A New Book on the Regional Real [Archives:1997/50/Reportage]

December 15 1997

Politick Blame it All on the Americans
Athawabit Journal, a monthly periodical that produces highly valuable documentaries and studies, is going to publish in January, 1998, a book entitled The Significance of Yemen’s Position att the corner of the Red Sea: Implications for Future Relations with the Gulf Cooperative Council’s Member States. The author, Akram Al-Aghbari, is a diplomat who has spent many years studying the region’s politics. He had served, outside of Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. He is now the head of the Yemeni Consulate-General in Bombay, India.
Yemen Times is happy to reproduce the Foreward by Dr. Ahmed Al-Bishari, Chief Editor of Athawabit and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs. This is followed by a summary of the main chapters of the book.
The Foreward: After reviewing Mr. Al-Aghbari’s The Strategic Significance of Yemen’s Position at the Corner of the Red Sea: Implications for Future Relations with the Gulf Cooperative Council’s Member States, I was elated by the futuristic outlook of the author vis-a-vis the problems, issues and challenges currently re-shaping the very identity of the people in this part of the world. It is because of this that the Editorial Board of Athawabit Journal decided unanimously to publish the study in order to make this scholarly work readily accessible to the public and research specialists in the region. It is our ultimate hope that such studies will enrich our politics by generating an appropriate platform for dialogue and exchange of ideas among individuals and scholars within the region. The study under consideration proceeds with the assumption that the present needs and future aspirations of all countries overlooking the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf are interlocked and that Yemen, particularly after unification, is well equipped to contribute positively to the process of regional integration where manpower and natural resources are amalgamated for the betterment of all the people in the Arabian Peninsula. The author argues that without proper awareness of the necessity to integrate and muster resources together, countries of the region may fail to measure-up to the challenges lying ahead in the 21st century and beyond. He believes that there are some inherent conflicts of interest among regimes in the region, and that sporadic disputes are frequently ignited by international powers. The study thus highlights the role(s) deemed essential for regional states to play vis-a-vis international powers in order to guarantee the security & stability of the whole region – within the framework of a new regional order. It throws doubts about the plausibility of the so called New World Order which has gained credibility following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The author argues that despite claims to the contrary, the New World Order and similar concepts such as ‘Globalization’ would ultimately fail to replace other ideologies pertaining to the unique as well as the shared interests of a particular nation and/or region. Mr. Al-Aghbari’s study provides an in-depth analysis of the major events which engulfed the region from a geo-political point of view. He maintains that the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan posed significant threats to the US vital interests in the region. The US responded by reinforcing its military presence in the Red and Arabian Sea.
The US’s 6th and 7th Fleets were stationed in the region and were adequately equipped with striking air-force power together with rapid deployment capability. This marked the beginning of a long-term strategy to address the threats posed by the Soviet Union and its surrogate states. The US strategy has always depended on manipulating differences among states of the region in the best interests of its own policy. With this background clearly in mind, the Iran-Iraq War was ignited marking the beginning of the First Gulf War. Regional and ethnic disputes also flared up on the other side of the Red Sea leading to the complete dissolution of the state structure in Somalia. Revolutionary rhetoric liberation in Eritrea and Ethiopia were prompted. By 1990, the US foreign policy started to pay dividends as the whole region was rid of any Soviet influence. The US shows full understanding of the old Roman’s dictum which stipulates that, “He who Controls the Red Sea, Controls the World”. It is against this background that Yemen achieved unification on May 22, 1990. Despite the heavy and ugly effects of the Second Gulf War, the author argues that Yemen has maintained, quite consistently, a reconciliatory position towards all countries in the region. The border dispute with Oman was resolved peacefully. Yemen opted for international arbitration to resolve its dispute with Eritrea over the Greater Hunaish Island. Furthermore, border talks with Saudi Arabia are conducted in the most responsible and cordial manner. In all these undertakings, Yemen’s foreign policy has been dictated by a deeply rooted conviction that is part and parcel of the Gulf Cooperative Council both geographically and culturally.
Despite the comprehensive nature of the research study, the author fails to refer to the new arrangements of the countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean which includes Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman. Will it be possible for instance for Yemen and Oman to maintain their membership in such an economic bloc without infringing upon their other regional affiliations?
Mr. Al-Aghbari’s study constitutes a valuable contribution to scholarly research on the geo-politics of this region. It is hoped that the study will assist policy-makers in properly assessing the current situation and in taking appropriate measures to avoid falling prey to the super powers’ policies and designs on the region.
The Summary: This is a study that seeks to show the international and regional rumblings in the Red Sea region and the effects they have on the stability of the area, the shipping lines and on the flow of oil. To do that, we highlight the roles that various regional and international forces play in the region. But there is a focus – Yemen. There is a discussion of its new stature, its human resources, and its relative growth and potential – economically and militarily.
The book starts with an introduction that deals with the importance of the Red Sea from a strategic point of view. Then there are three chapters, and a conclusion followed by a lengthy list of references. The first issue to be dealt with comes under the heading of “The New Security Environment”. It digs deep into 50 years of history and traces the beginnings of a bipolar world. It details the power division, with its elements of conflict and confrontation instigated by the friction between the two superpowers. Thus the world witnessed a continuous arms race, numerous threats of big wars, proxy wars, and numerous flare-ups here and there. The world witnessed iron walls and wars of disinformation. It witnessed spy missions that have helped create the interesting series of James Bond movies and other theatricals. That was the situation in many African, Asian, and Latin American countries, which were plagued by instability in most of the cold war period. With the coming of the new international political order and the corollary transformations, there was hope for some level of stability. But the removal of the real politick of the Cold War period was replaced by new sources of conflict. The realities and balances that correspond to the uni-polar power situation that prevails now has its own problems.
America leads and directs today. Nay, America dictates today. In all sectors of life – economics, trade, warfare, environment, etc., you name it, they are all sponsored by the USA. This American-led trend, has a lot of shortsightedness and bottlenecks leading to tensions and conflicts, locally and regionally. Some of these are serious and they threaten local, regional and world peace. The first chapter of the book concludes by delving deeply into the roles played by the international powers in the Red Sea region, going into the American and French roles and then the British and the Japanese roles. In the second major chapter, the book discusses the new regional security environment. At the same time, it tries to clarify the effects of the accelerating political events at the international and regional levels and the American efforts to capitalize on these developments. It tries to to show that these conflicts end up serving the interest of the USA. It even goes to the extent of stating that conflicts are created for the sole purpose of enhancing the American interests.
The chapter takes a precarious stand by discussing the mishaps of the Arab World in its ‘conflict of civilizations with the West’, which has taken the form of an Arab-Zionist struggle. “This has put the Arab World in confusion, and thus weakened its position severely.” The loss of the Soviet Union’s role was more than made up by the expansion of the American Israeli role in a number of strategic areas in the Arab World. The end result of this new role is “to seek to dilute the Arab identity of the area, through projects under such themes as Middle Eastern bloc projects and a new regional order. All of those actions and plans to help Israel establish its political and military domination of the region. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait contributed to the dominance of the United States and to the collapse of the regional Arab order. The result is a new regional balance of power and the realization of American strategic aims in a number of significant areas and in throwing the Palestinian issue to the back burner. The US hegemony cannot be seen more than in the Gulf region. The American full control of the situation approaches, in the Gulf, an occupation of that area. As for the Red Sea area, preparations are under way for new realities and transformations. Yemen’s problems the (Hunaish) islands, the new conflicting claims and disorder regarding the straits and shipping lines are part of the formation of an East African bloc.
This is no doubt that this situation is going to lead to more instability and tension in local, regional and international affairs. This is due to the inability of the local parties to absorb the current developments and interactions, and to adapt them in a manner that will maintain the national economic, political and security interests of those countries. This is because of conditions and external factors which would help in overcoming this confusion with the least possible loss. Under the title of the new security environment, the author discusses in the 3rd chapter, the determinants of this new environment such as the Somali Civil War. The war for the defense of the unity of Yemen, is also among them. The book records the factors that had a direct impact on deciding the conflict in favor of unity and constitutional legitimacy. He attributes the victory of unity to the Yemeni people’s strong support for unity, the democratic experiment, and the desire to consolidate the internal front. It also refers to the wisdom of the leadership, and its distinctive ability to manage problematic situations, in addition to its ability to interact with political developments as they evolve and in response to public political opinion. Among the determinants, the book also diseases events in the Sudan, then the military and political developments in the Great Lakes Area.
Violent developments have overshadowed the entire region, and that is the main theme of the conclusion. Indicators of the events in the region show that unless the present security concerns are resolved on a just and equitable basis, the situation will remain volatile and susceptible to more violence and complications. The indicators compel the Arab Nation to strive towards political consensus, political and economic harmony and coordination in security matters. It also treats the deterioration and collapse of Somalia as an important factor in the developments of the region. It also discusses the potential complications in the Red Sea to be caused by a “suspicious political regime in Eritrea”, the continuation of the armed rebellion in South Sudan and the violent developments in the Great Lakes area. All of these call for an awakening and the exercise of caution by the Arab nation, especially Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the other Arab states that are overlooking the Red Sea. Against this backdrop of events in international, regional and local events, Yemen is striving to pursue an active foreign policy. Yemen’s relations with the Gulf Coordination Council countries, are witnessing noises that indicate the existence of a serious effort towards rapprochement and stronger relations. This is in light of the new Yemeni-Saudi consultations and discussions, and the visit of Kuwait intellectuals and the recent statements of the Kuwait Foreign Minister. Such trends could lead to overcoming the results of the Second Gulf War and the improvement of Yemen’s relations with the Gulf Coordination Council.