Tasnim – An American political commentator deplored recent Saudi-led coalition’s attacks on Yemen’s western port city of Hudaydah, which led to the killing of about 150 people, and said the Washington and London governments are also complicit in the war crimes.
“As for the US and UK, they are completely culpable regards Yemen,” John Steppling, who is based in Norway, told the Tasnim News Agency in an interview.
“Totally, this is a Saudi/US/UK war, period!” he said, adding, “And the UAE is along for the ride too.”
Steppling is a well-known author, playwright and an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theater, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. He is also a regular political commentator for a number of media outlets around the world.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: As you know, the Saudi-led coalition has intensified attacks on Yemen. At least 149 people, including seven civilians, were killed in the latest clashes between Yemeni troops and Saudi-backed mercenaries in the western port city of Hudaydah, according to medics and military sources. What is the main reason behind the increased Saudi attacks on Hudaydah? Is it trying to gain some leverage at the negotiating table?
Steppling: I think there are three strands to follow in trying to understand Saudi motivation here. The first is that the Kingdom does not want what they see as Shiite (Iranian) influence on the Arabian Peninsula. So, even if it is only rhetorical support from Iran (it is more but I’m not sure all that much more) the Saudis see themselves as the power broker in the region. This is maybe increasingly delusional but then they are prone to delusions. Second is the US and UK weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad) Bin Salman curried favor with the US and UK by going on a spending spree. And remember that the attack on Yemen started under Obama and with his support. The US has targeted Iran for a long time, going back to the 1950s. And certainly, it was re-intensified again since 9/11. But then 9/11 was a great justification, in their minds, for almost anything. And third is the Saudi fear about regime change against them. And from the US. Look, I said a couple years ago that regime change was coming to KSA. They have far outlived their usefulness and the new generation, if MBS is an example, is just hopelessly out of touch. Who needs a medieval backward looking inbred dynasty of fanatics sitting on the oil of the world?
Tasnim: According to some political experts, the murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, along with sharply deteriorating humanitarian conditions and growing media attention paid to the war in Yemen, has led to increased pressure on Saudi Arabia to end the war. Recently, Germany urged other European Union member states to follow its example in stopping arms exports to Saudi Arabia. What is your assessment of the international pressures and their influence on the protracted war in Yemen and how do you predict the future of the conflicts?
Steppling: Look, I have no idea why Khashoggi was topped off. But I do know that the official response by the US Department of State and Oval Office and secretaries of defense and state was highly stage-managed and carefully orchestrated. As if anyone is in the least surprised the Kingdom tortures and kills people in hotel rooms in Turkey. I’m sure this is an almost routine occurrence. Khashoggi was not exactly John Reed or Ryszard Kapuscinski. The moral outrage of the US is laughable, if not for the dire state of things in that part of the world, a state in which laughter is strangely incongruous. Now if Germany and other EU (and NATO) countries are sincere, and I have no idea if they are, then this is a good time to cut some of the economic ties they have with the US government. I am guessing they ARE genuinely angry since public opinion is so bad. This leads to a very important question regards Europe and NATO. Do they stop prostrating themselves before the US? The sanctions do hurt Iran, but it is not going to topple anyone. Far from it. But then there is also the rise of the far right neo-fascist parties across Europe. The worst being Hungary and Poland, and Italy close behind. But even in Sweden and the Netherlands, in Denmark and France, and in Germany, too, the new anti-immigration hyper-nationalists are positions of influence. What will be the effect of this? The US under Trump is a bit hard to read. But Pompeo is an evangelical nut job. Self-righteous and arrogant, a bloated preening Christian extremist. And a scary man. Now Israel would love to keep the focus on Iran. Israel will do what it is told, of course, but it always keeps whispering in Trump’s ear. The problem is this war is starting to really create PR problems. Over 7000 dead civilians (a low ball estimate), bombs have hit over 300 farms and 250 schools. It is an appalling record even for the Kingdom. And there is no way to spin this. The UAE and UK and the US are hand in hand with the Saudis in all this. And right now something like 80% of the country is in need of food. Eight million are outright starving. And yet all you get from the US is this hand-wringing about the death of slightly sleazy marginally talented journalist like Khashoggi.
Tasnim: Some Western countries that claim to be champions of human rights are pursuing double-standard policies on Saudi Arabia’s atrocities. What do you think about the roles of Washington and London in the Riyadh regime’s heinous crimes against Yemen?
Steppling: The western NGO establishment….the human rights institutions like Human Rights Watch and the like, are highly selective by nature. They are there to promote the status quo or they are out of a job. As for the US and UK, they are completely culpable regards Yemen. Totally, this is a Saudi/US/UK war, period! And the UAE is along for the ride too. Now it is worth mentioning again here that the US has openly said it wants a coup in Tehran. They, the US diplomatic corps, the State Dept, and the Pentagon, all of them are Orientalists; they are xenophobic and very aggressive in their thinking. The so-called regime change game sort of lumps all these regions into one basket. For the neocons, Donbass is not all that different than Tehran. Honduras and Haiti are not so far removed in their minds from Sana’a. And this provincialism has gotten worse under Trump. And again its hard to read the Trump presidency. Who is deciding certain things? Trump himself we know is very ignorant. Who is the shot caller in the white house? I have no idea, but I do know that these human rights organizations cannot be trusted. They are western based and see things through the lens of neoliberal conceits. And then there is the question of how one is to see the UN. The point to remember, I think, is that the ruling class across the globe tends to have similar values and interests. These large economic blocs operate outside of national borders — to some degree, and maybe largely. One has to remember that those very rich and powerful interests, in banking and finance, in the defense business, in mining and shipping and even packaging and of course oil — the men behind the giant multinationals and those in aerospace and digital technology, whatever country they come from, they share common interests. And those interests are to, in a nutshell, control the world. That is not hyperbole. The problem is that increasingly mankind faces environmental problems, and pollution and this 1%, so-called, does not care about you and me. Billionaires are buying land in remote areas…New Zealand, or Patagonia or above the Arctic Circle in places, and they are preparing for dire social upheavals. They do not spend their money to solve these problems and help people, they spend their money and time preparing to protect themselves, period. So it is important to know that the far right, those racist idiots in the US, and in Europe, the fascists and neo-fascists, they are unintentionally (for the most part) serving the interests of that 1%. The leaders of the West love having fascists in power. The US loves the electoral outcome in Brazil. Perfect. So behind the scenes, they are supporting these parties. They are targeting Venezuela now and I expect a coup of some sort to at least be attempted there. The only chance is the vision of independent countries like Russia and China and Iran, like Cuba and the DPRK and Venezuela and Bolivia and Syria. Each has issues, and they are imperfect…but that is where the hope lies. The US/NATO alliance is an enemy to humanity. They are what destabilize regions. They are the danger that humankind faces. And in the US, the recent election is another example of a heavily indoctrinated populace voting for one or another party of war. Meanwhile, fires and floods and poverty are decimating the country.