How Yemen Changed Everything

In a single move, Yemen’s Ansarallah has checkmated the west and its rules-based order.

Whether invented in northern India, eastern China or Central Asia – from Persia to Turkestan – chess is an Asian game. In chess, there always comes a time when a simple pawn is able to upset the whole chessboard, usually via a move in the back rank whose effect simply cannot be calculated.

Yes, a pawn can impose a seismic checkmate. That’s where we are, geopolitically, right now.

The cascading effects of a single move on the chessboard – Yemen’s Ansarallah stunning and carefully targeted blockade of the Red Sea – reach way beyond global shipping, supply chains, and The War of Economic Corridors. Not to mention the reduction of the much lauded US Navy force projection to irrelevancy.

Yemen’s resistance movement, Ansarallah, has made it very clear that any Israel-affiliated or Israel-destined vessel will be intercepted. While the west bristles at this, and imagines itself a target, the rest of the world fully understands that all other shipping is free to pass. Russian tankers – as well as Chinese, Iranian, and Global South ships – continue to move undisturbed across the Bab al-Mandeb (narrowest point: 33 km) and the Red Sea.

Only the Hegemon is disturbed by this challenge to its ‘rules-based order.’ It is outraged that western vessels delivering energy or goods to law-breaking Israel can be impeded, and that the supply chain has been severed and plunged into deep crisis. The pinpointed target is the Israeli economy, which is already bleeding heavily. A single Yemeni move proves to be more efficient than a torrent of imperial sanctions.

It is the tantalizing possibility of this single move turning into a paradigm shift – with no return – that is adding to the Hegemon’s apoplexy. Especially because imperial humiliation is deeply embedded in the paradigm shift.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the record, is now sending an unmistakeable message: Forget the Suez Canal. The way to go is the Northern Sea Route – which the Chinese, in the framework of the Russia-China strategic partnership, call the Arctic Silk Road.

Map of North-East and North-West Passage shipping routes

For the dumbfounded Europeans, the Russians have detailed three options: First, sail 15,000 miles around the Cap of Good Hope. Second, use Russia’s cheaper and faster Northern Sea Route. Third, send the cargo via Russian Railways.

Rosatom, which oversees the Northern Sea Route, has emphasized that non-ice-class ships are now able to sail throughout summer and autumn, and year-round navigation will soon be possible with the help of a fleet of nuclear icebreakers.

All that as direct consequences of the single Yemeni move. What next? Yemen entering BRICS+ at the summit in Kazan in late 2024, under the Russian presidency?

The new architecture will be framed in West Asia

The US-led Armada put together for Operation Genocide Protection, which collapsed even before birth, may have been set up to “warn Iran,” apart from giving Ansarallah a scare. Just as the Houthis, Tehran is hardly intimidated because, as West Asia analyst ace Alastair Crooke succinctly put it: “Sykes-Picot is dead.”

This is a quantum shift on the chessboard. It means West Asian powers will frame the new regional architecture from now on, not US Navy “projection.”

That carries an ineffable corollary: those eleven US aircraft carrier task forces, for all practical purposes, are essentially worthless.

Everyone across West Asia is well aware that Ansarallah’s missiles are capable of hitting Saudi and Emirati oil fields, and knocking them out of commission. So it is little wonder that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi would never accept becoming part of a US-led maritime force to challenge the Yemeni resistance.

Add to it the role of underwater drones now in the possession of Russia and Iran. Think of fifty of these aimed at a US aircraft carrier: it has no defense. While the Americans still have very advanced submarines, they cannot keep the Bab al-Mandeb and Red Sea open to western operators.

On the energy front, Moscow and Tehran don’t even need to think – at least not yet – about using the “nuclear” option or cutting off potentially at least 25 percent, and up, of the world oil supply. As one Persian Gulf analyst succinctly describes it, “that would irretrievably implode the international financial system.”

For those still determined to support the genocide in Gaza there have been warnings. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has mentioned it explicitly. Tehran has already called for a total oil and gas embargo against nations that support Israel.

A total naval blockade of Israel, meticulously engineered, remains a distinct possibility. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Hossein Salami said Israel may “soon face the closure of the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar, and other waterways.”

Keep in mind we’re not yet even talking about a possible blockade of the Strait of Hormuz; we’re still on Red Sea/Bab al-Mandeb. 

Because if the Straussian neo-cons in the Beltway get really unhinged by the paradigm shift and act in desperation to “teach a lesson” to Iran, a chokepoint Hormuz-Bab al-Mandeb combo blockade might skyrocket the price of oil to at least $500 a barrel, triggering the implosion of the $618 trillion derivatives market and crashing the entire international banking system.

The paper tiger is in a jam

Mao Zedong was right after all: the US may be in fact a paper tiger. Putin, though, is way more careful, cold, and calculating. With this Russian president, it’s all about an asymmetric response, exactly when no one is expecting it.

That brings us to the prime working hypothesis perhaps capable of explaining the shadow play masking the single Ansarallah move on the chessboard.

When Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Sy (Seymour) Hersh proved how Team Biden blew up the Nord Stream pipelines, there was no Russian response to what was, in effect, an act of terrorism against Gazprom, against Germany, against the EU, and against a bunch of European companies. Yet Yemen, now, with a simple blockade, turns global shipping upside down.

So what is more vulnerable? The physical networks of global energy supply (Pipelineistan) or the Thalassocracy, states that derive their power from naval supremacy?

Russia privileges Pipelineistan: see, for instance, the Nord Streams and Power of Siberia 1 and 2. But the US, the Hegemon, always relied on its thalassocratic power, heir to “Britannia rules the waves.”

Well, not anymore. And, surprisingly, getting there did not even entail the “nuclear” option, the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, which Washington games and scaremongers like crazy.

Of course we won’t have a smoking gun. But it’s a fascinating proposition that the single Yemeni move may have been coordinated at the highest level between three BRICS members – Russia, China, and Iran, the neocon new “axis of evil” – plus other two BRICS+, energy powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As in, “if you do it, we’ve got your back”.

None of that, of course, detracts from Yemeni purity: their defense of Palestine is a sacred duty.

Western imperialism and then turbo-capitalism have always been obsessed with gobbling up Yemen, a process that Isa Blumi, in his splendid book Destroying Yemen, described as “necessarily stripping Yemenis of their historic role as the economic, cultural, spiritual, and political engine for much of the Indian Ocean world.”

Yemen, though, is unconquerable and, true to a local proverb, “deadly” (Yemen Fataakah). As part of the Axis of Resistance, Yemen’s Ansarallah is now a key actor in a complex Eurasia-wide drama that redefines Heartland connectivity; and alongside China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the India-Iran-Russia-led International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), and Russia’s new Northern Sea Route, also includes control over strategic chokepoints around the Mediterranean Seas and the Arabian peninsula.

This is another trade connectivity paradigm entirely, smashing to bits western colonial and neocolonial control of Afro-Eurasia. So yes, BRICS+ supports Yemen, who with a single move has presented Pax Americana with The Mother of All Geopolitical Jams.

Pepe Escobar is a columnist at The Cradle, editor-at-large at Asia Times and an independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia. Since the mid-1980s he has lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore and Bangkok. He is the author of countless books; his latest one is Raging Twenties.

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