The dirty war of Prince Salman

The Saudis do not make war, they hire allies to serve as cannon fodder.


The dirty war of Prince Salman

September 29, 2019 (Jeune Afrique) – Four years and six months. Since March 26, 2015, the Yemeni war has spewed its share of images that are erased before falling asleep in a dreamless sleep. Groups of children with dark faces playing with carcasses of dead rats in the ruins of their gourbi. Ulcerous body of adults worn by misery and scarcity. Ultimate spasms of old men eaten away by vermin and gutted by cholera. And these mass graves near the port of Al Hodeida, full of insects and traversed by stray dogs, where you can not put a shovel without digging a corpse. From this dirty war, we know the protagonists: the Zaydi Houthi rebels backed by Iran, on the one hand, and what remains of forces loyal to President Mansour Hadi, carried at arm’s length by an “Arab coalition” (actually Saudi-Emirati), on the other. The results are also known: 90% of the population in a state of food emergency, nearly 100,000 dead, a bloody quagmire.

But still not enough to make the world sail from its lethargic shores.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, MBS, did he read Sun Tzu? To have one’s war waged by others is one of the principles taught by Master Sun, and that’s exactly what he’s doing – with the difference that victory is desperately waiting. The Saudis, as we know, have long been used to paying foreigners to perform the tasks they deem unworthy or subordinate. The war is like household cleaning, public works or garbage collection, hence the famous joke of the time when Pakistan provided the kingdom with most of its mercenaries: “Saudi Arabia will fight to the last Pakistani”.

Today, on the Yemeni front, most of the deputies sent to the front line are Sudanese. Between 10,000 and 14,000 recruits, including very young Darfuris, were sent to serve as cannon fodder under a secret – and handsomely paid – agreement between MBS and the deposed dictator, Omar al-Bashir. Back in Khartoum, some of them recounted how the Saudi officers carefully avoided approaching the border, merely telegraphing their henchmen to the positions held by the rebels. The Saudis do not make war, they hire allies to do the job. And so it will be if by chance a conflict breaks out between them and the absolute enemy: Iran.

Legitimate questions: Why is one of the world’s largest arms importers so in need of help? Why is a country that, on paper, has the most sophisticated means to defend itself is in constant search for protection? Why, in the general opinion of the experts, the Saudi army would have no chance to win against his Iranian rival despite a military budget five times higher? The answer, again, refers to the singular report that Saudi leaders, in spite of their affection for state swords and the application of the death penalty, maintain the notion of war. They buy weapons but do not deploy them, or little. In other words, the weaponry acquired is not destined to make war but to be stored as part of a diplomatic and commercial “deal” with their suppliers, mostly American, but also French, British, Chinese or others. In exchange for contracts, the kingdom buys at the same time an almost total impunity in the domains that it considers as regal (human rights, Islamic law, status of the woman, assassinations and kidnappings of opponents) as well as ‘permanent close protection. “We are loaded and ready to fire,” Donald Trump tweeted in the aftermath of the drone attacks at Aramco’s oil facility, “we are just waiting for the Kingdom to tell us who they think is behind these raids.”: posture and words worthy of a bodyguard.

The problem, of course, as a recent CNN survey reveals, is that some of the US weapons and equipment sold to the Saudi army eventually get lost in the tentacles of the Yemeni bazaar. Delivered by Riyadh to allied Salafist militias, then recovered as a war take by the Houthis, it regularly finds itself in the hands of the Iranians, who shell and sometimes copy it. From the Afghan trap to the collective suicide of the former kingdom of Sheba, wars follow one another and are similar with, as a watermark, a major actor as bellicose as fearful, as aggressive as timid as soon as the danger becomes urgent: the Saud dynasty.

By F. Soudan

Description of source: Jeune Afrique is a weekly magazine launched in 1960 covering news of the African continent. It provides feedback, analysis and in-depth investigations in business, financial, political, scientific, cultural, sports, health and social topics. Country of origin: France
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