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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

Saudi Coalition Crumbles In Yemen: Sudanese Mercenaries On Front Lines, Foreign Officers, Proxies In Revolt

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | November 26, 2017

Most Americans might be forgiven for having no clue what the war in Yemen actually looks like, especially as Western media has spent at least the first two years of the conflict completely ignoring the mass atrocities taking place while white-washing the Saudi coalition’s crimes. Unlike wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, which received near daily coverage as they were at their most intense, and in which many Americans could at least visualize the battlefield and the actors involved through endless photographs and video from on the ground, Yemen’s war has largely been a faceless and nameless conflict as far as major media is concerned.

Aside from mainstream media endlessly demonstrating its collective ignorance of Middle East dynamics, it is also no secret that the oil and gas monarchies allied to the West are rarely subject to media scrutiny or criticism, something lately demonstrated on an obscene and frighteningly absurd level with Thomas Friedman’s fawning and hagiographic interview with Saudi crown prince MBS published in the New York Times.

Saudi Arabia’s hired help in Yemen: Sudanese fighters headed to the front lines. Image souce: al-Arabiya

But any level of meticulous review of how the Saudi coalition (which heavily involves US assistance) is executing the war in Yemen would reveal a military and strategic disaster in the making. As Middle East Eye editor-in-chief David Hearst puts it, “All in all, the first military venture to be launched by the 32-year-old Saudi prince as defense minister is a tactical and strategic shambles.”  

And if current battlefield trends continue, the likely outcome will be a protracted and humiliating Saudi coalition withdrawal with the spoils divided among Houthi and Saudi allied warlords, as well as others vying for power in Yemen’s tenuous political future. But what unsurprisingly unites most Yemenis at this point is shared hatred for the Saudi coalition bombs which rain down on civilian centers below. For this reason, Hearst concludes further of MBS’ war: “The prince, praised in Western circles as a young reformer who will spearhead the push back against Iran, has succeeded in uniting Yemenis against him, a rare feat in a polarized world. He has indeed shot himself, repeatedly, in the foot.

So how has this come about, and how is the war going from a military and strategic perspective?

First, to quickly review, Saudi airstrikes on already impoverished Yemen, which have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians (thousands among those are children according to the UN) and displaced hundreds of thousands, have been enabled by both US intelligence and military hardware. Cholera has recently exploded amidst the appalling war-time conditions, and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools have been bombed by the Saudis. After Shia Houthi rebels overran Yemen’s north in 2014, embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi vowed to “extract Yemen from the claws of Iran” something which he’s repeatedly affirmed, having been given international backing from allies in the West, and a major bombing campaign began on March 2015 under the name “Operation Decisive Storm” (in a cheap mirroring of prior US wars in Iraq, the first of which was “Desert Storm”).

Saudi Arabia and its backers fear what they perceive as growing Iranian influence in the region, something grossly exaggerated, and seek to defend at all costs Yemeni forces loyal to President Hadi. The coalition includes Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, and the US and UK, and the Saudi initiated war has also lately received behind the scenes political support from Israel, something recently confirmed by Israeli officials. Concerning the supposed Iran threat in Yemen, an emergency session of the Arab League recently doubled down on its shared commitment to wage war against Iranian interests after it blamed Tehran for a November 4 ballistic missile attack from Shia Houthi rebels against the Saudi capital, which Iran denies playing a role in.

But the Saudi coalition is now in shambles according to a new Middle East Eye investigation. The report highlights some surprising facts long ignored in mainstream media and which give insight into how the Saudi military campaign is likely to end in total failure as “more than two years into a disastrous war, the coalition of ground forces assembled by the Saudis is showing signs of crumbling.”

Below are 5 key takeaways from the full report.

1) Saudi coalition ground forces have a huge contingent of foreign fighters, namely Sudanese troops with UAE officers, suffering the brunt of the battle on the front lines.

Sudanese forces, which constitute the bulk of the 10,000 foreign fighters in the Saudi-led coalition, are suffering high casualty rates. A senior source close to the presidency in Khartoum told Middle East Eye that over 500 of their troops had now been killed in Yemen.

Only two months ago, the commander of the Sudanese Army’s rapid support force, Lieutenant General Mohammed Hamdan Hamidati, quoted a figure of 412 troops killed, including 14 officers to  the Sudanese newspaper Al Akhbar. “There is huge pressure to withdraw from this on-going fight,” the Sudanese source told MEE. A force of up to 8,000 Sudanese troops are partly led by Emirati officers. They are deployed in southern Yemen as well as to the south and west of Taiz in al Makha.

2) Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been dubbed “president of the mercenaries” for accepting over $2.2 billion from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in order to provide canon fodder for the Saudi ground war in Yemen in the form of thousands of young Sudanese troops, but he’s threatening revolt. To escape his untenable position, he is reportedly seeking help from Putin.

At home, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is also having second thoughts. He remembers the lifeline he got when Riyadh deposited $1bn in Sudan’s Central Bank two years ago, followed by Qatar’s $1.22bn. But he hardly enjoys being known as “president of the mercenaries,” and he has other relationships to consider.

On Thursday, Bashir became the latest of a procession of Arab leaders to beat a path to Vladimir Putin’s door. He told the Russian president he needed protection from the US, was against confrontation with Iran, and supported the policy of keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This follows an incident at home, which was variously described as espionage and a coup attempt. Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein was dismissed as the director of the Office of the Sudanese President after he was discovered carrying a Saudi passport and a residency permit for the UAE. He was caught maintaining secret contact with both.

3) Saudi-backed Yemeni fighters are increasingly mutinying and fear local mass push back from Yemen’s civilian population due to the unpopular bombing campaign.

Mutiny is also stirring in the ranks of Yemenis who two and a half years ago cheered the Saudi pushback against the Houthis who were trying to take over the entire country.

The Saudi relationship with Islah, the largest group of Yemeni fighters in the ground force employed by the coalition, has at best been ambivalent. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s closest partner in Yemen, Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, is openly hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Yemeni party… They [Islahi leadership] are feeling the political price they are paying for supporting a campaign that turned in Yemeni eyes from liberation to occupation… Enough is enough. The regional Islahi leadership are now talking of starting direct negotiations with the Houthis, a senior Islah source told MEE.

4) Saudi proxy fighters are at war with each other: an Emirati-backed militia fighting under the Saudi coalition is assassinating other members of the Saudi coalition in what’s increasingly an internal coalition civil war. 

They are also paying a physical price. A number of Islahi sheikhs and scholars as well as Salafis who rejected Emirati leadership have been killed or targeted by assassination attempts. The list is growing: there have been assassinations of Khaled Ali al-Armani, a leader in the Islah Party, on 7 December 2016; Sheikh Abdullah Bin Amir Bin Ali Bin Abdaat al-Kathri, on 23 November 2017 in Hadhramaut; Abdelmajeed Batees (related to Saleh Batees) a leader in the Islah Party on 5 January 2017 in Hadhramaut; Mohammed Bin Lashgam, Deputy Director of Civil Status, on 17 January 2017; Khaled Ali al-Armani, a leader in the Islah Party, on 7 December 2016…

“The Emiratis do not conceal their hostility to Islah. Islahi sheikhs and scholars are being assassinated, and this is being co-ordinated by the pro-Emirati militia. In addition, the UAE is clearly enforcing the blockade of Taiz, and withholding support for our fighters in the city,” the source said.

5) Oman is entering the fray, which will further fragment the Saudi coalition as rivalries for territorial control develop.

As if the balance of competing outside forces  in Yemen is not complicated enough, enter Oman. Oman, too, regards southern Yemen as its backyard. It is particularly worried about the takeover of a series of strategic ports and islands off Yemen by the Emiratis. A Qatari diplomatic source described this as the Emiratis’ “seaborn empire,” but the Omanis are upset by this too.

The Omanis are understood to be quietly contacting local Yemeni tribal leaders in south Yemen, some of them separatist forces, to organize a more “orchestrated response” to the militias paid for and controlled by Abu Dhabi.

Like the proxy war in Syria, it appears that Gulf/US plans have backfired, and we are perhaps in for a long Saudi coalition death spiral fueled by delusion and denial. Sadly, it is primarily Yemeni civilians and common people in the region that will continue to bear the brunt of suffering wrought by such evil and delusional stupidity.

November 28, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

UAE buys new weapons worth $684 million from US firm

Press TV – November 14, 2017

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed a new deal with an American arms manufacturer under which the firm would supply the small Persian Gulf country with laser-guided bombs, authorities say.

