Yemen has become the latest “rogue state” to be targeted in the US-led “war on terror”.
There has been a flood of rhetoric about Yemen, portraying the country as a “failed state” and a hotbed of extremism, swarming with Al Qaida terrorists and warring tribes.
Obama’s adminstration said last week that it plans to more than double the US’s “security assistance” – military aid – to the country.
A recent US Congress budget document explained the aims of increasing spending on Yemen: “Military assistance will increase the capacity of the Yemeni Special Forces and Coast Guard to conduct security missions… while helping achieve US counter-terrorism goals.”
And, not to be left out, Gordon Brown now plans to hold an international summit on Yemen alongside the one planned on Afghanistan in London on 28 January.
Yemen is indeed a country ravaged by war and instability – but this is the result of decades of imperialist interference in the region. And the ratcheting up of Western intervention will only make things worse.
The US military already trains Yemeni “security forces”.
And evidence has emerged to suggest that the US launched two cruise missile attacks on 17 December that killed up to 160 Yemeni civilians.
This attack took place before the failed attack on a US flight by a student who claimed he had trained with Al Qaida in Yemen.
Under pressure from Western powers, the Yemeni government claimed this week to have killed two Al Qaida members linked to alleged threats to the US, British and French embassies.
The government of Yemen is incredibly corrupt and has an appalling human rights record.
Yet the US continues to fund and prop up the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh has been in power for 31 years and has given many posts to his family and bought off rivals.
Yemen is already simmering with discontent.
It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Education levels are comparable with some of the poorest nations in Africa, while unemployment ensures a pool of angry, disenfranchised young people.
The country is marked by a destructive civil war. And US intervention will breed greater violence and misery.
It is not just the funding directly to Yemen that will shore up US interests in the region.
Neighbouring countries have also been given “watchdog” responsibilities, and the money to carry them out.
American funding to Saudi Arabia, which the US relies on for oil and for securing other parts of the region, is also due to rocket this year.
In 2008, just over $49 million was given to the regime, but almost twice that amount is earmarked for 2010.
This is in addition to the millions of dollars of arms deals the US takes up with Saudi Arabia every year.
And there are worrying signs that the US is to further spread its operations in the region.
The Congress budget justification for foreign operations for 2010 explains that, “As terrorists seek new and softer targets to strike in the region and look to increase their presence in neighboring Yemen, Oman will need US counter-terrorism assistance to help patrol its frontiers and intercept infiltrators in order to remain free from terrorist acts.”
The “war on terror” has made the world an ever more dangerous and unstable place.
The US-led war, which began in Iraq and Afghanistan, now extends to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond. Meanwhile countries such as Syria, Iran
and Lebanon feature on the “sponsors of terrorism” list.
While this looks to be a war without end, the bitter fruits of the conflict are becoming harder for even some sections of the US establishment to swallow.
The former US Ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, recently told the Toronto Star, “If we go in and make this our war… it is suddenly going to become a war against us and we will lose it.”
Stop the War protest
While Gordon Brown holds his conference on the 28 January on the “war on terror”, the Stop the War Coalition will be protesting outside. The conference is due to be held in central London. For details go to www.stopwar.org.uk