Yemen’s Arabic broadcaster, al-Massirah, has been taken off the air by Egyptian satellite company Nilesat, while YouTube has removed the channel’s uploaded files showing the devastation caused by Saudi Arabia’s bombardment of the country.
The channel, which is affiliated to Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, said on its Twitter account that Nilesat suspended its transmission on Sunday evening.
Al-Massirah also tweeted that the suspension was a result of “Saudi-American pressure” on the satellite company.
Nilesat has not explained why it has blocked the channel.
The channel has been broadcasting the images of the victims of and the damage caused by the Saudi aggression against Yemen.
Video sharing website YouTube also removed the videos and images uploaded by al-Massirah that showed the humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Middle Eastern country.
Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
According to the latest UN figures, the Saudi military campaign has so far claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and injured close to 6,000 people, roughly half of whom have been civilians.
Saudi Arabia has been blocking the delivery of relief supplies to the war-stricken people of Yemen in defiance of calls by international aid groups.
A group of humanitarian aid workers, medical technicians, and peace activists from the US, France, and Germany along with journalists and physicians from Iran is setting sail for war-torn Yemen on Iranian “Rescue” ship.
“We are part of a humanitarian mission being carried out by the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are attempting to bring medical supplies, flour, and water to the people of Yemen,” read a joint statement released by members of Code Pink Women for Peace, International Action Center, United National AntiWar Committee, and US Veterans for Peace on Sunday.
A large number of physicians and a few journalists from Iran are with us on the ship and we intend to deliver “2,500 tons of medical supplies, foodstuff and tents” to the Hudaydah port on the Red Sea, the capital of the western Yemeni province of Al Hudaydah.
The ship, named Iran Shahed, is preparing to set sail for Yemen from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, in Hormozgan province.
In an exclusive Press TV report, the ship’s captain said that after leaving Bandar Abbas, they would travel through the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and into the Gulf of Aden, where they might dock, or travel on to the Hudaydah port.
“Everything on the ship has been carefully checked to make sure that nothing that could be considered a weapon is on board,” the statement says.
Earlier in the month, Iranian planes tried to deliver medical aid and were cleared for landing by the Yemeni airports, but were repelled by Saudi fighter jets.
“Blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid is an extreme violation of international law. As our craft propels itself through the Persian Gulf, we are loudly urging no one to interfere with this peaceful humanitarian mission,” the statement read.
Saudi Arabia has unleashed a “horrific bombing campaign” in response to a vast uprising demanding democracy and self-determination in Yemen.
“As citizen of the western world, nothing disturbs us more than the fact that the cruise missiles and other weapons being used to terrorize and kill innocent Yemenis, are provided by the United States government,” the statement noted.
Even though our governments utilize “Human Rights” propaganda, they actually “isolate and demonize” certain countries.
“For more than half a century they have been coddling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most blatant human rights violators on the planet,” it added.
The Saudi regime, apart from beheading, torturing, and exploiting its own citizens, “represses people throughout the region.”
“The people of Yemen have long been held down by a corrupt un-democratic regime backed and supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States.”
The people of Yemen have “risen up in revolution” in response to years of humiliation, repression and impoverishment.
“The Ansarullah organization, commonly called the “Houthis” in US media, is at the center of a broad coalition of forces that is writing a new constitution. Popular Committees have sprung up all across the country.”
Along with ISIL Takfiri militants and al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia is “waging a campaign of violent terrorism” against Yemen.
The US government backs the Saudi regime and its allies in their “abhorrent and immoral” war against Yemen.
“We call for all parties involved to lay down their weapons and enter the process of peaceful negotiations, and continue with the democratic national dialogue that’s taken place over the last three years,” it concluded.
The statement closed with three wishes for the people of Yemen, “Let the Hungry Children of Yemen Live!”, “This Illegal, Immoral Blockade Must End!” and “Don’t Block the Rescue Boat!”
On April 28, Saudi Arabia forced an Iranian cargo plane carrying medical aid and foodstuff for people in Yemen to return. The Iranian aircraft, which had earlier received permits from Omani and Yemeni aviation officials to cross into Yemen’s airspace, could not land at the Sana’a International Airport, as Saudi warplanes were violently striking the runway of the airport.
The development came less than a week after Saudi warplanes intercepted another Iranian airplane, carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen, and prevented it from entering the Yemeni airspace on April 22.
