By Apu Sarwar, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 02 April 2019
Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia signed a treaty of military cooperation in mid-February 2019. There is very little public information about this agreement. Lack of press freedom, secrecy about BD military activities, and a collaborative effort between the government of Bangladesh and national media have kept details of this military pact under wraps.
The Bangladesh Army
The Bangladeshi (BD) army and government, separately and selectively, leaked news of this arrangement in the local media without much elaboration. The BD Army chief acknowledged that 1,800 Bangladeshi military personnel will be deployed along the Saudi-Yemeni border for “non-combat” purposes. The BD Army's engineering and medical core will also deploy in the Saudi Kingdom. The BD army chief additionally mentioned that his officers will work with the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). Saudi Arabia's military officers are to receive training alongside the Bangladeshi armed forces at the Bangladeshi Military Academy.
In the period since the 1971 founding of Bangladesh, the military has ruled the country directly for 15 of those years. Six percent of the annual budget goes to military spending. The armed forces and government are reluctant to provide any information about military spending. Precise information concerning military expenditures is frequently unavailable. The Bangladesh Army is a gigantic corporate entity. It runs banks, a university; food, textile, jute, and power plants; and it’s responsible for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects. It controls billions of dollars worth of property. There is no evidence that ordinary soldiers benefit from these financial activities. Army bureaucrats are the sole beneficiaries of these corporations run by the military.
Any kind of criticism of the military's activities is virtually banned in Bangladesh. There is undeclared martial law in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT); home of many non-Muslim, minority ethnic groups. Since the inception of Bangladesh, the Dhaka administration has carefully settled landless peasants and unemployed people from other parts of the country to eradicate non-Muslim, minority ethnic groups and promote “Islamization” of the area. Bengali settlements in CHT have already destroyed the way of life of the indigenous (Chakma, Marma and other nationalities) peoples. Bengali settlers backed by the Bengali Armed Forces are responsible for ethnic violence. This includes the rape of indigenous women, disappearances, arson, and looting in the CHT. The armed forces play a direct role in maintaining a climate of fear in the area.
An Islamic NATO
The ambition of creating the equivalent of NATO in the Middle East is an old idea backed by the USA. Internal conflicts have previously frustrated this development. However for an extended period of time the six Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar) plus Egypt and Jordan have managed some level of military cooperation against their “shared concern” with Iran and its proxy militias. After multiple attempts at establishing an intergovernmental military alliance of Muslim countries, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), was formed in December 2015.
The IMCTC is led by Saudi Arabia and the operational headquarters are in Riyadh. There are 41 Muslim countries in this alliance. Both Iran and Iraq are excluded. The IMCTC has become a vehicle for making Saudi Arabia the dominant national power in the Middle East. The Saudis depend on their close ties with the USA to strengthen this regional status. While the IMCTC is of direct service to Saudi goals, the foreign policies of the balance of the member countries are not based on countering Iran. Hence, its role in the region has related, inherent limitations.
Iran and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the regional iron fist of US imperialism. Iran and Saudi Arabia may be fierce rivals but they share similar political foundations. Both capitalist countries have established an authoritarian political system built around their interpretation of Islamic law and both actively maintain support groups in Muslim majority countries. Iran and Saudi Arabia have always had brutal, despotic regimes that do not tolerate human rights, free expression, or the right to independent political organization. These two countries freely arrest, torture, and assassinate citizens who express opinions at variance with their government’s policies. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have an explicit goal of exporting their brand of Islam beyond their borders.
In the immediate post-WWII period (following the CIA overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and the installation of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1953), Iran and Saudi Arab were the "twin pillars" of US policy in the region. However, things changed with the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979. The Iranian Islamists called for the overthrow of monarchies and secular governments and their replacement with Islamic republics. This alarmed the Sunni-run Saudi monarchy. The new era of regional hostilities started at this point.
