda contingent in Yemen in an effort to sow chaos (thus providing a pretext for the military assault), as well as aiding in the fight against the Houthis. In October, as the fighting raged on, it was reported that the Yemeni governor in the northern province had “signed a deal” with al-Qaeda, in which the government “would provide the militants with arms, budget and other military requirements to assist the Yemeni army against the Shia fighters.” Saudi Arabia remains, as it did throughout the entire history of the movement (since the 1980s), as the principle financier of al-Qaeda.
In fact, in 2009, it was revealed that members of the Saudi royal family directly provide “extensive financial support for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.” The documents were revealed in a court case in which families of victims of the September 11th attacks were seeking to bring legal action against the Saudis for their financial support. The documents were leaked to their lawyers, and the US Justice Department stepped in (on behalf of the Saudis), and “had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.” Clearly, al-Qaeda is not an organization autonomous of Saudi financing.
The Southern Secessionist Movement
Apart from simply the Houthis, the Saleh dictatorship seeks to suppress a Southern Yemeni secessionist movement seeking autonomy and liberation against the illegitimate central government. Since 2007, “southern Yemenis have been staging mass protests calling for reinstatement of southerners dismissed from the civil service and army, higher pensions, a fairer share of the country’s dwindling national wealth, and an end to corruption.” The protests were met with “severe repression by the security services, which seemed to only spur on the demand for secession by the south, where most of the country’s oil is located.” One Yemeni analyst stated that, “If there is one thing that will break the country, it’s going to be the southern secession.” One southern secessionist activist stated that Saleh’s government was using the pretext of al-Qaeda and it’s war on terror “for the liquidation of the southern movement,” and that, “the southern movement is trying to continue the peaceful struggle. But the powers in Yemen have used excessive violence against peaceful protests.” The government, for its part, has attempted to propagate the baseless claim that the southern secessionists have links with al-Qaeda.
Interestingly, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, in a recorded statement, “declared support for the Southern Movement, but Southern leaders have thus far rejected his endorsement.” In an interview with France24, former South Yemen President, Ali Salem al-Beidh, explained that, “We have nothing to do with al Qaeda, we have never been in contact with this organization. Our movement rejects terrorism, which in contrast thrives in the north of the country. President Ali Abdallah Saleh uses al Qaeda to scare westerners and the United States.” Saleh’s government has committed several human rights abuses against the movement in the South, unlawfully and unjustly killing innocents during protests, with the military surrounding peaceful protests and opening fire.
The “rapidly spreading” protest movement in the South, explained the New York Times, “now threatens to turn into a violent insurgency if its demands are not met.” While the leaders of the movement favour peaceful protest, the government’s violent repression has made it so that “their ability to control younger and more violent supporters is fraying.” One southern leader stated, “We demand an independent southern republic, and we have the right to defend ourselves if they continue to kill us and imprison us.” Again refuting claims that the movement is tried to al-Qaeda, the leaders “say that they stand for law, tolerance and democracy, and that it is the north that has a history of using jihadists as proxy warriors.” A major problem arises within the Southern movement in that it remains deeply divided, with no clear singular leadership, drawing from an array of people, from socialists to Islamists, “with wildly different goals and unresolved disputes.”
The Underwear Bomber
On December 25, 2009, a 23-year old Nigerian-born man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, when he tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. This incident, still shrouded in mystery, provided the excuse for American involvement in the conflict in Yemen, as it was reported that Farouk had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the newly-formed Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda group.
However, how Farouk managed to get on the plane, let alone past security with explosives on his person, is still an important question. After all, America knew about Farouk for up to two years prior to the incident, and even had him “on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization.” Britain’s MI5 knew three years prior to the incident that Umar had connections with Islamic extremists in Britain. Umar’s father, a former Nigerian government minister and successful banker, had even warned the US Embassy in Nigeria of his son’s extremist beliefs. Umar even had a US entry visa, and when the State Department stepped in to have his visa revoked, “intelligence officials asked [the State Department] not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.”
Suddenly, there was a flurry of reports from “respected” newspapers (such as the Washington Post and New York Times propaganda rags), that this “failure” of following through with the intelligence that was available on Umar meant that a review of security was needed, both in terms of possibly expanding the “watch lists” and in terms of expanding airport security, and proposing the use of body-scanners. Several politicians and news-rags were also calling for expanded military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Interestingly, there were several reports of eyewitnesses on board the plane who contradict the official account of Umar’s attempted terrorist act. An attorney on board the plane said that, “he saw another man come to the assistance of accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when he tried to board the airplane in Amsterdam without a passport.” The attorney and his wife had both seen this incident. The wife, also a lawyer, stated, “My husband noticed two men walk up to the ticket counter lady. The only reason he noticed them is that he thought they were really a mismatched pair.” She said that Umar “wore older, scraggly clothing, but the man who was assisting him, who appeared to be of Indian descent, was dressed in what looked like an expensive suit and shoes.” She recounted that the well-dressed man had told the ticket agent, “We need to get this man on the plane,” and that, “He doesn’t have a passport.” The ticket agent responded that no one was allowed to board the plane without a passport, to which the Indian man replied, “We do this all the time; he’s from Sudan.” Yet no further information has come forward about this mysterious ‘second man’ who helped Umar board the plane. Nevertheless, the propaganda of this attempted terrorist ‘attack’ had taken effect, as people were again afraid of the menace of “Islamic terror” and “al-Qaeda,” and the U.S. got the pretext to justify its intervention in Yemen.
American Imperialism in Yemen
While the ‘Underwear Bomber’ was used as a propaganda vehicle for supporting direct US military intervention in Yemen, covert US military involvement in Yemen had already been underway for some time (as well as British). In 2002, a mere six months following 9/11, President Bush authorized the deployment of 100 US troop to Yemen “to help train that nation’s military to fight terrorists.” The troops “would consist predominantly of Special Forces, but could also include intelligence experts and other specialists. The main target would be Al Qaeda fighters who are hiding in Yemen.” In September of 2002, it was reported that the United States was deploying Special Forces and CIA agents into the Horn of Africa in an effort to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen, and “800 US special forces have been moved to Djibouti, which faces Yemen.” In November of 2002, a CIA Predator drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAV) launched an attack on an al-Qaeda target within Yemen, killing six suspected al-Qaeda members, one of whom was an American citizen.
Prior to the ‘Underwear Bomber’ (as he has come to be known), the conflict in Yemen was primarily viewed as a civil war, and then with the participation of Saudi Arabia, as a regional Arab conflict. In September of 2009, it was reported that while the Yemeni government attempted to subdue a rebel Shi’a army in the north (Houthi), a refugee crisis was emerging, and a wider conflict was erupting, which could “suck the US into another sensitive conflict zone.” Many observed that if the US manages to stay out of the war, “the conflict might be subsumed in a regional war by proxy,” as in, through Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, further, was accusing Iran of supporting the Shi’a rebels in northern Yemen, with both money and arms, but Saudi Arabia “has produced no hard evidence.” From the time the Saudi assault on northern Yemen began in August of 2009, between 25,000 and 100,000 Yemeni refugees were displaced. One top official with the World Food Program (WFP) stated that, “We’re not confronted with a humanitarian crisis, it’s becoming a humanitarian tragedy.”
A member of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said, “that the United States might be forced to intervene as the security situation worsened to prevent Yemen becoming a ‘failed state’.” Further, “the country has been used as an al-Qaeda base before, and its strategic location between the oil supply routes of the Gulf and the piracy haven of Somalia means its stability is regarded as a key western interest.” Thus, said the ICG analyst, “You might well see American advisers, maybe even some special troops, go in for special operations.” President Obama declared in September of 2009 that, “the security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States.”
In November of 2009, it was reported that a “delegation of military officers from Yemen arrived in the United States recently” for training, of which the purpose “was to familiarize the Yemeni military officers with formal training programs currently in use by the United States Marine Corps. Support to Yemeni military officer training is likely to increase the effectiveness of [Yemen’s] military force.” On December 13, 2009, (less than two weeks prior to the “Underwear Bomber” incident), it was reported that, “US special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda.”
It would appear, then, that the “Underwear Bomber” incident arrived just in time for the United States to have an excuse to expand its war in the region. Without the propagandized attempted terrorist attack, the American public would not readily accept America’s entry into yet another war. Questions might be asked about the nature of the war, such as the US supporting the government of Yemen in its suppression and oppression of its own people and the autonomous movements developing within Yemen seeking change. Whereas with a terrorist attack (or attempted, rather), and the convenient link to al-Qaeda, which suddenly was reported to be heavily represented in Yemen, Americans see their involvement in Yemen as a war against al-Qaeda, and a necessary one at that.
Two days after the “Underwear Bomber” incident took place, the New York Times reported that, “in the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In 2008, “the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country,” and simultaneously, “some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.” Further:
It was even reported that the US had been providing both intelligence and “fire power” to Yemen in its air strikes against “suspected al-Qaeda targets” throughout December, prior to the “Underwear Bomber.” The New York Times did its part to propagandize the al-Qaeda issue by stating that, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has rapidly evolved into an expanding and ambitious regional terrorist network thanks in part to a weakened, impoverished and distracted Yemeni government.” Naturally, the British were not far behind in supporting an imperialist campaign to crush indigenous movements for autonomy, directed against western-supported dictators. After all, the British have been doing this for centuries. Roughly one week following the attempted Detroit plane bomber story broke, it was reported that the UK sent counter-terrorist forces to Yemen, where they will train the Yemeni military “and will assist in planning operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The British media referred to Yemen as “the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden,” and had revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that:
There further seems to be an effort to not only use al-Qaeda to advance US interests in the region, but also to draw a link to Iran, so as to further demonize Iran and even draw it into a regional war.
Pushing for a Proxy War With Iran
Government officials in Yemen had been declaring that the greatest threat to Yemen’s security comes not from al-Qaeda, but Iran, as they blame Iran “for fermenting the Shia rebellion,” and the chairman of Yemen’s national security agency stated that, “there are indeed signs, proof of Iranian interference.” While these allegations are made without any proof, “Western diplomats claim it is probable that Iran is providing money or materiel to the group, as it has to Hizbollah in Lebanon.”
In November of 2009, when Saudi Arabia had stepped up its military campaign in Yemen, the New York Times reported that, “the border skirmish could lead to the realization of Saudi Arabia’s worst fear: a proxy conflict with its archrival, Iran, on its doorstep.” Quoting a Yemeni professor as saying that the Iran link to the Houthis was “a myth,” the Saudi assault against the Shi’a group could provoke Iran to “turn myth into reality”:
However, even as the New York Times acknowledged, the idea that the Houthis are more religiously aligned to Iran than the Arab Gulf nations is a misnomer, as the Houthi religion of Zaydism “is doctrinally closer to Sunnism than to mainstream Shiism.” However, facts take a back seat to war propaganda.
On December 18, 2009, roughly one week before the “Underwear Bomber,” Time Magazine ran an article in which they reported on the claims of Yemen and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis “are receiving their funding, weapons and training from Iran in a bid to destabilize the region.” While acknowledging that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement, the Time article was entitled, “Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble?” and the last sentence in the article wrote, “As for Iran — the only party that doesn’t seem to have any real involvement just yet — the time may soon be ripe to jump in.” The Washington Post carried an article entitled, “Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’,” yet only in the final paragraph of the article did they report, “Yemen has accused Iran of funneling arms and providing financial backing to the rebels, but the Yemeni government has not provided evidence to support the assertions. The rebels have insisted that they receive no support from Iran or any other foreign powers.”
Saudi and Yemeni media and government propaganda presented a view that Iran was extensively involved in the internal conflict in Yemen. Yemen had seized an Iranian ship which it claimed was transporting weapons to Houthi rebels, while Saudi papers reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was training the Houthi rebels. Another Saudi media outlet “reported that a dozen Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon were killed during battles in October,” and Saudi Arabia placed blame for the conflict on Iran, saying that “the insurgents are working for Tehran and [are] wanting to take their front to the Saudi border.”
While there has been no actual evidence of Iranian involvement put forward, the situation could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the Saudis and Yemenis, in the sense that the more they accuse Iran of involvement, the more they demonize and publicly lambaste Iran, the more likely it is that Iran will be drawn into the conflict. If they are already the target of a campaign aimed at blaming their alleged involvement for creating the crisis, what do they have to lose from entering the conflict? Thus, Yemen could “possibly become a battleground for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Regardless of whether or not the Iranians are or will be physically involved in the conflict, it has resulted in a war of rhetoric between both Saudi Arabia and Iran, further inflaming tensions between the two nations.
In January of 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of US Forces in the Middle East, said that, “the domestic conflict in Yemen could become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” He explained that, “it is not a proxy war now, but has the potential to become one, and there may already have been some movement in that direction.”
There was even a pathetic attempt on the part of the Washington Times to link Iran to al-Qaeda. Obviously, the Washington Times seemed to be blithely unaware of the fact that Iran is a Shi’a dominated state, which is religiously and ideologically opposed to al-Qaeda, which practices a strict Wahhabist Sunni brand of Islam, as propagated and practiced by Saudi Arabia, a major regional antagonist of Iran’s. To claim that there would be a link between Iran and al-Qaeda is simply to proclaim one’s own ignorance. No wonder then, that Senator John McCain, while on the campaign trail for President in 2008, so often ‘proclaimed his ignorance’ by several times making the claim that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda.
Could the United States be seeking to foment a wider war in the region? Could the civil war in Yemen be expanded into a proxy-war against Iran? Well, the United States (with the participation of several other NATO partners) fueled the proxy war in the last civil war, where the target was Nasserist Egypt. Could the US simply be employing the same strategy today as they were then, with simply a change of target? To understand this answer, we must look to the direct role played by the United States in the Yemeni civil war.
America Wages War on Yemen
Over a week prior to the “underwear bomber” fiasco, on December 16, 2009, the United States reportedly “perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplane,” according to the Houthi fighters. Over 120 people were reported to have been killed in the US bombing. The Houthi rebels have even reported that U.S. fighter jets “have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa’ada.”
On December 21, 2009, days before the “underwear bomber” pretext, ABC news reported that the US had begun launching cruise missile attacks in Yemen under the authorization of President Obama, and the French media reported on one such strike having massacred “49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women.” While the air strikes were reportedly undertaken to target al-Qaeda in Yemen, they took place in the south near where some of the leaders of the secessionist movement were reportedly living. These raids had been increasingly taking place, and as the New York Times reported, “the United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids.”
Over 2009, the Pentagon supplied the Yemeni military with $70 million, effectively subsidizing their military (as they do with a plethora of nations worldwide, most notably Colombia, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), in order for Yemen’s military to be more able to crush the secessionist uprising in the South, the rebels in the North, and that pesky al-Qaeda which rears its head in any nation America seeks to conduct military operations in. As Newsweek reported in late December of 2009:
In other words, as the US brought in key Pakistani and Saudi assets (who themselves make up both the financial and operational arms of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda militants began to emerge and launch strikes against Yemen. Suddenly, then, a pretext for US military involvement in the nation is delivered in the guise of fighting the “War on Terror.” Just as during the Cold War, the threat of ‘Communism’ was used to rally support for suppressing and waging war against national liberation movements all across the world, so now these movements are suppressed and waged war against under the guise of “fighting terror.” An odd ‘irony’ of history, then, that in order to “fight terror,” the West simply spreads it.
On December 29th, 2009, the Australian reported that, “the Americans have quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the al-Qa’ida terror network in Yemen, to combat a new generation of militants keen on transforming the country into a launching pad for jihad against the US, its Arab allies and Israel.” Besides the blatant propagandizing in the opening sentence, the first part reveals the fact of a new ‘secret war’ that America is waging. The article explained that a year previous, “CIA sent many of its top field operatives with counter-terrorism experience to the country, while some of the most secretive US special operations commandos began training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics.”
As US Senator Joe Lieberman proclaimed, “Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” Barbara Bodine, the former US Ambassador to Yemen, said that, “I think it would be a major mistake to turn this into a third front, if Iraq and Afghanistan are somehow front number one and number two.” She explained, “If we try to deal with this as an American security problem and dealt with by American military, we risk exacerbating the problem.” She astutely observed the nature of occupational forces when she warned, “If we go in and make this our war … it is suddenly going to become a war against us and we will lose it.”
The United States took it upon itself to “press” the Yemeni government – a hard-line oppressive dictatorship – to “toughen its approach.” In February of 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved “more than doubling U.S. funding to train and equip Yemeni security forces to combat al Qaeda” at a figure of $150 million, up from $67 million the previous year. However, “the sum does not include covert U.S. assistance for Yemen, which has quietly increased in recent months.” U.S. CIA Director Leon Panetta, however, raised doubts as to whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al-Qaeda. Covertly, the United States had increased ‘assistance’ to Yemen through U.S. Special Forces, the CIA and the National Security Agency, “sharing satellite and surveillance imagery, intercepted communications and other sensitive information to help Yemen pinpoint strikes against al Qaeda targets,” or at least what are said to be al-Qaeda targets, but usually end up as civilian casualties.
In April of 2010, it was announced that the Pentagon had implemented plans to “boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen’s special operations forces to lead an offensive targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” AQAP, providing roughly $34 million in “tactical assistance” to Yemen’s special forces. A further $38 million will provide Yemen with military transport aircraft.
As the United States has dramatically increased CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent civilians, in May of 2010, the United States announced that it had deployed drones to Yemen to target al-Qaeda. In June of 2010, it was leaked that the U.S. “secret war” has expanded globally, as “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60” at the beginning of 2009. As the Washington Post reported:
The British are also involved in supporting the conflict in Yemen. In July of 2010, the head of Yemen’s Special Forces met with a British military delegation, in which “aspects of bilateral military cooperation between Yemen and the UK were discussed in addition to training, and ways to benefit from British military expertise to bolster the military and security capabilities of Yemen’s armed forces.”
In May of 2010, an air strike took place, which was reported to have killed al-Qaeda militants, in “a secret mission by the U.S. military.” However, “the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk al-Qaida members into giving up their fight.” As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “that would be the equivalent of some foreign military force killing the lieutenant governor of an American state in an air strike.” Further, the “U.S. attacks have had no apparent impact on al-Qaida or on anyone else in Yemen, apart from its civilian population who have taken casualties in badly targeted attacks.” Commenting on the fact that US Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen, the reporter asks some important questions:
The questions are surprising to see being asked in the American media, as the rest of the corporate controlled media outlets simply report (without questioning) the government line, and explain that the U.S. has decided to expand the drone attacks in Yemen, which “would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan,” and that the Obama “administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen,” without questioning who they are killing. As Glenn Greenwald of Salon Magazine pointed out:
In September of 2010, it was reported that the Pentagon was considering expanding Yemen’s military ‘assistance’ to $1.2 billion over the next five years, but don’t worry, “the US is also providing significant development and humanitarian assistance” to Yemen.
The ‘Cleansing’ of a Liberation Movement
In September 2010, while the Obama administration’s top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for talks with President Saleh, Yemeni security forces “laid siege” to a town in the South, Hawta, “where several dozen Qaeda militants were said to be holed up,” which led to thousands of civilians being forced to flee, while the military, as the New York Times reported, “was intermittently shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on the jihadists from attack helicopters.” As the article explained:
In other words, the Yemeni government, under intense pressure and support from the United States, is laying siege to a town in the South – in the midst of a massive and growing secessionist movement – which represents the greatest threat to the stability of the staunch U.S.-ally, and which also happens to be home to natural gas reserves. But we are told that the siege is a fight against ‘al-Qaeda’. Meanwhile, civilians were being killed, and one fleeing family said that, “the troops did not spare any one from their fire over the past two days.” The reality of what is going on in the village is “hard to know,” as NPR points out, “because the government is banning any independent observers from going in there.” As a reporter with NPR explained:
Yemen’s government is not new to media censorship and obfuscation, as there have been “dozens of extralegal abductions, politicised trials, illegal confiscations, writing bans, and censorship over the years. What’s particularly alarming is a recent legislative push to erect an elaborate legal facade to obscure repressive tactics.” The government is also attempting to pass “a repressive bill designed to regulate television, radio and online media. If passed, these changes would significantly reduce an already narrow margin for free expression.” The government has even arrested, tortured and tried critical journalists as “supporting al-Qaeda” with absolutely no evidence.
The “Friends” of Yemen: ‘Democratic Imperialism’ and NGOs as Modern Missionaries
In January of 2010, a group of nations and organizations met in London to form the “Friends of Yemen,” which includes the United States, U.K., 20 other countries, as well as the UN, EU, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, World Bank and IMF. The purpose of the group was to coordinate foreign aid to Yemen, so that it coincides with military, economic and civil assistance aid programs, including forcing Yemen to cooperate with the conditions set by the IMF in order to receive foreign aid. The overall aid would be used to combat what the ‘Friends’ refer to as “appalling indicators,” which include “a growing population, dwindling oil reserves, water shortages and political instability as the government battles Houthi insurgents in the north and secessionists in the south.”
In September of 2010, the Friends of Yemen met in New York to organize a plan for Yemen’s foreign aid. As part of the package, Yemen has been forced to accept an IMF plan to increase taxes by 10% and to eliminate fuel subsidies. At the meeting in New York, the UN reported that there are “168,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, as well as 304,000 Yemeni civilians who continue to be displaced by the seven-month conflict between government forces and Houthis rebels which ended with a shaky truce in February.” The ‘Friends’ further encouraged “progress in the negotiations towards Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organisation, which they hoped would be concluded by the end of 2010,” and while acknowledging that the proposed economic reforms would have an “adverse impact on the poor,” the Friends thus “committed to provide additional support for social protection,” as well as supporting the formation of national multi-party elections.
At the ‘Friends’ meeting, the United States vowed to commit $67 million for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “to work in partnership with communities to directly address local needs. This includes health, education, and water projects; mobile health and veterinary clinics; and support for increasing the capacity of local governments to deliver essential services.” Further plans include funneling millions of dollars through NGOs aimed at providing social services and ‘poverty alleviation’ programs.
While sounding very pleasant and helpful, we must place the concept of promoting ‘democratization’ and the spread of NGOs in their proper geopolitical context. The fact that NGOs, ‘democratization’, economic programs under the direction of the IMF, and military assistance from the West are taking place at the same time is very significant, and not as contradictory as it might seem.
In Africa, the IMF and World Bank’s “Structural Adjustment Programs” that deconstructed society to service illegitimate debts to Western banks had the effect of spreading poverty and effectively induced “social genocide.” The national leaders became very rich, creating a tiny elite which was subservient to Western imperial interests. Western nations would arm the nation and use it as a proxy force in the region when necessary or help it in the oppression of its own people, in order to ensure the stability of their interests. The people of these various nations would protest, demonstrate, riot and rebel, so much so that between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF ‘austerity measures’ in 39 countries around the world. Governments, in response, would generally resort to violence to suppress these demonstrations, with “strikes declared illegal, universities were closed, and trade unions, student organizations, popular organizations and political parties also became the target of repressive legislation or actions.” This essentially created a “crisis of legitimacy,” where the economic ‘reforms’ were seen as destructive, where the political process was seen as corrupt, where the state oppressed and foreigners profited, while the people suffered. It didn’t help the situation that it was often authoritarian governments introducing these economic reforms.
In 1989, the World Bank concluded that the reason for the failure of ‘structural adjustment’ across Africa was not due to the destructive poverty-inducing nature of the reforms, but was do to the corrupt governments implementing them. Thus, it was a “crisis of governance.” The solution, in this sense, was to promote ‘democratization’, as in, a neoliberal concept of democracy. Africa had been experiencing a growth of democratic movements around the continent during the time of Structural Adjustment, which led the IFIs (International Financial Institutions) and Western nations to conclude that democratization and economic liberalization go hand-in-hand. In short, Structural Adjustment is ‘inherently’ democratic. The failure of this analysis was quite obvious: the pro-democracy movements that had arisen across Africa “reflect, to a significant extent, a popular reaction against the socially painful effects of structural adjustment.”
The ‘democratization’ movement is largely an effort to maintain ‘stability’ in the hegemony of the IMF/World Bank and Western interests over Africa and other regions, as instead of rotating from one coup to another, there is a parliamentary democracy where you go from one party to another (who all accept the dominance of the West and the ‘advice’ of the IFIs), which produces a more ‘stable’ environment for Western interests, as it also has the effect of pacifying popular opposition under the guise of promoting democratic accountability. However, these are not true democracies (nor are those in the West), where you simply vote between competing factions of elites who are collectively co-opted by the same international financial elites. They impose the institutions of democracy (legislatures, political parties, judiciaries) “without combining political democracy and social reform.” Thus, these democracies are essentially stillborn (dead before they even exited), as “formal democracy without social reform increases economic inequality and thereby intensifies unequal distribution of power in society.” As Noam Chomsky has argued, “the guardians of world order have sought to establish democracy in one sense of the term, while blocking it in a different sense.” He argued that “power holders use democracy as justification for their power and as an ideological instrument for keeping the public quiescent and out of decision-making processes.”
Alison Ayers analyzes ‘democratization’ as a multi-faceted approach in Africa, entailing: multiparty elections, constitutionalism, the rule of law, a “particular conception of human rights,” ‘good governance’, and an “independent civil society.” Multiparty elections comprise an occasional election in which people choose between competing factions of elites, while constitutionalism implies establishing a “set of rules securing property rights, governing civil and commercial behaviour, and limiting the power of the state.” In promoting ‘multiparty systems’, “the dominant agents of the democratization project have established a veritable ‘elections industry’ comprising voter and civic education campaigns, party-building activities, and electoral assistance and monitoring.” The “engineering of civil society” has taken on an explicitly neo-liberal form, in which it focuses on the “liberation of civil society” from the state, and of which NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have come to play a decisive role. Western aid agencies heavily finance international and local NGOs (thus often negating the notion that they are non-governmental), with the World Bank exponentially increasing its support of NGOs (often through governments).
In fact, NGOs have come to play a pivotal role in the modern imperial project, as they have been co-opted into a program of “welfare provision, a social initiative that could be more accurately described as a programme of social control.” The NGOs were used to respond to the social upheaval brought about by the age of ‘Structural Adjustment’, to provide a degree of social services that were formerly provided by the state. Thus, as the spread of Structural Adjustment increased throughout Africa, so too did the spread of Western NGOs. Western nations heavily support these supposed non-governmental organizations, with the U.S. transferring nearly 40 percent of its aid through NGOs. They have become an essential aspect of the ‘development’ agenda in Africa, itself based upon a colonial mindset. Whereas in the formal colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Africans were considered “uncivilized,” and so colonialism in Africa was not about oppression and economic exploitation, but was rather a ‘civilizing mission.’ Today, Africa is not ‘uncivilized’ but rather, ‘undeveloped’, and so, just as the missionaries of the formal colonial period played a role in ‘civilizing’ Africa – in the vision of the West (akin to how God created man in ‘his own image’) – the NGOs of the new imperial era have come to Africa in a ‘developing mission’. The ‘development’ paradigm had the effect of sterilizing popular opposition, as it framed the problem in Africa not as one of ‘emancipation’ (from colonial and oppressive powers), but as a problem of ‘poverty’ and ‘basic needs’. The role of NGOs in ‘development’:
There are further concerns to take into account in regards to ‘democratization’ and ‘aid’ through NGOs, not simply in the establishment of a system of lobotomizing resistance – preventing emancipation – and promoting the legitimization of the status quo powers (by treating the symptoms of poverty and oppression rather than the causes), but NGOs and ‘democratization’ often play a very covert role in imperialism, particularly through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as well as a host of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (which happen to be funded by the government), such as the National Endowment for Democracy. These organizations are effectively able to organize opposition to a national ruler, create a parallel media system, provide activist training and funding to covertly orchestrate a “soft power” coup, in which it is seen as a “democratic revolution” or a “peaceful revolution,” often following contested elections. This is done to create the illusion that these are popular people’s movements elevating leaders of “change”, but which simply are leaders that are subservient to Western imperial interests. Often, the CIA itself operates through such agencies covertly.
