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Web Log - January, 2022


19-Jan-22 World View -- Major escalation in Yemen war as Houthis attack UAE with missiles and drones

Iran's support for the Houthis

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Major escalation in Yemen war as Houthis attack UAE with missiles and drones

Site of Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa on 18-Jan (Reuters)
Site of Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa on 18-Jan (Reuters)

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday evening attacked targets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including airports in Dubai and in an oil refinery in Musaffah, as well as "a number of important and sensitive Emirati sites and facilities," with five missiles and a number of drones. Three people were killed.

Early on Tuesday, warplanes from Saudi Arabia, UAE's coalition partner, attacked Houthi camps and strongholds in Sanaa, Yemen's capital city, including he home of a high-ranking Houthi military official, including his wife and son. About 20 people were killed, according to the Houthis.

The Yemen war began in 2015, when Houthi rebels from northwest Yemen took control of the capital city Sanaa, and seized the international airport. In response, warplanes from a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia bombed Houthi rebel targets.

The war escalated substantially in November 2017, when the Houthis launched a ballistic missile, undoubtedly supplied by Iran, that reached the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, about 800 km from the Yemen border. The Saudis reacted with its own escalation, a blockade of all of Yemen's land, sea and air ports.

The Houthis increased their missile attacks on Saudi cities, and then in June 2018, Saudi Arabia and UAE launched a 'catastrophic' assault on the highly strategic Port Hodeidah in Yemen. The objective was to cut off supplies of Iranian weapons to the Houthis, as well as a source of income.

The battle over Port Hodeidah continued for years, until November 2021, when the Houthis scored a complete takeover of the port, marking an important turning point in the war. Tuesday's Houthi attack on the UAE targets with drones and missiles marks another turning point.

Iran's support for the Houthis

Since the Yemen war began in 2015, it's been seen as largely a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. In the wars between Sunnis and Shias the following the death of the prophet Mohammed, one Shia sect was known as the Saydis or "fivers," because of their allegiance to the fifth Imam descendant. Most Shias, including the Persians, had allegiance to the twelth Imam descendant, and so they are sometimes called "twelvers." The Zaydis have become today's Houthis. Despite this theological dispute, the fivers and the twelvers identify with each other as not-Sunni Shias, and so the Iranians are supporting the Houthis in Yemen in a proxy war against the Arab Sunnis. (See my book "World View: Iran's Struggle for Supremacy," for the history of Islam and the Sunni-Shia split.)

Iran is denying that they've had anything to do with Tuesday's attack by the Houthis on the UAE. However, this claim has little credibility since the Houthis have no ability to develop and manufacture the drones and missiles that were used in the attack.

It seems likely that the Houthis' recent takeover of Port Hodeidah has enabled the Houthi attack, because Iran can use the port to smuggle drones and missiles and other weapons to the Houthis. Two weeks ago, a UN group announced that it would be investigating whether the port has been militarized

According to Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy to Yemen:

"The accusations of the militarization of the ports of Hodeidah are worrying and the threats of attacking them are equally disturbing given that these ports are a lifeline for many Yemenis. [The UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement was] closely monitoring the situation in the ports and has requested as part of its mandate to undertake an inspection."

Well, we can hardly wait until the UN report comes out. These UN committees always produce useful results, don't they.

The purpose of the Houthi attack on the UAE

What is the purpose of the Houthi attack on UAE targets? Here are some possibilities:

Each one of these objectives is likely to backfire.

Houthi Yemeni military expert Brigadier-General Abdul Ghani Al-Zubaidi was interviewd on Monday by Russia Today TV, and said the following:

"We sent a message [with the Abu Dhabi drone strike], and the UAE should take this message seriously. The UAE is not like Saudi Arabia, which is bigger in size, and which can perhaps, take the hit and absorb the shock. The UAE is a country made of cardboard and glass. ...

The second thing is that we hope to receive Iranian weapons, and to have Iranian experts with us. [Our enemies] have Zionist experts, as well as American and French experts, They have gathered all of the world's vagabonds in their command center and in the battlefield. ...

We have the power, the will, and the determination to strike in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia. If it turns out that the Americans attacked in Yemen, or if they declare that they did, we will target the American interests wherever they may be. Wherever they may be!"

Right now, there's a bit of a lull, as both the UAE and the Houthis decide what to do next. If this is as much of a turning point as it seems, then we should see some additional military reactions soon.

As I've written many times, Generational Dynamics predicts that there is an approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting the "axis" of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries against the "allies," the US, India, Russia and Iran. Part of it will be a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other.

John Xenakis is author of: "World View: Iran's Struggle for Supremacy -- Tehran's Obsession to Redraw the Map of the Middle East" (Generational Theory Book Series, Book 1), September 2018 Paperback: 153 pages, over 100 source references, $7.00 Complete Table of Contents


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8-Jan-22 World View -- Kazakhstan protests threaten Russia-China stability in Central Asia

Russia leads five CSTO nations in sending troops into Kazakhstan

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Kazakhstan president orders shoot to kill peaceful protesters without warning

Kazakhstan map (BBC)
Kazakhstan map (BBC)

Protests began in western Kazakhstan over the weekend, and were triggered by the removal of government fuel subsidies and the resulting price rises. However, the protests spread quickly, across the country and over numerous other issues related to government corruption. The result is the worst riots since the country became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union Empire in 1991.

Kazakhstan was ruled since independence by a dictator, ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who selected his successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in 2019. Nazarbayev has remained head of the country's Security Council after stepping down as president in 2019. Both Nazarbayev and Tokayev were and are unpopular and thought to be corrupt. There were widespread anti-government farmer riots in 2016 when the government announced a "land reform" program that would have permitted China's agriculture businesses to buy up huge tracts of Kazakh land. Because of the protests, the "reforms" were never implemented. (See "22-May-16 World View -- Kazakhstan farmers riot over fears of encroachment from China")

In the last week, protesters have attacked a military barracks, and also brought down a monument of the former president Nazarbayev. The 2016 protests were brutally oppressed by Nazarbayev, and now the new protests, which are far more widespread and dangerous, are being suppressed by Tokayev, who has issued a "shoot to kill without warning" order to the police. Dozens of people have already been killed.

Russia leads five CSTO nations in sending troops into Kazakhstan

President Tokayev has declared a state of emergency, and has shut down the internet and other communications.

At the invitation of president Tokayev, Russian troops are now entering Kazakhstan to help quell the protests. It's not clear what these troops will do in a country as enormous as Kazakhstan, but presumably they'll concentrate on Almaty, the largest city.

It's not just Russian troops. Tokayev made the request through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-led military alliance which was formed in the 1990s as a counterweight to Nato. This is the first time that the CSTO is deploying troops on foreign soil since the organization was formed. So there are now troops from five foreign countries on Kazakh soil: Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajijistan and Kyrgyzstan.

According to the CSTO charter, one CSTO member may send troops to another member country only in the case of "foreign interference." No details of this "foreign interference" have been provided, but I heard one report that both Russian and Kazakh officials are blaming "Muslim jihadist terrorists," without providing evidence.

According to several reports that I've heard, this deployment of foreign troops is not very popular with anyone.

Many Kazakhs are opposed to any foreign troops on their soil. The Armenians are really furious that Russia didn't help them out in the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan, and now Armenian troops are being deployed to Kazakhstan. The Tajiks are unhappy with the deployment of their soldiers, and the Kyrgyzstan government is so concerned about the situation that they've closed their border with Kazakhstan.

There is one region of Kazakhstan that's certain to be under the protection of Russian troops, and that's the city of Baikonur which is the home of Baikonur spaceport. All Russian space flights are launched from Baikonur spaceport. According to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian state space agency, "Today it was calm at Baikonur. The branches of Roscosmosí enterprises, law enforcement agencies, city services and organizations are working as normal. The crisis center set up at Baikonurís administration is fully controlling the situation in the city. Armed security at the cosmodromeís key facilities has been boosted."

While all this is going on in Kazakhstan, Russia is also continuing its buildup of troops along the border of Ukraine. Will Russia invade Ukraine again this month? We'll have to wait and see.

China versus Russia

Kazakhstan is a mostly Sunni Muslim country, with Kazakhs having the same Turkic ethnicity as the Turks, the Azerbaijanis, and the Chinese Uighurs. Kazakhs in China's Xinjiang province (East Turkestan) are subjected to the same torture, beatings, sterilization and enslavement as the Uighurs. Kazakhstan is a kind of poster-child for China's use of money to gain compliance for the worst atrocities since the Nazis in the 1930s. Kazakhstan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Muslim countries are simply ignoring China's torture and enslavement of their Turkic brothers, because China is bribing them to do so.

Nonetheless, it's hard to escape the view that Russian troops in Kazakhstan are less about unnamed Muslim jihadists and more about China. Kazakhstan is rich in oil, gas, copper, and other commodities, and China has invested billions of dollars since independence to buy them.

Furthermore, as I've described in the past, China has 20 border disputes with its neighbors. This includes claiming 34,000 sq km of Kazakhstan's territory, and also claiming much of Russia's Far East, including Vladivostok, the home of Russia's Pacific Fleet, (See "5-Jul-20 World View -- India's list of China's border disputes and disagreements")

As I've described many times, Russia and China are historic enemies, at war most recently in the 1960s. They currently have a kind of "marriage of convenience" in opposition to the United States and West, who oppose their respective threatened invasions of Ukraine and Taiwan.

But it won't be long before the historic differences turn to new disagreements and war. Russia's sending troops into Kazakhstan, with little or no information about their mission, may well be first step in that development.


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