by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 1, Rajab, 1443)
Since the world is not governed by the rule of law, being powerful becomes extremely important. This is necessary for one’s self-defence against predatory powers of which there is no shortage. Power, however, cannot be defined only in terms of possessing vast quantities of weapons. Other factors also come into play such as courage, people’s morale etc. The defeat of heavily-armed Americans at the hands of poorly-equipped Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is a clear example of this phenomenon.
Let us also consider the case of two sets of people under alien occupation: Palestine and Kashmir. Despite living on the land for thousands of years, the Palestinians are under a brutal Zionist occupation of marauders from Europe, Russia and North America. While the Palestinians have the legal, moral and historical right to the holy land, their pleas for help are generally ignored. Instead, the Zionists receive massive financial, military and political support from their European and North American cousins to continue with their barbarous policies in occupied Palestine.
The same holds true for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They have faced a brutal Indian military occupation since 1947. There are at least 12 UN Security Council resolutions calling for a referendum so that the people can determine their own future. Aware that the overwhelming majority of Kashmiris would opt for Pakistan and reject being part of India, they have been denied this right by successive Indian regimes. External powers also turn a blind eye to the well-documented suffering of the Kashmiri people.
Apart from suffering under brutal occupation, the other point common between the Palestinians and the Kashmiris is that they are both virtually defenceless because they have no weapons to confront their enemies with. Their land is coveted by the occupiers for geo-strategic and political reasons. There is nowhere they can turn to for redress. In both places, the indigenous people are struggling with whatever meagre resources they can muster to confront their occupiers.
Beyond these areas of direct occupation, there are other places where the countries have wealth but are weak in defence. Most of the Arabian regimes fall under this category. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain offer ready examples. Apart from Bahrain the others are enormously rich but they are unable to defend themselves. This is not for lack of weapons. Most of these regimes have bought and continue to buy billions of dollars’ worth of weapons but they do not have trained manpower. Stuffing their oversized bellies with enormous amounts of food, drinking qahwa (or even the forbidden drink!) and having multiple wives leave little time for other activities. In any case, soldiering is not a profession for the pleasure-loving Arabians.
Take the case of the UAE that was subjected to Ansar-Allah drone attacks in January. It sent the Emiratis scurrying for cover and help. Their glass and concrete towers are extremely vulnerable to such attacks especially when their economies are so dependent on sprawling energy infrastructure and huge international airports. In one strike, the drones targeted oil facilities at Abu Dhabi international airport where three expatriate workers—two Pakistanis and one Indian—were killed. Their American supplied defence systems purchased at the cost of billions of dollars failed to intercept Yemeni drones.
The second strike occurred when Israeli President Isaac Herzog was visiting Abu Dhabi (January 30-31). The Yemeni Ansar-Allah defenders sent a clear message that they are capable of striking Abu Dhabi at will. Despite the heightened security measures, Ansar-Allah delivered an embarrassing blow. Why did the Ansar-Allah target Abu Dhabi? The Emiratis had reduced their forces in Yemen but in recent months, again increased their presence. The Ansar-Allah sent a message that such involvement would not be cost-free.
This also applies to the Saudis. They are the largest importers of weapons in the Middle East. The Saudis launched their destructive war on Yemen on March 26, 2015. It was quite revealing that the announcement about launching the war was made not in Riyadh but from the Saudi embassy in Washington DC. It was a clear signal that the Americans are fully behind this crime. The Saudis were under the illusion that their massive weapons’ stockpile and planes would crush Yemeni resistance in months if not sooner. They thought the Ansar-Allah would coming begging for a ceasefire.
Seven years later, it is the Saudis who are desperate for a ceasefire provided they can find a face-saving exit. Their stockpile of weapons has been exhausted. They fire surface-to-air missiles so recklessly that they have run out of them. And the Americans have withdrawn their missile defence shield from Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have been scurrying for help including reaching out to Pakistan once again to bail them out. In 2015, Islamabad had sensibly turned down a Saudi request to send its forces to fight against the Yemenis. Senior Pakistani military officers tried to dissuade the Saudis from getting entangled with the Yemenis. The upstart Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), freshly appointed defence minister by his father, was in no mood to listen to any advice, however sincere and well-meant. He had no qualifications for the job except that he is the son of the king!
MbS is living the monkey syndrome. Give a monkey a loaded gun and it would either blow someone else’s brain or its own. While he has inflicted immense suffering on the impoverished people of Yemen—the United Nations estimates that the war has killed 377,000 people as of the end of 2021—he has totally failed to achieve any of the war’s objectives. Yemen’s civilian infrastructure has also been destroyed.
While the Ansar-Allah defenders have refrained from targeting civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, they have hit strategic targets: military as well as economic installations such as oil storage facilities. The greatest blow delivered has been to foreign investors in the UAE. Not the bravest of people, they are the first to flee in the face of any sign of trouble. The Emiratis’ sandcastles may come crashing down sooner than they think, regardless of how much money they spend on acquiring weapons that they cannot use.
In addition to buying Rafale fighter jets from France, they are also purchasing missiles from South Korea as well as Zionist Israel. Will these be enough to save them from the Yemenis’ retaliatory strikes? Their safest option would be to get out of the war on Yemen. The Ansar-Allah have made clear that they would go after the Saudis and punish them for the crimes they have and continue to commit against the people of Yemen.
The Emiratis should save themselves while there is time.