The war in Yemen has begun in earnest now

After years of slowly building chaos, The Houthi force is moving against Aden, the government-in-the-south has fled the country, and — as of tonight — the Royal Saudi Air Force has launched an operation into Yemen under the GCC (or possibly the Arab League) at the request of the fallen government.

Flag of Yemen

Flag of Yemen

10 countries are participating in the operation already: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan are all said to be participating, with logistical and intelligence support from the United States.

The involvements of Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and Sudan are very unexpected and indicate a much wider operation than anticipated. It also strongly suggests that Saudi Arabia was leaning heavily on every government in the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, and South Asia to whom it has given a lot of money previously. Saudi Arabia is cashing in every favor for a blistering war against the quasi-Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, unlike with the rather lackadaisical coalition to support the United States against ISIS in Syria. Qatar, which sent no jets at all in the Syria campaign, sent 10 tonight.

Bahrain, which only participated minimally on the first day of the Syria raids, also sent 15 jets. Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy also “owes” Saudi Arabia for brutally suppressing their own Shia uprising in 2011 (during the Arab Spring) with GCC shock troops.

The UAE and Jordan also sent plenty of bombers over Yemen in the initial hours, in a marked contrast from their wavering in the Syria campaign.

This massive undertaking should, in my opinion, also be taken as a clear signal that Saudi Arabia firmly prioritizes the “threat” from Iran and Iranian proxies (which include the Houthis in Yemen but also 100,000 anti-ISIS fighters across Iraq and Hezbollah anti-ISIS units in western Syria) well above the threat from ISIS, despite tough talk on the latter some months ago.

Meanwhile, Iran has countless military advisers and trainers on the ground assisting the huge Iraqi campaign to re-take Tikrit from ISIS, has been providing close-air support and bombers against ISIS all over the Iraqi skies, and reportedly may even have 30,000 regular troops fighting in Iraq directly.

If I’m looking at the facts and figures, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League in general — the purported American allies — are doing far less to combat ISIS than Iran, even if you buy the theory that Iran’s support for Assad accidentally helped create ISIS in the first place.

This war in Yemen against the Houthis, which Saudi Arabia has been stirring up violently for years, seems essentially to be more of an indirect war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch the actual al Qaeda presence in Yemen.

Could Be Worse: Immigration Reform Edition

Tonight I clicked on a BBC headline with a meaning so opaque to me it might as well have been a string of wingdings characters:
Kuwait ‘has Comoros plan for Bidun’

I also clicked because I had been researching Comoros the other day so it caught my attention. But I was actually even more astonished and bemused once I read through the article.

Here’s the problem it turns out Kuwait’s government needs to solve: There are about 100,000 people — referred to as “Bidun” — living unlawfully and long-term in Kuwait without documents from any country. This has been an issue ever since the oil boom started quite a few decades ago. Complicating things, many born there are considered genuinely “stateless” people, since Kuwaiti citizenship is not automatic to every person born on the country’s soil, unlike in the United States and many other countries. A governmental review claims that only 34,000 could already qualify to receive Kuwaiti citizenship. Thus they still needed to figure out what to do with the remaining two thirds.

Kuwait’s solution for that remainder is … to give them all citizenship from the African islands nation of Comoros (off Madagascar). Comoros is a tiny and dirt-poor Arab League member state located in the southern Indian Ocean. It is best noted for having had 20 attempted or successful coups since July 1975 (which is why I was researching the country).

Perhaps even more puzzling in this already oddly capricious and arbitrary plan is that the Bidun wouldn’t actually move to Comoros, they would just receive Comoran citizenship and documents and would be able to stay in Kuwait on economic and other visas … unless deported “home” for criminal activity.

Another fun twist in this plan: Comoros doesn’t even have an embassy in Kuwait yet from which to distribute citizenship papers to all their new patriots.

I mean, I suppose this plan is better than mass deportations, mass enslavement, or mass slaughter — things other countries have employed before for similar problems — but in terms of a comprehensive plan for absorbing a large population of stateless migrants and native-born peoples this has to be one of the most bananas.

It really puts U.S. dysfunction on settling the status of undocumented immigrant populations in a much more charitable light. At least we haven’t tried to solve the issue by making millions of U.S.-born Latinos citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia…yet.

Adapted from Wikimedia by Arsenal For Democracy

Adapted from Wikimedia by Arsenal For Democracy

October 29, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 105


Topics: Media coverage of Nigeria, comparing Mexico’s cartels to ISIS, reform Islam versus billionaire barons. People: Nate, Bill. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: October 26th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Why is Western media reporting on Nigeria so bad?
– Is Mexico’s Cartel War a bigger threat than the Syrian Civil War and the spread of ISIS?
– How big money for extremist causes is overriding Sunni Islam’s natural tendencies across the world

Episode 105 (56 min)
AFD 105

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: The Farce that is Nigeria’s Armed Forces
AFD: There was never a truce in Nigeria, just so we’re clear

Segment 2

Al Jazeera America: Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL
AFD: Mexico’s war: Still a bigger threat to the US than Syria’s
Global Post: Mexico’s vigilantes are building scrappy DIY tanks to fight narcos
NYT: 43 Missing Students, a Mass Grave and a Suspect: Mexico’s Police
The Daily Beast: She Tweeted Against the Mexican Cartels. They Tweeted Her Murder.

Segment 3

The Globalist: Reform Islam Vs. Billionaire Barons


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Oped | Reform Islam Vs. the Billionaire Barons

My new oped in The Globalist argues that Islam isn’t inherently backward — as is mistakenly often suggested in Western media — it’s being held back by powerful donors who support extreme versions of it and make those the focus of attention. Here’s an excerpt, discussing lack of doctrinal uniformity in Islam versus the unifying force of money to extreme causes:

Sunni Islam alone has a handful of diverging schools of thought, further splintered by the separate followings of various popular current scholars.

Unfortunately the loudest and perhaps best-organized sub-segment of the sect recently seems to be the engine driving extremist groups all over the world. But even that analysis misdiagnoses and misattributes a centralization that is not really there, beyond a superficial level.

The emerging global networks of fundamentalist Sunni Islamic terrorism of the past 5, 15 and 25 years are linked in practice only because they have voluntarily associated with each other and with a specific brand of the religion.

The networks have co-opted or completely supplanted decades-old movements in places as diverse as Mali or Philippines, which had aimed to address local poverty and institutional inequalities (or obtain independence).

This voluntary association between groups, in countries from West Africa to Southeast Asia, has only been made possible by atypically centralized funding sources that provide seed money and setup advice for local franchises before they are able to become financially self-sustaining.

Most of the franchises have not been able to reach self-sufficiency and continue only by the grace of the startup funders. The rest generally continue to receive advice from the funding sources and remain associated with the other groups for brand value and the attention that comes with it.

These funders — not preachers — are the ones who really shape existing local grievances and separatist movements into a globalized, semi-unified ideology. Without them, the decentralization inherent to Islam would continue to reign.

The efforts to create a caliphate spanning the globe aren’t springing up from the grassroots of abandoned and impoverished desert populations. Rather it springs fully formed from the men bearing suitcases of cash and ideological directives on what must be done and said to keep it coming.

This money is coming from fundraisers in Qatar and Kuwait and donors in those countries, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and beyond. If those donor networks were broken and permanently dismantled, it would break apart the emerging coalition of co-associating local movements subscribing to a hardline, Islamic globalism.

If you click through, I also cite a specific example of a very progressive, high-ranking Muslim leader in Nigeria.

Iraq PM committed to rival countries bombing Iraq’s neighbors, just not Iraq

The juxtaposition of the new Iraqi Prime Minister’s views, in a BBC interview, on which Arab countries should be bombing other Arab countries produces some pretty amazing (and unsurprising) geopolitical NIMBYism:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has told the BBC he “totally” opposes Arab nations joining air strikes against Islamic State in his country.


Mr Abadi said he had sent a delegation to Damascus to inform its neighbour of Iraq’s request for the coalition to target IS in Syria, saying it was crucial to stop “transient border terrorism”.

Don’t bomb us without permission — bomb them without permission!

iraq-map-ciaNow, again, it’s not that surprising. I’m sure Prime Minister Abadi doesn’t really want a precedent established that he, the leader of his country, is so weak he must seek help from his neighbors and invite their interference. Moreover, it probably hurts him, as the political head of Iraq’s majority Shia faction, if he welcomes Iraq’s Sunni-ruled neighbors’ armed forces bombing Iraq, even if they’re targeting armed groups in Iraq, and even if those groups happen to be Sunni insurgents this time. (After all, bombing Sunni Iraqis is a job for the Shia-dominated Iraqi Air Force, with as much cruelty and incompetence as possible.)

In his defense: It’s just generally not a great idea to invite neighbors — especially ones with a tense and sometimes bitter history of rivalry (or even past territorial disputes) — to feel welcome to bomb you. In contrast, it’s probably (somewhat) less objectionable to request air support from halfway around the world. It’s one thing to publicly invite the strongest air power in the world to help you because your own air force is under-equipped and terrible and useless; it’s a very different matter to draw attention to the fact that the surrounding Arab states of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait (which hasn’t participated so far) all have vastly superior air forces to Iraq’s.

And, to top it off, the recent unilateral airstrikes in Libya by the United Arab Emirates, following up on their Arab League authorized operations in 2011, might also have made Abadi cautious about opening that door now and laying out the welcome mat for future meddling in Iraq, as in Libya.

But telling them to target insurgents in Syria seems to be another matter for Abadi — and one without a whole lot of additional logic, other than that it’s not Iraq, so it’s not his problem. It might also be that he needs to emphasize his “request” for coalition airstrikes in Syria to strengthen the case that the US-led coalition isn’t violating international law by intervening in Syria without permission because it is simply targeting a Syrian-based threat to the Iraqi state. (I’m a little skeptical of that reasoning, given that most people don’t consider it legal during the Vietnam War for the US to have bombed Vietnamese insurgent / North Vietnamese Army supply lines in Laos and Cambodia, even to defend the South Vietnamese government.)

At any rate, the more things change, the more things stay the same — and that includes Gulf-area countries trying to play each other off each other constantly to try to gain tiny edges momentarily.