According to the latest UN figures, the Saudi military campaign has so far claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and injured close to 6,000 people, roughly half of whom have been civilians.
The Saudi regime is notoriously adept at funding wars, but exceptionally poor at fighting them.
On March 25, a massive aerial bombing campaign began against Zaidi Houthi rebels who had recently assumed control of Yemen’s capital and forced its U.S. and Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, to flee first to the southern port city of Aden and then to Riyadh.
This is the second Saudi attack on Yemen—the Arab world’s poorest country bordering one of its richest—in less than six years. “Operation Scorched Earth” was launched by the Yemeni government against the Houthis in August 2009. In November of that year, Saudi troops amassed on the border and began shelling Saada governorate in northwest Yemen where the rebels were based.
The Saudi offensive created tens of thousands of internally displaced civilians, teeming refugee camps and rampant malnutrition. The Houthis, in the face of overwhelming firepower and far worse off in 2009 than today, nevertheless kept Saudi troops at bay and inflicted higher than expected causalities on their forces. Six years later and with nearly all Arab countries aligned against them, they are doing so again.
To put Yemen’s current predicament in context some background history is helpful.
The Zaidi Shia form at least a quarter of Yemen’s population and are concentrated in the north of the country. This area was once ruled by Hashimite Zaidis (those descended from the line of the Prophet Muhammad) for more than 1,000 years until they were overthrown in 1962 by an alliance of nationalist military officers who then founded the Yemen Arab Republic. Zaidi Muslims are nominally categorized as Shia Muslims although they are actually closer to the Sunni schools of jurisprudence.
The rebels were first led by Zaidi cleric Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi—from whom the Houthis derive their name—and his Shabab al-Momineen group who fought the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Their dispute dates to June 2004 when Saleh, the Saudi-backed strongman, charged the Houthis with sedition and claimed their true aim was to revive Zaidi Shia Imamate rule deposed four decades earlier. For their part, the Houthis sought to reverse the systemic political and socioeconomic marginalization their community faced as well as stem the rise of Salafi/Wahabi ideology and the al-Qaeda presence it fostered, both of which had gained an increasing foothold in the country.
Hussein al-Houthi was killed by the army in September 2004 and his brother, Abdul Malik assumed leadership. He now leads the Houthi movement under the group Ansarullah. Worried that the Houthis could transform into a Hezbollah-like organization, the Saudis attacked in 2009. Then, as now, this was done with U.S.-supplied advanced weaponry including surface-to-air missiles, Apache attack helicopters and Phantom jet fighters. Despite their sophisticated arms, Saudi Arabia lost an unusually high number of soldiers in the campaign.
The Houthis persevered; their resilience and desire for equitable representation in government led Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf Cooperation Countries (with the exception of Oman) to attack in March of this year when “Operation Decisive Storm” began. Predictably, its pretext was the tired canard of curbing Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula. Direct, material support for the Houthis by Iran has never been clearly demonstrated however.
The real motive for the assault and the process it intended to disrupt was revealed by former U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar in an April interview with the Wall Street Journal. Benomar remarks, “When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis.”
The Saudi offensive led by the young defense minister and newly-appointed deputy crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has again exacted a tremendous humanitarian toll: 1,200 killed and more than a quarter of a million people displaced. In 2009, the Saudis were accused of using white phosphorus (as the Israelis had been in their wars on Gaza). Today, they are charged with using cluster bombs (as the Israelis had been in their wars on Lebanon). Human Rights Watch said in a statement, “Credible evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in air strikes against the Houthi forces.”
Even after all tools of war were placed at their disposal by the West, the House of Saud still pleaded with Pakistan to send (Sunni-only) troops to fight for them. The regime has blockaded the port at Aden and has even resorted to bombing Sanaa’s airport to prevent the delivery of needed relief supplies.
All of these measures have failed to halt the Houthi advance.
Only a political solution will end Yemen’s bloodshed. The GCC though prefers to frame the conflict as an existential one pitting Arabs against Iranians, Sunnis versus Shias. This serves to stoke the sectarian flames already engulfing the region and makes a practical resolution near impossible.
The war has been a disaster for the Yemeni people from the start, both politically and on the most basic humanitarian level. Al-Qaeda now has the potential to flourish as Yemenis are pitted against one another based on sect; the possibility of a just compromise and representative government without Saudi Arabia’s hand-picked man at the helm well forestalled.