The deal, announced Tuesday at the Dubai Airshow and worth 2.5 billion dirhams ($684.4 million), would see the American missile maker Raytheon Co. sell GBU-10 and GBU-12 Paveway laser-guided bomb kits to Abu Dhabi, among other weapons.

UAE authorities also signed arms deals with Germany’s Rheinmetall to buy artillery from the company. The contract will also enable Rheinmetall to support Etihad Airways with transportation equipment.

The purchase of weapons comes amid the UAE’s involvement in a deadly campaign, led by Saudi Arabia, against Yemen. More than 10,000 people have been killed and over two million have been displaced since March 2015, when the regime in Riyadh began the campaign.

Abu Dhabi has also announced plans for buying 75 Mirage 2000-9 aircraft from the French multinational company Dassault and Thales to upgrade its air force fleet. That comes despite increasing calls for a halt to the UAE’s contribution to the devastating Saudi-led airstrikes on civilian areas in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are two major recipients in the Persian Gulf of weapons from the United States and other Western countries. Other countries in the region have accused the two of sparking an arms race by their excessive purchase of modern weaponry from the West.

Reports over the past few years have indicated that much of the UAE’s modern weaponry have found their way into the hands of militants in Libya, where Abu Dhabi supports an administration opposed to Tripoli’s internationally-recognized government.

November 14, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The moment of truth is coming for Trump’s Iran strategy

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | October 16, 2017

Diplomacy is a juggling act, an endless struggle to keep all the balls in the air. There are times when dropping one ball to keep the others going may seem like the prudent thing to do – and at other times letting them all drop and starting over again makes more sense. The United States faces this predicament in the Middle East. Perhaps there are too many balls in the air, when the focus should be on the few that are really important.

While everyone was focused on what US President Donald Trump had to say on Friday regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (known as the Iran deal), what got overlooked is that he also unveiled a brave new Iran strategy for the post-Islamic State era.

In a rare gesture, King Salman called Trump on Saturday to express his delight over the latter’s resolute strategy and aggressive approach toward Iran. Salman welcomed Trump’s leadership role in the Middle East in recognizing the magnitude of the “challenges and threats” posed by Iran and stressed the need for “concerted efforts.”

Trump responded warmly, appreciating Salman’s support and expressing keenness to work together on issues relating to world peace and security and also enhancing the countries’ bilateral ties.

Trump’s Iran strategy is a dream project for Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and for Israel. It may seem like a relaunch of the old enterprise to contain Iran, built around an alliance system involving the US and its regional allies. But the circumstances today are different. The US and its allies stare at defeat in the Syrian conflict and are circling their wagons to stave off an ignominious rout with long-term consequences. Faced with Iran’s surge, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are willing to proclaim a convergence of interests with Israel.

Clearly, Moscow surmising that the US-Saudi strategic relationship has weakened is premature. The axis with Iran is the only show in town for Russia on the Middle Eastern chessboard – whether or not it is Moscow’s preferred choice. President Vladimir Putin is heading for Tehran on November 1.

The Iran deal will not be in jeopardy in the foreseeable future and, arguably, Tehran’s dependence on Moscow on that front is not critical. On the other hand, Britain, France and Germany have drawn together and mooted a proposal that their heads of government articulated in an extraordinary joint declaration on Friday to “constructively engage” with Iran to address their shared concerns over its regional policies.

Tehran will be open to a constructive engagement with Western powers to comprehensively address mutual security concerns, although how enthusiastic the Trump administration will be about such a process remains to be seen. If Europe’s engagement with Iran over issues of regional security and stability gains traction, the country’s integration will take a great leap forward, and that is something Tehran desires.

Enter Turkey. The Turkish deployment to Idlib province in northern Syria was seen as a move toward implementation of the Astana accord on setting up a “de-escalation” zone in that region with tacit Russian and Iranian backing. But Turkey’s number one priority appears to be to pre-empt a westward expansion by Syrian Kurds toward the coastal region of Latakia to establish a contiguous “homeland.”

Turkey hopes to outflank the Kurds and thereafter push back at their canton in Afrin. Turkey seems to be planning a prolonged military presence in northern Syria. This must be causing disquiet in Moscow. The exceptionally strong denunciation by Damascus on Saturday of the Turkish deployment to Idlib must have been made with Moscow’s approval.