The War in Yemen
Yemen is strategically important. It links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden through which most of the world's oil shipments pass. One of the Arab world's poorest countries, Yemen is in the midst of an extraordinary humanitarian catastrophe. In 2015, it was ranked 168 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index, based on the challenges of life expectancy, education, and standard of living. The Yemeni civil war is an ongoing conflict that began in 2011. There are multiple factions. However, the conflict consists of two main antagonists: those led by President Hadi and those led by the Houthis. Both claim to constitute the official government of Yemen. The Houthis are a branch of Shiite Muslims backed by Iran and President Hadi’s forces are backed by Iran’s enemy, Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis came to power in spring 2015 against the background of a popular insurrection against the Hadi regime which implemented a reactionary austerity policy dictated by the International Monetary Fund. The Saudi regime, fearing that this popular rebellion might spread and undermine its regional hegemony, soon intervened and invaded Yemen in order to subjugate the people. Hence, Houthi-led camp has been leading a legitimate defensive, national liberation war while the Saudi aggressors and their local allies are waging an utterly reactionary war. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its comrades in Yemen have stated from the beginning that revolutionaries are obligated to defend Yemen against the Saudi aggression, without lending any political support to the Houthis, which is a petty bourgeois Islamist movement.
Saudi military intervention marks the first time in the kingdom's history that its army is involved in a major operation abroad without the direct participation of the U.S. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have conducted airstrikes in Yemen. The United States and the United Kingdom have both provided logistical support and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition. Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan, and Egypt are also actively participating in the Saudi-led war against Yemen.
Initially, the Saudis thought the war and their related involvement would be short-lived. However the war in Yemen staggers on and continues to evolve in new and explosive directions. This has generated Saudi concerns that the continued success of the Houthis will have a highly negative impact on the Saudi’s domestic politics. Arising from this very real fear, the Saudis are pre-emptively gathering boots on the ground. The Bangladesh-Saudi military pact is a direct response and part of a strategy of mobilizing forces to quell what is regarded by the US-Saudi coalition as a serious regional threat.
The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) demands:
* Down with the Bangladesh-Saudi military alliance!
* Defend Yemen against the al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! Support the resistance led by the Houthi rebels while not giving any political support to their leadership! No return of the reactionary lackey “President” al-Hadi!
* For the founding of popular action councils and armed militias to defend Yemen against Saudi aggression!
* For a Workers’ and Fallahin government defended by popular militias which will expropriate the foreign corporations and the rich domestic capitalists! For the nationalization of the key industries and banks under workers’ control!
* No to reactionary sectarianism – for unity of Sunni and Shia workers and fellahin, one which is based on solidarity and respect for all groups! Down with the Salafi-Takfiri Daesh!
* Down with the reactionary monarchy of Saudi Arabia! Down with the Mullah regime in Iran!
* Unite the national liberation war in Yemen with the liberation struggles in Palestine, Syria, Algeria, Libya, and other countries! Forward to the second wave of the Arab Revolution!
* * * * *
We refer readers to numerous statements and articles which the RCIT has published on the Yemeni war:
RCIT: After the Death of Saleh: Continue the Defense of Yemen against the Al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! 12.10.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-after-the-death-of-saleh/
Almedina Gunić: Yemen – Thirsty, Sick and War-Ridden! 02.10.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-thirsty-sick-and-war-ridden/
RCIT: Yemen: Condemn the Massacre in Sana'a! Down with the Al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! 11.10.2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-massacre/
RCIT: Greetings to the Yemeni 'Socialists against Aggression', 15 July 2016, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/greetings-to-yemeni-socialists/
RCIT: Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World: An Acid Test for Revolutionaries, 31 May 2015, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 36, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-arab-revolution/
RCIT: Yemen: The al-Hadi Puppet Government Calls for an Imperialist Invasion! Victory to Yemen! Defeat the Al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! 8.5.2015, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 36, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/assault-on-yemen/
Yossi Schwartz: The War in Yemen, Iran and US-Imperialism, 20.4.2015, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 35, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-war-us-and-iran/
RCIT: Defend Yemen against the Al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! No to Sectarian Divisions and Civil War! For a Workers’ and Popular Government! Joint Statement of the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the RCIT Yemen, 3.4.2015, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 34, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/saudi-aggression-vs-yemen/
Mohammed Al Wazeer: Yemen Under Attack, RCIT Yemen, 15.4.2015, www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-under-attack
RCIT: Yemen: Down with the Price Hikes! For a “Second Revolution” to Establish a Workers and Fallahin Government! 3.9.2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 27, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-uprising/
Yemen: The Mass Protests continue, Report from a Yemeni Supporter of the RCIT, 4.9.2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 27, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-report-4-9-2014/