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US Army awards Sikorsky to supply 17 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi

Press TV – January 13, 2018

The US Army has awarded Sikorsky, a leading American aircraft manufacturer based in Connecticut, a contract worth nearly $200 million to supply 17 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia.

The terms of the “firm-fixed-price” agreement between the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, and the army were announced Thursday by the Department of Defense.

Saudi Arabia is expected to receive eight UH-60Ms for the kingdom’s National Guard, while the other nine helicopters will go to the Royal special security forces.

The UH-60M Black Hawk, a medium-lift, rotary-wing helicopter, has been in use by military forces around the world since it was first introduced in 1979.

It has multi-mission capabilities and can be used in combat search-and-rescue, airborne assault, command-and-control, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, disaster relief and fire-fighting.

Sikorsky will begin work under the $193.8 million deal to manufacture the helicopters with an estimated completion date of the end of 2022.

The deal comes as the US is under pressure to suspend its arms sales to the Saudi regime, which has been waging a deadly military aggression against Yemen since 2015.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the start of the war.

During his first trip to Saudi Arabia last year, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis, with options to sell up to $350 billion over a decade.

Facilitated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the massive package includes missiles, bombs, armored personnel carriers, combat ships, terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missile systems and munitions.

The announcement generated backlash in Congress, with Republican Senator Rand Paul promising to work to block at least parts of the package.

The Trump administration is looking to loosen restrictions on American arms sales to boost the country’s weapons industry.

The move seeks to ease export rules for military equipment “from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery,” according to officials familiar with the plan.

January 13, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Hariri lauds Hezbollah, wants ‘best of relations’ with Iran

Press TV – January 12, 2018

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called for his county to be kept out of regional conflicts, lauding the Hezbollah resistance movement for doing its part to de-escalate the tensions.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Hariri said he was open to Hezbollah continuing to participate in the government following the elections slated for May.

“Hezbollah has been a member of this government. This is an inclusive government that has all the big political parties, and that brings political stability to the country,” Hariri said during Wednesday interview, defying pressure from Saudi Arabia to confront the resistance movement.

“My main goal is to preserve this political stability for the unity of the country,” said Hariri, who reached a power-sharing deal with Hezbollah in 2016.

Hariri abruptly declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia and from Saudi-owned television on November 4, accusing Iran and Hezbollah of interfering in the region and signaling that that was his reason to quit.

But Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who suspected that Hariri had been forced to step down, refused to accept his resignation and demanded his return from Saudi Arabia first. Lebanese intelligence sources soon concluded that Hariri was under restrictions in Riyadh.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah secretary general, said back then that Saudi authorities had clearly and openly declared a war on Lebanon by holding Prime Minister Hariri hostage and forcing him to quit.

That drama ended when Hariri returned to Lebanon on November 22 — partially after a diplomatic intervention by France — and rescinded his resignation on December 5.

In the Wall Street Journal interview, Hariri declined to discuss the details of his stay in Saudi Arabia.

The Lebanese prime minister then outlined in his interview a vision under which Lebanon will finally focus on its own affairs and reject foreign interference.

“We cannot accept interference from anyone in Lebanese politics,” Hariri said, adding “Our relationship with Iran—or with the [Persian] Gulf —has to be the best relationship, but one that serves the national interests of Lebanon.”

Hariri further highlighted Hezbollah’s willingness to comply with a policy of “disassociating” Lebanon from regional conflicts.

Hariri, however, admitted that Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria will take time as the situation there is more complex.

Hezbollah has been helping the national Syrian army in the fight against terrorists in an effort to prevent the spillover of the crisis into Lebanon.

The Lebanese premier also cautioned Israel against any military action against Lebanon, saying any such war would be counterproductive.

”Every time, they say they [Israelis] want to launch a war with the purpose of weakening Hezbollah. And every single time they went to war with Lebanon, they actually strengthened Hezbollah—and weakened the state.”

Hezbollah is Lebanon’s de facto military power, and has been fighting off recurrent acts of Israeli aggression against the homeland. Riyadh, which reportedly maintains clandestine ties with Tel Aviv, however, has made no secret of its opposition to the group, and has been trying for more than a decade to weaken it.

Lebanon has repeatedly praised Hezbollah’s key role in the war against terrorism, with Lebanese President Michel Aoun defending the resistance movement’s possession of arms as essential to Lebanon’s security

January 12, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 4 Comments

Yemen says Saudi war has killed, wounded 35,000 people

Press TV – January 2, 2018

The Yemeni Ministry of Health says the Saudi-led military coalition has either killed or wounded some 35,000 people of Yemen during the ongoing war Riyadh imposed on the impoverished nation almost three years ago.

In a report read out in a press conference in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a on Tuesday, the ministry said that the appalling number of casualties occurred in just 1,000 days since the Saudi regime began its military aggression against the Yemeni people in March 2015.

The report added that nearly all of Yemen’s provinces sustained losses in the war with the northwestern province of Sa’ada, the west-central province of Sana’a and the western province of Hajjah suffering the most in a descending order.

The ministry also said that 415 health facilities were destroyed, either completely or partially, as a result of direct Saudi airstrikes, pointing out that more than 55 percent of the health facilities did not function due to the ceaseless aggression, and that the remaining 45 percent operated with a minimum capacity.

The report also revealed figures showing that more than 95,000 Yemeni patients needed to travel abroad for proper treatment, stressing that the closure of airports, due to a total blockade of the country by the Saudi-led coalition, led to the death of 32 patients every day in all provinces.

The ministry further said that, according to figures provided by the World Food Programme, more than 21 million Yemenis needed humanitarian assistance, and that more than 9 million others were expected to enter the stage of starvation.

According to the ministry’s figures, some 2 million Yemeni children suffer from some form of malnutrition, of which half a million are dying of severe malnutrition and 52,000 children died in 2016 for preventable causes.

The report also said that 2,236 people had so far lost their lives due to a cholera outbreak triggered by the Saudi war.

The international committee of the Red Cross says more than one million people have contracted cholera in Yemen amid Saudi Arabia’s war.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a deadly campaign against Yemen from the air, land, and sea since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstate former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement. Over the past two years, the Houthis have been running state affairs and defending Yemeni people against the Saudi aggression.