However, what Moscow cannot take for granted is the deep chill in Turkish-American relations. Much depends on the new phase of the Syrian conflict beginning now, after the defeat of ISIS in its capital Raqqa and the capture by Syrian government forces (and allied militia with Russian airpower) of Mayadin on the Euphrates River (adjacent to the rich oil fields of al-Omar in Deir al-Zour province.)

The US faces a Hobson’s choice. It has the option of extricating itself from the Syrian conflict at this stage, claiming victory in the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa. But this would mean abandoning its Kurdish allies to their fate. Of course, if the US exercises this option, it paves the way for mending relations with Turkey.

But then, the flip side is that it also means a seamless expansion of Iranian influence in both Iraq and Syria and a possible Iranian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. That, of course, would make a mockery of the tough strategy announced by Trump to counter Iran’s regional policies.

On the contrary, if the US intends to play a greater role in Syria following the capture of Raqqa (such as blocking Iran’s land route to Syria), it would require substantial, open-ended troop deployment to delay and harass the expansion of Iranian influence. Clearly, this is what the US’s regional allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are hoping for and what Trump’s new Iran strategy promises to do.

However, a continued US military presence means ongoing dependence on the Kurdish militia. This could spell doom for US-Turkey relations and even prompt Ankara to build an alliance with Russia and Iran – a shared agenda to create conditions on the ground that force the US at some point to cut its losses and withdraw from Syria, as happened, for example, in Lebanon in 1983.

Trump’s Iran strategy infinitely complicates the geopolitical repositioning of the US in the post-ISIS era. He added one more ball at a juncture when his juggling act was already looking improbable.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activist: Saudi’s 2030 Vision Coordinated by Washington, Tel Aviv

Al-Manar | September 28, 2017

Saudi activist Mujtahid said that the inclusive change in Saudi Arabia (political, social and economic change) is coming, noting that the authorities will arrest all those who stand against this change,

On his Twitter account, Mujtahid quoted a US advisor, who takes part in Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 project, as saying that the change is coming.

This change requires Crown Prince Mohamamd Bin Salman’s monopolization of power on the political level, secularizing the kingdom on the social level, and selling Aramco firm on the economical level, Mujtahid said, citing the US advisor.

He revealed that such plan is being coordinated with the US, Zionist entity, Egypt and UAE, noting that all these sides share the same stance regarding the arrest campaign which will target all those who reject this change.

In this context, Mujtahid, who is believed to be a member of or have a well-connected source in the royal family, pointed out that the arrests which were made recently represents an early stage of this plan of change.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UAE, US ground forces to launch joint military drill

Press TV – September 16, 2017

The ground forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States are to begin a joint military exercise in Abu Dhabi later on Saturday.

Code-named Iron Union 5, the war game is part of a series of exercises that the UAE organizes with its allies to upgrade its military power, the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.

The drills come amid a rift between several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Qatar.

Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

Separately on Saturday, Qatari and French naval forces concluded a two-day exercise in Qatar’s territorial waters.

A number of boats and the French Frigate Jean Bart reportedly took part in the drill.

Lieutenant Colonel Falah Mahdi Al Ahbabi, Qatari naval formation commander, said the marine exercise had two stages, which focused on combating terrorism and piracy as well as protecting facilities, and marine shipping lines.

September 16, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Retired Israeli general joins anti-Qatar conference

MEMO | September 15, 2017

A review of the list of participants in an anti-Qatar conference revealed that the list includes right-wing extremists, pro-Israel figures and a retired Israeli general.

The Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference was held in London, UK, yesterday, and according to a list of participant which Al-Araby Al-Jadeed obtained, US-Israeli citizen and chairperson of the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, Dov Zakheim; a founder of the neoconservative think-tank the Henry Jackson Society Alan Mendoza and Shlomo Brom, a retired Brigadier-General in the Israeli Air Force, were all due to participate.

According to the news site, the conference’s programme was not released until Tuesday, 48 hours before the event was due to take place for alleged security reasons.

Bill Richardson, former US ambassador to the UN who has been involved in financial corruption cases, and Charles Chuck Wald, a retired US Air Force General who has suggested that Washington should support Israel should it decides to launch a military attack on Iran, were also amongst the list of those taking part in the conference.

