By: Mohammed Al-Absi
The ruling family of Saudi Arabia is using investment as excuse to control the Bab Al-Mandab strait between Yemen and the horn of Africa. An official letter sent to former governor of Taiz, Hamoud Al-Soufi, on 2 February 2011 contained information on establishing stores and stations in Bab Al-Mandab and Meon Islands for providing shops with fuel. The letter was signed by Princess Haifa, granddaughter of the Saudi king. Although some people may view this action as a legal investment, it is easy to defy this thinking. Saudi authorities not only interfere in Yemeni political decisions but form them as well. They do this through Yemenis loyal to the Saudi government—Yemenis spread throughout Yemen’s tribes, military, and government. Saudi Arabia is then able to influence the state joint through the establishment of political parties, television networks and the national economy. One such person, is chairman of the Al-Tadhamon party, Hameed Al-Ahmer, who reportedly receives SR 7 million per month from Saudi funders.
In her letter to Al-Soufi, Princess Haifa stated that the project is the first step of developing the strait and the island. Meon Island is one of the most crucial islands of Bab Al-Mandab strait and located only 100 miles from Aden city. According to researcher Abdulhalim Sabr, Britain used the island in 1799 to prevent Napoleon from reaching India. This demonstrates the importance of Meon Island over other Yemeni islands in the area due to its strategic location at the head of Bab Al-Mandab strait.
In her letter, Princess Haifa stated that Saudi authorities aspire to develop the whole area, not only establishing the stores and station. “We want to economically develop the whole area with regional and international partners including Sheikh Jamal Badr Ahmed, Chairman of Tamdin Arab Company,” she stated.
It is really doubtful to see the letter coming when most foreign and Yemeni investors escaped from Yemen and moved their trade to Dubai including Princess Haifa. It makes no sense to have her interested in investing in Yemen during all of Yemen’s current crises and turmoil.
Allowing Saudi Arabia to partially or fully control Bab Al-Mandab may be an unannounced political deal or a hidden component of the GCC initiative. [[Saudi authorities made sure not to lose the weakness of Saleh’s regime However, I have to be honest and admit that the Princess’s offer arrived in 2010, prior to the eruption of revolution in Yemen.
Contact between Saudi and Yemeni authorities did not stop despite the country’s volatile situation in 2011. Former Chairman of State Land Yehiya Dowaid sent an urgent letter to Taiz’ former governor only nine days after the assassination attempt on Saleh and his return from Saudi Arabia. However, we cannot say for sure if this letter has any relation to the Saudi offer. Still, we can be sure that the letter came with significant regional and strategic calculations. Both the Gulf and American interests ay be involved. Thirty-five percent of all international oil passes through the Hormuz Strait, so the outbreak of war or any move by Iran to close the Strait would be significant events. Prices of oil derivatives would undoubtedly increase if the strait were closed by Iran. According to reports, closing the Hormuz Strait could even result in suspension of oil production by companies including Total Saudi and Shell, because these companies work for countries that use Hormuz as a key channel for exporting oil.