Will the Saudi regime find themselves in a military quagmire? The Houthis show no sign of withering under relentless bombing. Or is a decisive ground invasion in the works? There are early signs this may yet occur. But as in Iraq and Syria, the monarchy appears content with the status quo, ensuring chaos, instability and sectarianism prevail.
In an important new article, award-winning journalist Gareth Porter notes that US and Western media are using the term “proxy war” as “a way of softening the harsh reality of Saudi aggression” against Yemen.
A proxy war by definition, Porter explains, uses third parties. Therefore, it is [mind-numbingly] “obvious that the Saudi bombing in Yemen, which has killed mostly civilians … is no proxy war but a straightforward external military aggression.”
Since Iran, billed by the US government and media as the other side in the so-called “proxy” war, has (unlike Saudi Arabia) not attacked Yemen, it would theoretically be possible that Iran was engaged in proxy war, while the Saudis are engaged in a naked, illegal attack.
However, Porter notes, while Iran does have minor ties with the Houthis, the nature of the Houthis’ current campaign in Yemen is the precise opposite of an Iranian proxy campaign: the Houthis directly disobeyed Iran’s advice, which said not to take control of the Yemeni capital.
Further, US spy agencies themselves told Huffington Post unequivocally that “Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”, and “It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran”.
But, since the US is massively supplying the Saudis with lethal weapons (Obama sent them thousands of banned cluster bombs and the biggest shipment of lethal weaponry in US history), coordinating the bombings, and refueling and rescuing Saudi bombers (while refusing to rescue US citizens trapped in Yemen, though 8 other countries including India, China, and Russia are rescuing their own and foreign nationals), there is what in the real world would be an undeniable argument that the US is using Saudi Arabia as a proxy to wage a war of aggression against Yemen.
Indeed, Obama has been bombing Yemen for his entire time in power, including with banned cluster bombs (cluster bombs have been outlawed by a strong democratic majority of the world’s governments, though the US, in its signature anti-democratic fashion, simply flouts international norms and ignores this, with its cluster bomb use and proliferation being a typically ugly example).
Though Porter writes that US media is using the term proxy war, in reference to Saudi aggression, to “soften” the news of what US-backed Saudi Arabia and its axis of dictators are doing, he errs in writing that, in doing this, the media is “miss[ing] the point” of the term.
While it may be true that some people in US/Western mass/corporate media (and, for that matter, agenda-setting government spokespeople) are ignorant enough not to know what the term “proxy” means or care enough to look it up, an argument that a majority of them are simply “missing the point” of the term is untenable.
What they (media and government) are doing is, as Nobel-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility put it in their recent report, “laboriously construct[ing]” a perception of the events that allows Western, corporate-linked governments (ie oligarchies) to commit crimes unimpeded by public opposition. And this works. Hitler, for one, was highly envious of the achievements of US and British propaganda. The US and UK are pioneers in the field of engineering public opinion and consent through what was previously openly referred to as “propaganda” but is now referred to as “news”.
As another example of this, one would be hard-pressed to find a corporate or US government characterization of Saudi Arabia as an extremist Wahhabi, Sharia-law dictatorship linked to both al Qaeda and ISIS, though this is all elementary. And forget about complete, let alone prominent, reports, with historical context, of how the US and Obama have been and are assisting the Wahhabi despotism, which represents an extremist form of Sunni Islam we are otherwise told to oppose.
Red Cross and other aid groups have noted that attacks on Yemen are forcing Yemenis to “drink unsafe water and children die of preventable causes”, as “checkpoints” set up by members of the US-backed, Saudi-led axis of dictators are obstructing the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid.
But this is nothing new (indeed, it is small-time) for a US campaign. Just new to anyone who doesn’t read/view outside of the realm of murderous US propaganda.
Author and his UK-based colleague @_DirtyTruths.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Hussein al-Bukhaiti, a Yemeni activist and political commentator, in Sana’a, to discuss the Western countries’ support for Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen.
This is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: The French president obviously has a star on his report card and resume for attending this summit of the Persian Gulf countries. So, their support for Saudi Arabia, which has used cluster munitions inside Yemen, these are US-made cluster munitions, doesn’t that go against the whole notion of democracy that they preach?