The list of participants also include Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who had previously filed a case against Qatar after receiving money from the UAE.

The British Conservative party politicians speaking at the event include MPs, Daniel Kawczynski, Iain Duncan Smith and former Deputy Mayor of London, Roger Evans.

The Qatari opposition is represented by businessman Khalid Al-Hail who is accused of receiving funds from the countries boycotting Qatar to organise the conference.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

The four countries also imposed an embargo on Qatar and issued a long list of demands, including the closure of Doha-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera, under the threat of further sanctions.

Qatar has refused to submit, denying charges that it supports terrorism and describing the bloc’s efforts to isolate it as a violation of international law and an infringement of its national sovereignty.

The conference is seen as a means through which they hope to give legitimacy to the boycott.

Photo-compilation of those attending the anti-Qatar conference [Alaraby]

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report reveals UK exploiting Qatar crisis for own profit through arms exports

Press TV – September 10, 2017

Britain is exploiting a rift between several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Qatar through designating both sides as the “priority markets” for its arms sales, a report suggests.

The Middle East Eye (MEE) report cited a list of 46 states highlighted by the UK Department for International Trade Defense and Security Organization as potentially lucrative markets for weapons exports.

The list included Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which cut ties with Doha three months ago.

This is while many of the countries identified as key targets for the British arms sales are included in the government’s own “human rights priority registers.”

The list comes ahead of the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair scheduled to be held in London on September 12-15.

“The fact that, despite current tensions, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both on the list tells us everything we need to know,” Andrew Smith, spokesperson of the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade organization, told the MEE.

Britain, he said, has “made clear that it will pull out all stops to sell arms to” both sides of the Qatar crisis.

Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

They presented Qatar with a list of 13 wide-ranging demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face unspecified consequences.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and said that they were meant to force the country to surrender its sovereignty.

UK arms fair hosts despots

In a relevant development, the UK government published its official guest list for DSEI, comprising 56 countries, among them Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Qatar.

Smith said the list included “a roll call of despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers. They will be greeted by civil servants and government ministers who are there for one reason only: to promote weapons.”

MP Caroline Lucas, UK Green Party co-leader, also called for the closure of the London arms fair.

“DSEI is a dark stain on our country’s already tarnished reputation. It’s time that this festival of violence was shut down for good – and for the UK to engage in peace-building rather

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Protests against UK arms sales to UAE at arms expo

MEMO | September 8, 2017

Campaign groups are teaming up tomorrow to protest against UK arms sales to the UAE in front of one of the largest arms expos in the world at the London ExCel Centre.

Activists and campaigners from the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) will be joining a host of other campaigning organisations such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition (DSEI) arms fair to protest against millions of dollars of arms trade with a regime, activists describe as being a notorious human rights violator.

The week of campaigning, which began with a protest against Israeli arms sales, will see crowds of people calling on the UK government to end arms sales to the UAE. The trade deals with Britain are said to involve highly sophisticated and invasive cyber surveillance technology which the UAE government uses to spy on its own citizens, and weaponry used to commit war crimes in Yemen.

Campaign groups say that between 2012 and 2016 the UAE was listed as the world’s third largest importer of weaponary; during this period, the UK licensed around £350 million worth of arms for export to the UAE. At the same time the UAE has become increasingly dismissive towards international treaties, human rights laws and UN conventions.

The UAE’s war in Yemen, which has caused untold death and destruction, is a major focal point for protestors. The Gulf alliance has been charged with committing war crimes in Yemen, where they hold a significant naval, ground and air presence. It was also recently revealed that UAE forces have been running clandestine prisons where there have been numerous reports of extreme torture.

Campaigners also claim that within their own borders, the Emirati authorities have committed numerous human rights violations against their own citizens and foreign nationals. Human rights organisations have documented numerous cases of torture, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of speech and repression of political dissidents in the UAE.

The UK-registered BAE systems, who will be vying for new trade deals at the ExCel Centre is thought to have provided the cyber surveillance technology which was used in connection with the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.

