Yemen: America’s Newest Proxy War

The Gulf State of Yemen has been in turmoil and plagued by civil war since the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh abdicated office in 2012. On one side is the Sunni-backed regime and on the other is the Shiite Houthi Militia.

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Recently in the news, the Houthis have been making advances, which threaten to undermine the existing status quo of a regime that has maintained power through corruption and power sharing. Their control of the nation’s capitol, Sana’a, have forced the sitting president (And Rabbu Mansour Hadi) to flee the nation. Their presence has been interpreted as a means for Iran to further its influence in the region. Given that this in the sphere of influence of the Saudis as well as the rest of the Gulf States, the Sunni regimes have decided to involve themselves, also. Furthermore, a threat to Saudi power is taken seriously by the United States have oil interests to protect in the region. Alternatively, any advance of Shi’a power is viewed as beneficiary to Iran, which both Israel and the United States consider the biggest threat to their power. y The result of elevating tensions caused by these events has resulted in several heavy airstrikes of Houthi military bases as well as the capitol. The Saudi defense minister has also vowed to continue the strikes in order to weaken the militants. While the Gulf Cooperation Council is entering this struggle, the United States is providing support and encouragement at a distance as Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that the White House plans to provide further logistical and intelligence support. If this was not a proxy war before, it certainly is becoming one now. A side effect of these bombings is the unlikely support that the Houthis have found within the country. Former President Saleh has pledged his support for their cause as areas still loyal to him were also struck. This partnership is a surprise given that Saleh fought the Houthis for a long duration throughout his presidency. Whether or not this partnership will be of any use to the militants is still to be decided, but it certainly lends the support of those loyal to Saleh. Ultimately, if this becomes a proxy war, then much more will be at stake than the control of the Yemeni government. The Islamic State declaring their involvement in causing further chaos through recent suicide bombings will not help the situation either.

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The Gulf States’ Migrant Worker Problem

The Gulf States are notorious for their vast oil wealth, with which they have been able to form powerful allies. As a result, much of their affairs are overlooked or accepted, despite their questionable nature. One such feature is their treatment of migrant workers and the means by which they restrict their freedoms.

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The migrant workers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait make up a significant portion of the population of these nations, yet they receive minimal benefits if any. The individuals come from all over Africa and Asia as well as from the Gulf States themselves. This system is known as Kafala, in which an individual is allowed to work in one of these nations if they are sponsored by an employer. This relationship becomes very similar to indentured servitude, however, when the sponsors refuse to allow the workers to further themselves and seek better employment. The workers are often made to pay off the cost of the sponsorship, which cripples their chance for social mobility if they still wish to send remittances to their families abroad. This creates a very difficult situation for the workers and is all too often the case.

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A large portion of the migrants work construction in these countries, which are building their infrastructure through the exploitation of these individuals. Even more shocking than the Kafala system itself is the death toll and treatment the workers. For example, a report revealed that almost 1,000 migrants perished while working construction in 2012-2013 in Qatar alone. This is without mentioning the sexual and physical abuse that is a constant factor, also. Unfortunately, the power and wealth held by the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council makes fixing the situation more difficult. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are exposing these crimes, but it is the duty of the international community to pressure these nations to enact change.