SHAFAQNA – Earlier this week Catherine Shakdam – Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies’ Director of Programs spoke to Tasnim News Agency on Yemen.
Following is the transcript of the interview:
Tasnim: As you know, the Riyadh regime and its staunch allies invaded Yemen in March 2015 with the aim of returning the fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power. Since then, the people of the Arabian Peninsula country have been under massive attacks and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition almost on a daily basis. According to a leaked UN report, it is believed that the coalition has targeted civilians with airstrikes in a “widespread and systematic” manner. In the latest air raids by the coalition forces, 13 Yemeni civilians were killed in rural areas north-east of Hodeida on Saturday. In your opinion, why is the international community so passive in responding to the heinous crimes committed by the Al Saud regime?
Shakdam: Saudi Arabia has bought its political allies’ silences. If you consider that Yemen’s war is actually a genocidal war carried out by the most brutal, vindictive and reactionary theocracy ever to have graced the pages of History, silence is now a war crime, and I would personally argue a crime against humanity. Saudi Arabia is at war not only against the people of Yemen, against an entire people’s sovereign right, and right to political self-determination. Although it has been presented as a war of political restoration, the main goal was always to turn Yemen into a Saudi province – another jewel to add to the crown of al-Saud.
The Kingdom is attempting to raise a grand Wahhabi empire at the heart of Southern Arabia for its natural resources and geography would guarantee its power for decades to come.
Yemen is geo-strategically invaluable – with thousands of miles of coasts Yemen offers an opening onto Africa, Asia and of course Europe through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Yemen also sits along the World Oil Route. Should KSA control this strait of water, it would essentially hold a monopoly on natural resources and thus have powers eat in the palm of its hand. I’m not sure the Western powers in their arrogance can fathom that Saudi Arabia is their greatest enemy.
With Yemen, Saudi Arabia has learnt war – a war fought by proxy: mercenaries. The real question Western capitals sought to ask themselves is: what happens when Riyadh will have ambitions of its own against its Western friends?
Saudi Arabia has become a dangerous and belligerent power animated by a violent and dogmatic ideology: Wahhabism.
The West’s silence is anchored in the insane belief that it can still control its patsy: Terror that it can still play imperialism to revive its dying economic system.
I would say that the West’s silence speaks volume of its hypocrisy and grandstanding on such principles as human rights, democracy and national sovereignty.
In my book: A Tale of Grand Resistance – Yemen, the Wahhabi and the House of Saud I clearly identify the paradigm of Yemen’s War, and the role Western powers and Western institutions have played to offer cover to Saudi Arabia’s crimes.
Tasnim: The October 8 Saudi airstrike on a funeral in Sana’a, which killed more than 140 people and was condemned by Human Rights Watch as an “apparent war crime”, was one of the deadliest since the start of the war. One day after the attack, the White House said it had begun an “immediate review” into its role in assisting the Saudi-led coalition. This is while Spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah Movement Mohammed Abdulsalam said late on Friday that the war on the Arab country is a US-Saudi aggression. What is your assessment of such statements by the White House and its role in the protracted war in Yemen?
Shakdam: Washington is only trying to assuage public opinion by pretending to care. Washington knows exactly what is going on in Yemen – US experts are sitting in Riyadh’s war rooms alongside their British colleagues. Are we honestly implying that the White House is unaware of Saudi Arabia’s targets even though its offices are providing the intelligence? I would like to think that the public is not naïve as to believe officials’ statements.
America remains one of the most hypocritical and disingenuous of power. America speaks of human rights and democracy and it is denying Yemen both. America claims to be a nation under God and yet it has allowed for the abomination of Wahhabism to act as its foot-soldiers as it attempts to enslave nations to its rule. When I say America, I speak not of the people but the regime. The White House can say what it will, until actions manifest on ground, talk is indeed cheap.
Washington has no interest in Justice. If it did it would not have systematically trampled on nations and people’s rights. It would not have permitted for the likes of Riyadh to wage war on its own people in the name of religious absolutism, and of course it would not have allowed for Yemen to be burnt to the ground as it did.
I do agree that Washington has empowered the Saudis against Yemen’s Resistance Movement but that is not to say that Washington will not switch alliances. Washington, we ought to remember always plays both sides of the river to ensure that its interests are best served. And so this war remains still a Saudi war on Yemen.
There has been a shift in dynamics over the past few weeks and months whereby the US is coming to terms with the fact that Riyadh’s agenda for Yemen will fail and that Sana’a will not bow regardless.
Tasnim: Ceasefires announced by the United Nations in Yemen have failed to hold as the Saudi regime repeatedly violated them. The UN-led peace negotiations have also been fruitless. In your opinion, why have the UN efforts to end the 20-month conflict or at least broker a real ceasefire gone nowhere?
Shakdam: The United Nations has no real authority anymore. I think this was best demonstrated this year when Saudi Arabia blackmailed the UN into removing its name from the human rights violators blacklist. The UN has become a slave of capitalism and its funders’ abilities to leverage money for political influence.
I would say that as it stands now the United Nations has become together a tool and an extension of the Western imperial complex … although power now is shifting into the hands of Saudi Arabia because of the money it wields.
For a ceasefire to work both parties need to commit. Clearly Saudi Arabia is more interested in murdering innocent civilians than abiding by the rule of law. Yemen’s Resistance Movement is well aware of that – but it also understands that for peace to be given a chance one needs to try nevertheless.
Saudi Arabia has shown its true nature – it is a murderous regime, a repressive regime, a genocidal regime which makes fascism look like child play.
Tasnim: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon openly admitted in June that he removed the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of child killers — 72 hours after it was published — due to a financial threat by Riyadh to defund UN programs. What do you think of such decision by the most prominent international organization, which has always called itself a defender of human rights?
Shakdam: Money! It is always money which makes the wheels of Western politics turn! What surprised me most was the public’s apathy. If we can expect politicians to behave ruthlessly, to see such a broad desensitization before human suffering is troubling. If crimes against children cannot prompt people to rise-up in anger one needs to wonder what will.
The United Nations’ very existence is redundant. It serves the high and mighty not the rule of law. It only pays lip-service to human rights; it does not actually fight to defend them.
For example: Saudi Arabia has threatened several times over to murder Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the nephew of deceased Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr – what has the UN done about it? Nothing at all. Even though this young man was imprisoned and tortured as a child the UN has looked on in complete silence.
The United Nations has become irrelevant!