The campaign has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories. The offensive has, however, achieved neither of its goals despite the spending of billions of petrodollars and the enlisting of the cooperation of Saudi Arabia’s regional and Western allies.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Who Are the Leading State Sponsors of Terrorism?

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.12.2017

As 2017 draws to a close, it is difficult to be optimistic about what will be coming in the new year. The American President, whose margin of victory was certainly based on his pledge to avoid unnecessary wars, has doubled down on Afghanistan, refuses to leave Syria even though ISIS has been defeated, and is playing serious brinksmanship with a psychopathic and unpredictable regime in Pyongyang. The White House has also bought into the prevailing largely fabricated narrative about a Russia and has decided to arm Ukraine with offensive weapons, which has already resulted in a sharp response from Moscow and will make détente of any kind between the two leading powers all but impossible in the upcoming year.

But, as I have observed before, the red hazard light that continues to be blinking most brightly relates to Washington’s relationship with Iran, which has unnecessarily deteriorated dramatically over the past year and which brings with it collateral problems with Russia and Turkey that could trigger a much wider conflict. I say unnecessarily because all the steps taken to poison the relationship have come out of Washington, not Tehran. The Trump administration refused to certify that the Iranians had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 and has since escalated its verbal attacks, mostly at the United Nations, claiming that the regime in Tehran is the major source of terrorism in the world and that it is seeking hegemony over a broad arc of countries running westward from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

The only problem with the allegations being made is that none of them is true and, furthermore, Iran, with limited military resources, poses no serious threat to gain control over its neighbors, nor to attack the United States or Europe. The invective about Iran largely derives from Israel and Saudi Arabia, which themselves have hegemonic ambitions relating to their region. Israel’s friends in the US Congress, media and White House have not surprisingly picked up on the refrain and are pushing for military action. Israel has even threatened to bomb any Iranian permanent presence inside neighboring Syria.

A recent detailed analysis by former US intelligence officers has demonstrated just how the claim that Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism is almost completely fabricated. The analysis explains how these false narratives are contrived and how they become part of the Washington background noise. The White House’s recent National Security Strategy Report for 2018 stated that “Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding.” But another US government report, the annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 cites no actual terrorist incidents initiated by Iran in that year. In fact, the most recent terrorist incident attributed to Tehran was in 2012, and that was retaliatory against Israel, which was at the time assassinating Iran’s scientists and technicians and attacking its computer systems.

America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s has recently claimed that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” But in reality, the overwhelming majority of terrorist groups in the region, to include ISIS, Al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, are Sunni Muslims, who believe Iran’s Shi’ism is heretical, and are both tied to and funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is indeed an ethnic Iranian terrorist group, but it has been funded and supported by Washington and Tel Aviv to carry out attacks inside Iran.

The reality is that terrorism, defined by the United Nations as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public,” is most employed at the state level by the United States and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, not by Iran. All have used violence directed against civilians in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, and all three have supported organizations that fit the definition of terrorists. Iran may indeed be guilty of actions that much of the world disapproves of, but it is not the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism as has been alleged.

December 28, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

New details emerge of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Hariri

Press TV – December 25, 2017

A leading US daily has revealed new details of Saudi Arabia’s degrading treatment of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a recent trip to Riyadh, where the Lebanese leader was coerced into reading a prepared resignation speech under conditions similar to that of a captive.

Prime Minister Hariri abruptly declared his resignation from a then-unknown location in Saudi Arabia and from Saudi-owned television on November 4, accusing Iran and Hezbollah of interfering in the region and signaling that that was his reason to quit.

But Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who suspected early on that Hariri hadn’t resigned of his free will, refused to accept his resignation and demanded his return from Saudi Arabia first. Lebanese intelligence sources soon concluded that Hariri was under restrictions in Riyadh.

That drama ended when Hariri returned to Lebanon on November 22 — partially after a diplomatic intervention by France — and rescinded his resignation on December 5.

While some details had already emerged of the circumstances of Hariri’s three-week stay in Saudi Arabia, more appeared in a Sunday report by The New York Times, which used information from “a dozen Western, Lebanese and regional officials and associates of Mr. Hariri” to draw a better picture of what happened to him in Riyadh.

Hariri, who reached a power-sharing deal with Hezbollah in 2016 and who had formerly attempted to convince Riyadh of the need to work with Hezbollah, met with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, on November 3.

“That may have been the last straw for the Saudis,” the report said, adding, ” Within hours, Mr. Hariri received a message from the Saudi king — come now — ahead of a meeting that had been scheduled days later.”

A well-connected Lebanese analyst was cited as saying that Hariri was also invited to spend a day in the desert with the prince.

“But when he (Hariri) landed in Riyadh, Saudi officials took Mr. Hariri to his house and told him to wait — not for the king, but for the prince. He waited, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. No one came,” it said.

The next morning, he was “summoned at 8:30 a.m. to the Saudi royal offices — unseemly early, by the kingdom’s standards.”

Thinking that he would go camping with the prince, Hariri wore jeans and a T-shirt to the Saudi royal offices.

“But instead he was stripped of his cellphones, separated from all but one of his usual cluster of bodyguards, and shoved and insulted by Saudi security officers,” the report said. “Then came the ultimate indignity: He was handed a pre-written resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television.”

“Before going on TV, he was not even allowed to go to the house he owns there; he had to ask guards to bring him a suit.”

‘Down the hall from the prince’s office’

Information on what happened between Hariri’s arrival in Riyadh and the resignation is missing. The Times cited Lebanese officials as describing that interval as the “black box.”

“They (the Lebanese officials) said they were reluctant to press Mr. Hariri for details. When asked, one of them said, Mr. Hariri just looked down at the table and said it was worse than they knew.”

Hariri, who runs a private business in Saudi Arabia, was “manhandled” by Saudi officials and was also threatened that he would face “corruption charges,” according to one official.

He read the resignation speech he had been given “from a room an official said was down the hall from the prince’s office.”

‘Our prime minister has been detained’

“Lebanese officials,” the report said, “began making the rounds to puzzled Western diplomats with an unusual message: We have reason to believe our prime minister has been detained.”

Hariri “was eventually placed with Saudi guards in a guesthouse on his own property, forbidden to see his wife and children.”

Some Western diplomats were allowed to meet with the Lebanese prime minister there. “There were two Saudi guards in the room [during those meetings]… and when the diplomats asked if the guards could leave, Mr. Hariri said no, they could stay.”

Opposite effect

The drama was seen as a Saudi attempt to disrupt the political balance in Lebanon to the disadvantage of Hezbollah, which shared power both in the parliament and Hariri’s government with other Lebanese factions.

The Times report pointed to how Mohammed bin Salman was looking to use Hariri as a “pawn” against Iran, “as if he were an employee [of Riyadh] and not a sovereign leader.”

But instead, the Lebanese people of all political inclinations soon came out with massive support for their prime minister, demanding that he safely return and continue work. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also voiced support for Hariri.

The report said Western officials were wondering what Saudi Arabia “hoped to accomplish with all this intrigue.”

“Several do not rule out the possibility that they aimed to foment internal unrest in Lebanon, or even war.”

Mohammed bin Salman has orchestrated a war on Yemen already. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a number of its allies in pounding Yemen — already the Arab world’s poorest state — causing famine and a cholera epidemic there.

The report said Saudi [Persian] Gulf Affairs Minister Thaber al-Sabhan, who is believed to have been a key figure in the Hariri scheme, “got a withering reception” on a visit later to Washington, where US officials “demanded that Mr. Sabhan explain why Riyadh was destabilizing Lebanon.”

Prime Minister Hariri, in the meantime, has been continuing work with renewed support and stronger unity among Lebanese people and political groups.

“Now, Mr. Hariri remains in office with new popularity, and Hezbollah is stronger than before,” the Times said.

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , | 3 Comments

1,000 days of war: The starvation plan for Yemen

By Dan Glazebrook | Middle East Eye | December 19, 2017

Presenting themselves as shocked bystanders to the growing famine in Yemen, the US and UK are in fact prime movers in a new strategy that will massively escalate it.

The protagonists of the war on Yemen – the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have been beset by problems ever since they launched the operation in March 2015. But these problems seem to have reached breaking point in recent months.

First and foremost, is the total lack of military progress in the war. Originally conceived as a kind of blitzkrieg – or “decisive storm” as the initial bombing campaign was named – that would put a rapid end to the Houthi-led Ansarallah movement’s rebellion, almost three years later it has done nothing of the sort. The only significant territory recaptured has been the port city of Aden, and this was only by reliance on a secessionist movement largely hostile to ‘President’ Hadi, whose rule the war is supposedly being fought to restore. All attempts to recapture the capital Sanaa, meanwhile, have been exposed as futile pipe dreams.

Secondly, the belligerents have been increasingly at war with themselves. In February of this year, a fierce battle broke out between the Emiratis and Saudi-backed forces for control of Aden’s airport. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the struggle  “prevented an Emirati plan to move north to Taiz,” adding that “the risk of such confrontations remains… Lacking ground forces anywhere in Yemen, the Saudis worry that the UAE could be carving out strategic footholds for itself, undermining Saudi influence in the kingdom’s traditional backyard.” Notes intelligence analysts the Jamestown Foundation, “The fight over Aden’s airport is being played out against a much larger and far more complex fight for Aden and southern Yemen. The fighting between rival factions backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE clearly shows that Yemen’s already complicated civil war is being made more so by what is essentially a war within a war: the fight between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their proxies.” This tension flared up again in October, with Emirati troops arresting 10 members of the Saudi-aligned Islah movement, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yemeni faction.

And finally, the war is undergoing a serious crisis of legitimacy. Aid agencies are usually doggedly silent on the political causes of the disasters they are supposed to ameliorate. Yet on the issue of the blockade – and especially since it was made total on November 6th this year – they have been uncharacteristically vocal, placing the blame for the country’s famine – in which more than a quarter of the population are now starving – squarely on the blockade and its supporters. Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, put it starkly: “150,000 will die before the end of the year because of the impact of this blockade” he told ABC news last month. Save the Children had already stated back in March 2017 that “food and aid are being used as a weapon of war”, and called for an end to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, whilst in November 2017, Oxfam’s Shane Stevenson said: “All those with influence over the Saudi-led coalition are complicit in Yemen’s suffering unless they do all they can to push them to lift the blockade.” Paolo Cernuschi, of the International Rescue Committee, added that: “We are far beyond the need to raise an alarm. What is happening now is a complete disgrace.” The governments of Donald Trump and Theresa May were being painted – by the most establishment-aligned of charities – as essentially mass murderers, accomplices to what Alex de Waal has called “the worst famine crime of this decade”. Even the Financial Times carried a headline that Britain “risks complicity in the use of starvation as a weapon of war”. “Is complicit” would be more accurate than “risks complicity”, but nevertheless: still a pretty damning indictment.

To confront these problems, a new strategy has clearly emerged. It appears to have been inaugurated by Theresa May and Boris Johnson on November 29th.  On that date, whilst the British Prime Minister met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Riyadh, the Foreign Secretary was hosting a London meeting of the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the US under-secretary of state, representing all four of the belligerent powers in Yemen.

The first element of this strategy was for Britain and the US to pacify the NGO fraternity by distancing themselves from the blockade, as if it were somehow separate from the war in which they were so deeply involved. This actually came about in the days preceding those meetings, when Theresa May told the press she would “demand” the “immediate” lifting of the blockade during her forthcoming visit to the king. That was disingenuous; after all, had she really wanted the blockade ended, she could have achieved this immediately simply by threatening to cut military support for the Saudis until they ended it. According to War Child UK, arms sales to Saudi Arabia have now topped £6billion, and Britain runs a major training programme for the Saudi military, with 166 personnel deployed within the Saudi military structure. Former US presidential advisor Bruce Riedel is entirely correct when he states that “the Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and  British support. If the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia] ‘this war has to end,’ it would end tomorrow.”

In fact, the meeting seems to have been more about reassuring the Saudis that her words were but rhetoric for domestic consumption, and not meant to be taken seriously. In the event, far from an “immediate” end, the UK government website reported that May and Salman merely “agreed that steps needed to be taken” and that “they would take forward more detailed discussions on how this could be achieved”. Just to make it absolutely clear that the UK’s support for the war was not in question in any way, the very next line of the statement was “They agreed the relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia was strong and would endure”. A deeply complicit press ensured that the actual contents of this meeting was barely reported; the last word on the matter, as far as they were concerned, was May’s pledge to “demand” an end to the blockade. Donald Trump followed suit last week, likewise calling on the Saudis to “completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people” whilst doing nothing to bring this about. Thus have the UK and US governments attempted to manipulate the media narrative such that the blockade they continue to facilitate no longer reflects badly on them.

