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    November 23, 2015

    Yemen Conflict and the Emergence of a Russian-Shia alliance

    November 23rd, 2015 - 

    Katehon - 

    There are many ways to interpret and to understand what is going on in Yemen. First of all we can put these events into the main geopolitical framework. There is a kind of confrontation between a Land power and a Sea Power that represent two poles, two limits, two borders of the conflict.

    On the one hand there is the thalassocratic United States that tries to impose its own vision of the Rimland, the intermediate zone between the Sea and the Land. And on the other, there is the Continental pole represented by Russia. So, the main framework for all the conflicts in the intermediate zone (that is called the Rimland in geopolitics) is defined by this global tension between these two great powers. So all of the Middle East is a kind of space where two great civilizations confront each other. 

    After saying this, we need to define more precisely who the regional players are. Saudi Arabia is an ally of United States and behaves as commissioned by the United States, as their geopolitical agent. It is clear that the Saudis try to secure their own strategic regional interests, to affirm their leading role in the Islamic world, but in the general framework of geopolitics they function on behalf of United States.

    So, what is Yemen? Yemen is the Rimland zone inside of the Rimland. It is a border or zone where global thalassocratic interests are confronting the tellurocratic pole. And who is the regional agent of the tellurocracy? Now this role is played by Iran, which logically belongs to the Rimland (as well as Saudi Arabia) but in the concrete situation the strategy of Iran is tellurocratic, directed against American hegemony. 

    Iran is a major regional tellurocratic player that is confronting Saudi Arabia, and Yemen is the border zone - because geopolitics does not recognize line borders, but zone borders. We could call it a frontier - not the border in the sense of the line that separates two national states, but as borderlands - an area unto itself. Yemen is precisely the zone of conflict of two regional superpowers. Both are competing for the leading positions in the Islamic world.

    But what is very important is that behind Saudi Arabia is directly and indirectly United States. And it is interesting that in the concrete situation (above all, taking into account the operation in Syria) behind Iran is Russia, the Eurasian continental Land Power. And Yemen is the space where the great geopolitical contest is decided. Saudi Arabia is fighting there against Shia Houthis – they are a Shia population oriented toward Iran, and through Iran towards the Shia world, and through the Shia world, in the concrete political situation, towards Russia. That is a similar situation as in Crimea or in Eastern Ukraine, where there are both tellurocratic forces and tendencies and thalassocratic forces and tendencies. So that is the larger framework of that. Houthis wanted (and have succeeded) to overthrow the Sunni regime that was oriented to Saudi Arabia, and they were supported by Iranians and indirectly by geopolitical logic, by Russia. 

    We are dealing now with the creation of a very important strategic line – a Russian-Shia alliance. We need to understand the nature of this alliance – in the geopolitics of Islam. Because Islam is presented now by two poles of confrontation, but the Sunni pole is much more differentiated, divided inside. Shias are a minority and Sunnis are a majority. But Shias are homogeneous more or less – in Iraq, in Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in Syria, including in Bahrain and Houthis in Yemen. That is a kind of zone, uninfected culturally, by a level of consciousness. And the Sunni world is completely torn apart by the inner contradictions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, between different fractions inside of Sunni states. And as well differences between the Maghreb states and Middle East states.

    So this is a complicated geopolitical vision but it is interesting that now a Russian-Shia alliance is a type of continental and tellurocratic strategy. Now we see that it is coming into fruition, and Yemen is a part of this very important geopolitical game in the Middle East.

    Now Russia is acting openly. Russia was hesitating before, considering whether we should promote an increasingly pro-Shia orientation. But now with the situation in Syria, Russia is fully engaged in the Russian-Shia alliance. So it was rather dubious some months ago that Russia should intervene directly in Syria, but now we see the open engagement – military, strategic, political, information, economic. 

    So the last meeting of Assad with Putin is a clear sign of full engagement. And because of Yemeni’s Houthis being the pert of this Shia front – that is precisely what Russians supporting directly and now openly and fully in Syria. So it is quite possible that Russian military aid could be augmented and could reach Houthis or Iraqis as well. Because the Iraqi government has already asked the Russian military for help. So now Moscow is so deeply engaged in region – directly and without any cover, that Russia can freely and openly participate in the struggle against pro-Saudi and pro-American forces in Yemen, but this all depends on what called geopolitical rationale. And if the timing is correctly calculated, Russian direct involvement in the Yemen crisis also cannot be excluded. 

    An interesting question remains about a possible change in the Saudi geopolitical orientation. When we are dealing with the Rimland we can never say never, so all of the signs, all of the history of Saudi Arabia shows that geopolitically this country and this regime was pro-British, pro-Anglo-Saxon and pro-American. Always. That was not the same with Iran. Iran was partly pro-American, partly anti-American, partly pro-British, and Iran in modern history had long periods of pro-British orientation. But nevertheless there were many more signs of the possibility of the opposite orientation – the geopolitical orientation of Iran. In the case of Saudi Arabia there was not any signs of this anti-British orientation, because this country was embedded in Anglo-Saxon geopolitics in the Middle East. But we need to have in mind that in all the space of the Rimland this turn is possible. These are not fated. If for example, for Sea Power countries, there is a kind of iron law of the Sea, and if they will stray from the course and try to change their orientation – that will signify the end of the Sea Power. The same for Land Power. Russia was, is, and will be a continental force. Russia has no choice. And the Anglo-Saxon world has no choice. There is Tellurocracy and Thalassocracy. All the Rimland from Europe up to China – they can choose their identity. Theoretically we cannot exclude a change in Saudi Arabian orientation, but rather just with the present Saudi dynasty and with its politics, and with its politico-historical, political and geopolitical, religious and ideological heritage it is rather very unlikely. But if for example we suggest and imagine a regime change – in this case we could hope the change of the geopolitical orientation as well. Because it is always possible. Of low probability, but possible.
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