Campaigners are calling on the British government to revise their close trading relationship with the UAE. They say that by providing arms and weaponry to this authoritarian regime, the UK is being complicit in war crimes and human rights violation. Furthermore they say that the trade deal between the two nations is set to increase as the UK leaves the EU and having set itself an ambitious target of doubling bilateral trade to up to £25 billion by 2020.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Al Jazeera: Blair, US officials on UAE payroll

MEMO | August 31, 2017

The UAE has paid tens of millions of dollars to expand its regional and international influence by buying positions and the loyalty of key figures, an Al Jazeera documentary has said.

Aired yesterday, “Men around Abu Dhabi” claimed the Emirates paid former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon and a number of leaders of the US Department of Defence in order to keep them on side.

The channel said that UAE paid $35 million to Tony Blair when he was the envoy for the Middle East Quartet. He was also paid as a consultant, leaked email published by the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

The UAE government paid about $53,000 per month to the Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon.

Last year, the UAE Diplomatic Academy, which is headed by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced that Leon, who served as UN envoy to Libya, will be assigned as its general manager.

At that time, media sources considered the news as a scandal that would undermine the credibility of the United Nations.

Abu Dhabi also paid $20 million in donations to the Middle East Institute in Washington, which is run by US General Anthony Zinni.

Zinni is an American general who once led US forces in the Middle East. After retiring, he served as a special envoy to the region. The US administration chose him and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Timothy Lenderking, as envoys to support the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis.

There is also James Mattis, the current US secretary of defence, who was previously hired by the UAE as a military adviser to develop its army and Robert Gates, the former US secretary of defence who attacked Qatar’s policies and Al Jazeera.

The documentary also revealed that Turki Aldakhil, the director of Al Arabiya TV channel, received more than $23 million in return for promoting Abu Dhabi’s agenda in the region.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed punitive measures on the small Gulf state accusing it of “supporting terrorism”. Doha strongly denied the claims.

August 31, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , | 1 Comment

British universities should be more discerning about their choice of benefactors

By Alastair Sloan | MEMO | August 25, 2017

Just over eighteen months ago, environmental campaigners in Britain received some surprising news. They had been working for three years to get the Tate Gallery in London to reveal how much money oil giant BP had given it between 1990 and 2011. The figure turned out to be relatively small, ranging from £150,000 to £330,000 per year. Although this was a good chunk of the gallery’s income in the nineties, this soon equated to less than one per cent of the Tate group’s funding between 2000 and 2006. The sponsorship deal continued for another ten years, alongside similar BP sponsorships of the British Museum, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery. Across all of these organisations, the oil company likewise contributed less than one per cent of funding to each one. The oft-heard argument that the struggling arts sector would go under were it not for this kind of funding from not-very-nice corporations was clearly bunkum. If anything, these institutions were willing collaborators in corporate whitewashing.

The same could be said of Gulf funds for British universities. Middle East Studies departments whisper about the necessity of funding from countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, because budgets are falling. A close look at the finances of the University of Exeter reveals something else, though; the issue of donations from alumnus Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi of Sharjah were raised recently by the International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Telegraph, the ruler of Sharjah – one of the most conservative Emirates in the UAE — has given more than £8 million to Exeter University over two decades (roughly the same time period that the Tate was receiving money from BP). A breakdown of when these donations were made is not available, but government grants and tuition fees in 1999 (the earliest data that I have been able to find) amounted to £52 million. The equivalent figure today is £250 million, around three times the original government and student fees funding even when adjusted for inflation. Much of this has come from the introduction of hugely expensive tuition fees for students.

In 2008, the nephew of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave £8 million to Cambridge University to build its “Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies”. The same year, Cambridge University’s annual report shows that income from government grants and tuition fees had risen from £251 million to £279 million. Cambridge made £174 million from its publishing house, more than £20 million more than in 2007. Even its “examination and assessment services” had seen income go up from £193 million to £216 million. All these increases led to the university almost doubling its surplus for the year, to £42 million. Yet that same year, it also accepted £8 million from a state known for its appalling human rights record, all the while knowing full well that the university coffers were overflowing.

After 2008, of course, there was the recession, so perhaps last year’s £3 million donation from the Qatar Development Fund towards Somerville College, Oxford, was justified? Think again. Somerville College itself was certainly on track to suffer a £3 million reduction in donations had the Qatar money not arrived, and had just borrowed huge amounts to extend its buildings, but Oxford University generally was doing well. In 2010, its income had risen since the previous year by nearly five per cent, to £920 million. By 2015, that figure was up to £1.3 billion, with surpluses of nearly £400 million sat in university bank accounts. Oxford doesn’t include in its numbers, as Cambridge does, its significantly profitable publishing business, which was on hand to top up coffers when they are running low.