In South Vietnam for example, USAID provided cover for the CIA so extensively, “that the two became almost synonymous.” In the 1980s, during the largest CIA covert operation in history, funding the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union, the CIA and USAID worked very closely, coordinating their efforts, as “the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.” The textbooks, made in America at the University of Nebraska with tens of millions of dollars of financing from USAID, taught children “to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines,” and while USAID dropped funding for the program in 1994, the books continued in circulation, even after the Taliban came to power in 1996, and “private humanitarian groups paid for continued re-printings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops.” The entire program was coordinated with the CIA.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is another particularly covert imperial force, a NGO that gets all it’s funding from the US government, and about which U.S. Congressman Ron Paul explained eloquently:
The NED and a host of other NGOs (backed by government funding), as well as private foundations, have implemented a “soft power” approach to implementing “democratic regime change” in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, often aimed at replacing former Western puppet leaders with new puppet leaders to better promote imperial interests in the nations where they take place. This has occurred in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and many other countries. An effort was undertaken to impose a similar “democratic regime change” with the CIA funneling $400 million for implementing this “soft power” strategy in Iran, resulting in the Iranian elections protests in the summer of 2009. While the strategy failed in its aims of “regime change” it mounted an incredibly successful international propaganda campaign, so much so that the world was lashing out against Iran for what the West claimed were fraudulent elections (but turned out to be free and fair elections), and at the same time, the Western media failed to cover a successful military coup in Honduras, in which the democratically elected President was kidnapped and sent to a foreign country, while the subsequent dictatorship brutally repressed people’s protests and demonstrations, with the new regime all the while being supported by the United States.
From this we can see that the “Friends of Yemen” promoting democratization and “good governance” in Yemen serves Western imperial ambitions. In the very least, it is designed to stifle and ultimately lobotomize organic, indigenous liberation, self-determination, and autonomy movements, while the same Western nations militarily arm and support the oppressive government in its repression of these people. It seems that for the time being, America has chosen to support the current Yemeni dictatorship, propping it up to crush its own people and their struggles for liberation. Simultaneously, America and the West are preparing themselves for a long-term strategy of “democratization,” in which they may have to replace Saleh and the current regime with a new client regime to secure American interests and hegemony in the region.
In this context we may view the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a program of the U.S. State Department aimed at supporting “reforms” in the Middle East and North Africa, in which they support international and local NGOs, educational institutions, local governments and private businesses to implement projects designed to directly engage and invest in the people of the region. MEPI has completed roughly 28 programs in Yemen alone, with roughly seven grants ongoing, aimed at organizing journalists, ‘human rights’ activists, improving the Parliamentary process, improving political participation, promoting women’s ‘empowerment’, and “raising democratic awareness.”
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is also active in Yemen, funding and running programs aimed at promoting “civic and human rights awareness,” facilitating “the free flow of independent news information to Yemenis on issues related to social, political, and economic growth of the country and to build the capacity of journalists to effectively monitor and report on human rights issues,” as well as identifying “the political needs and concerns of women, and to push political parties to adopt women’s issues in their party platforms.” One program of the NED includes nearly $200,000 of funding for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). According to their website, CIPE “strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy,” and is also an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The $184,000 grant to CIPE from the NED is to “facilitate access to information and analysis about economic reform,” which will include producing “thirty 20-30 minute radio programs on economic reform in Yemen and sponsor economic reform pages in two independent newspapers,” in order to “empower Yemenis to participate in the democratic and economic reform process.” However, considering the group promotes “private enterprise” and is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “information and analysis” about economic reform is more likely to be misinformation and propaganda. In total, the NED is operating roughly 13 programs in Yemen at the moment.
USAID’s programs in Yemen aim at taking the “missionary position” in addressing some of the symptoms of conflict, deprivation, disenfranchisement, and oppression, without allowing the people to seek emancipation and liberation. These programs includes a “new three-year Responsive Governance Project [which] aims to strengthen government institutions, support reforms including decentralization, and improve the delivery of public services while encouraging more citizen participation in the political process,” as well as “the Community Livelihoods Project that is focusing on improving agriculture and increasing employment opportunities in highly vulnerable communities, especially for youth.” Other programs aim at promoting education, health care, and ‘peace and security.’
So, while the U.S. government uses the IMF to wreck the economy of Yemen, spreading poverty and dismantling health care, social services and education; the U.S. simultaneously funds and arms the Yemeni dictatorship to repress the people rising up against their economic, social and political conditions; yet, again simultaneously, the United States – through USAID and various other “democratization” programs – aims to alleviate some of the social repercussions to maintain stability of their interests. Imperialism has an economic facet (the IMF), a political facet (military-intelligence support), and a social facet (NGOs and ‘democratization’).
Thus we also see the significance in that while the CIA expands its operations in Yemen (in support of the dictatorship), the current CIA Director holds doubts about “whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al Qaeda, citing internal unrest that threatens to destabilize the government and break up the country, along with growing anti-American sentiment.” This is made all the more interesting to take into account that the CIA Director announced that the CIA will be expanding its use of under-cover assets through a variety of unofficial organizations – such as corporations or other organizations.
War, Empire, and “Perception Management”: Propaganda Creates ‘Cultural Schizophrenia’
So who exactly is the US supporting in Yemen? Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power since 1978, first ruling North Yemen, and subsequently ruling all of Yemen. Saleh has managed to remain the ruler of a ‘united’ Yemen by “clamping down on the press, concentrating military and economic power in the hands of friends and family and winning elections by suspiciously high margins.” Time Magazine reported that Saleh described ruling Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Saleh, however, can hardly act as if he rules a ‘united’ Yemen, when “two-thirds of the country is in the hands of either separatist groups or local tribes.” Further:
The significance of this piece of information, located in the Time article, which was otherwise propagandistic of the “fight against al-Qaeda,” is that it acknowledges that the key to Yemen’s issues today is the legitimacy of the central government’s rule over the people of Yemen. The essential issue is that this is about people’s rights to govern themselves, to not be oppressed, not be murdered, nor economically devoured by international capital and national industrial interests. Our nations and our media call these people “terrorists”; our intelligence agencies sponsor ‘terrorists’ in these nations, who kill these people, and then we use that as an excuse to send in the military to kill more of these people. We support an illegitimate government, an oppressive and brutal dictator who vowed to crack down with an “iron fist” in August of 2009. His subsequent “iron fist” created “a humanitarian tragedy,” where by September over 25,000 people had become refugees, by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict. These are the people the West is helping the Yemeni dictator kill. And not only him, but Saudi Arabia is helping, as are Pakistan and Jordan, three other nations subservient to American interests, and whose militaries are ‘American made’. Saudi Arabia especially, as it seeks to prevent the spread of the Shi’a resistance, which to the illegitimate state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, combined with several other resistant and oppressed groups, could create the political, economic and social conditions for revolution. No wonder then, that the United States is planning to undertake the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, valued at $60 billion, which “is aimed at establishing air superiority over rival Iran while also addressing weaknesses bared in border fighting with Yemeni rebels.”
A state seeks only its own survival and growth in power; that is the nature of all states. This is why nation-states are naturally inclined to forgo competition for power with the economic sphere, and simply merge interests and elite social structures. It is in their interest for both survival and growth in power.
Our oppressive and illegitimate nation-states seek to aid in the oppression of other peoples in other places, and increasingly so at home. However, it is through the media that this massive collective wave of ignorance and ‘cultural schizophrenia’ takes place. This is why most in the west see the world, blissfully unaware of its realities. The media leads the people through that old wardrobe into the land of Narnia: the media’s ‘perception management’ of the world is nothing but a ‘fantasy’. A good example of this ‘fantasy world’ is located in a Time Magazine article. It wrote:
The attack, in reality, killed 52 people, more than half of them being women and children, in which a US missile armed with cluster ammunition was used, with both the Yemeni and American governments claiming the target was an al-Qaeda training camp. The cruise missile was designed to be fired from a warship or submarine, and was filled with “cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings.” However, “the Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.” The missiles were “launched on direct presidential orders.”
Our governments kill these people and call them “militants” and “terrorists,” our media repeat the accusation with no dissent. War is like no other situation that can lead to the growth of the state. War is the ultimate organizing principle in society, for with war powers, a nation can build, destroy, grow, oppress, control, expand, consume, corrupt and continue. As this power grows, so too does the power of all the other various major spheres of influence over humanity, such as the media and the academics. We can add to that the scientific and technological elite, who help to create the conditions, understanding, technology, and means of expanding power and controlling the masses so that today we have unmanned aerial vehicles called “Predator Drones” flying over Yemen killing innocent civilians, while the drones are operated from American military bases in Florida. America has been doing the exact same thing in Pakistan at a much more significant rate and for a much longer period of time (and most rapidly accelerated under the Obama administration of ‘change’).
This ‘invisible empire’ is managed through ‘perception management’ – propaganda – which infects all spheres of social power structures, but which is arguably most prominent and powerful in the media. This creates among western citizens, and most particularly among Americans, a type of ‘cultural schizophrenia’ in which the ‘mind of the nation’ (how the majority of people view their nation and their world) is so contrary to the reality of that nation and the world around it, that it creates a nation or a people ‘of two minds’, holding both the fantasy world of those who encompass it, and the hard-bitten reality of global power structures and systems.
This ‘cultural schizophrenia’ is most emblematic in the United States, where the majority of those within it view it as a force for good in the world, spreading freedom, democracy and ‘free markets’ around the world; while the reality is so different, that the majority of the rest of the world view the United States as a force for spreading fear, war, economic exploitation and power. This is the view, especially, of those to whom the United States has attempted to spread “freedom and democracy.”
This has slightly changed in the context of the “war on terror”, which has allowed for flowery rhetoric about democratic rights and liberty to subside beside the urgency of “fighting terror.” Around the world, people were rejecting the “liberal democratic” project in replacing the dictatorships of the 70s – 90s with [neo]liberal democratic governments, which were democratic only so much as they created political powers and held usually corrupt elections in which various power factions would compete for the authority to plunder the nation in cooperation with international corporations, financial institutions and western governments. Democracy in the ‘Third World’ had essentially proven itself a farce, and people’s movements were increasing. The “war on terror” has subsequently fiercely mobilized the American military (and its NATO cohorts), vastly increased its scope, operations, abilities and entanglements; and created the political conditions for the nation to rapidly accelerate the use of its military apparatus around the world, something which the American people would not support without what is perceived to be a good reason. After all, they will largely be the ones forced to fight and partake in these wars.
And so we come back to Yemen. As Martin Luther King said in 1967, “We are on the wrong side of a world revolution.”
 Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City:
 Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”, Global Research, 5 September 2010:
 James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Arab Nationalism in the Arab Middle East. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), page 30
 Ibid, page 31.
 William L Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Westview Press, 2004), page 231
 Ibid, pages 231-232
 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), page 116
 James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, Op Cit, page 31
 William L. Cleveland, op cit, pages 310-311
 Ibid, page 311.
 Ibid, page 312.
 James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 31.
 William L. Cleveland, op cit, page 315
 Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Owl Books, 2005), pages 140-141
 Ibid, page 142.
 James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 32.
 William L Cleveland, op cit, page 455.
 Ibid, pages 455-456.
 James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 40.
 Ibid, page 39.
 Ibid, page 32.
 Ibid, page 38.
 Ibid, page 39.
 Ibid, page 32.
 Profile: Yemen’s Houthi fighters, Al Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
 Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
 Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque, BBC, May 2, 2008:
 Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
 Mohammed Jamjoom, Yemen lays out truce terms to rebel fighters, CNN, August 13, 2009:
 Yemen targets northern fighters, Al-Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
 Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
 Yemen rebels ‘seize Saudi area’, BBC, November 4, 2009:
 Saudis still bombing us, Yemen rebels say, MSNBC, November 7, 2009:
 Mohammed Al-Amrani, Moroccan, Jordanian Soldiers Fight along Saudi Troops, Yemen Gazette, December 5, 2009:
 ESA, Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil. European Space Agency: April 13, 2006:
 Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations, 2005: page 32
 Ibid, page 33.
 Ibid, page 48.
 Ibid, page 81.
 David Leigh and David Pallister, Revealed: the new scramble for Africa. The Guardian: June 1, 2005:
 Emily Wax and Karen DeYoung, U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia. The Washington Post: May 17, 2006:
 David Axe, U.S. Losing ‘Secret’ War in Somalia. Wired, December 30, 2008:
 Scott Johnson, The Next Battlefront. Newsweek: September 17, 2007:
 Johann Hari, You are being lied to about pirates. The Independent, January 5, 2009:
 Kelly McEvers, In Anti-Piracy Fight, Yemen May Be Part Of Problem. NPR, May 8, 2009:
 ROBERT F. WORTH, Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief. The New York Times: January 22, 2009:
 ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER, Some in Qaeda Leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen. The New York Times, June 11, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/world/12terror.html
 Mai Yamani, Yemen, haven for jihadis. The Guardian, May 25, 2009:
 Saudi, al-Qaeda support Yemen crackdown on Shias, Press TV, August 29, 2009:
 Yemeni gov,deal with al-Qaeda to crush Shia fighters, Shebastan News Agency, October 28, 2009:
 Josh Meyer, Saudis faulted for funding terror. The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2008:
 ERIC LICHTBLAU, Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists. The New York Times: June 23, 2009:
 Daniel Schwartz, Al-Qaeda is almost the least of Yemen’s problems, CBC News, 29 January 2010:
 Andrew England, Gunmen attack Yemen security office, The Financial Times, 14 July 2010:
 Stephen Day, The Political Challenge of Yemen’s Southern Movement, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2010: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=40411
 ‘The Southern Movement has nothing to do with al Qaeda’, France24, 3 August 2010:
 Human Rights Watch alert over Yemen ‘climate of fear’, BBC News, 15 December 2009:
 Robert F. Worth, In Yemen’s South, Protests Could Cause More Instability, The New York Times, 27 February 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html
 Eileen Sullivan, US officials knew name of terror suspect who tried to blow up airliner in Detroit. AP, December 26, 2009:
 David Leppard and Dan McDougall, MI5 knew of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s UK extremist links. The Times, 3 January 2010: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6973954.ece
 Father of Terror Suspect Reportedly Warned U.S. About Son. Fox News, December 26, 2009:
 Current TV, Terror suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation. The Detroit News, February 3, 2010:
 Karen DeYoung and Michael Leahy, Uninvestigated terrorism warning about Detroit suspect called not unusual. The Washington Post, December 28, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/27/AR2009122700279.html; ERIC LIPTON and SCOTT SHANE, Questions on Why Suspect Wasn’t Stopped. The New York Times, December 27, 2009:
 Paul Egan, Atty. Says He Saw Man Try to Help Nigerian on Flight Without a Passport. The Detroit News, December 29, 2009:
 MICHAEL R. GORDON and JAMES DAO, U.S. Broadens Terror Fight, Readying Troops for Yemen. The New York Times, March 2, 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/02/world/nation-challenged-military-us-broadens-terror-fight-readying-troops-for-yemen.html
 Duncan Campbell and Brian Whitaker, US elite force gets ready for Yemen raid. The Guardian, 19 September 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/19/duncancampbell.brianwhitaker
 Dana Priest, U.S. Citizen Among Those Killed In Yemen Predator Missile Strike. The Washington Post, November 8, 2002:
 Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
 Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
 Gunnery Sgt. Christian Harding, Yemen military observes Marine training. United States Central Command, 3 November 2009:
 Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html
 ERIC SCHMITT and ROBERT F. WORTH, U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion. The New York Times, 27 December 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html?_r=1
 Steven Erlanger, Yemen’s Chaos Aids the Evolution of a Qaeda Cell. The New York Times, 2 January 2010:
 Sean Rayment, et. al., Detroit terror attack: Britain sends counter-terrorist forces to Yemen. The Telegraph, 3 January 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6924502/Detroit-terror-attack-Britain-sends-counter-terrorist-forces-to-Yemen.html
 Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html
 Robert F. Worth, Saudis’ Efforts to Swat Rebels From Yemen Risk Inflaming Larger Conflict. The New York Times, 12 November 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/world/middleeast/13saudi.html
 Abigail Hauslohner, Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble? Time Magazine, 18 December 2009:
 Sudarsan Raghavan, Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’. The Washington Post, 12 November 2009:
 Olivier Guitta, Iran and Saudi Arabia drawn to Yemen. Asia Times Online, 11 November 2009:
 Meris Lutz, YEMEN: Raging insurgency exacerbates tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Los Angeles Times Blog, 13 November 2009: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/11/yemen-internal-fighting-threatens-to-descend-into-regional-conflict.html
 Al Pessin, US General Says Yemen Could Become Iran-Saudi Proxy War. VoA, 22 January 2010:
 EDITORIAL: Iran’s al Qaeda connection in Yemen, The Washington Times, 6 January 2010:
 Sam Stein, McCain Repeats Iran-Al Qaeda Gaffe Yet Again. Huffington Post, 19 March 2008:
 Robert Taylor, US bombs Yemen, kills 120, just another day in the life of an empire. The Examiner, 16 December 2009:
 ‘US fighter jets attack Yemeni fighters’, Press TV, 14 December 2009:
 Paul Woodward, US-backed raid killed 49 Yemeni civilians, officials said. The National, 21 December 2009:
 Kevin Peraino, Friends for Now. Newsweek, 29 December 2009:
 Agencies, US fighting covert war against terror in Yemen. The Australian, 29 December 2009:
 Michelle Shephard, Yemen: Terror threat? U.S. ally? Nearly failed state? Toronto Star, 2 January 2010:
 Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. increases efforts to boost security in Yemen amid increasing terror threat, The Washington post, 20 January 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/19/AR2010011904604.html
 Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, 22 February 2010:
 Adam Entous, U.S. gives Yemen key intelligence to strike al Qaeda, Reuters, 27 January 2010:
 Adam Entous, Pentagon to boost Yemen’s special operations forces, Reuters, 20 April 2010:
 Salman Siddiqui, Drone attacks hit all-time high, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2010:
 Con Coughlin and Philip Sherwell, American drones deployed to target Yemeni terrorist, The Telegraph, 2 May 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7663661/American-drones-deployed-to-target-Yemeni-terrorist.html
 Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role, The Washington Post, 4 June 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html
 Mohammed Al-Amrani, Special Forces Commander Meets UK Military Delegation, Yemen Gazette, 10 July 2010:
 SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI AND ROBERT F. WORTH, Veil lifts on covert action in Yemen, The New York Times, 14 August 2010: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012625717_covertwar15.html
 Dan Simpson, The U.S. spreads the misery to Yemen, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 18 August 2010:
 Glenn Greenwald, An exciting new Muslim country to drone attack, Salon, 25 August 2010:
 AFP, US looks at bolstering funding for Yemeni military, The Jordan Times, 3 September 2010:
 Robert F. Worth, Yemen Military Attacks Town It Says Is Militant Hide-Out, The New York Times, 21 September 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html
 Yemen civilians killed in ‘al-Qaeda hunt’, Press TV, 21 September 2010:
 Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Steve Inskeep, Civilians Flee From Battle In Southern Yemen, NPR, 24 September 2010:
 Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Yemen’s veneer of legality, The Guardian, 29 September 2010:
 Mark Landler, As Nations Meet, Clinton Urges Yemen to Prove Itself Worthy of Aid, The New York Times, 27 January 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28diplo.html
 Brian Whitaker, Can Yemen’s friends really help? The Guardian, 20 September 2010:
 James Reinl, Friends of Yemen discuss extremist threat, The National, 26 September 2010:
 Ministerial Meeting of Friends of Yemen, Joint statement from the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of Yemen, British Commonwealth Office, 24 September 2010: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=22916622
 Aaron W. Jost, A Comprehensive Approach to Yemen, The White House Blog, 24 September 2010:
 Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, “The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3, (2002), p. 578
 Ernest Harsch, “Structural Adjustment and Africa’s Democracy Movements,” Africa Today, Vol. 40, No. 4, (1993), p. 14
 Ibid, page 10.
 Ibid, page 12.
 Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora, “Low Intensity Democracy,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, (1992), p. 502
 Ibid, page 503.
 Alison J. Ayers, “Demystifying Democratisation: The Global Constitution of (Neo)liberal Polities in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2, (2006), p. 323
 Ibid, page 325.
 Ibid, page 326.
 Ibid, page 329-331.
 Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, op cit, page 579.
 Ibid, page 580.
 Ibid, pages 574-575.
 Ibid, page 568.
 Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
 Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad, The Washington Post, 23 March 2002:
 Carol Off, Back to school in Afghanistan, CBC, 6 May 2002:
 Harley Sorensen, NED’s feel-good name belies its corrupt intent, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 November 2003:
 Andrew Gavin Marshall, Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III, Global Research, 3 November 2009:
 Andrew Gavin Marshall, A New World War for a New World Order, Global Research, 17 December 2009:
 MEPI, Ongoing MEPI Local Grants – Yemen, Middle East Partnership Initiative, Accessed October 2010:
 CIPE, Who We Are, Center for International Private Enterprise:
 NED, Country Profile – Yemen, The National Endowment for Democracy, Accessed October 2010:
 USAID, Yemen, United States Agency for International Development:
 Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, Reuters, 22 February 2010:
 Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
 Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
 Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
 Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
 Paul Handley, Huge Saudi arms deal aimed at Iran, Yemen troubles: analysts, AFP, 12 September 2010: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jxlLTtu2Ccx7EsT_qH_tPhukgKCA
 Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
 Kim Sengupta, US cruise missile parts found in Yemeni village where 52 died, The Independent, 7 June 2010:
 Gilbert Mercier, Yemen: US Strikes Used Cluster Bombs And Killed 41 Civilians. NewsJunkiePost, 7 June 2010:
9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign
The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda, Part III
Global Research, September 10, 2010
This is Part III of the three-part series, “The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda“
For several years prior to the events of 9/11, top American strategists had been acknowledging the necessity of what they oft-termed a “new Pearl Harbor”, a momentous attack upon America itself, in order to mobilize the American populace for a new global war of domination.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, “America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space [of Central Asia] and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it.” Brzezinski acknowledged in his book that, “the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being.” He also wrote that, “The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”
In 1999, Andrew Krepinevich, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments testified before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. He stated that the US faces an “unprecedented challenge”:
After advocating a massive re-imagining of the role and nature of US military might, pushing the notion of a “revolution in military affairs” and an acceleration of imperial ambitions, he told the Senate Committee:
In 1999, Graham Fuller, former Deputy Director of the CIA’s National Council on Intelligence, advocated using Muslim forces to further US interests in Central Asia. He stated that, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against [the Russians]. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”
In June of 2000, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Pentagon released Joint Vision 2020, outlining the American military strategy that the Department of Defense “will follow in the future.” The emphasis in the report was put on the notion of “Full Spectrum Dominance,” which means “the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations”:
The neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) released a report in September of 2000 called Rebuilding America’s Defenses in which they advocated for a massive expansion of America’s empire and “full spectrum dominance” as well as the necessity to undertake a “Revolution in military affairs,” and undertake multiple simultaneous wars in different regions of the world. Several members of the think tank and authors of the report would go on to enter key policy positions within the Bush administration several months later (including, but not limited to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Zalmay Khalilzad). While acknowledging the massive undertaking this “project” would be, the report stated:
In January of 2001, the Rumsfeld Commission, which was set up to analyze the US National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by incoming US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who had also been a signatory to and member of the Project for the New American Century at the same time). It advocated an expansion of military capabilities in Space and a total reorganization of the armed forces and intelligence agencies of the United States. The report stated that:
As early as 1998, the President was warned in his CIA daily briefing that, “bin Laden and his allies are preparing for an attack in the US, including an aircraft hijacking.” NORAD, the “North American Aerospace Defense command also conducted an exercise to counter a terrorist attack involving smashing an airplane into a building.” In August 1999, “the Federal Aviation Administration’s intelligence branch warned of a possible “suicide hijacking operation” by Osama Bin Laden.”
In October of 2000, the Pentagon undertook an emergency response exercise in which “there was a mock terrorist incident at the Pentagon Metro stop and a construction accident,” and it further envisioned a “downed passenger aircraft” in the Pentagon courtyard.
For years, NORAD had been conducting military exercises and drills in which it envisioned planes being hijacked and flown into buildings in the United States. One of the intended targets in the NORAD drills was the World Trade Center:
As the Guardian revealed in April of 2004:
In May of 2001, an exercise involving U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command took place in which the military establishment “forecasted” the first war of the 21st century so closely that, “Nostradamus couldn’t have nailed the first battle of the next war any closer than we did,” as articulated by a former top official with the exercise, Dave Ozolek. The exercise, Unified Vision 2001:
After 9/11, in May of 2002, Condoleezza Rice stated that, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that … they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.” So Condi is a fool or a liar, because that statement is nothing if not entirely and utterly false. The national security apparatus had fully anticipated, and even war gamed and drilled this very scenario. It was expected, planned for, and no less with war plans waiting in the wings.
The 9/11 Commission
Of critical importance in understanding the events of 9/11 is taking note of the funding for the operation. The 9/11 Commission itself stated:
However, one should take issue with this claim. The fact is that any comprehensive investigation, criminal or otherwise, should pay special attention to the role of financing; follow the money. This is not the only failure of the 9/11 Commission, as has been amply documented.
From its inception, the 9/11 Commission was plagued with problems. The Bush administration had resisted attempts to form a commission to investigate the attacks of 9/11 for over a year, even pressuring Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle not to launch an inquiry. In May of 2002, President Bush voiced his opposition to the formation of a 9/11 commission.
In September of 2002, Bush reversed his previous decision and backed the proposal to form an “independent” commission to investigate the attacks. Within a month of this statement, the White House began undermining the process, as “an almost completed Congressional deal was suddenly undone in October after a Republican lawmaker involved in the final negotiations received a call from Vice President Dick Cheney,” which led to a stalling of the process.
In mid-November, Congress approved the creation of a bi-partisan 9/11 Commission to investigate the attacks, with 10 Congressmen, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, with the Chairman appointed by the Bush administration and the Vice Chair appointed by the Democrats.
The Bush administration chose as the Chairman none other than Henry Kissinger, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State for Nixon and Ford, “a consummate Washington insider,” not to mention war criminal. Even the New York Times had to admit:
Two week later, “Facing questions about potential conflicts of interest, Henry Kissinger resigned” as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. He was replaced with former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean. As of November 2003, one Commissioner, Max Cleland, claimed that the “investigation is now compromised” by the White House.
Shortly after the release of the final 9/11 Commission Report in 2004, Harper’s Magazine called it “a cheat and a fraud,” declaring the report a “whitewash.”
In 2006, the two co-Chairs of the Commission published a book in which they claimed that the Commission was lied to by both the FAA and the Department of Defense, specifically NORAD. Several commissioners are on the record as saying they felt that the Pentagon purposely lied to them in order to mislead them. Further, much of the information the commission received and used in its report “was the product of harsh interrogations of al-Qaida operatives – interrogations that many critics have labeled torture.”
As it turned out, the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, was a man of dubious priorities and connections. He was the ultimate author of the final report and controlled the research staff of the commission. Zelikow, “a former colleague of then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, was appointed executive director of the 9/11 Commission despite his close ties to the Bush White House, and he remained in regular contact with [Karl] Rove while overseeing the commission.” Zelikow “secretly spoke with President Bush’s close adviser Karl Rove and others within the White House while the ostensibly autonomous commission was completing its report.” Zelikow had even previously co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice. Following the publication of the report, Zelikow then went to work as an adviser to Condoleezza Rice in the White House.
The Bin Ladens
There are many fascinating and important revelations regarding the intricate relationship between the CIA, the ISI, and al-Qaeda in the lead-up to the events of 9/11 that deserve to be subjected to more scrutiny.
First, let’s take a look at Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, whose relationship with the CIA in the past had been well documented, reportedly acted as a rogue following the 1991 US Gulf War against Iraq and American stationing of troops and military bases in Saudi Arabia. However, there are reports that would indicate that the relationship between bin Laden and the US intelligence apparatus remained, at least to some degree, for many years.
