The Saudi military is almost entirely staffed by mercenaries. The Saudi jets bombing an air defenseless Yemen are piloted by Pakistanis. Its mid and low level officers are mainly from Jordan and, most ominously for its ability to actually launch a ground invasion, its rank and file soldiers are almost entirely from Yemen.
That’s right, the Saudi army is packed full of Yemeni cannon fodder, which helps explains its ignominious failure in its war with Yemen’s Houthi’s in 2009.
Does anyone really believe that the Yemeni soldiers for hire in the Saudi army are going to willingly, never mind effectively, invade their own country, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, all the while killing, and being killed by, their Yemeni brothers and sisters?
This may explain the reluctance of the Saudi leadership to launch their promised invasion, especially while the Houthi militia’s are still an effective fighting force on the ground.
Supposedly Egypt is going to send its army to help invade Yemen, never mind Yemen being the graveyard for thousands of Egyptian soldiers in what the late President Nasser called “Egypt’s Vietnam” in the early-mid 1960’s.
The Egyptian army is made up of mostly illiterate conscripts dragooned from the poorest sectors of Egyptian society and has been particularly inept at suppressing the vicious insurgency being waged again President Al Sisi’s regime in the Sinai. If the Egyptian army can’t even control its own territory it certainly doesn’t bode well for any foreign misadventures it may undertake.
Of course, it takes time to prepare the logistics needed to send a large fighting force to invade another country, so Egyptian boots on the ground in Yemen may yet happen, but don’t hold your breath.
If Yemeni artillery and rockets start blasting shipping of the “Saudi led coalition,” a demand being expressed by massive Yemeni demonstrations, Egypt wont have much choice. The “Bab al Mandeb” (so aptly named “the gate of tears”) is so narrow that all shipping traveling through this strategic choke point between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea have to pass well within range of even light artillery. President Al Sisi has already raised the alarm of the danger if such a disaster should strike, though preventing such is easier said than done.
And all the while starvation spreads through out Yemen, a country already one of the hungriest in the world. Yemen is one of the most food aid dependent countries on the planet, importing by some accounts up to 90% of its food.
The Saudi leadership must figure if they can’t defeat the Yemeni resistance with their air power they will cut off all food supplies and wait for starvation to bring Yemen to its knees?
To help hurry this process up Saudi war planes have already begun bombing major grain depots in Yemen, as all the while the “Saudi led coalition” has prevented all but the equivalent of a couple of truck loads of supplies flown in by the Red Cross. A couple of truck loads to feed a food aid dependent country of almost 25 million in the midst of a barbaric air bombardment?
As the Saudi air force continues to terrorize the Yemeni population with bombs marked “made in the USA” and malnutrition turns to outright starvation, the immediate future for the people of Yemen grows darker by the day.
One thing is certain and that is our world operates under “the rule of law” – the law of the jungle, that is, and any crime, including imposing mass starvation will only be met with acquiescence, if not assistance, as Saudi Arabia’s mercenary army continues its aerial onslaught and enforced starvation against the people of Yemen.
Mohamed Soltan, on hunger strike, gets kiss from his father (photo: Twitter)
An American citizen could wind up spending the rest of his life in an Egyptian prison for protesting against the government two years ago.
Mohamed Soltan was arrested in 2013 during demonstrations in Cairo that arose after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian-American was among more than 35 other defendants who received the same sentence. Still others, including Soltan’s father, Salah Soltan, were sentenced to death by the Egyptian court. Soltan’s family intends to appeal.
“The verdict is the latest in a long series of similarly harsh sentences handed down at mass trials of dozens or hundreds of defendants accused of participating in violent protests or riots in the aftermath of the military takeover, often based on only police testimony or cursory evidence,” according to The New York Times.
Soltan was working as a translator for journalists covering the protests and was shot in the arm during a demonstration on August 14, 2013. He was arrested at his home a few days later and has been jailed since, according to the Times. For the past year, he has been on a hunger strike to protest his arrest and detention.
Thousands of Egyptians are still in prison without being tried for opposing the military-backed government, which has been accused of vast human rights abuses.
The verdict also comes at a bad time for President Barack Obama who only last week authorized the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Egypt despite the lack of democratic reforms on the part of officials in Cairo.
To Learn More:
American Among Nearly 40 Sentenced to Life in Prison for Egypt Protests (by David Kirkpatrick and Jared Malsin, New York Times )
Ohio State Alumnus Receives Life Sentence in an Egyptian Prison (by Rubina Kapi, The Lantern )
Mohamed Soltan, 36 Others Imprisoned for Life (by Aya Nader, Daily News Egypt)
The Life and Imprisonment of ‘Terrorist’ Mohamed Soltan (by Aya Nader, Daily News Egypt)
Obama Approves Weapons for Egyptian Tyrant (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov )
6 Major Corporations that Profit from U.S. Aid to the Egyptian Military (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov )
The U.S. is once again increasing its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom expand its air campaign in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.
“We have opened up the aperture a bit wider with what we are sharing with our Saudi partners,” one official said. “We are helping them get a better sense of the battlefield and the state of play with the Houthi forces.”
The Saudi military began its aerial assault on Yemen in late March in coordination with 10 other Gulf Arab allies, as well as the U.S., when civil unrest between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels threatened to boil over. Weeks of relentless bombings and air strikes have contributed to what the Red Cross called a “catastrophic” situation in Yemen, with civilian deaths already in the hundreds and food and water shortages worsening.
The U.S. has backed the Saudi air strikes in Yemen since they began, with the White House authorizing “logistical and intelligence support” the day after the operation was confirmed from the ground in Sana’a.
However, Washington’s role in the fight increased significantly over the following weeks. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Tuesday that the administration had “expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center.”
That move came despite warnings from international aid groups that the operation, which is also supported by Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, has brought war to “every street and every corner” in Yemen.
The White House and the Pentagon would not comment on the specifics of the increased intelligence-sharing on Friday, Reuters reports. In addition to intelligence-sharing, the U.S. also began daily air-to-air refueling flights of Saudi and U.A.E. fighter jets.
As Common Dreams reported on Friday, the coalition is also blocking nearly all food and medical aid from entering Yemen.
At the same time as the U.S. announced its intelligence-sharing plans, the UN warned that the heavily targeted southern city of Aden was in danger of completely running out of water “within a matter of days.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has issued a decree rendering the digging or using of illegal border tunnels punishable by life term.
“Anyone who digs or prepares or uses a road, a passage, or an underground tunnel in the country’s border areas with the purpose of connecting with a foreign entity or state, its citizens or residents… will face life in prison,” said the presidential decree published in the official gazette on Sunday.
According to the decree, those who are aware of such tunnels and refrain from informing authorities also face life in prison, which in Egypt amounts to 25 years behind bars.
The Egyptian government claims that it has destroyed vast numbers of such routes and has recently intensified efforts to demolish such underground passages which connect the restive Sinai Peninsula to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Palestinians use the underground tunnels to transfer essential supplies, including food and fuel into Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007, a situation which has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.
Israel not only defies international calls to lift the brutal siege, but also refuses to allow medication or construction materials into coastal enclave.
On February 31, Obama announced the lifting of what the New York Times called “an arms freeze on Egypt”.
The US arms export restrictions the Times is referring to had been put in place following a 2013 coup, which removed Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.
This Times piece titled, “Obama Removes Weapons Freeze Against Egypt” states:
“President Obama on Tuesday lifted an arms freeze against Egypt that he had first imposed after the military overthrow of the country’s democratically elected government nearly two years ago.”
The piece states that the “freeze” was imposed after the coup. Given this, readers will naturally assume the Obama administration enacted a significant policy shift towards the Egyptian government as a result of this affront to democracy.
But the Times quickly qualifies the extent of this arms freeze by listing the very small number of “big ticket” items which had been restricted.
The piece states:
“Mr. Obama cleared the way for the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 Abrams tanks, weapons prized by Egyptian leaders, who have smoldered at the suspension.”
NPR handled this same issue in a more confused way. An NPR story called “US Ends Freeze on Military Aid to Egypt” stated:
“Certain types of training and military equipment never stopped flowing. But in 2013, the flow of weapons deliveries was halted after Egypt’s military takeover.”
These seemingly contradictory sentences seem to both admit US arms deliveries never really ended, but then also imply that they in fact had stopped.
Both the Times and NPR do correctly point out that F-16s, Harpoons, and M1A1 Tanks were held up by the Obama administration, and that now these items—along with the full allotment of the $1.3 billion in this year’s military assistance—will again flow to Egypt.
However, what the Times and NPR didn’t mention is that in essence US military aid to Egypt was never really frozen. The ‘freeze”, it turns out, was little more than a light frost.
Export data from the US Census Department shows that in 2014 alone the US shipped Egypt almost $44 million in parts for military aircraft, over $36 million in parts for armored fighting vehicles, and over $68 million in guided missiles.
In addition, both the NPR and Times piece fail to mention the 10 Apache helicopters, which the US delievered to Egypt in October of 2014 (worth $171 million), and which were previously included in the so called “arms freeze”.
What both the Times and NPR do mention is that these weapons are going to an Egyptian government which may be a titch less than perfect. However, they both completely fail to explain the depth of the abuses.
The Times piece mentions that Egyptian authorities have arrested over 40,000 people since the coup, and the NPR story states there are at least 20,000 political prisoners.
Both reports brush over how Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the now president of Egypt, seized control of Egypt following the coup and immediately instituted a serious crackdown on human rights, which continues to this day.
Neither NPR nor the Times mention the 1,300 protesters killed, the mass death sentences, that a major political party has been deemed a terrorist organization, that media outlets have been closed, that activists and journalists remain detained, that protest is essentially outlawed, and that there have been no serious steps towards democracy taken.
Despite these very serious human rights abuses, the US continued shipping, not only parts for advanced weapons systems like jets, helicopters, and tanks, but also smaller arms, which could be used against the Egyptian population.
In 2014, the US shipped a small number of military machine guns, military rifles, as well as over $600,000 worth of parts for military rifles.
These exports are especially troubling given that in August of 2013 the Egyptian security forces opened fire on a protest camp killing at least 1,000 people and injuring almost 4,000. This is a massacre similar in scale to the one in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Times and NPR faithfully played their servile role by peddling the myth that the US froze arms to Egypt. But surely human rights groups got the story right? Well, no.
Human Rights Watch have documented rights abuses perpetrated by the Egyptian government, however they haven’t documented much on the US responsibility for these abuses. This is especially true when it comes to US military support and US arms exports.
Egypt receives the second largest amount of US military aid, and the US and Egypt have a decades long history of military cooperation. Given this, the US could exert a significant amount of influence in Egypt. However, this context is absent in both the Times and NPR articles.
The Times, NPR, and HRW also all fail to mention that the end of US arms restrictions to Egypt means that the last remaining aid and weapons to Egypt, which had been held-up, have now been released.
This means that after a military coup, a massacre, systematic human rights abuses, and even continued detention of Americans, Egypt didn’t lose a single dollar of US taxpayer funded aid, or a single weapons shipment.
Shamefully, NPR, the Times, and HRW all lead readers to falsely believe that the US significantly changed its policy towards Egypt to respond to concerns for democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, the data says otherwise.
Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The US State Department has approved the sale of 356 AGM-114K/R3 Hellfire II Missiles to Egypt, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency announced on 8 April. The sale of the missiles, which were requested by Egypt, is estimated to cost $57 million.
It is the first military sale by the US to Egypt since the Obama administration announced on 31 March that it would lift the hold on the delivery of military equipment including F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tanks. The ban had been in place since the overthrow of democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in October 2013.
The move comes as the Obama administration hopes to strengthen ties with the Egyptian regime and promote shared objectives in the region. In a White House statement, Obama spoke of “shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests in an unstable region”, quoted from a phone call with Al-Sisi on 31 March.
The approval for the Hellfire missiles also comes as Egypt began its first airstrikes against the Houthi targets in Yemen on 9 April, according to Al Jazeera.
The US has also expressed support to the Saudi-led coalition for carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis in Yemen.
Reprieve | April 7, 2015
Lawyers for an American man facing a death sentence in Egypt, who has been on hunger strike for over 400 days, have called on the UN to take urgent action over his case.
28 year old Mohamed Soltan, from Michigan, was translating for an English-language journalist at a 2013 pro-democracy protest in Cairo when he was shot in the arm by Egyptian Government forces. He has been on hunger strike for over 400 days, at one point falling into a coma as a result. Mohamed is on trial alongside more than 45 other people and due to be sentenced on April 11th. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.
The appeal for an urgent action by the UN, submitted today by international human rights charity Reprieve which is assisting Mohamed, argues that any conviction would be illegal given Mohamed’s torture and the multiple international law violations during his trial.
Upon arrest and during interrogation, Mohamed was denied access to a lawyer. He was tortured by security services – including being beaten with metal rods and intentional blows to his gunshot wound causing metal nails in his arm to dislodge. A fellow inmate had to perform ad hoc surgery on his gunshot wound using a razor blade to prevent permanent damage.
Government forces also subjected Mohamed and other prisoners to sexual humiliation, with forced nudity followed by beatings with clubs and chains. During more than a year in jail, Mohamed has only been allowed one medical visit.
Mohamed was arrested without a warrant in August 2013 and detained for 5 months without any charges being brought against him. One of the charges Mohamed faces is membership of the Muslim Brotherhood – which he has always denied. Membership of the party did not become a crime in Egypt until September 2013 – three months after Mohammed was detained. It is illegal under international law for a person to be charged with an offence that was not a crime at the time they were arrested.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at Reprieve, said: “Everything about Mohamed’s arrest and trial is a flagrant violation of multiple international laws, and his treatment at the hands of the Egyptian authorities has been as brutal as anyone could imagine. It is vital that the UN issues an urgent action ahead of Mohamed’s sentencing to show that the international community will not stand idly by while pro-democracy supporters like Mohamed are thrown to the dogs. Mohamed must be released from jail and returned home to his family in the US.”
GAZA CITY – The Gaza Strip electricity distribution company said Sunday that the Gaza Strip would return to the 8-hour program for electricity, in which power is supplied and cut off in 8-hour intervals.
Jamal al-Dardasawi, a spokesman for the company, told Ma’an that it has started to receive the first batches of electricity generated by the local generation station which returned to work Sunday evening.
Al-Dardasawi said the first 24 hours of the new schedule would be confusing, but the schedule would be balanced in all areas with a day.
The return to the program comes after the government’s decision to exempt the station of tax on fuel for three months.
The plant, Gaza’s sole power station, was to be supplied with fuel on Sunday after more than a month-long closure when the Gazan energy authority ran out of funding.
Nathmi Muhanna, PA director of border crossings in the Gaza Strip, said that 10 trucks carrying 400,000 liters of fuel would be passing though the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing on Sunday, and that a regular supply of fuel would be resumed during the week.
On Mar. 2, the Hamas-run energy authority closed the plant after they were unable to afford the taxes demanded by the PA for importing fuel into besieged Gaza.
In December last year, Qatar stepped in and donated $10 million to the PA to cover the tax, effectively exempting Hamas from paying it, but by March that money dried up.
The plant requires 550,000 liters of fuel per day to produce at capacity, the energy authority says.
Even with the plant running, Gaza has only been able to supply about 12 hours of electricity to residents each day, and that it was believed that would fall to just 6 hours after the plant’s shutdown.
Gaza’s energy authority has been plagued by supply problems due to the Israeli blockade, in place since 2007 and upheld by Egypt, as well as devastation caused by war.
Last summer the plant was targeted during the 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, completely knocking it out of commission. The Gaza power authority said at the time that the damages from the attack could take up to a year to fix completely.
Both Israel and Egypt also feed electricity into Gaza, but the extent of this supply is severely limited as part of the blockade.
Many individual homes have their own generators, and households can purchase, expensively, fuel that comes into Gaza for private consumption.
Ami Ayalon, the former chief of Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet, told Charlie Rose in a 2012 interview that Israel hoped to foster a ‘Sunni coalition’ led by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to assail Shia Muslims of the region led by Iran.
Ayalon told Rose that, “Iran is a huge threat. We cannot live with Iran having nuclear military power. We should not accept it.”
“How much time do we have and what do we do?” the Israeli spook asked.
“[We need to create] a kind of a Sunni coalition … with Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia… who understand that the major conflict is with Shia [Muslims] led by Iran.”
Interestingly, such a coalition has indeed formed in recent weeks with the Saudi-led bombing offensive in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Shia Houthi rebels who have seized power in the war-torn country.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt and other Sunni-oriented dictatorships and Western-backed quisling regimes have formed a ‘coalition’ to stamp out the Shia rebellion in Yemen.
ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups currently fighting to topple the Shia/Alawite Assad regime in Syria may also be considered part of this ‘Sunni coalition’ that Ayalon speaks of. The Wahhabi militants who have besieged Syria and who previously attacked Libya were and continue to be subsidized and supported by Washington’s regional puppets (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Turkey).
In a 2014 interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu argued that the US should strive to weaken both Sunnis and Shias by letting them fight each other.
In a 2013 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, revealed that Israel’s main goal was to break down the Shia alliance of Damascus, Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah by siding with the Wahhabist radicals of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” Oren said.
Reports of Israel aiding and abetting anti-Assad militants, including those of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, are abundant and well-founded.
Oren went on to remark with glee that the Gulf sheikhdoms have in recent years come to embrace Israel’s designs vis-a-vis Syria, Iran and even the Palestinian issue, saying:
In the last 64 years there has probably never been a greater confluence of interest between us and several Gulf States. With these Gulf States we have agreements on Syria, on Egypt, on the Palestinian issue. We certainly have agreements on Iran. This is one of those opportunities presented by the Arab Spring.
Ayalon’s admission confirms what many suspect is an Israeli-led divide and conquer strategy where Israel and the West are using Sunni and Wahhabi zealots, useful idiots, and sell-outs to do the bidding of the Zionist regime.
Copyright 2015 Non-Aligned Media
Into the Abyss
Not long before the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, died in 1953, he is purported to have said, “the good or evil for us will come from Yemen.” With the commencement of air strikes on targets in Yemen, it is increasingly likely that the latter part of his prediction will come true. Nothing good—and certainly nothing decisive—will come from the Saudi led “Operation Decisive Storm.”
The Saudi intervention in Yemen—along with the Kingdom’s 2011 intervention in Bahrain—mark a significant departure from a foreign policy that has been historically characterized by caution, reluctance, and a reliance on proxies. In Bahrain, the Saudi effort to quell the Shi’a led rebellion was successful. However, Yemen could not be more different than Bahrain, which is a tiny nation with flat terrain and an unarmed population. In contrast, Yemen has one of the most heavily armed populations on the planet, terrain that is a guerrilla fighter’s dream, and a two thousand year history of resisting and repelling invaders.
In late 2009, Saudi Arabia launched a quiet but well-resourced campaign against the Houthis, who belong to the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam. At the time, the Houthis were locked in their sixth—and what proved to be final—war with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government. In response to an attack launched by Houthi fighters on Saudi border guards, the Saudi government began operations against the Houthis. The Saudis deployed elements of their army, special forces, and air force. The campaign proved to be a disaster for the Saudis and resulted in a top level review of their army’s battle readiness. The Houthis, who were at that time poorly equipped and facing off against both Yemeni forces and Saudi forces, managed to capture at least one soldier from the elite Saudi Special Forces as well as specialized equipment. Over the course of 2009 and 2010, the Houthis fought both Yemeni and Saudi forces to a standstill.
Following 2010 and in the wake of the 2011 revolution that led to the resignation of President Saleh and the installation of his former vice president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, as president, the Houthis consolidated their hold on a large swath of northwestern Yemen. The Houthis expanded the territory under their control by building alliances with influential tribes and clans and by merit of being a relatively well-disciplined and capable fighting force. However, the installation of the ineffectual President Hadi helped enable the Houthis’ rapid expansion.
Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi was chosen by Yemen’s Machiavellian former president as his vice president for a reason: Hadi has no real power base in Yemen and thus could never pose a threat to Saleh or his family. Hadi is from south Yemen, which was an independent nation and wants to be one again. Many southerners still regard Hadi, who sided with Saleh and the north against the south in the 1994 civil war, as a traitor. At the same time, as a southerner, Hadi has little or no influence among Yemen’s powerful northern based tribes. Hadi was a brilliant choice for vice president by a man who intended to pass the presidency onto his son.
Now, the Saudi government, along with its GCC partners, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Jordan, has ostensibly launched ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ to reinstall Hadi who has fled Yemen for Saudi Arabia. The less than clearly articulated goal of the military campaign in Yemen is to reinstall the Hadi led government and to force the Houthis’ to lay down their arms and negotiate. It is unlikely that these goals will be achieved. Rather than eroding support for the Houthis, the Saudis and their partners’ actions in Yemen, may bolster short term support for the Houthis and former president Saleh who is now nominally allied with the Houthis. Most Yemenis are none too fond of the House of Saud and there are many Yemenis still alive who remember the Egyptians’ bloody and disastrous 1962-67 invasion of north Yemen which claimed the lives of twenty thousand Egyptian soldiers and thousands of Yemeni fighters and civilians.
“Operation Decisive Storm” will ensure that Yemen is pushed further along the path to all out civil war, that radical Islamist organizations like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and now the Islamic State (sworn enemies of the Houthis and all Shi’a Muslims) flourish, and that a humanitarian crisis ensues. More than half of Yemen’s children suffer from malnourishment, and, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, 61% of Yemen’s population of 24 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. With the commencement of “Operation Decisive Storm” food prices, which were already rising due to a plummeting Yemeni riyal, are soaring as Yemenis—those few who can afford to do so—prepare for what could be months of war. The only thing increasing in price faster than food is ammunition and weaponry. Most Yemeni families in the north possess at a minimum an Ak-47 with many families and clans maintaining stores of weapons that include RPGs and grenades.
If the Saudis and their partners, especially the Egyptians, take the next step and begin a ground invasion, their forces will likely face withering resistance from both the Houthis and the new allies that they are sure to attract as a result of the invasion. In the mountain redoubts of northwest Yemen, songs and poems about how the Yemenis made the Turks, who twice invaded Yemen and failed to subdue it, bathe in their own blood are still sung and recited by the descendants of the men who fought off the Turks and then the Egyptians. The Saudi Army is ill prepared for anything beyond the most limited action in Yemen. Its Egyptian partners are similarly ill prepared and are currently struggling to contain a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.
A ground invasion will tie up thousands of Saudi soldiers for what could be months or even years when the Kingdom must also worry about the threat of the Islamic State on its northern borders. It is also worth remembering that the Saudi Army employs a large contingent of soldiers who are ethnically Yemeni. It is an open question as to how these men may or may not respond when ordered to kill fellow Yemenis. At the same time that they are dealing with what will undoubtedly be a protracted and bloody war, the Saudi government will be forced to manage what could be tens of thousands of refugees pouring across its southern border from Yemen.
Military action in Yemen could well lead the House of Saud into the abyss that King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud may have had in mind before he made his prophetic warning.
US President Barack Obama has lifted an arms freeze on Egypt imposed following the 2013 military ouster of the first democratically elected government.
During a Tuesday phone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the US president announced that he would allow 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles, and 125 M1A1 tank kits to be delivered to Cairo.
Obama also said he would continue his support for $1.3 billion in annual military assistance.
“The president explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests in an unstable region, consistent with the longstanding strategic partnership between our two countries,” the White House said in a statement.
The aid, which will start in fiscal year 2018, consists of four parts: counterterrorism, border security, Sinai security, and maritime security.
“In this way, we will ensure that US funding is being used to promote shared objectives in the region, including a secure and stable Egypt and the defeat of terrorist organizations,” said US National Security Council Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan in a statement.
The announcement comes at a time that Egypt has engaged in an aggression on Yemen led by Saudi Arabia.
Cairo has even said that it may send ground troops to the impoverished country to back Saudi warplanes’ air raids.
However, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, described the move as “the right thing to do”, saying, “We encourage the government of Egypt to continue its democratic process. But Egypt is also a strong regional ally. Maintaining that relationship must be a priority for the US.”
On July 3, 2013, then army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced that President Mohamed Morsi was no longer in office.
Morsi is currently in custody along with several other members of his Muslim Brotherhood party.
A source in the public prosecutor’s office told Mada Masr that the head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Mohamed Fayek presented findings by a delegation of the council on allegations of violations against political prisoners to the Prosecutor General’s office, and that the top prosecutor had subsequently ordered an investigation.
The NCHR said in a statement Monday night that the Abu Zaabal Prison administration had violated prison bylaws by mistreating political prisoners.
The NCHR findings came after a visit to the prison upon the request of journalist Ahmed Gamal Zeyada, who is imprisoned pending investigation on charges of violence. Zeyada and other inmates complained in a letter last week of torture and maltreatment by prison authorities.