In the UAE, we only have to go back to March to find that a prominent academic was jailed for ten years. His crime? He used Twitter. The country has imposed travel restrictions on visiting academics from Georgetown University, the London School of Economics and New York University, as well as prosecuting other university professionals. In January, the UAE government detained Abdulkhaleq Abdulla for ten days without charge after the prominent Emirati academic and vocal supporter, not critic, of the government posted a tweet that praised the UAE as the “Emirates of tolerance” but bemoaned the authorities’ lack of respect for freedom of expression and political liberties. Abdulla was an adviser to Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and a retired professor of political science at the University of the UAE. Similar situations abound in Saudi Arabia, and academic freedoms are only marginally better in Qatar.

So British universities are well off. They don’t need money from abroad, but they are opting to take it in any case, and who they are choosing to take it from isn’t encouraging. This devalues British academia and spits in the face of academics and others calling for change who are imprisoned in those donor countries for their pains. Universities should be campaigning to have tuition fees removed, be more inventive about how they make money, and stop plastering the names of Middle East dictators across their walls. They need to be much more discerning in their choice of benefactors. It’s too late to do this today, but tomorrow will do very nicely.

August 25, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Africans will be biggest losers after letting foreign military into their continent’

RT | August 9, 2017

Africa has become a staging ground where foreign countries can show off their military capabilities against one another away from their country of origin at the expense of Africans, says African affairs expert Ayo Johnson.

Turkey is gearing to open its largest overseas military base in Somalia.

The United Arab Emirates are building a military base at the port of Berbera, in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

Africa is an attraction to foreign militaries: China opened its first overseas military base on August,1 in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is also currently housing Americans, Japanese and French troops.

RT discussed why Africa has become so popular with the foreign military with Africa affairs expert Ayo Johnson who believes the world powers are turning the continent into the latest theater of military confrontation.

“Back in colonial days, we saw Africa being cut up and carved up by the Western nations. Now we are seeing Africa again being the center ground for the new verge of a proxy war because all these different countries which are founding military bases on the African continent. It is a huge worry,” Ayo Johnson told RT.

In Johnson’s opinion, “it is showing that Africans can’t protect themselves and it is also showing that Africans can’t control their own affairs and ultimately it is finders keepers.”

“We have China who already has a military base of its own, the excuse is that it ultimately wants to protect its own investment which we know it has on the African continent. Also, it says it wants to prevent piracy and to be able to launch against such events,” Johnson said.

“The Americans have similar bases, not to mention the Europeans. So, on the ground itself, ultimately the African continent is becoming the staging ground for the next possibly violent confrontation between the superpowers of the world in their so-called proxy battles,” he continued.

According to Johnson, such interest in the continent might be explained by its strategic location.

“The Horn of Africa is the gateway for many shipping lanes, the protection of that area because of long term standing piracy issues. But others would say it is about land grab, control; it is about influence.”

“The Americans, the British and other Europeans, not to mention the Chinese most recently, all seem to have a huge stake and might show their muscles and their military capabilities against one another. Africa has now become a staging ground from which they can exploit those opportunities away from their own individual countries, a place where they can prowess their military might at the expense of Africans,” Johnson noted.

Despite the increased foreign military presence, the problem of piracy in the region remains unsettled.

“One thing for sure is that piracy still exists and it will continue and is unlikely to stop or to be slowed down.”

“Again in terms of terrorism, Al-Qaeda and ISIS still have strongholds and control, influence in that part of the world and the military bases that are physically positioned there. If they are there to prevent such attacks, I think in the short term or more long term it could create antagonism, create a problem for locals who may want to join those organizations to attack the military powers that are there. So the protection of Africa becomes the reverse, becomes an area where everyone wants to show each other what they are capable of doing and that is the worry, be it terrorist or be it an American, European or even most recently the Turks are also considering having bases there,” he told RT.

Johnson claimed “that comes at the expense of every single African nation – ultimately the biggest losers will be every single individual on the African continent.”

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment