By Doug Bandow
The Trump administration has made Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the foundation of its anti-Iran strategy. As a result, Washington, despite its avowed commitment to democracy, is supporting two authoritarian absolute monarchies. Riyadh recently distinguished itself by murdering and dismembering a journalistic critic in its own consulate.
Worse, however, the Saudis and Emiratis are proving to be the most disruptive, destabilizing forces in the Persian Gulf. Most disastrously, in 2015 they intervened in Yemen, turning that nation’s enduring internal strife into another front in the region’s dangerous sectarian struggle.
Their brutality has been ostentatious, bombing urban and civilian targets, including hospitals, markets, funerals, apartments, and more, and killing tens of thousands of non-combatants. The UAE also maintained detention facilities utilizing torture, at which American personnel have been present, though supposedly not involved in illegal behavior. Amnesty International reported “detailed stories of detention at gunpoint, torture with electric shocks, waterboarding, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, squalid conditions, inadequate food and water.”
Moreover, the “coalition” led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has been aiding America’s adversaries. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most effective affiliate of the organization which downed the twin towers. The rebel Houthis dislike America but hate AQAP even more. However, the Saudi/Emirati assault has diverted the Houthis’ attention from dealing with America’s enemies. Chaos and conflict are ever the terrorists’ friends.
Worse, the Emiratis/Saudis, and the nominally legitimate government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi which they are supporting, have been aiding, arming, and recruiting radical jihadist groups, including AQAP. (Riyadh and Abu Dhabi also employ members of the Sudanese Janjaweed militia, known for its brutality.) Last year the Associated Press reported that the coalition paid and recruited AQAP members and “cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash.” Moreover, “Coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaeda militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters.”
Emirati money also went to the AQAP-related Abu Abbas brigade, whose founder, Abu al-Abbas, was labeled a terrorist by Washington. “The coalition is still supporting me,” declared al-Abbas, even though his group launched a raid which freed Al Qaeda fighters from a local security facility. Salafist Adnan Rouzek runs a brutal force which operates under and is subsidized by President Hadi. Rouzek’s top aide is Al Qaeda and has been regularly seen with Al Qaeda officials; his group, explained AP, is “one of the main recruiters of al-Qaeda fighters” in the city of Taiz. “In one case, a tribal mediator who brokered a deal between the Emiratis and al-Qaeda even gave the extremists a farewell dinner.”
You can read the full opinion article at Cato Institute here.