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West backs Saudi Arabia in launching attacks on Yemen

This article is over 9 years, 1 months old
The attacks on Yemen highlight the problems US imperialism faces as it tries to reassert its control over the region, writes Ken Olende
Issue 2447
The Saudi Sunni regime wants to restore president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (left) seen here with US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013
The Saudi Sunni regime wants to restore president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (left) seen here with US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013 (Pic: US Department of State)

Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance of ten countries in a military assault on Yemen. It has carried out days of bombing raids on cities across the poorest country in the region. 

The Saudis are threatening a ground invasion involving 150,000 troops. Among civilians killed are at least six children and 45 people in a refugee camp in northern Yemen. 

The alliance includes other Gulf states, Egypt’s military regime and Pakistan. The US and Britain support the attack as Saudi Arabia is a close ally.

The Saudi Sunni regime wants to restore president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. He was installed after Yemenis forced out dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 as part of the Arab revolutions.

The Saudis are attacking the Iranian-backed Houthi militias. They forced Hadi to flee from the capital Sana’a to the southern city of Aden. 

For many years the south has been demanding independence from Sana’a. The Houthis have been buffeted by complex regional politics. In Yemen attempts at radical change are repeatedly pushed into sectarian strife. 


Yemen’s population is roughly two thirds Sunni and one third Shia Muslim. The Houthis follow the Zaydi Shia sect and the militia comes from the northern mountains that border Saudi Arabia. 

The Houthis are now  allied with Saleh, who still controls much of the Yemeni military despite being in exile in Saudi Arabia. Saleh hopes the Houthi rebellion might help him return to power. 

The last time the Saudi military led an incursion into Yemen to attack Houthi militias in 2009 it was repulsed with the loss of 133 troops. 

The Saudis claimed the humiliating defeat was down to Iran’s support for the Houthis. In Yemen the Saudi forces are effectively allied with Al Qaida. 

This latest attack highlights the region’s instability as Western imperialism tries to regain control. 

While the US is backing this invasion of Yemen to overthrow the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, it is also bombing Tikrit to support an Iranian-backed militia against Isis. 

And as Socialist Worker went to press, US-Iranian talks over Iran’s nuclear capabilities were nearing their deadline for agreement. 

Who arms Saudi Arabia? 

Saudi Arabia is a key ally of Western imperialism. When the previous ruler king Abdullah died in January the British government ordered flags to be flown at half mast.

They also keep it heavily armed. The Saudi military includes 75,000 soldiers in the army, 13,500 in the navy and 20,000 in the air force.

The Saudi army has 600 heavy tanks, 780 light armoured vehicles and 1,423 armoured troop carriers.

Its air force is equipped with 313 fighter jets, including US F-15s, British Tornados and Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as helicopters.

Air defence is considered a priority. Its air defences and deterrents include 16 batteries of US Patriot missiles, 17 batteries of French Shahine missiles, 16 US Hawk missiles and 73 Crotale/Shahine missile units. 

Back story

Iranian-backed Houthi fighters have forced out Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi 

  • Hadi was installed after people in Yemen rose up against dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012
  • But Hadi crushed the movement, fuelling Houthi rebellion in the north and calls for independence in the south
  • Saleh wants to use the Houthi rebellion to get back into power
  • But Saudi Arabia—backed by the west—wants to reinstate Hadi

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