Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 23, 2015

Yemen: Saudis To Arm "Popular Committees" (aka Al Qaeda)

On the 17th Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula took a city, a military base, an oil terminal and an airport in south Yemen.

Military officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen's largest brigades outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, which the militants overran earlier this month. The militants then seized control of Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city's main seaport, which is also an oil terminal.

The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.

Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance to al-Qaida fighters.

Reading that I commented:

Now Saudis can fly in ammo and men

That was meant more as a joke but now turns out to be likely spot on.

The overrun brigade who's commander fled and who's soldiers did not fight AQ was the 27th Infantry brigade in Mukalla. Its supreme  commander and "sponsor" is Mohammed Ali Mohsen:

The commander of the Eastern Area is BG Mohammed Ali Mohsen. The Eastern Area includes the governorates of Hadramawt and al-Mahra.

Ali Mohsen earlier fled to Saudi Arabia. He is near to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islah, which unlike other MB branches traditionally receives support from Saudi Arabia.

Calling from Saudi Arabi Ali Mohsen ordered his troops to put up no resistance to the takeover of the city and the airport by Al Qaeda.

To hide their traces a bit the Al Qaeda folks immediately renamed themselves:

Qaeda fighters have seized the airport, government buildings and a refinery around Al Mukalla, establishing themselves as the most powerful local force. In an effort to win popular support, they have begun calling themselves the Sons of Hadhramaut and have promised to quickly return control of the city to local civilian leaders. When they seized a major army base outside of the city on Friday, they allowed the soldiers inside to leave unharmed, according to a local tribal leader.

The Al Qaeda folks who captured the airport renamed themselves to get "popular support". My hunch is that the "Sons of Hadhramaut" are now a "popular committee."

[Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.] Adel Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia is providing support and weapons to so-called “Popular Committees,” militia groups who have in recent years emerged in Yemen as a counterweight to extremist groups in the country. Jubeir said that if the Houthis do not join the political process, these groups will step up activity against them.

To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are "extremist groups". Al Qaeda, especially in the form of "popular committees" like the "Sons of Hadhramaut", are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.

But the Saudis are again miscalculating if they believe that the Jihadist are a match for the war experienced Houthies and the Republican Guard troops under former president Saleh who are allied with them. Al Qaeda is not a capable ground force. It can be beaten in open fighting. Whether the Houthies could thereafter hold on to southern parts of country against the will of the local population is a different question.

Posted by b on April 23, 2015 at 17:10 UTC | Permalink


My money is on Houthies and friends once again over coming the house of saud. The retired Col. Pat Lange had a little to say on this a few weeks ago his vote was also for Houthies. b sometimes the sad humor turns out true. It was my thought also when I saw the had taken the port. This good for Amerika death makers but bad for citizens in the way stupid.

Posted by: jo6pac | Apr 23 2015 17:52 utc | 1

The other miscalculation is that Yemen is not Syria and the US is unlikely to give support to these Saudi openings to Al Qaeda. They just bombed a few of these 'new' Saudi allies in Mukalla yesterday with a drone. The same game the US has been playing for years. The Saudi operation rebranding is likely also related with US pressure.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 23 2015 18:25 utc | 2

The saudis have their chance to demonstrate their military chops with all their high-tech, uber-expensive, state-of-the-art american weaponry by engaging the Houthis directly instead of bombing food factories and hospitals. But they won't do that because they're pathetic cowards and lowlife scum who are only good at chopping off women's heads for "witchcraft" and/or exposing an inch of flesh.

Posted by: Some Guy | Apr 23 2015 19:09 utc | 3

Billionaire Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has vowed to give a free Bentley to every Saudi pilot that has taken part in bombardment of Yemen. What disgusting filth these perverts are. Lets hope the yemeni people can reach out and cut the pipelines and destroy some of the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the money from which, keep this scum in power.

Posted by: harry law | Apr 23 2015 19:20 utc | 4

''popular committees'' sounds like some key phrase mccain or some american pr firm thought up.. it's not how the saudi royalty treat their own people, but maybe they hired the pr firm.. anything to convince the american public, or any sicko in the neo con war party that mayham and murder is all good, regardless whether you are supporting al qaeda or not.. i am impressed with how far from reality usa/western leadership have gotten in such a short time...the actions towards yemen are more testimony, not that we needed more..

Posted by: james | Apr 23 2015 19:44 utc | 5

Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?

Saudi Arabia Gives Israel 16bn Dollars!

If Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars helped secure Israel’s assistance in creating such a potential hell on earth, the Saudi royals might consider it the best money they ever spent – and the resulting orgy of military spending by the U.S. government might benefit some well-connected neocons, too – but the many victims of this madness would certainly feel otherwise as might the vast majority of the American people.

Posted by: ALAN | Apr 23 2015 21:49 utc | 6

The Saudis are playing a really dangerous game. We all know they sponsor al Qaeda with money and have done so for ages, but now arming them militarily and in a region where the only way out is through their own country or the Gulf potentates seems really quite rash.