The next aspect of the strategy became obvious before the Johnson and May meetings had even finished, as fighting broke out between the Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh the same day. Saleh had made an alliance with his erstwhile enemies the Houthis in 2015 in a presumed attempt to seize back power from his former deputy Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, to whom he was forced to abdicate power in 2012. But he had never been fully trusted by the Houthis, and their suspicions were to be fully confirmed when on Saturday 2nd December he formally turned on them and offered himself up to the Saudis. Saleh had always been close to the Saudis whilst in power, positioning himself largely as a conduit for their influence; now he was returning to his traditional role. The swiftness and intensity of the Saudi airstrikes supporting his forces against the Houthis following his announcement suggests some degree of foreknowledge and collaboration had preceded it, as does the Saudi’s reported house arrest of their previous favourite Hadi the previous month. This restoration of the Saleh-Saudi alliance represents a victory for the UAE, who had been pushing the Saudis to rebuild its bridges with him for some time. Analyst Neil Partrick, for example, had written just weeks before the move that “The Emiratis are advising the Saudis to go back to the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, believing his growing disputes with the Houthis, his tactical allies, can be encouraged to become a permanent breach.” Thus was the problem of the military stalemate supposed to be solved by splitting the Houthi’s alliance with Saleh, paving the way for a dramatic rebalancing of forces in favour of the belligerents. The execution of Saleh two days later has only partially scuppered this plan, with many of his forces either openly siding with the invaders or putting up no resistance to them.

At the same time as the Saudis have finally been brought round to the UAE’s preference for a reconciliation with Saleh’s forces, the UAE have now, it seems, accepted an alliance with the Saudi-backed Islah party. Despite the Saudi’s usual antipathy to the Muslim Brotherhood, it has backed their Yemeni offshoot in this war, a move hitherto firmly opposed by the Emirates. Yet, following earlier meetings between Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Islah leader Abdullah al-Yidoumi, the two men met last Wednesday (13th December) with Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Maged Al Da’arri, editor of Yemen’s Hadramout newspaper, explained to The National that “the Gulf leaders are trying to combine the different sides in Yemen to work collaboratively in order to be able to liberate the provinces that are still held by the Houthis.”

It seems likely that Emirati support for Islah was a quid-pro-quo for Saudi support for Saleh, both moves suggesting perhaps that the two powers’ divisions were to some extent being overcome. But this rapprochement was formalised with the formal announcement of a new military alliance between them on December 5th, the day after Saleh’s death.

Thus, within a week of the London and Riyadh meetings, the coalition’s three seemingly intractable problems – the paralysing divisions between UAE and Saudi Arabia, the military stalemate, and the West’s legitimacy crisis over the blockade – had all apparently been turned around. This readjustment was and is intended to pave the way for a decisive new page in the war: an all-out attack on Hodeidah, as a prelude to the recapture of Sanaa itself.

This new strategy is now well under way. On December 6th – four days after Saleh switched sides, and one day after the new UAE-Saudi alliance was announced – the invaders’ Yemeni assets mounted “a major push… to purge Al Houthis from major coastal posts on the Red Sea including the strategic city of Hodeida.” The Emiratis had been advocating an attack on Hodeidah for at least a year, but, according to the Emirati newspaper The National, President Obama had vetoed it in 2016, whilst in March 2017, the Saudis got cold feet due to fears that the plan was “an indication of [the Emirates’] attempt to carve out strategic footholds in Yemen”. Now, it seems, it is finally under way.

The following day, the red sea town of Khokha, in Hodeidah province, was captured by Emirati forces and their Yemeni assets, backed by Saudi airstrikes. Gulf News reported that “Colonel Abdu Basit Al Baher, the deputy spokesperson of the Military Council in Taiz, told Gulf News that the liberation of Khokha would enable government forces and the Saudi-led coalition to circle Hodeida from land and sea”. The day after that, Houthi positions in Al Boqaa, between Khokha and Hodeidah, were taken by Emirati-backed forces.

The following Sunday, 10th December, Boris Johnson met with the Emirati crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, where he “underlined the depth of strategic relations between the two countries and his country’s keenness on enhancing bilateral cooperation”, before attending another “Quartet committee” meeting with his Emirati and Saudi counterparts and the US acting secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. The four of them “agreed to hold their meetings periodically, with the next meeting scheduled for the first quarter of 2018.”

This intensive activity in the space of just two weeks, bookended by high-level meetings of the ‘quartet’ on either side, is clearly coordinated. But what it heralds is truly horrifying. Presenting themselves as shocked bystanders to the growing famine in Yemen, the US and UK are in fact prime movers in a new strategy that will massively escalate it.

When an attack on Hodeidah was being contemplated back in March 2017, aid agencies and security analysts alike were crystal clear about its impact. A press release from Oxfam read: “Reacting to concern that Hodeidah port in Yemen is about to be attacked by the Saudi-led coalition, international aid agency Oxfam warns that this is likely to be the final straw that pushes the country into near certain famine…Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB Chief Executive said: “If this attack goes ahead, a country that is already on the brink of famine will be starved further as yet another food route is destroyed… An estimated 70 percent of Yemen’s food comes into Hodeidah port. If it is attacked, this will be a deliberate act that will disrupt vital supplies – the Saudi-led coalition will not only breach International Humanitarian Law, they will be complicit in near certain famine.” The point was reiterated by the UN’s World Food Programme, whilst the UN International Organisation for Migration warned that 400,000 people would be displaced were Hodeidah to be attacked.

“The potential humanitarian impact of a battle at Hodeidah feels unthinkable,” Suze Vanmeegen, protection and advocacy advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IRIN recently. “We are already using words like ‘catastrophic’ and ‘horrendous’ to describe the crisis in Yemen, but any attack on Hodeidah has the potential to blast an already alarming crisis into a complete horror show – and I’m not using hyperbole.”

In the Independent, Peter Salisbury  noted that “it is by no means certain that taking Hodeidah will be easy” as the (then) “Houthi-Saleh alliance is well aware of the plan” and preparing accordingly. He added that “While the Saudi-led coalition claims that taking the port would help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the medium term, aid agencies fret that the short-term effect of cutting off access to a major port could be a killing blow to some of Yemen’s starving millions.” The Jamestown foundation were even more wary, writing that the city’s capture would be impossible without major US involvement and that  “Even with U.S. assistance, the invasion will be costly and ineffective. The terrain to the east of Hodeidah is comprised of some of the most forbidding mountainous terrain in the world. The mountains, caves, and deep canyons are ideal for guerrilla warfare that would wear down even the finest and best disciplined military.” Yet the US’s current efforts to argue that Houthis are being supplied with Iranian missiles via Hodeidah may well be aimed at legitimising just such direct US involvement in an attack on the port. After all, continues Jamestown, “the Saudi effort in Yemen hinges on the invasion of Hodeidah. The reasoning behind the invasion is that without Hodeidah and its port — where supplies trickle through — the Houthis and their allies, along with millions of civilians, can be starved into submission.”

This, then – the ramping up of the ‘weapon of starvation’ – is the ultimate end of this new phase in the war. Basic humanity demands it be vigorously opposed.

Dan Glazebrook is currently crowdfunding to finance his second book; you can order an advance copy here: http://fundrazr.com/c1CSnd

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

India is on the right side of history over Palestine

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 23, 2017

It is reasonable to surmise that the Indian decision to vote in the UN General Assembly on Thursday against the US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would only have been taken at the level of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has been largely harmonizing its foreign policies with Washington through the past decade. And, to boot it, the Trump administration has openly threatened to punish any country that voted against it. Generally speaking, bureaucrats in the South Block wouldn’t jeopardize their career – or their post-retirement assignments by annoying the Americans. (Read WikiLeaks and you’ll learn more about it.) Conceivably, therefore, they would have passed the Jerusalem buck to the PMO where it was lying until the PM got back from the Gujarat campaign.

Then, there is the personal bonding between Modi and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (who is expected to pay a week-long visit to India in January.) Won’t ‘Bibi’ take it amiss? Frankly, that is a non-issue. The arms sales to India constitute a significant source of budgetary support for Israel. Israelis are a very pragmatic lot. The Haaretz newspaper recently featured a lengthy article highlighting the RSS and affiliated Hindu nationalists as an exotic breed who adore Adolf Hitler and subscribe to the Nazi ideology. But has that prevented Israel from doing business with the Modi government? Of course not.

A third aspect is about the ideological affinities devolving upon Islamophobia between the present Indian ruling elite and their Israeli counterparts. Thus, all in all, Modi took a bold decision. Neither academics who claim expertise in West Asian studies nor diplomats who extensively served in the region – or, even ministers in Modi’s cabinet – probably expected him to take such a bold decision.

No doubt, Modi took a wise decision. India has a relationship with West Asia that goes far beyond the regimes in those countries. The West Asian region is in transition, in a historical sense, and India is doing the right thing by taking into account the groundswell of popular opinion over the Jerusalem question. This is one of those rare opportunities available for India to position itself in terms of time past, time present and time future. As a shrewd political mind, Modi senses it.

Diplomacy is far from a cynical process. The importance of principles cannot but be stressed if foreign policy is to be durable and sustainable. Good diplomacy is about maneuvering and negotiating to safeguard interests, but without jettisoning principles. In such a sense, India has had a principled stance on the Palestine issue, which it has maintained even while developing a pragmatic ‘win-win’ relationship with Israel through the past quarter century. India cannot and should not identify with Zionism. Ironically, there is a very significant body of opinion even amongst Jews who find Zionism to be repugnant as an ideology.

Finally, although Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was largely prompted by considerations of US domestic politics, there is undeniably a foreign-policy dimension to it. A former Turkish diplomat and area specialist Faruk Logoglu (who used to be Foreign Secretary when I served as ambassador in Ankara and whom I highly respect at a personal level) told the Tehran Times in an interview this week,

Trump probably calculated that the reactions from the region, especially from Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be meek and he was actually right.  The US President aims to isolate Iran by forming a Saudi-led Sunni alliance in the region with the addition of Israel. Trump’s ultimate target is Iran.  The issue of Jerusalem is just a way-station in Trump’s strategy against Iran. (Tehran Times )

Evidently, Trump is putting immense pressure on Saudi Arabia. Trump telephoned Saudi King Salman on Wednesday to rev up the anti-Iran campaign, again. But, interestingly, on the very next day, Salman phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Kremlin readout) Saudi Arabia is doing a delicate balancing act. It cannot afford to displease Trump, given the stark realities of the petrodollar. But it increasingly feels he’s a blood sucker and wants to put some space in between. One gets the impression that Saudis want to focus on their own transition and the much-needed internal restructuring. They hope to get a helping hand from Putin to work out an exit strategy in Yemen.

Israel, on the other hand, is spreading exaggerated reports at regular intervals – largely through sly remarks and innuendos –that it is having a quiet affair with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince. It is a disinformation game that Israelis are good at playing. And they have nothing to lose anyway.

Suffice to say, Jerusalem is the tip of an iceberg. But looking ahead, Trump’s Iran project is doomed to fail. Unless Israel fundamentally reorients its own strategies (which seems unlikely under Bibi), its own future may become uncertain. Iran and Turkey (plus Egypt, if it can get its act together) are the only two authentic regional powers in the Middle East. This geopolitical reality will manifest – if not already – as time passes. Therefore, keeping the relations with Israel at a transactional level without harboring romantic notions about it is the prudent thing to do.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers?

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | December 21, 2017

Did Barack Obama arm ISIS? The question strikes many people as absurd, if not offensive. How can anyone suggest something so awful about a nice guy like the former president? But a stunning report by an investigative group known as Conflict Armament Research (CAR) leaves us little choice but to conclude that he did.

CAR, based in London and funded by Switzerland and the European Union, spent three years tracing the origin of some 40,000 pieces of captured ISIS arms and ammunition. Its findings, made public last week, are that much of it originated in former Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe, where it was purchased by United States and Saudi Arabia and then diverted, in violation of various rules and treaties, to Islamist rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels, in turn, somehow caused or allowed the equipment to be passed on to Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, or just the abbreviation IS.

This is damning stuff since it makes it clear that rather than fighting ISIS, the U.S. government was feeding it.

But CAR turns vague when it comes to the all-important question of precisely how the second leg of the transfer worked. Did the rebels turn the weapons over voluntarily, involuntarily, or did they somehow drop them when ISIS was in close proximity and forget to pick them up? All CAR will say is that “background information … indicates that IS [Islamic State] forces acquired the materiel through varied means, including battlefield capture and the amalgamation of disparate Syrian opposition groups.” It adds that it “cannot rule out direct supply to IS forces from the territories of Jordan and Turkey, especially given the presence of various opposition groups, with shifting allegiances, in cross-border supply locations.” But that’s it.

If so, this suggests an astonishing level of incompetence on the part of Washington. The Syrian rebel forces are an amazingly fractious lot as they merge, split, attack one another and then team up all over again. So how could the White House have imagined that it could keep weapons tossed into this mix from falling into the wrong hands? Considering how each new gun adds to the chaos, how could it possibly keep track? The answer is that it couldn’t, which is why ISIS wound up reaping the benefits.

But here’s the rub. The report implies a level of incompetence that is not just staggering, but too staggering. How could such a massive transfer occur without field operatives not having a clue as to what was going on? Was every last one of them deaf, dumb, and blind?

Not likely. What seems much more plausible is that once the CIA established “plausible deniability” for itself, all it cared about was that the arms made their way to the most effective fighting force, which in Syria happened to be Islamic State.

This is what had happened in Afghanistan three decades earlier when the lion’s share of anti-Soviet aid, some $600 million in all, went to a brutal warlord named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar was a raging bigot, a sectarian, and an anti-western xenophobe, qualities that presumably did not endear him to his CIA handlers. But as Steve Coll notes in Ghost Wars, his bestselling 2004 account of the CIA’s love affair with Islamic holy war, he “was the most efficient at killing Soviets” and that was the only thing that mattered. As one CIA officer put it, “analytically, the best fighters – the best-organized fighters – were the fundamentalists” that Hekmatyar led. Consequently, he ended up with the most money.

After all, if you’re funding a neo-medieval uprising, it makes sense to steer the money to the darkest reactionaries of them all. Something similar occurred in March 2015 when Syrian rebels launched an assault on government positions in the northern province of Idlib. The rebel coalition was under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra, as the local branch of Al Qaeda was known at the time, and what Al-Nusra needed most of all were high-tech TOW missiles with which to counter government tanks and trucks.

Arming Al Qaeda

So the Obama administration arranged for Nusra to get them. To be sure, it didn’t provide them directly. To ensure deniability, rather, it allowed Raytheon to sell some 15,000 TOWs to Saudi Arabia in late 2013 and then looked the other way when the Saudis transferred large numbers of them to pro-Nusra forces in Idlib. [See Consortiumnews.com’sClimbing into bed with Al-Qaeda.”] Al-Nusra had the toughest fighters in the area, and the offensive was sure to send the Assad regime reeling. So even though its people were compatriots with those who destroyed the World Trade Center, Obama’s White House couldn’t say no.

“Nusra have always demonstrated superior planning and battle management,” Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said a few weeks later. If the rebel coalition was successful as a whole, it “was entirely due to their willingness to work with Nusra, who have been the backbone in all of this.”

Scruples, assuming they existed in the first place, fell by the wayside. A senior White House official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration was “not blind to the fact that it is to some extent inevitable” that U.S. weapons would wind up in terrorist hands, but what could you do? It was all part of the game of realpolitik. A senior Washington official crowed that “the trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse” while The New York Times happily noted that “[t]he Syrian Army has suffered a string of defeats from re-energized insurgents.” So, for the master planners in Washington, it was worth it.

Then there is ISIS, which is even more beyond the pale as most Americans are concerned thanks to its extravagant displays of barbarism and cruelty – its killing of Yazidis and enslavement of Yazidi women and girls, its mass beheadings, its fiery execution of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and so on.

Yet U.S. government attitudes were more ambivalent than most Americans realized. Indeed, the U.S. government was strictly neutral as long as ISIS confined itself to attacking Assad. As a senior defense official told the Wall Street Journal in early 2015: “Certainly, ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective. I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan, and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”

In other words, Syria was a safe haven because, the Journal explained, the U.S. was reluctant to interfere in any way that might “tip the balance of power toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Islamic State and other rebels.” So the idea was to allow ISIS to have its fun as long as it didn’t bother anyone else. For the same reason, the U.S. refrained from bombing the group when, shortly after the Idlib offensive, its fighters closed in on the central Syrian city of Palmyra, 80 miles or so to the east.  This was despite the fact that the fighters would have made perfect targets while “traversing miles of open desert roads.”

As The New York Times explained: “Any airstrikes against Islamic State militants in and around Palmyra would probably benefit the force of President Bashar al-Assad. So far, United States-led airstrikes in Syria have largely focussed on areas far outside government control, to avoid the perception of aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.” [See Consortiumnews.com’sHow US-Backed War on Syria Helped ISIS.”]

Looting Palmyra

The United States thus allowed ISIS to capture one of the most archeologically important cities in the world, killing dozens of government soldiers and decapitating 83-year-old Khalid al-Asaad, the city’s retired chief of antiquities. (After looting and destroying many of the ancient treasures, ISIS militants were later driven from Palmyra by a Russian-backed offensive by troops loyal to President Assad.)

Obama’s bottom line was: ISIS is very, very bad when it attacks the U.S.-backed regime in Iraq, but less so when it wreaks havoc just over the border in Syria. In September 2016, John Kerry clarified what the administration was up to in a tape-recorded conversation at the U.N. that was later made public. Referring to Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria against ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh, the then-Secretary of State told a small knot of pro-rebel sympathizers:

“The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger.  Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth, and that’s why Russia came in, because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got … Putin in to support him. So it’s truly complicated.”  (Quote starts at 26:10.)

“We were watching.” Kerry said. So, by giving ISIS free rein, the administration hoped to use it as a lever with which to dislodge Assad. As in Afghanistan, the United States thought it could use jihad to advance its own imperial interests. Yet the little people – Syrian soldiers, three thousand office workers in lower Manhattan, Yazidis, the Islamic State’s beheading of Western hostages, etc. – made things “truly complicated.”

Putting this all together, a few things seem clear. One is that the Obama administration was happy to see its Saudi allies use U.S.-made weapons to arm Al Qaeda. Another is that it was not displeased to see ISIS battle Assad’s government as well. If so, how unhappy could it have been if its allies then passed along weapons to the Islamic State so it could battle Assad all the more? The administration was desperate to knock out Assad, and it needed someone to do the job before Vladimir Putin stepped in and bombed ISIS instead.

It was a modern version of Henry II’s lament, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” The imperative was to get rid of Assad; Obama and his team had no interest in the messy details.

None of which proves that Obama armed ISIS. But unless one believes that the CIA is so monumentally inept that it could screw up a two-car funeral, it’s the only explanation that makes sense. Obama is still a congenial fellow. But he’s a classic liberal who had no desire to interfere with the imperatives of empire and whose idea of realism was therefore to leave foreign policy in the hands of neocons or liberal interventionists like Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

If America were any kind of healthy democracy, Congress would not rest until it got to the bottom of what should be the scandal of the decade: Did the U.S. government wittingly or unwittingly arm the brutal killers of ISIS and Al Qaeda? However, since that storyline doesn’t fit with the prevailing mainstream narrative of Washington standing up for international human rights and opposing global terrorism, the troublesome question will likely neither be asked nor answered.


Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Suspected cholera cases in Yemen reach 1 million: ICRC

Press TV – December 21, 2017

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the number of suspected cholera cases in war-torn Yemen has hit one million amid the ongoing Saudi military campaign against the impoverished nation.

The ICRC also said Thursday that more than 80 percent of the Yemeni population lacks food, fuel, clean water and access to healthcare.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded 2,219 deaths since the cholera epidemic began in April, with children accounting for nearly a third of infections.

On Wednesday, the Oxfam charity group warned that more than 8.4 million Yemenis are now at acute risk of famine due to Saudi Arabia’s crippling blockade of Yemen’s key ports, which is causing a halt to the delivery of food, fuel, and medicine.

Food prices have shot up by 28 percent since early November, when the Saudi-led coalition tightened the siege. That has made it unaffordable for poor families–already hit by the collapse of the economy –to buy food.

Clean water supplies in towns and cities have been cut due to fuel shortages.

Yemen is also suffering from diphtheria epidemic, with aid groups warning that the spread of the disease is inevitable in Yemen due to low vaccination rates, lack of access to medical care and so many people moving around and coming in contact with those infected.

At least a million children are at risk of contracting the disease.

Saudi Arabia and a group of its allies have been bombing Yemen since 2015 to put its former Riyadh-friendly government back in the saddle. More than 12,000 have died since the war began.

Now, more than eight million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation, making the country the scene of, what the UN calls, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Saudi blockade of Yemen violates US law: Trump nominee

Press TV – December 20, 2017

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top legal adviser at the State Department has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen violates US and international law, according to a report.

In written statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before her confirmation Tuesday, Jennifer Newstead signaled a stricter interpretation of statutes that ban US foreign assistance to countries blocking or hindering the flow of humanitarian aid, the Foreign Policy magazine reported.

Newstead said warnings from international aid organizations “raise a substantial question” on whether the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately impeded the transport of aid to civilians in Yemen.

The United Nations has warned that millions of people will die in Yemen due to famine unless the Saudi-led coalition ends its devastating blockade on the southwestern port of Hudaydah, through which about 80 percent of food imports arrive.

A shortage of fuel has shut down many water treatment and pumping stations, aggravating an already deadly outbreak of cholera. The UN warned earlier this month that 8.4 million people were one step away from starvation.

International aid officials have described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Newstead promised to provide firm answers to Congress on the issue within 30 to 45 days after being sworn in. Newstead’s responses indicate that the White House might be willing to take a tougher line with Saudi Arabia over the military aggression in Yemen.

The answers also cleared the way for Newstead’s confirmation on Tuesday, which had been blocked by Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, and two of his colleagues over concerns about the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Young and others have condemned Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, particularly its blockade on vital shipments of humanitarian aid by air and sea to ports controlled by Houthis.

They accuse Riyadh of violating the Geneva Conventions and the US Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits US aid for countries that impede the flow of humanitarian aid. The US president, however, can still make an exception and provide assistance to a country that hinders aid.

The US has been providing logistical support for the Saudi coalition as well as precision-guided munitions.

Tuesday marked the 1,000th day of the Saudi war in Yemen. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets, condemning the deadly airstrikes and calling on Arab states to stop contributing to the Saudi-led coalition.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Claim of Iran military aid to Yemen sheer lie: Larijani

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (C) speaks to reporters following the Meeting of the PUIC Presidential Troika in the Iranian capital Tehran on December 18, 2017. (Photo by ICANA)
Press TV – December 18, 2017

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the Islamic Republic is not providing military assistance to Yemen and all claims to this effect are false.

Larijani made the remarks while addressing the extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian Committee of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States (PUOICM) in the Iranian capital Tehran on Monday.

“We are not a country that would deny providing military assistance to anybody,” Larijani said.

He added that Iran was providing military assistance to Palestine, but had not helped Yemeni fighters in their war with Saudi Arabia in military terms, dismissing any claim to this effect as a lie.

“The Yemenis’ missiles belong to themselves and some countries cannot achieve their goals by making such claims,” the top Iranian parliamentarian said.

On Thursday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared in a staged show in front of a large and charred tube that she claimed was “concrete evidence” that Iran was providing missiles to Yemeni forces fighting against Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression on their country.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition launched a war against Yemen in 2015 and has ever since been indiscriminately hitting targets in the country. Yemeni Houthi fighters have been firing missiles in retaliatory attacks against Saudi targets every now and then.

On November 4, a missile fired from Yemen targeted King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, reaching the Saudi capital for the first time.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Larijani said terrorism has tremendously grown in recent years both in quantitative and qualitative terms, emphasizing that such growth would not have been possible without the support of the US and some countries in the region.

Israel and terrorism are the two sides of the same coin and pursue similar goals, he said.

