The United States takes its national interest strongly domestically and internationally. The interest could be of strategic economic, political, or social significance to the Americans. Some of the foreign policies used by the U.S. are directed towards securing the interest of the country first. This has been the tradition of American governments. One of the areas that the U.S. is currently looking at is Yemen. It is currently waging war in Yemen in support of Saudi Arabia and U.A.E against the Houthis. America’s involvement in the Yemen war has included training the local army, military combat, logistical support, and use of drones to attack suspected terrorists. Opponents of the war question why the U.S. is involved in a war with a country that is among the poorest in the world. By a first glance, it seems that Yemen poses no threat to the American national security and, therefore, it is not in the national interest of U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia. However, the U.S. understands that Yemen is a vital security interest for Saudi Arabia, an area where it needs to aid Saudi Arabia and UAE. By helping Saudi Arabia/UAE through military support, the U.S. will be limiting the collateral damage as well as civilian casualties. Secondly, the U.S. needs to offer military support to Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. due to the increased level of Iranian influence in Yemen. The Saudi Arabians claim that Iran is intent on dominating the region with the Houthis as their surrogates. There have also been strong claims that the Houthis acquire financial support from Iran. There is definitely a strong relation between Iran and the Houthis, and the U.S. views Iran as an adversary given that it has already entered into a nuclear agreement with the nation. Additionally, the involvement of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the war-torn country has pushed the U.S. more to get involved since it is concerned the war could end up strengthening the terror groups network. The third major reason why the U.S. supports the Yemen war is that it stands to gain economically from the arms trade (Rabi, 2014). The Arabic states are heavily involved in buying American-war machinery which keeps the profits growing to the American arms industry. This paper argues that it is in the USA’s national interests to assist Saudi Arabia/UAE by taking an active and direct part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen. Pulling out of the Yemen war will be a step back in the American fight for regional peace and security.
The Saudi Arabian Efforts in Yemen Advances American Interests
Background of Saudi-U.S. Relations
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have always been strong partners during a large part of the post-war era. Their strategic partnership has been relied upon to shape Gulf and regional security in over seven decades. The cooperation is even stronger today due to the imminent threat posed by Iran, civil wars, and the ISIS. This is not to mention the threat of political upheavals that are often encountered in the region. The strong ties between Saudi Arabia and U.S. can be defined by several notable deals. These include that time when Saudi supported the U.S. against the U.S.S.R. and the subsequent confrontation with Nasser during the Afghan resistance to Soviet invasion and the recent crisis in Yemen. The relations also go further to cover the Iran-Iraq war and the fight against Saddam Hussein. In short, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have strong ties. Davis (2015) states that Saudi Arabia is highly dependent on America for its weapons, logistics, and training support. This is backed by a report that Saudi Arabia sought arms worth over $85 billion between 2008 and 2014, and approximately $60 billion came from the U.S (Krieg, 2016). This is to show that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a rich history of strong ties in matters involving war, disputes, and regional security. Yemen war happens to be just one of the areas that the U.S. had to get involved for its own national interests.
The relationship between U.S. and Saudi Arabia has been tested on various grounds in history. However, the two nations have consistently found shared interests especially when it concerns securing oil production in Saudi Arabia and in regulating Communism. The rise of Al Qaeda threat was a huge test of U.S.-Saudi relations, and the problem escalated after it was discovered that a large number of Saudi citizens took part in the 9/11 attacks (Gause III, 2016). In spite of these problems that threatened to turn relations, shared concerns over Iran as well as cooperation in counterterrorism have been some of the huge factors that have provided a newly found strategic logic for closer security relations between the two nations. President Obama’s government was keen to engage the Saudi Arabian government in those efforts that promoted regional stability. The administration has also been willing to help Saudi to defeat Al Qaeda. To this effect, Saudi Arabian national security has been under threat ever since the civil war began in Yemen. The unconventional threats coming from Iran and the instability in Yemen pose a huge threat to Saudi’s national security. According to Laub (2016), the U.S. has to get involved in the form of improving defensive strength of the Saudis over Iran. Obama’s administration has been involved in advancing the nations’ bilateral mechanisms. Given that Saudi Arabia has emerged as the strongest Arabic State politically and economically, U.S. has had to come to its aid to protect its interest. It has also been reported that the oil revenues in the country are expanding at a high rate as the demand for oil rises. This new profile of Saudi Arabia has improved its international standing. It is no doubt that the U.S. national security interests with respect to the country are likely to persist.
Reasons Why U.S. is in Yemen
The volatile relationship between U.S. and Iran has faced various hurdles in the past decade. Back in Yemen, Iran has been noted to take sides in the conflict. Saudi-led forces have controlled much of the airspace in Yemen through artillery and missiles to suppress the Houthis who have been reported to have a backing of Iran. However, Saudi Arabia has not fully managed to secure its national border from Houthi-led attacks. The development in Yemen has been one that has required intervention by the U.S.
The U.S. has helped Saudi Arabia in the last few weeks to strike down the Houthis using missiles after several missiles were fired towards American warships. The truth is that the U.S. has been helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen for a longer time against the Houthis by offering logistical support. The involvement of the U.S. is part of its policy. To put in into the context, conflict in Yemen began in the form of a domestic struggle for power. The struggle pitted political and tribal factions against each other. In 2011, an uprising forced leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after many years of a government struggle with the Houthi forces. After his government had been toppled, Deputy Rabbu Mansour Hadi took over (Brands, Feaver, Mearsheimer and Walt, 2016). He was tasked with forming a transitional unity administration. However, the Houthis still felt that the unity government formed afterward lacked any of their representatives. With time, the Houthis led an uprising that deposed Mansour, kick-starting a full-scale civil war. This was the time that Hadi asked Saudi to offer assistance in an attempt to take back control of the nation. The involvement of Saudi in the country put them against the Houthis. Perhaps the most critical factor for U.S. involvement is that the Houthi rebels receive significant support from Iran. Given that Iran is Saudi’s nemesis in the Middle East, the conflict gained international recognition. According to Lamothe (2014), Saudi Arabia knows that if the Houthis control Yemen, it will pose a direct threat on its Southern border. Given that the U.S. is mindful of regional stability and security interest in Saudi Arabia, it has to help the nation against the Houthi rebels to protect its interests. There is no doubt that an Iranian-supported militant in Yemen is a huge threat to Saudi Arabia given the proximity. Since the conflict, Saudi Arabian government has joined up with the Sunni-led Arab nations to reinstall Hadi’s government in Yemen. It can, therefore, be argued that the U.S. is helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen because it minds about the rise of Iranian influence in the region. Another evident reason that is becoming clearer with the conflict is that the U.S. is helping Saudi Arabia so that it can continue to help them fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
There is no doubt that Iran is a constant headache for U.S. given its push for nuclear weapons. The Arabic States are wary of the threat the Iran poses if left unchecked. Even more importantly, Saudi Arabia projects that Iran is seeking to dominate the Arabic region. According to Kahl and Lynch (2013), the Iran and the Gulf States are in a proxy war and that the Houthis are the clear surrogates of Iran. There is no denying that the Houthis receive financial aid from Iran. The fact that Iran is a huge threat to regional security, U.S. will be more than willing to join the fight and stop it from escalating the situation.
Saudi Arabia is greatly opposed to Houthi rebellion in Yemen because of the shared border. There is a likelihood that there could be a spill-over from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have always complained that the Sunni Saudi forces are intent on infiltrating their area in support of government troops. For the past six years, the Houthis have led attacks into the Saudi territory and managed to kill border guards in the process. As mentioned earlier, Yemen’s proximity to Saudi Arabia attracts major attention. The situation in Yemen has made security in Saudi to deteriorate. Apart from killing border guards, the Houthis have fired rockets into the villages in Saudi and staged border raids. Therefore, the conflict in Yemen has claimed many lives and displaced even more people. Saudi Arabia has been vocal in blaming Iran for the escalating unrest in Iran. There have been claims that the Iranian influence in Yemen is insignificant because the Houthis only benefit from small weapons and advisers from Iran. Opponents of U.S. involvement in Yemen claim there is no evidence to prove that the Houthis rely heavily on Iranian help (Terrill, 2014). However, only those sections that have not paid full attention to the conflict have missed the opportunity to see Iranian hand in the war. The Obama administration has been instrumental in blocking off over ten Iranian ships purporting to carry relief food from accessing Yemen in the past few months (Davis & Sprusansky, 2015). There was strong evidence that the ships were carrying weapons that were intended for Yemen to use against the Saudi-led attacks. It is, therefore, in the USA’s national interests to assist Saudi Arabia/UAE by taking an active and direct part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.
Economic interests have always been long-standing factors in major wars. The U.S. stands to gain from Yemen war by selling its arms and other war machinery to Saudi Arabia. According to Salisbury (2015), the Obama administration has traded with Saudi Arabia in arms worth over $115 billion in the two terms he has been the head of state. One of the recent deals between Saudi Arabia and U.S. has involved the sale of Abrams tanks worth over $1.15 billion. Some of these tanks are to replenish Saudi’s stocks that have been destroyed by Houthi rebels in Yemen. This was a deal that raised concerns in the Congress although it was voted in favor by 71 to 21 members.