We must remember the nature of al-Qaeda, as an organization, or network, of intelligence assets funded, armed, trained and dispersed around the world by a complex network of intelligence agencies from the United States, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
A French court undertook a probe into the financial network of Osama bin Laden, who was widely assumed to simply be independently wealthy, and financed al-Qaeda operations through his own funds. However, it was revealed that Osama maintained a joint bank account with his half-brother Yeslam bin Laden in Switzerland between 1990 and 1997. Of particular interest to investigators was “a 241 million euro transfer made to Pakistan in 2000 from an account belonging to a company called Cambridge, a SBG [Saudi Bin Laden Group] subsidiary, that was opened at Deutsche Bank in Geneva,” with the funds “transferred into an account belonging jointly to Osama bin Laden and someone of Pakistani nationality.”
Der Spiegel, a major German newspaper, was granted access to thousands of pages of intelligence documents relating to bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In the report on the documents, the authors revealed that when bin Laden needed financing, “The Saudi elite — and his own family — came to his assistance.” The list of financiers:
Osama bin Laden’s sister-in-law even stated:
Following the death of Osama’s father, Salem bin Laden, Osama’s brother, became head of the company, Saudi Binladen Group (SBG). As Der Spiegel reported:
While Osama was fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviets, he would often be personally visited by Saudi Prince Turki, the head of Saudi intelligence, and was funded by both the Saudi Binladen Group (SBG) and the Saudi royal family. In 1990, when King Fahd of Saudi Arabia allowed the Americans to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, the SBG got the contract to build the bases.
Though the Bin Laden family claimed Osama was a “black sheep” and that they cut off ties with him in the early 1990s, the evidence remains strong that not only did Osama maintain ties with his family, but he maintained his ties with Saudi intelligence. While Osama was in Sudan in the early 1990s, Saudi intelligence would so frequently send his family over to meet with him, and kept in such close contact with him, that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, believed Osama was a Saudi spy. In 1994, under intense public pressure, both Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family publicly revoked their ties with Osama.
Yet, even after this, when Osama returned to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s to work with the Taliban, Prince Turki of Saudi intelligence would still maintain contact and even visit Osama, even bringing “gifts” such as dozens of trucks:
On January 9, 2001, Osama attended his sons wedding in Afghanistan, accompanied by his mother and two brothers, hardly the actions of a “black sheep”. Further, two of Osama’s sisters traveled to Abu Dhabi in February of 2001 to “deliver large sums of cash” to an al-Qaeda agent. In the United States, the Bin Laden family had diplomatic passports, so following the 9/11 attacks, they could not be questioned, but instead were flown out of the country. The Bin Ladens were also in business with the Bush family through the investment company, the Carlyle Group. No one ever seemed to question why the bin Laden family had diplomatic passports, a strange occurrence, it would seem, for a Saudi ‘business’ family who weren’t engaged in any official or formal ‘diplomacy’.
In March of 2000, it was reported that Osama bin Laden was sick and suffering from kidney and liver disease. A western intelligence source told the Hong-Kong based magazine, Asiaweek, that bin Laden was dying of kidney failure.
In July of 2001, Osama bin Laden spent 10 days at the American hospital in Dubai for treatment. He traveled from Pakistan to Dubai on July 4, 2001, to be treated in the urology department. While he was in the hospital, Osama was visited by several members of his family, Saudi officials, and the CIA. One visitor was Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal, the head of Saudi intelligence, and the CIA station chief in Dubai, who was soon after recalled back to Washington.
On September 10, 2001, the night before the attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan “getting medical treatment with the support of the very military that days later pledged its backing for the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan.” Pakistani intelligence reported that bin Laden was quickly taken to a military hospital in Rawalpindi for kidney dialysis treatment. As one medical worker said, “they moved out all the regular staff in the urology department and sent in a secret team to replace them.” Pakistani President Musharraf openly stated in public that Osama suffers from kidney disease and is near death.
The Pakistani ISI and 9/11
Throughout the entire time of overt and covert assistance by Pakistan’s ISI to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the CIA had maintained its close ties with the ISI that they had developed during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, in which they used the ISI as a conduit; as was set up through the Safari Club in the 1970s, which was the organization of western intelligence agencies which used Middle Eastern and Asian intelligence agencies as conduits for their covert activities. Thus, the CIA maintained its extensive contact with the ISI, and so would be well aware of its activities.
A top Indian intelligence official even stated that, “America’s Defence Intelligence Agency was aware that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was sponsoring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but the Bush Administration chose to ignore its findings.” Is it inconceivable that since the CIA maintained its extensive contacts with the ISI, and the ISI maintained and expanded its contacts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, that the CIA was not in fact sponsoring both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda through the ISI as well? We know that the CIA was supporting the Taliban through the same network of the ISI that was supporting al-Qaeda operatives, thus it would take a stretch of the imagination to think that the CIA would be unaware of its subsequent support for al-Qaeda. Whether direct or indirect, the CIA was supporting al-Qaeda.
Shortly after 9/11, Indian intelligence became aware of the fact that General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had wired $100,000 from Saeed Sheikh, a convicted terrorist who had associations with the ISI, to Mohamed Atta, the purported ringleader and one of the 9/11 hijackers. Thus, the ISI in effect, financed the 9/11 attacks. However, there are several more ambiguous facets to this story. It just so happens that General Mahmoud Ahmad went to Washington, D.C. on September 4th, 2001 for a weeklong visit. On September 10, the day before 9/11, a Pakistani newspaper ran a story on Ahmad’s visit:
General Ahmad, while in Washington, met with CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. On the morning of 9/11, General Ahmad was in a meeting with the Chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham and Representative Porter Goss, a former 10-year veteran of CIA clandestine operations. Porter Goss was later put in charge of a joint House-Senate investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, and later became the CIA director.
General Mahmoud, having wired $100,000 to Mohamad Atta, the purported lead 9/11 hijacker, implicates the ISI in the attacks of 9/11, at least from a financial standing. The FBI even confirmed the transaction took place. The ISI’s extensive ties to American intelligence and the fact that Ahmad was in D.C. talking to high level legislators, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence officials begs the question of what the precise nature of these secret meetings were.
Michael Meacher, a former British MP and member of Tony Blair’s cabinet, wrote in the Guardian that:
Meacher further discussed the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower who tried to expose evidence of what she saw as collusion between intelligence agencies and the terrorists behind 9/11. She was subsequently gagged by the U.S. Department of Justice:
In August of 2009, Sibel Edmonds revealed that, “the US was on ‘intimate’ terms with the Taliban and al-Qaeda using the militants to further certain goals in central Asia,” and stated, “With those groups, we had operations in Central Asia.” She explained that Washington used those groups “as we did during the Afghan and Soviet conflict.” In other words, the US was arming, funding and using al-Qaeda for its own objectives, just as it always had.
On September 11, 2009, 8 years to the day of the events of 9/11, a major British newspaper, the Daily Mail, ran a story critical of the official story regarding Osama bin Laden. In it, the author posed the question:
The article quoted former U.S. foreign intelligence officer and senior editor Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University as saying, “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden”:
Interesting to note is that following the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, in at least four separate statements to Middle Eastern press and media, stated that he did not take part in the 9/11 attacks, while the video in which he supposedly claimed responsibility for the attacks has him wearing gold rings, which is forbidden by his Wahhabist religion, as well as writing with his right hand, whereas the FBI website says that he is left handed, and his face is blurred and difficult to make out. On September 28, 2001, Osama bin Laden said, “’I have already said I am not involved. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge… nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act.”
Osama bin Laden was even reported to have died of kidney failure on December 13, 2001, in the mountains of Tora Bora on the Afghan-Pakistan border. On that same day, the U.S. government released the fateful videotape in which Osama claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, the bin Laden in the video was very different from the known images of the real bin Laden, and even had a different shaped nose, his beard was darker, his skin paler, and his fingers were no longer long and thin, as well as the fact that he looked to be in good health.
As the Los Angeles Times reported in November of 2009, the extensive and close relationship between the CIA and the ISI has not diminished since 9/11, but had in fact, accelerated: “the CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan’s intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency’s annual budget.” Further, “the payments to Pakistan are authorized under a covert program initially approved by then-President Bush and continued under President Obama.” Further, “the CIA has routinely brought ISI operatives to a secret training facility in North Carolina,” and as the article pointed out, “the CIA also directs millions of dollars to other foreign spy services. But the magnitude of the payments to the ISI reflect Pakistan’s central role.” As the report in the Los Angeles Times explained, the CIA financial support to the ISI began during the Afghan-Soviet conflict, and has not stopped since then, and since 9/11, it has actually accelerated.
The Nexus Personified: The Case of Ali Mohamed
Perhaps the perfect example of the complex relationship and nexus between intelligence agencies and al-Qaeda is the case of a man named Ali Mohamed. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2001, “A former U.S. Army sergeant who trained Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards and helped plan the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was a U.S. government informant during much of his terrorist career.” Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-born US citizen had approached the CIA in the mid-1980s to inform for them. He also spent years as an FBI informant, all the while being a top-level al-Qaeda operative, even training Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, as well as training terrorists in camps in Afghanistan and Sudan, and planned the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Kenya.
State Department officials proclaimed this was merely a sign of the problems associated with recruiting informants, that Mohamed was a double agent working for al-Qaeda, and they should have “known better.” However, the ignorance plea can only go so far, and considering Mohamed’s extensive ties to not one, but several US agencies, there is no doubt he was a double agent, but perhaps it is more likely he was working as an al-Qaeda operative for the US government. After all, it is one thing to say the Ali Mohamed was lucky in his evading being caught, but he was continuously lucky, over and over again. One wonders when ‘luck’ is organized.
