US Oil Interests May Empower al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Yemen

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Nearly 3,000 civilians have been killed and millions displaced by strategic bombings of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure by Saudi Arabia’s air force. Leaked UN documents confirm that civilian buildings are the targets. Saudi Arabia is backed by the US and UK. While the US and UK each claim to have no role in the attacks, the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir says that British and American military officials are working in tandem with the Saudis in commanding the air war on Yemen.

The reasons for the attacks include Saudi fears of an uprising by Houthis in Yemen and the growing influence of Iran on Yemen. However, as Nafeez Ahmed reports, the biggest reason for these attacks is to protect western interests. Yemen and the Gulf region are strategic locations that the US seeks to control because of its oil interests. According to Jamal Benomar, former UN special envoy to Yemen, the Saudi bombing campaign started as the Yemenis were reaching a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides in the region, including the Houthis. The United States and Saudi Arabia are against the democratization of the Gulf states.

There has been speculation regarding the potential for a new oil pipeline that would bypass the strait of Hormuz and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The pipeline would run through Hadramawt to a port in the Gulf of Aden. This pipeline would be completely owned by Saudi Arabia and would allow them to have direct access to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Saudi Arabia may also be aiding al-Qaeda in their efforts. The Hadramawt is one of the few areas where the Saudi coalition has not conducted any air strikes. Not surprisingly this is where the Saudi plan to run their pipeline. The port and airport are controlled by Al-Qaeda, which has been receiving arms from Saudi Arabia. A Dutch foreign minister was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia does not want a strong, democratic country on the other side of the more than 1,500 kilometer long border that separates it from Yemen. Indirectly, by pursuing its interests in alignment with Saudi Arabia, the US may be contributing to a resurgence of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen.

Source: Nafeez Ahmed, “Saudi War for Yemen Oil Pipeline Is Empowering Al-Qaeda, IS.” Middle East Eye. February 11, 2016,

Student Researcher: Harrison Hartman (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)