To presume the radical Islamists - close as they are with the Saudi regime - won't someday decide to bite the hand that feeds them is a pretty huge assumption. One I'm all for, btw. The Saudis have always played it safe, preferring to dispense money to far away fighters. They're venturing into new territory now - and its extremely risky for them. Which is really something to be enthusiastic about, if you ask me.

Posted by: guest77 | Apr 23 2015 22:52 utc | 7


As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.

Very busy indeed, so much so it might look like this in a few months.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Apr 24 2015 1:24 utc | 8

To # 6, Alan, isn't that old saying of sleeping with dogs, you get up with fleas, on point? I wonder, if this is true, about the money, will the Israelis look the other way when the Saudis build their Nuclear plants?

Posted by: Norman | Apr 24 2015 2:10 utc | 9

I 'joked' earlier that al Qaeda and ISIS were the ground component of the Saudi armed forces. No joke.

If there ever was a 'sincere','religious','anti-imperialist' component to these killer oufits it was years and years ago now. They ought to be looking at the bozos in flowing robes and headgear giving them orders and thinking ... hell, I could do that. All they need do is take over the oilfields. Just like in Iraq. Hell, who'll stop 'em? Once they get their noses under the tents of the Saudi oil refineries the grillion dollar Saudi air force will be worthless against them, they'd have destroy the refineries to save them.

Of course the zoomies could climb out of their f-15s and into their brand new Bentleys and storm the new al Qaeda/ISIS refineries on the ground. Yeah. They could do that.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 24 2015 2:42 utc | 10

I thought Al Qeada and Saudi Arabia were at odds. Thought Al Qeada wants the Saud Monarchy gone.

Posted by: Kathleen | Apr 24 2015 2:47 utc | 11


Yeah, and ISIS wants Israel gone too ... but all they do is kill more Muslims. Muslims unallied with Saudi Arabia.

Al Qaeda and ISIS form the ground component of the Saudi armed forces.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 24 2015 3:53 utc | 12

URGENT: Saudi Arabia Bars Iran's Cargo Plane from Entering Yemen's Airspace

...The plane was bound for Sana'a Airport, but was intercepted by the Saudi fighter jets before entering Yemen's airspace...

The shit might hit the fan at any time now. Hopefully Iran won't fall into the trap set up by the profligate Saudi puppets, and will follow Bhadrakumar's advice,

...You don’t look for victory in a fratricidal war, do you? You win it in bits and pieces and the secret lies in patience and power of attrition...

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Apr 24 2015 3:59 utc | 13

China and Russia showing the finger to Egypt

Posted by: Mina | Apr 24 2015 15:32 utc | 14


You are correct but the wise guys here will try to convince you that facts and evidence are trumped by beliefs and repetition.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Apr 24 2015 15:33 utc | 15

An official view?

Posted by: GoraDiva | Apr 24 2015 17:45 utc | 16


Thanks for the link, I read a similar analysis at Al Monitor from 2013. Because this report is seen as an Official view the important statement about 'some individual Saudis supporting AQAP or the IS' is likely to be dismissed by some people.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Apr 24 2015 20:50 utc | 17

The Saudi foreign policy appear like a series of 'miscalculation' . It is strictly based on video games the Saudi royals have been brought on in their fancy palaces and residence in London and the USA.

Posted by: Virgile | Apr 24 2015 21:17 utc | 18


You may be confusing the 7000 Princes with the 200 descendants of ibn Saud who actually rule the KSA. Time will tell if the three recent interventions by the KSA were miscalculations or calculated moves. One thing is certain they are moving ahead with their new foreign policies.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Apr 24 2015 22:14 utc | 19


' As the Middle East undergoes this violent and volatile transition, the United States seems determined not to become further involved in the region’s conflicts. '

This seems the main piece of disinformation the article is meant to project. The 'independence' of the Saudi regime is its bogus corollary.

It may well be the case that the US/Israel have their sites on Saudi oil fields, once the Saudis 'independently' and irretrievably fuck-up.

I wonder if the US has plans for the territory labeled 'Israel' after that entity 'independently' fucks up?

I wonder what Israel's plans for Israel are after the US 'independently' fucks up?

Posted by: jfl | Apr 24 2015 22:19 utc | 20

Mina @ 14
That was a very interesting article. Thank you for posting that link.

Posted by: Benu | Apr 25 2015 2:40 utc | 21

Waist deep in the Big Muddy...

The Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian army bases where Hezbollah stored long-range missiles late Friday night, according to an Al Jazeera report.

According to the report, the airstrikes targeted the bases of strategic missile brigades 155 and 65 in Kalamoon, near the Syria-Lebanon border. Residents of nearby cities Yabroud and Qarah reported hearing explosions.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Defense refused to comment on the report. Hezbollah and the Assad regime, too, have not yet responded.

Posted by: chuckvw | Apr 25 2015 6:49 utc | 22


Yes it was. Shows how shaky is Saudi Arabian 'hegemony' in the Middle East. With luck it will collapse, and all come crashing down for the Saudis and for Sisi too.

And won't the USA be shocked! and surprised! Not. They will move into the Saudi oilfields to assure 'stability'. And the Israelis will 'help', no doubt ... bidden or un-.

Posted by: jfl | Apr 25 2015 7:56 utc | 23

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