Larijani also emphasized that US-backed terrorists sought to create chaos in the Middle East and pointed to the recent announcement by the Israeli regime that it enjoyed the best conditions since Muslim countries were grappling with terrorism.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, on Sunday dismissed as “baseless and ridiculous” the recent US claim about Iran providing missiles to Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, saying that even international experts had mocked the accusation.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has never given missiles to Yemen,” he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that the United States was complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

He added that the US had sold weapons to its allies enabling them to “kill civilians and impose famine,” in reference to Washington’s arms deal with Riyadh in its aggression against Yemen.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

$200bn to reconstruct war-torn Syria… the US and its partners should pay

$200bn to reconstruct war-torn Syria… the US and its partners should pay

Aleppo, Syria © Karam Almasri / Global Look Press
By Finian Cunningham | RT | December 18, 2017

With Syria’s nearly seven-year war now virtually over, the process of rebuilding the devastated country comes to the fore, with the financial cost of that effort put at $200 billion. Who pays for it?

When you view the ruins of Aleppo alone, Syria’s second biggest city, plus the carnage across the entire country, from towns, villages, bridges, roads, public utilities, hospitals, schools, and so on, the real figure for reconstruction could be far higher than $200 billion.

Then there is the inestimable cost of human suffering and families decimated. All told, the reparations could amount to trillions of dollars.

Syria’s war was no ordinary civil war, as Western mainstream media tended to mendaciously depict it.

From the outset, the conflict was one of an externally driven covert war for regime change against the government of President Bashar Assad. The Arab Spring unrest of 2011 provided a convenient cover for the Western plot to subvert Syria.

The United States and its NATO allies, Britain, France, and Turkey, were the main driving forces behind the war in Syria, which resulted in up to 400,000 deaths and millions of citizens displaced from their homes. Other key regional players sponsoring the campaign against the Syrian government were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel.

Most of the militants who fought in Syria to overthrow the state authorities were not Syrian nationals. Self-styled jihadists from dozens of countries around the world made their way to Syria, where they were funded, armed and directed by covert forces from Western and Arab states.

The barbarian-like gravitation to Syria indicates the degree to which the effort to overthrow the Syrian government was orchestrated by foreign powers.

This was a planned, concerted project for regime change. The systematic violence imposed on Syria was very arguably due to an international criminal conspiracy perpetrated by the US and all of the above “partners.” The case can, therefore, be made for criminal responsibility.

That, in turn, means that financial reparations and damages can be sued by the Syrian state against those foreign powers which waged the war, albeit indirectly through proxy militant groups.

The bitter irony though is that the US and its Western allies are reportedly using Syria’s war-torn plight as leverage to pursue their political objective of ousting Assad. What these powers could not achieve on the battlefield with their terrorist mercenaries they now seem to be pursuing through their dominance over international financial institutions.

The Washington DC-based International Monetary Fund estimates the reconstruction of Syria’s devastated infrastructure will cost $200 billion. (As noted above, that’s probably a gross underestimate.)

As Bloomberg News reported last week: “The US and its European and Arab partners have for years insisted that Assad must go and are now using the carrot of funding for rebuilding the shattered nation in a final attempt to pressure the Syrian leader. The International Monetary Fund estimates the cost of reconstruction at $200 billion, and neither of Syria’s main allies, Russia and Iran, can afford to pick up the bill.”

It’s a moot point whether Russia and Iran cannot afford to help rebuild Syria. Who’s to say that those two powers along with China and other Eurasian nations could not club together to create a reconstruction fund for Syria, independent of Western countries and their Arab client regimes?

However, regardless of the source of funding for Syria, what Russia, China, Iran and other key international players should push for at the United Nations and other global forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement is the repudiation of Western efforts to link financial aid to future political change in Syria.

Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia’s envoy steering the peace process in Syria, has reiterated Moscow’s position that the political outcome for Syria must be determined by the Syrian people alone, free from external influence. That is also the position of several UN resolutions.

Lavrentiev says Bashar Assad should be free to run in next year’s presidential election if he chooses to and that it is unacceptable for the US and its allies to try to use financial aid as a bargaining tool.

“It’s a simplistic approach when some Western countries say that they’ll give money only when they see that the opposition comes to power or their interests are fully accommodated,” said the Russian envoy.

It’s not merely unacceptable for such Western conditioning. It’s outrageous. Far from quibbling about financial aid to Syria, the debate should be broadened out to hold governments to account for the destruction and loss of life in Syria.

To establish responsibility is not a mystery. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey are known to have poured money and weapons into dozens of jihadist-styled groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al Islam under the umbrella of the Islamic Front or Army of Conquest. The precise distinction – if any – between these groups and the internationally proscribed terror organizations of Nusra Front (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) and Daesh (Islamic State) is elusive and probably negligible.

American, British and French special forces are known to have trained militants under the faux banner of “moderate rebels” and “Free Syrian Army,” even when there is evidence these same groups were cooperating with Al-Qaeda-type extremist networks. Under President Barack Obama, the US government funneled $500 million into training “rebels” in Syria. Trump earlier this year closed down CIA training operations. This is, in effect, an admission of culpability by Washington of fueling the war.

The Americans and British forces were up to recently training the militant group Maghawir al Thawra at Al Tanf base on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The American government also funded another jihadist group Nour al-Din al Zenki, which came to notoriety in a video showing their members beheading a Palestinian boy.

Weapons caches recovered by the Syria Arab Army after the liberation of ISIS strongholds in Deir ez-Zor also show stockpiles of US-made arms and other NATO munitions, including anti-tank missiles.

The Western governments openly funded the fake emergency responders – the so-called White Helmets – who worked hand-in-hand as a propaganda front for Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

There have been systematic links between Western governments, their regional client regimes and the terror proxies who carried out the dirty war on their behalf in Syria over the past seven years.

It is an insult upon injury for Western governments to impose constraints on financial aid to Syria. Furthermore, the economic costs of reconstruction should not be levied on the Syrian people. Those costs should be paid in full by Washington and its partners who engaged in a criminal war on Syria.

Surely, Syria, Russia, Iran and other allied governments should form an international prosecution case for war crimes.

Not only should Washington, London, Paris and others be made to pay damages. Political and military leaders from these countries should be placed in the dock to answer personally for crimes against the Syrian people. To allow impunity is to let Washington and its rogue cohorts keep repeating the same crimes elsewhere, over and over.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments