Amid all over the furor over the possible murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi regime thugs, it is useful to remember that in Yemen, the Saudi-UAE forces that have been fighting against the Shi’a Houthis, backed by Iran, are naturally supported by the Americans. Iran is our declared mortal enemy, Saudi Arabia — we keep telling ourselves — is our staunch ally. We supply both weaponry and logistical support to the Saudi and Emirati forces in Yemen. But there is another actor in Yemen — Al-Qaeda — and here the tale gets murkier.
The Saudis and Emiratis have allowed us to believe that they have been fighting not just the Houthis, but the forces of Al-Qaeda. They have announced that they have “taken” from Al Qaeda this or that town in Yemen. But it turns out that the UAE and Saudi forces have not been fighting Al-Qaeda in Yemen at all, but rather, bribing it to leave key cities and towns. They have paid Al-Qaeda commanders directly, in some cases even letting its fighters take with them their weapons, equipment, the cash which they have locally looted, as well as large sums, too, supplied by the Saudis or Emiratis to get them to leave without a fight.
Furthermore, hundreds of Al-Qaeda fighters have been recruited to join the Saudi-Emirati coalition. This leaves the Americans in the position of supporting Arab allies who are not fighting, but actually helping, Al Qaeda.
Here’s a recent account: