Pumped up nationalism is a diversionary tactic to save Arab countries from their common enemy: democratic aspirations.
Western governments, their Middle Eastern allies, and many major media outlets have much in common with Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
Similarly, in the lexicon of western powers and their regional partners, the meaning of words such as moderation, legitimacy, human rights, democracy, extremism, terrorism, and fundamentalism are about as consistent as a chameleon’s colour.
In Ukraine, the United States and its allies supported and facilitated the overthrow of a democratically elected president, immediately recognising the successor regime as “legitimate”.
But, in Yemen – despite Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi having been the sole candidate in the February 2012 presidential election, despite his term as transitional president having expired after two years, despite his lack of popular support, despite his having resigned in January, despite his having fled his capital and later his country – the US and its allies consider Hadi the “legitimate” president.
Question of legitimacy
When Hadi invited foreign powers to bomb his country’s flimsy infrastructure and military, they rushed to do so.
US logistical and intelligence support may help explain why the Saudi Kingdom chose America’s favourite “shock and awe” tactics for its war against Yemen. Netanyahu also supports air strikes against Yemen’s armed forces and fragile infrastructure; perhaps Saudi leaders should have asked him why the Israeli regime’s multiple barbaric onslaughts against much smaller areas like Gaza and South Lebanon all ended in failure and humiliation.
Sadly, history is repeating itself like a rogue merry-go-round. The same countries that, as US Vice President Joe Biden admits, helped destroy much of Libya, Syria, and Iraq are now fighting on the same side as al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Is it really a good idea to strengthen al-Qaeda’s most dangerous branch alongside Bab El Mandab, the narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden – especially as Somalia has no effective central government and al-Qaeda affiliates like al-Shabab are on the other side of the strait?
It is difficult to imagine how these air strikes across Yemen - killing significant numbers of innocent civilians, including women and children huddled in refugee camps - will make the 'coalition' look like liberators.
Cronyism, poverty, injustice, corruption, and decades of foreign domination drove Hadi’s overthrow. Ceaseless attempts to deny this and depict the Yemeni situation as a sectarian conflict reflect a worn-out strategy. This strategy has shaped the creation of the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia, and Jundullah, among others.
It has caused pain and devastation across North Africa, where there are no Shia Muslims – or “majus” and “Safavids”, to use the derogatory terminology of the tens of well-funded sectarian and ethnocentric extremist television channels.
Describing the Houthis or Ansarallah as Iranian proxies insults their millions of followers and allies across Yemen, including southerners who well remember past devastation inflicted upon them by the same forces. It is an obvious attempt to push a non-sectarian country towards sectarianism, even though this policy has already failed in Syria.
It is difficult to imagine how these air strikes across Yemen – killing significant numbers of innocent civilians, including women and children huddled in refugee camps – will make the “coalition” look like liberators.
That none of these pilots flew anywhere near Palestine during the Israeli regime’s 2014 onslaught against Gaza has not escaped notice, either.
Iranians have also noticed that the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm coincides with the most sensitive phase of negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 in Lausanne, Switzerland. It has been clear for some time that the Israeli and Saudi regimes want to prevent a successful outcome in these talks.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Yemen’s tormentors should remember what happened along the Saudi-Yemeni border in 2009 when Ansarallah was a much smaller, more isolated, and less experienced military force. Purchasing Pakistani or Egyptian troops will not solve the problem; both of those regimes are floundering, barely able to contain their own extremists.
Appreciation for Iran among Iraqis, Syrians, Bahrainis, Omanis, and Yemenis is rooted in Iran’s independence, participatory Islamist governance (western claims to the contrary notwithstanding), civilisation, tolerance, and rejection of sectarian ideology.
While stale accusations will undoubtedly continue to be levelled at Iran, this aggression is not about the Islamic Republic’s alleged regional domination, it is about silencing the aspirations of the Yemeni people.
Those who spread civil war, extremism, and war should ponder the final words of Lady Macbeth: “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
Seyed Mohammad Marandi is professor of North American Studies and dean of the faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.