Opponents of the war are currently debating the rationale for U.S. involvement in Yemen due to the high number of civilian casualty. A look into the history indicates that U.S. has always been Saudi’s leading arms supplier. From the 20th to the 21st century, the deals have involved weapons and military equipment. Others have included foreign military construction. Since Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, military threat to Saudi momentarily dropped. However, during the Bush administration, the arms deal between the two countries reached over $16.8 billion between 2005 and 2009. This is just a recap of the deals that the U.S. has had with Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that the Obama administration has brokered the greatest deals with Saudi Arabia since he took office. Sharp (2015) believes that Saudi Arabia will always depend on the U.S. to guarantee its security from various external threats. It is also documented that Saudi was able to compel Yemeni rebels from its territory in 2010 with the use of weaponry that originated in the U.S.
The Yemen war keeps the trade deals flowing to the benefit of the U.S. The manufacturers of fighter jets and weapons stand to benefit from the U.S. involvement in Yemen. The Arabic States have agreed to a deal that will fetch hundred billion dollars for war planes, bombs, tanks, and guns. When you put into consideration that for every sale of arms that Arab states receive Israel gets the same free, it shows you how lucrative the deals are to the U.S. The U.S. follows a firm pledge that seeks to make sure Israel has the edge over its neighbors in military terms. With these kinds of deals, the U.S. receives more profits, keeps the employment high, and keeps the Congress happy due to the inflow of campaign contributions coming from the arms manufacturers as well as the Israel lobby. Therefore, it is in the USA’s national interests to assist Saudi Arabia/UAE by taking an active and direct part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen because it is benefitting from the inflow of funds.
The Rise of ISIS and Al Qaeda
At first glance, Yemen is a poor country devastated by political and tribal wars. This is a country that has lost over 7000 people and numerous have been injured since April 2015. There is a striking humanitarian disaster. However, this situation has provided ISIS and Al Qaeda forces with the right environment for their networks to thrive. Al Qaeda has taken up a mini-state in Yemen and put up measures to abolish taxes for the residents in Mukalla. It is a complete empire, and its emergence has been seen as one of the unintended consequences of Yemen war. The campaign that is supported by the U.S. has enabled Al Qaeda to grow stronger in the Arabian Peninsula. There are fresh reports indicating that the group has extorted approximately $1.5 million from the national oil company (Bayoumy, Browning, Ghobari, & April, 2016). It also accumulates earnings of up to $2 million in taxes on commodities going into the port (Johnsen, 2013). The U.S. is worried about the dominance of AQAP (Arabian Peninsula) due to its proximity with Saudi Arabia. The group is infiltrating the southern part of Yemen in an effort to influence the population that has felt marginalized by the country’s elite. The danger is that the group has tried to attack the U.S. airliners. Opponents of Yemen war claim that the Saudis and the U.S. are to blame for the growing stature of the Al Qaeda in Yemen. Initially, it is reported that the Houthis were ready to fight the Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliates only for the Saudi-led airstrikes to provide an enabling environment for them to take advantage of the situation. It is thought that once the airstrikes began, the Houthis were limited to act, allowing Al Qaeda to grab more territory. Saudi Arabia portrays this group as a huge threat to its national security due to its close relationship with Iran.
There are people who think that the U.S. has managed to create an enemy it never had in the Houthis by engaging in a war it should not have. Al Qaeda in has grown to become the biggest threat to American national interests in Yemen and Saudi Arabia being strong opponents of the Houthis (Hopwood, 2015). However, the U.S. has acted consistently within its domestic and international guidelines. The close border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia was always going to come into effect with the conflict being too close. Remember that Saudi Arabia is of strategic interest to U.S. on many fronts. Saudi Arabia needed to pass on a strong message to the Houthis that they cannot dominate Yemen through force. It has also followed up by directing attacks toward the Al Qaeda that now controls the eastern and central parts of Yemen. The numerous air strikes have been warranted as the U.S. seeks to reassure the Saudis that they consider their security concerns and take them seriously. There is no doubt that the U.S. is concerned that the chaos in Yemen have the propensity to strengthen Al Qaeda and it is getting involved militarily to reduce the risk to Saudi Arabia. It is, therefore, in the USA’s national interests to assist Saudi Arabia/UAE by taking an active and direct part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.
The conflict in Yemen has attracted attention on the international scene. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have been directly involved in the war in a bid to reduce the influence of the Houthi rebels. However, the entrance of the U.S. has raised several questions among different sections of the American population. Despite the doubts, the above analysis shows that it is in the national interest of the U.S. to support Saudi Arabia/UAE in the war. Saudi Arabia remains a strategic partner of the U.S. on various fronts. Secondly, the rise of Al Qaeda in Yemen has threatened to expose Saudi Arabia to insecurity. This is a huge concern for the U.S., and it has shown how important Saudi Arabia is by deploying military assistance in Yemen. Another major reason that is not mentioned often is that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have been trading in arms for a long time. The situation in Yemen provides a chance for the U.S. to sell some arms, improving the economic status of manufacturers in U.S. With these reasons, it is in the national interest of U.S. take part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.
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