In addition to Zeyada, the delegation met with prisoners Amer Ali Gomaa, Abdel Rahman Tarek Abdel Samea, and Ahmed Mahrous Rostom.
“All the political prisoners were tortured and the cells were raided by masked central security forces, causing chaos,” the letter read. “We were attacked with batons and dogs, which led to several injuries; others passed out due to tear gas.”
The council stated that prison bylaws were not implemented, as inmates were not let out during the day, and were subjected to inhumane punitive measures. These measures included confining them in very small prison cells, not allowing them to go to bathrooms and providing only one meal per day. According to testimonies, inmates were forced to stay in these prison cells for long periods, ranging from one week to 16 days.
In a visit that lasted for an hour and a half, the NCHR said that the council’s delegation was allowed to meet only four inmates who were allegedly subjected to torture.
The NCHR also confirmed that they examined the inmates and found signs of torture on one of the prisoners the delegation met. The NCHR report also stated that the prisoners were afraid to voice their concerns to the delegation due to alleged threats they received from prison authorities.
The delegation also revealed that the prisoners had been subject to long periods of detention without trial, pending investigation. The NCHR called for the respect of prison bylaws, and for the review of laws that allow extending prison sentences in cases pending investigation, and for the formation of independent committees to investigate violations in Abu Zaabal Prison.
NCHR member Salah Salem said in a televised interview to the privately owned CBC Extra channel: “I was not happy at all with this visit.”
According to Salem, the delegation asked prison authorities to meet 12 inmates who complained of violations, but the delegation was only allowed to meet four. “The four inmates we met said that the remaining inmates were badly tortured and were transferred to another prison facility. When we asked prison authorities for confirmation, authorities said that the prisoners were transferred to another prison and they cannot locate which prison because the network is down,” Salem added.
Salem explained that extended prison sentences pending investigation are a form of punishment for inmates. He added, “These prisoners are young and most of them are university students. What if they are later acquitted? Who will compensate them?”
The NCHR is only permitted to visit prisoners after obtaining permission from the Prosecutor General and prison authorities, and its recommendations are not legally binding. Advocates for NCHR independence called for enabling its members to visit prisons without prior permission, and to make NCHR recommendations legally binding.
Commenting on violations of the security system in Egypt, founder of Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims Aida Seif al-Dawla told Mada Masr that torture is a “state policy and police don’t deny it.”
“The Ministry of Interior wants to make a point that it is the highest authority in the state,” she added.
However, head of the human rights unit at the Interior Ministry Abu Bakr Abdel Karim denied in press reports all allegations of torture inside prisons. “[The prisoners] claim that they are tortured, none of them had a single bruise on their faces. Complaints are only coming from one or two people, not from 2,500 prisoners,” he asserted.
In a letter leaked by the Freedom for the Brave campaign following the visit, Zeyada slammed the Interior Ministry for complicity in hiding evidence of torture against him and the rest of the inmates.
“Why didn’t the Interior Ministry allow the NHCR delegation to visit the inmates right after the complaints? Why are they allowed to visit us two weeks after our complaints? Of course, to cook up the whole thing and let any signs of torture disappear,” he said, adding that prison authorities had forced younger inmates to sign statements without being made aware of the content of the documents.
The prison authorities, according to Zeyada, investigated the torture claims during the interrogation of inmates. “How can the criminals investigate the crime they committed?” he wondered.
Activist Ali Halaby, who is following up on the conditions of the detainees, told Mada Masr that prison authorities threatened prisoners who were subject to disciplinary measures, telling them that fabricated drug dealing cases would be raised against them if they spoke to council members. The inmates, however, still voiced their concerns to the council delegation.
The NCHR has previously complained that its members were not able to visit certain inmates, as the Interior Ministry declined to issue the necessary permissions. The council pledged earlier to provide proper medical care to imprisoned activist Ahmed Douma, to no avail.
On previous occasions, NCHR performance was slammed by families of detainees for not fulfilling its role in exposing rights violations inside prisons.
In a previous press conference, council member Kamal Abbas said that the council’s agency is limited. “The current law regulating the council stipulates that it obtains permits from the Prosecutor General for prison visits as well as from the Interior Ministry,” he said, “We rejected this law and called on the Prime Minister to amend it, to no avail.”