In 1971, Ali Mohamed joined the Egyptian Army, rising to the rank of major. Well educated in Egypt, he was fluent in English. In 1981, he joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, “a group of radical Muslim fundamentalists opposed to the Egyptian government’s ties to the United States and Israel that included members of the Egyptian military.” The very same year, in 1981, Mohamed traveled to the United States for the first time, “graduating from a special program for foreign officers at the U.S. Army Special Forces school at Fort Bragg, N.C.” In 1984, Mohamed left the Egyptian military.
In 1984, Ali Mohamed approached the CIA office in Egypt offering to be a spy. Officially, the CIA then cut off contact with him shortly thereafter, as he made contact with terrorist organizations and informed them he was working with the CIA, supposedly proposing to spy on US intelligence agencies. So the CIA had the State Department add him to a “watch list” so that he could not enter the United States. However, the next year, Ali Mohamed obtained a visa from the American Embassy and went to the United States. He then joined the American Army and “served with one of its most elite units.”
From 1986 until 1989, Ali Mohamed served at the Army’s Special Forces base in Fort Bragg, N.C., until he was honourably discharged in 1989. While on active duty, he went to New York where he trained local Muslims in military tactics to go fight in the Afghan-Soviet war. One of his students was “El Sayyid A. Nosair, the Egyptian immigrant convicted of killing Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, in 1990,” which was the first recorded al-Qaeda operation on U.S. soil.
In the early 1990s, Ali Mohamed began working for the FBI. Mohamed then forged ties with Osama bin Laden as early as 1991, and assisted in a variety of ways, such as helping bin Laden and ‘al-Qaeda’ obtain fake documents, assisted with logistical tasks, and even helped Osama relocate from Afghanistan to the Sudan in 1991. Many terrorists that Mohamed trained were subsequently involved in the 1993 plot to blow up the World Trade Center. In 1992, Mohamed returned to Afghanistan to continue training militants. That same year, he was detained by officials in Rome, yet was released shortly thereafter.
In 1992, Ali Mohamed created an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Kenya, and in 1993, bin Laden asked Mohamed to scout for potential terrorist targets in Nairobi, Kenya. He took photos of and scouted the French Embassy, the US AID office and the American Embassy. Bin Laden subsequently chose the American Embassy as the target.
In 1993, he was detained by the RCMP in Vancouver, Canada, “while traveling in the company of a suspected associate of Mr. bin Laden’s who was trying to enter the United States using false documents.” However, after the RCMP were told to contact his FBI handlers, Mohamed was released. He subsequently masterminded the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
However, there are implications that may suggest that Ali Mohamed’s ties to the CIA did not end or evaporate in the 1980s. Following 9/11, several revelations were reported in the media about a covert program of allowing high-level terrorists to enter the United States under a secret CIA program which had the State Department issue visas to terrorists in order to enter the United States.
The CIA Brings Terrorists to America
Michael Springman, former State Department official and head of the US Visa Bureau in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1987 to 1989, went public with his experiences. He stated that, “In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants,” and that he would complain to an assortment of different departments and agencies, however, his complaints were met with silence. He elaborated, “What I was protesting was, in reality, an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the US for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets.” Further:
As Springman further revealed in an interview with the CBC, Sheikh Abdel Rahman, the terrorist widely considered to have played a key role in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, was issued a visa from a CIA case officer in Sudan, “And that 15 or so of the people who came from Saudi Arabia to participate in the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon [on 9/11] had gotten their visas through the American consular general at Jeddah.” The interviewer asked if this suggests that this “pipeline” of visa applications issued by the CIA to terrorists was never wrapped up, and Springman replied:
Eventually, the State Department fired Springman without a sufficient reason. As he explained, the same program in which he was ordered to allow terrorists to enter the United States in the late 1980s had continued and 15 of the 19 suspected 9/11 hijackers were issued visas through this network. It further turned out that Ali Mohamed was “admitted to the United States under a special visa program controlled by the C.I.A.’s clandestine service,” and he had claimed to be working for the CIA.
In the mid-1990s, Ali Mohamed helped al-Qaeda’s current number two, presumably after Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to come to California and raise money for al-Qaeda operations. In 2000, Ali Mohamed was called in for questioning and was subsequently arrested in relation to involvement with the 1998 embassy bombings and is being kept in an undisclosed location.
Thus, we have a perfect example of the “terror nexus” in Ali Mohamed: simultaneously having connections with the CIA, the FBI, the Army, and al-Qaeda. His high-level status within al-Qaeda could not have taken place without the knowledge and support of his handlers. Mohamed was a double agent, that much is for sure, but for whom was he really working? Considering he has disappeared into the abyss of “National Security”, the answers might never be fully known. However, this does provide more evidence as to the covert relationship that the United States maintained with al-Qaeda.
Able Danger: Tracking the 9/11 Terrorists
Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a military intelligence officer, revealed his in-depth knowledge of having worked with the Pentagon’s ultra-secret “Able Danger” program. Able Danger “was begun in 1999 at the request of General Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and under the direct supervision of General Pete Schoomaker, then the commander of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).” The CIA, however, had refused to cooperate with the Able Danger program, which was designed to track down terrorists, and developed a specific focus on al-Qaeda. Raytheon, a private military contracting corporation, was involved in this data-mining military intelligence program. Once Schaffer went public with information about the program, the “then deputy director of operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency essentially pulled the plug on his involvement with Able Danger.”
In September of 2000, more than a year before 9/11, Able Danger, “a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States,” and in the summer of 2000, Able Danger recommended that the information be shared with the FBI to go in and remove the terrorist cell. However, the information was not shared and the recommendation was rejected, apparently because “Mr. Atta, and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas.” Further:
A Pentagon spokesman said that the 9/11 Commission looked into the issue during the Commission hearings; however, they “chose not to include it in the final report.” Other intelligence officers and sources came forward to reveal and validate the claims made about “Able Danger,” including J.D. Smith, a defense contractor who confirmed that Able Danger had identified Atta. Further, Navy Captain Scott Philpott has also gone on record along with Schaffer, claiming that they were “discouraged from looking further into Atta” and their attempts to share information with the FBI were thwarted. Congress then began an investigation into the “Able Danger” program. According to Congressional testimony:
Further, in 2004, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), “destroyed files on the Army’s computer data-mining program known as Able Danger to avoid disclosing the information”:
In September of 2005, as the Senate investigation into Able Danger was underway, several Senators from both parties accused the Defense Department “of obstructing an investigation into whether a highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger did indeed identify Mohamed Atta and other future hijackers as potential threats well before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” This occurred after the Pentagon “blocked several witnesses from testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a public hearing.”
The Pentagon even acknowledged that, “it had blocked several military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about a highly classified intelligence program.” A Pentagon spokesman said open testimony “would not be appropriate.”
The 9/11 Commission, despite testimony from Col. Schaffer and other individuals about the Able Danger program, had dismissed Able Danger as “not historically significant,” and justified leaving it out of the final report, which stated that, “American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks.” Louis Freeh, a former FBI Director, wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal, that this assertion by the 9/11 Commission is “embarrassingly wrong,” especially since Commission members had acknowledged in 2005 (a year after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report), that they had met with Able Danger officials who did mention they were tracking Atta prior to 9/11.
Further, more information was revealed regarding the relationship many supposed hijackers had with the US intelligence community, as it was revealed by Newsweek in 2002 that two hijackers were identified by the CIA in January of 2000 when they attended an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. However, the two men then went to San Diego where they attended flight school, where they “moved into the home of a Muslim man who had befriended them at the local Islamic Center. The landlord regularly prayed with them and even helped one open a bank account.” However, their landlord also happened to be an “undercover asset” for the FBI, yet nothing was done.
Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, it was reported by Newsweek that the military gave information to the FBI which alleged that 5 of the 9/11 hijackers had “received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990s.” Further, “three of the alleged hijackers listed their address on drivers licenses and car registrations as the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.” Newsweek continued:
Could the use of false identities or dual identities be the reason why, in late September of 2001, it was reported that four of the alleged 9/11 hijackers had turned out to be alive and well, and living in the Middle East? The FBI released the list of the 19 purported 9/11 hijackers, and some of the names and photographs on the list show people who were still alive, a remarkable feat for someone accused of crashing a plane in a suicide mission. Even the FBI director in late September of 2001 agreed that the identity of many of the hijackers was still in doubt. Yet, these were not questions addressed by the 9/11 Commission.
It must be looked at and addressed much more closely and critically; the role between the U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies to what is known as “al-Qaeda.” Given our historical understanding of al-Qaeda as a “database” of intelligence assets, which were recruited to fight the Afghan-Soviet war, and our more recent understanding of the relationships between various intelligence agencies historically and presently to these groups and individuals, does it not seem plausible that the operation of al-Qaeda as a covert branch of U.S. policy has continued? Certainly, more research needs to be undertaken, but what is clear is that any and all official investigations thus far have been nothing but concocted lies: that is, willful and intended deception, designed to hide the truth, not reveal it.
It is also within this context, of understanding the deep nexus of intelligence and terrorism in international relations and imperial stratagems (that is, strategic deception), that we must view the rise, role, evolution and purpose of the “Global War on Terror,” now in its 9th year, spending trillions to send poor Americans to kill poor Muslims in nations across the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South Asia.
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. (Basic Books: 1997), page 148
 Ibid, page 36.
 Ibid, page 25.
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