A faith in reason and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, that allowed us to build a post-World War II order with other democracies. An order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press.
That order is now being challenged by violent fanatics and by autocrats. They represent the fear of change. The fear of people who look or speak or pray differently. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. A belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors. ~ U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama II.
Behind the religious conflict, control of the Red Sea
"Yemen is falling apart before our eyes". It is with these words that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon described the situation of the country before the Security Council February 12, 2015.
There is no better emphasize the chaotic state of the political transition started in parallel the "Arab Spring" in 2011.
The instability in Yemen, the object of international attention as a result of numerous terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), massively present on Yemeni territory, and more recently by the Islamic State (EI) , however, is not new.
It has its roots in the geographical fragmentation, sectarian and tribal superficially but a recently reunited country (1990). It fits especially in a broader geopolitical context, with regional but also international issues: the ancient kingdom of Saba, rich spices, gold and precious stones in the time of King Solomon, controls the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in the Red Sea and from the Suez Canal. A vital artery for international trade.
Poor condition and "bankrupt" in a turbulent environment, plagued by deep internal divisions, tribal and religious, Yemen nevertheless has significant geopolitical advantages. It is, with its 13 million inhabitants, one of the most populous countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
It enjoys favorable climatic conditions, the height of its massive (peaking at 3,400 meters), enabling it to have 400 to 600 millimeters of annual rainfall.
The rich volcanic soil and climatic conditions have enabled the development, since ancient times, original agricultural civilization, whose power was quickly reinforced by its privileged location along the Red Sea, through which goods transit the most valuable of the time.
Greeks and Romans and described the region as "Arabia Felix" (Arabia Felix). But what made the country's wealth, its strategic location, largely explains its current problems.
The appearance of the facts: the extension of the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis
On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia launched an air offensive, named "decisive Storm", against Yemen, with the help of a coalition of a dozen other States, supported by the Western powers.
His stated goal: reinstate Abd Rabbo Yemeni President Mansour Hadi refugee in Riyadh after being ousted by Shiite Houthis.
A justified response retrospectively by the 2216 resolution of the UN Security Council (04.20.2015), demanding the withdrawal of Houthi militias areas they conquered gradually since September 2014.
With its inevitable collateral damage (4900 dead and some 25,000 wounded, according to the UN, at the end of September 2015), this military campaign is still ongoing.
Despite the return September 22 Mansour Hadi in Aden, the largest port in the south and the second city of Yemen, it seems to be marking time. The country is undoubtedly sinking into civil and religious war.
Didier Bilion, deputy director of IRIS, "behind the local conflict raging lurks in reality the standoff between the Arab Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Saudi Arabia tries by all means to get back to the center of the regional game and establish itself as the leader in opposition to what she calls 'the Iranian expansionism'.
Leaning on the "fantasy of the Iranian threat", reactivated by the "striking back" Tehran on the international stage (see
Note KEY No. 166, 09.17.2015), the Ryad reaction can not however be understood without the consideration of the dispute that opposes it from the beginning, Yemen.
An old dispute between Riyadh and Sanaa
If the southern part of Yemen, corresponding to the former British hinterland formed in the nineteenth century around the port of Aden, only became independent in 1967, the territory of the "Arab Republic of Yemen", north frees himself from Ottoman rule since the end of World War II.
But from the Taef Agreement (1934), this new state must give in Saudi Arabia Asir province, whose contours remain vague, however. The two countries are competing including sovereignty over the islands lying off the coast of this region (especially Farassan archipelago).
"The monarchy of Saud has always been suspicious of Yemen, Republic suspected of wanting to recover lost territory in 1934, which is why Riyadh has supported the southern secessionist movement emerged in Yemen in 1994, say the authors of Geopolitical Atlas maritime areas. The defeat of the separatist sparked new tension with Sanaa and armed incidents occurred between the two countries in 1998, following the occupation of some disputed islands. "
It was not until the agreement of 12 June 2000 set to see the land border and the delimitation of maritime areas between the two countries.
More fundamentally, it is the political legitimacy of Yemen that the Saudi monarchy itself after the Ottoman defeat in 1918, and historically much more frustrating that the ancient "Happy Arabia", seems to have always contested.
Thomas Flichy of La Neuville underlined: "The roots of this opposition in an millennia draw fracture, internal to the Arabian Peninsula, between the rich agricultural civilization of the Yemeni high plateaus and desert areas of the north, Bedouin territories" (The Obs , 04.13.2015).
This is why the 1926-1934 conflict between the two countries and the hegemony exercised by the Saudis on Arab Republic of Yemen North, since their support monarchists opposed to Republicans supported by Nasser's Egypt in the civil war of 1962 until reunification they have never tried to promote, on the contrary.
"Saudi Arabia's long-standing one weakening its neighbor policy", says Le Monde (04/17/2015). The current weakness of Yemen owes much to the silent hostility.
A strategic position on the oil route
"The strategic location of the country at the crossroads of the oil routes to Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia makes it a safe big deal for some external powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran or the United States ", observe Elsa Barbieri and Marine Matray for Diploweb.com.
Fourth point of the most important sea passage to the world in terms of oil transportation, the Strait of Bab al Mandab, between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea, sees indeed pass only 90% of Japanese exports to 3.8 million barrels day (AFP figures, 2015).
Consequently, the deteriorating situation in Yemen is a potential factor of regional destabilization whose repercussions would obviously international. It is also no coincidence that more than 8,000 Western soldiers are stationed in Djibouti remains in front of Aden.
If Iranian interference is often pointed at, the degree of involvement of Tehran remains discussed by specialists. Especially as the Houthis are only one component of the Shiite Zaydi groups: with the aim of restoring their lost imamate in 1962, they are a minority within the Shiite Zaydi tribes.
The commitment of Sunni Gulf states backed by Western powers and their local allies (Egypt in the lead), does however doubt. For two reasons. The first is in the geopolitical struggle for influence that engage the Saudi kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
If it succeeded in ensuring Sanaa, after Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut (through Hezbollah), it could indeed be a kind of "Shia belt" around the Sunni states in the region that they can not accept. But the challenge is not just regional.
A pro-Iranian state installed on the banks of the Red Sea would give Tehran the ability to cut two of the main shipping artery of the Middle East oil, i.e. the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf and that of Bab el Mandeb controlling de facto, Suez Canal traffic.
A risk that the Western powers do not want to take. And that explains, beyond support for the Arab coalition, distrust maintained in many chancelleries with regard to Iran.
At this yardstick, Yemen looks like a copy geopolitical event. For if, for the people, the religious factor and more broadly the identity issues remain essential, it is the question of power, especially in its economic aspects, including access to resources, which is the real engine of international relations .
10/15/2015 by JF Fiorina - notes-geopolitiques.com