HONG KONG - One's got to hand it to failed underwear bomber Umar Farouk
Abdulmuttalab. He is the real Man of the Year. With a single twitch of his
lower parts, the now iconic young Nigerian single-handedly not only forced the
Barack Obama administration to unleash tight airport security measures, a new
virtual striptease craze bound to bolster the fortunes of selected players in
the security industry; but he also managed to place no fewer than 675 million
Muslims (plus sundry Nigerian and even Cuban Christians) on a Cyclopean terror
list of 10 "prone to terrorism countries". 
That's quite a feat for an apparently trained-in-Yemen jihadi charged by a US
grand jury - no irony intended - with "attempted
use of a weapon of mass destruction". But weren't WMDs supposed to be buried in
It's Pearl Harbor time
As much as 9/11 was the "Pearl Harbor" dreamed of by the neo-conservatives to
unleash the American Eagle - which started with the bombing of Afghanistan and
morphed into the disastrous invasion of Iraq - Abdulmuttalab's failed attempt
to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day in the skies above
Detroit is a godsend mini-Pearl Harbor destined to advance the Pentagon's "full
spectrum dominance" doctrine.
Yemen could not be a more strategically mouth-watering proposition - with Saudi
Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden to the south
leading to the Arabian Sea, and on the other side, in Africa, Somalia.
As far as the Pentagon's "full spectrum dominance" goes, Yemen falls right into
the Pentagon net alongside Somali pirates and the new bogeyman, al-Qaeda in the
Arabic Peninsula (AQAP), when it comes to the militarization of a key strategic
oil chokepoint, the Bab el-Mandab, no matter the avalanche of denials from the
Barack Obama administration of any intention to put US boots on the ground in
The Strait of Bab el-Mandab between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea is a key
strategic oil chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East,
linking the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, through which flows at least
3.5 million barrels of oil a day towards the US, Europe and Asia.
Plus, from Washington's point of view, there's the potential of oil reserves
lying in Yemen near Saudi Arabia at the Masila Basin and the Shabwa Basin,
which could in the not too distant future fall nicely into US Big Oil's lap,
unlike Iraq's. (See
Iraq's oil auction hits the jackpot Asia Times Online, December 16,
So it's no surprise that Obama, on the record, had to expand the never-say-die
"war on terror" - the cover narrative for "full spectrum dominance". According
to Obama, AfPak is still "the epicenter of al-Qaeda", but the Yemen chapter is
a "more serious problem". Thus comes into play still one more rehash of the
same old narrative: a fragile dictator, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh (in
absolute power since 1978) needs America to defeat the terrorists (AQAP).
In practice, the Obama administration has just wallowed in the mire of an Arab
Afghanistan, propping up Saleh against the Southern Movement, an unlikely,
popular-based alliance of socialists and Islamic conservatives led by a former
jihadi, Tariq al-Fadhli, and now characterized as a full nationalist movement.
In addition, the Saleh regime is fighting a Shi'ite rebellion in north Yemen.
Saleh is Sunni. The rebels are Shi'ite. Saleh is obviously backed by the
Wahhabi Saudi regime. Yemen's current oil, by the way, is crucially in the
Saleh predictably will dub all his enemies as "al-Qaeda" and call the cavalry -
US Special Forces and legions of counter-intelligence operatives. Not to
mention the drones. Few noted that last December 17, Obama ordered the bombing
of suspected al-Qaeda positions in Yemen with cruise missiles, an attack in
which 49 civilians were reported to have been killed, according to Agence
France-Presse. Welcome to yet one more sinister Arab-Afghan amalgam.
United States intelligence admits there are no more than 200 al-Qaeda jihadis
in southern Yemen (that certainly beats those 100 in Afghanistan). What AQAP
basically wants is to bring down US-propped dictators such as Saleh, Egypt's
Hosni Mubarak and the House of Saud - a popular agenda across much of the
Middle East. So Obama may go to Cairo and talk about democracy in the Muslim
world as much as he wants; what the Arab street registers is Obama playing the
same old empire game of supporting yet another dictator.
It's the oil ...
"Full spectrum dominance" as applied to Yemen may be - as it always is - about
the containment of China, as in threatening China's oil imports (6% of its
total) from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, just north of the Bab el-Mandab.
But even if the US eventually controls the port of Aden - the gateway to Asia
via the Indian Ocean - China will relentlessly continue to evolve its complex
strategy of avoiding chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of
Malacca, or indeed the Bab el-Mandab (See
China plays Pipelineistan Asia Times Online, December 24).
The idea of "full spectrum dominance" is about threatening to cut energy flows
not only to China but even to the European Union (EU) or anyone for that matter
who crosses Washington's policy makers. And it's as much about Saudi Arabia as
about China. As Saudi oil exports also have to negotiate the Bab el-Mandab, US
"interest" in Yemen means a graphic warning to the House of Saud: don't even
think of trading oil in euros or in a basket of currencies including the
It also is about isolating Iran - as in using a Sunni dictator to fight a
Shi'ite rebellion and in militarizing a useful battleground alongside ally
Saudi Arabia. In Washington's scenario, the winners should be the Pentagon, the
Central Intelligence Agency and Israel's Mossad, and the losers should be
China, Russia and Iran. The turbulent Yemeni street was not consulted and
certainly has ideas of its own.
Obama is packaging his strategy as a "war on al-Qaeda". It's not a war. And
even if the counter-insurgency gang in the Pentagon conducts it, it's destined
to fail. Meanwhile, there's not the remotest chance in sight of a real US
withdrawal from Iraq, the end of the AfPak war, or a viable, non-apartheid
Now that would be a real, concerted counter-terrorist operation, to finish once
and for all with the ghost of all those "al-Qaedas". It won't happen. The name
of the game is "full spectrum dominance" and empire reloaded. Fasten your body
scanners; the decade promises a bumpy ride.
1. The countries are Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, plus "state sponsors of terrorism"
Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba.