Emperors of Silent Wars

Propaganda, Destruction, and Madness

Ever since the fall of Baghdad, the volatility of virtually the entire Middle East has been ‘off the charts’. Principally, this development had to do with the ridiculous, grand-sounding imperial project of heralding in a watershed of democracy through the use of shocking and awful means.

As soon as the greatest military force in history stepped foot on Arabia – adamant to grab the will of Providence by the collar – flashpoints began to spark up left, right and centre. The scars and pains of millions were not to distract the emblem of freedom from its historic mission.

That is one chunk of the story.

The other begins with the view that it would be far too simplistic to presume that the actions of the global superpower triggered no hubris on the part of its regional clients and hirelings. It would be useful to recall after all, that the birth-pangs of a New Middle East were only proclaimed (albeit incredibly prematurely on hindsight) when the supreme client rained death over southern Lebanon.

Not only did the regional axis of moderate Arab clients – alternatively referred to as the Arab Center – have a part to play, but an incredibly important one too; especially after the realisation in the first, belated instance of sanity, that one required much more than state-of-the-art weaponry to effect any sort of ‘real’ change. Thenceforth, the geopolitical struggle for the Middle East has largely been re-packaged into a sectarian one, with regional moderates representing the “Sunni” bastion and the axis of evil led by “Shi’ite” Iran.

For the Arab Center, this constituted a high point as far as its relevance and stature are concerned on the Middle Eastern chessboard. As with all big lies,1 the sectarian deception had its fair share of “success” stories, but the masses were never going to be fooled by it forever. It was only a matter of time before there were cries of, ‘enough, no more!’

In Lebanon, Sunnis and Shi’ites converged on downtown Beirut and offered their Friday prayers together in a show of indissoluble unity; an act of faith itself. The pillars of deception began to crumble and with it went the fading chances of “success”. But blind, morally corrupt rulers know no markers.

And so we witness the march of the Saudi monarchy into the ravaged Saada province in its attempts to renew once more, the sectarian myth.

Political commentary and media reporting is awash with talks of rebel “Shi’ite” Houthis – funded by Iran – warring against “Sunni” Yemen and Saudi Arabia. As evidenced by recent experience, very little needs to be done in the way of PR to draw the media to proffer the language of the elite.

An elementary ingredient of any successful war effort has to do with garnering support for your cause at the expense of adversaries. At another level, it is essential to draw a veil of silence on the crimes you commit in war in order to maintain that elusive saintly halo, whilst applying the reverse yardstick for adversaries. One can safely state that at both levels, the western media has been more than happy to oblige to the narrative of the Saudi monarchy.

Keeping aside news rooms, and trailing the buck to the top; the foremost accomplice to America’s imperial project, Britain, has been at the heart of the agenda to reinvent the sectarian card.

Take for instance, the words of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Miliband to the House of Commons on November 26, when he stated: “we have seen no evidence of external interference,”2 and place these against the omniscient declarations of Mr. Ivan Lewis, Minister of State for Middle Eastern Affairs, in an interview to the Al-Arabiya Satellite Channel only two days earlier:

Of course (sic), there is a proxy war going on there [in Yemen]. There is no doubt (sic) there is Iranian interference, the size of which we are not yet aware of, and we do not know whether it is direct Iranian interference. However, it is clear that Iran nourishes and encourages rebels and terrorists, which is unacceptable.3

At a time when the Iraq Inquiry is ongoing, you might dare hope it would imprint some humility on a deceptive, mendacious political culture that has, and continues to, cost the lives of thousands. Nay; all vain dreams! Further, the level of disinterest across Western capitals to even consider the possibility of Saudi violations in Saada is truly shocking; less so perhaps, if one takes into account the overall context of a political climate that is geared to criminalize, ipso facto, only one state in the region.

Saudi government-funded media outlets on their part speak of an apocalyptic Iranian, Shi’ite takeover of the Arab heartland in an orchestrated media war which aims to “[paint] Iran as the troublemaker of the Middle East, a major threat to regional stability, and an agent of chaos in many Arab countries, including Iraq and Yemen.”4

Decades of political and economic marginalization have conveniently travelled down an Orwellian memory hole; instead, the cause of Yemeni Zaydis has been reduced to a ‘Saudi vs. Iran’ proxy war.

Away from the Saudi newspeak, the reality on the ground in Saada is heart-breaking.5 “Of the 3,000 under fives targeted by a recent screening in the camp”, IRIN reports “667 cases (22 percent) were severely malnourished.” According to the UNHCR, existing shelter and aid resources are being strained after the IDP population in the main Al Mazrak 1 camp more than doubled over the last month.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia not only persists with its blind targeting of innocent civilians, but also continues to deport displaced refugees fleeing from the fighting. As of 19 November, the number of deportations was estimated at 1,040.6

With the emergence of more unified motivations for justice amongst the global masses, and conversely, an intensification of injustice and arrogance amongst power elites, the muted response of ‘dissident culture’ to the carnage in Saada should evoke great concern. Adopting a paradigm of ‘selective solidarity’ risks exposing fundamental contradictions within antiwar movements, and inherently diminishes the efficacy of the wider movement on its more vocal and identifiable causes owing to the cross-relatedness of the various flashpoints in the Middle East.

Additionally, as pointed to above, the political elites in Western capitals equally resort to propaganda and untruths in order to re-package happenings on the ground in Saada as elsewhere across the Middle East. Keeping aside notions of selective impunity on usage of propaganda and lies, these propaganda campaigns are employed to fit into grander narratives. In this case, the renewal of the sectarian myth and the demonization of Iran, and all that these entail.

For the above reasons, and for the simple truth of the grave human suffering in Saada, we’ve got to move.

  1. The Myth of Sectarianism in the New Middle East,” Global Research, 27 April 2009. []
  2. See: House of Commons Daily Debates, 26 November 2009. []
  3. Demonstrations in Sanaa demand expulsion of Iranian Ambassador,” Al Arabiya News Channel, 25 November 2009. []
  4. The hidden war,” Al Ahram Weekly, 5-11 November Issue. []
  5. Saada Under Siege,” CounterPunch, 23 October 2009. []
  6. See: Yemen Humanitarian Update, OCHA, 19 November 2009. []

Ali Jawad is a political activist and a member of the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM). He can be reached at: jawad.ali313@googlemail.com. Read other articles by Ali, or visit Ali's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 14th, 2009 at 9:51am #

    Nato/us warlords may indeed be frustrated that pashtuns and sunnis of iraq had not been subdued as of yet.
    So, they invent a cause for it: a satanic power, arming/helping resistance fighters in iraq and afgh’n; known in west as terrorists.

    US/nato warlords wanted us to accept their claims that they were on missions to fight terrorists and bring democracy in the two evil and disfunctional empires.
    And, of course, to protect their women from evil men, but only evil pashtun, oops, taliban men. Tajik women did not need protecting, tho, because tajic men are good folk.
    tnx

  2. Shabnam said on December 15th, 2009 at 11:18pm #

    Mr. Jawad thank you for information on massacre of Houthis in Yemen by forces of evil, mainly Saudi Arabia, Yemenis and now the United States joined the killing of Shiites in Yemen who have risen against their oppressors. To hide their crimes, The Saudis and its media mogul are using Zionist’s disinformation and propaganda style to portrait the Houthis’ struggle against their oppressors as funded by a ‘foreign power’ meaning Iran to discredit the Houthis’ legitimate grievances against the Sunnis.
    Contrary to propaganda by Saudis’ media outlet, a U.S. official said on last Friday he had no proof that Iran is supporting Shi’ite rebels who have seized some Saudi territory, a position at odds with a Yemeni claim that the rebellion has Iranian backing.

    It is very important to point out that the so called head of Arab ‘moderate states’ like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have decided to play with fire and feed their Arab population with lies against Shiites to use the religious divide to divert attention away from their own inability to improve people’s life and onto an imaginary ‘enemy’ meaning Iran. Saudi Arabia is working hand in hand with Israel to continue the status que where Iran is viewed as ‘evil’ and Shiites as ‘extremists’ because this situation is proven to be desirable for Arab puppet states and the empire builders.

    I am surprised with lack of Arab Intellectuals protest against Saudi Arabia use of religious dive to put one against the other where is no one interest except our enemies in the region. I think those Arabs who write many articles on Palestinians unacceptable condition ought to do the same against Saudi Arabia where majority of Arab Journalists have placed their training at the service of empire through $$$$ of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia as a negative force must be exposed every day.
    Mr. Jawad, you ought to write about Arab intellectual’s lack of unity with other groups in the region. They must break their silence and protest against Saudi Arabia and the United States for their war crime activities against both Shiites and Sunnis in the region and ask for immediate withdrawal from the region.

  3. Shabnam said on December 16th, 2009 at 9:33am #

    People who are against war crimes must condemn Obama’s expansion of war against Muslims, Houthis in Yemen, to please the most corrupt regime in the region, meaning head of ‘Arab moderate state’ !!!especially Saudi Arabia, Abdullah, where Obama bowed to the ground in front of him to fool Muslims that ‘we have nothing against you.” The facts on the ground, however, show a very different picture. Obama is engaged in genocide in Yemen which has received NO ATTENTION especially from Arab intellectuals who are writing articles on Palestinians situation almost daily but have chosen to be silent and even supportive of Yemenis and Saudis’ genocide in Yemen to KEEP THE ARAB UNITY ALIVE!!. Outhits are ARABS who are under bombardment of American made Saudis’ WMD daily to crash them. Saudi Arabia is widening the Sunnis and Shiite divide for political advantages to create chaos which is needed for our common enemy to function best against the population. Arab intellectuals must immediately remove their veil of silence and ignorance to act at once against the bombartment of Houthis in Yemen. Saudi Arabia with its Mogul media outlet including Alarabiya controls the propaganda and disinformation against the misery of Houthis in Yemen to mislead others. Many Arabs and non Arabs are at the service of $$$$$$$ paid by Saudis who are viewed by many as the enemy of Arabs and people of the region and in support of Zionist’s policy against regional states.
    The destructive role of Saudi Arabia must be exposed now.

    US fighters pound Sa’ada, kill 120

    At least 120 Houthis have lost lives and 44 others sustained injuries as US fighter jets took part in air strikes in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada.

    “The US air force perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplanes,” the northern Yemen-based Houthi Shia fighters said.
    They added, “The savage crime committed by the US air force shows the real face of the United States. It cancels out much touted American claims of human rights protection, promotion of freedoms of citizens as well as democracy.”

    The US military continues its air raids on Yemen’s northern beleaguered regions of Amran, Hajjah and Sa’ada which have already been the target of joint Saudi-Yemen offensive against the Houthi fighters.
    The conflict in northern Yemen began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the fighters in the northern province of Sa’ada.
    The Houthis accuse the Yemeni government of violation of their civil rights, political, economic and religious marginalization as well as large-scale corruption.

    The Saudi air force has further complicated the conflict by launching its own operations against Shia resistance fighters.

    Houthi fighters say that Riyadh pounds their positions and that Saudi forces strike Yemeni villages and indiscriminately target civilians. According to the fighters, Saudis use toxic materials, including white phosphorous bombs, against civilians in northern Yemen.

    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that since 2004, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa’ada and take refuge at overcrowded camps set up by the United Nations.

    http://blackpoliticalthought.blogspot.com/2009/11/president-barack-obama-bows-to-japanese.html

  4. Ali J. said on December 16th, 2009 at 12:33pm #

    Hi Sr. Shabnam,

    Thanks for the contributions. I agree with you on much of what you’ve written.

    Firstly, although I didn’t mention this in the piece, I believe question marks should be raised about the initial pretext that supposedly ‘justifies’ Saudi military involvement in Saada. The official pretext was that Yemeni Houthis infiltrated Saudi borders and launched an attack against an outpost as a result of which a Saudi official was killed. This is reported to have occured on 3rd November 2009. However, take for instance the report that appeared a day earlier (2nd November) citing that Saudi territory was being used by the Yemeni army to launch attacks on Houthis:

    http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1510866.php/Yemen-rebels-say-army-launched-attacks-from-Saudi-territory

    This is but one example, and does not even begin taking into account non-stop Saudi involvement over the years (decades to be precise) in fuelling sectarian tensions, and funding rival confederates. Mai Yamani, a critic of Saudi foreign policy, is a good reference to look into for the above (e.g. http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/13932_160409remesyamani.pdf)

    Therefore on the whole, the media and political elite are suffering from contextual amnesia; as happened with the Israeli pretext for justifying the war on Gaza last year.

    I agree with you strongly that there are some powers in the Middle East such as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who wish to ‘sectarianize’ conflicts. I tried to look at some of the reasons for this in the piece “The Myth of Sectarianism in the New Middle East” which is cited in the footnotes. Some of the reasons I raise are similar, if not the same as those that you have.

    This sorry situation of mis-using sectarianism for political ends does not only apply to relative ‘unknowns’ like the Yemeni Houthis, but the irony is that popular groups like Hamas are also projected through a sectarian lens. Egyptian officials often refer to the Gaza Strip as a tiny Islamic Republic of Iran, and characterize Hamas as an extension of the Iranian (and by extension Shi’ite )agenda.

    As you’ve mentioned, there is a need for Arab intellectuals to be more vocal in rejecting this sectarian rhetoric. This can begin with simply stating that Yemeni Houthis, are before all Yemenis and Arabs who have legitimate grievances against the state.

    Nevertheless, I think the sectarian card is a tool of diminishing utility, and the frontline against this deception will not be the intellectuals class, but rather the common (wo)man on the Arab street.

    Finally, as you’ve stated, reports of US involvement in Saada if established, will prove that there is much more going on in the background than first meets the eye.

    Regards,
    Ali.