U.S., Saudi Oil Influence in Yemen: Dictating Who Gets to Be Dictator

The Cato Institute’s Malou Innocent, writing at the National Interest‘s Skeptics blog, directs us to a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable detailing Saudi Arabia’s plan “to build, own, and operate a pipeline that bypasses the straits of Hormuz—and hence, the Islamic Republic of Iran” with the only remaining obstacle being “Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

The cable reads, in part:

A British diplomat based in Yemen told PolOff that
Saudi Arabia had an interest to build a pipeline, wholly
owned, operated and protected by Saudi Arabia, through
Hadramaut to a port on the Gulf of Aden, thereby bypassing
the Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf and the straits of Hormuz.
Saleh has always opposed this. The diplomat contended that
Saudi Arabia, through supporting Yemeni military leadership,
paying for the loyalty of shaykhs and other means, was
positioning itself to ensure it would, for the right price,
obtain the rights for this pipeline from Saleh's successor.

This makes it clear that there is probably a lot more going on under the surface in Saudi Arabia’s (and in conjunction, U.S.’s) holding of Saleh in Saudi Arabia, despite being released from the hospital (the reason for his presence there). Saleh, it seems, has been prevented from returning to Yemen to continue his rule. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been helping to prop up Saleh’s regime for years, but the U.S. has called for his resignation since widespread anti-government protests in Yemen nearly killed him. And apparently, the two regional superpowers want him out, and to control who succeeds him, for very different reasons than have been reported. The aim is to make Yemen a more obedient vassal state, not to earnestly respond to country-wide protests against Saleh’s rule.

Bypassing the Straits of Hormuz would be a strategic win for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, further isolating Iran and ensuring more direct control of the flow of oil.