Al-Bukhaiti: Yes, exactly. As the human rights report has said, the Saudis have used cluster bombs in some areas in Sa’ada. And I want to remind the people watching your channel that they have done that in 2009 and they used thousands of American cluster bombs and this is against international law.
If the United States and Saudi Arabia have not signed on to the cluster bomb ban, but the United Sates is still responsible and they should not give weapons to countries that can be used by them in civilian areas; and if you see most of the Western countries are in this conspiracy in fighting Yemen and it is not only Saudi Arabia… the United States is behind it, the United Kingdom and as well the French government… and even any government in Europe that has not said anything or stood against this war… it must be with it.
Press TV: It is interesting to see it is not just France that we see selling arms, the UK obviously sells arms to these Persian Gulf countries, also obviously the United States is selling arms. Is that a precondition for the relationship? These Western countries say, ‘You have to buy our arms; then we lay off the human rights violations that take place in the countries?’
Al-Bukhaiti: Yes, exactly. This is how the United States and other countries make money from their weapons industry. They will sell you weapons and then they know they are selling it to a dictatorship but they are responsible for any casualties in Yemen and the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates and other [Persian] Gulf states are almost number one in buying from the United States.
And I think the United States for its war machine to continue producing weapons, they need to start a war every ten to 20 years. They have done it in Afghanistan, they have done it in Iraq, they have done it in Syria and then in Libya and now it was time for Yemen and I am sure the time after that is going to come I expect Egypt because I know that it does not matter if Egypt is with Saudis and the Americans now, but as long as a strong army is near Israel, they will at one point try to destroy it as they did the same in Syria.
Body Counts, Drones, and “Collateral Damage” (aka “Bug Splat”)
In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts?
In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count.
The Obama administration has adamantly refused to count. Not a body. In fact, for a long time, American officials associated with Washington’s drone assassination campaigns and “signature strikes” in the backlands of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen claimed that there were no bodies to count, that the CIA’s drones were so carefully handled and so “precise” that they never produced an unmeant corpse — not a child, not a parent, not a wedding party. Nada.
When it came to “collateral damage,” there was no need to count because there was nothing to tote up or, at worst, such civilian casualties were “in the single digits.” That this was balderdash, that often when those drones unleashed their Hellfire missiles they were unsure who exactly was being targeted, that civilians were dying in relatively countable numbers — and that others were indeed counting them — mattered little, at least in this country until recently. Drone war was, after all, innovative and, as presented by two administrations, quite miraculous. In 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta called it “the only game in town” when it came to al-Qaeda. And what a game it was. It needed no math, no metrics. As the Vietnam War had proved, counting was for losers — other than the usual media reports that so many “militants” had died in a strike or that some al-Qaeda “lieutenant” or “leader” had gone down for the count.
That era ended on April 23rd when President Obama entered the White House briefing room and apologized for the deaths of American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, two Western hostages of al-Qaeda. They had, the president confessed, been obliterated in a strike against a terrorist compound in Pakistan, though in his comments he managed not to mention the word “drone,” describing what happened vaguely as a “U.S. counterterrorism operation.” In other words, it turned out that the administration was capable of counting — at least to two.
And that brings us to the other meaning of “Who counts?” If you are an innocent American or Western civilian and a drone takes you out, you count. If you are an innocent Pakistani, Afghan, or Yemeni, you don’t. You didn’t count before the drone killed you and you don’t count as a corpse either. For you, no one apologizes, no one pays your relatives compensation for your unjust death, no one even acknowledges that you existed. This is modern American drone reality and the question of who counts and whom, if anyone, to count is part of the contested legacy of Washington’s never-ending war on terror.
A Brief History of the Body Count
Once upon a time, of course, enemy deaths were a badge of honor in war, but the American “body count,” which would become infamous in the Vietnam era, had always been a product of frustration, not pride. It originated in the early 1950s, in the “meat-grinder” days of the Korean War, after the fighting had bogged down in a grim stalemate and signs of victory were hard to come by. It reappeared relatively early in the Vietnam War years as American officials began searching for “metrics” that would somehow express victory in a country where taking territory in the traditional fashion meant little. As time went on, the brutality of that war increased, and the promised “light at the end of the tunnel” glowed ever more dimly, the metrics of victory only grew, and the pressure to produce that body count, which could be announced daily by U.S. press spokesmen to increasingly dubious journalists in Saigon did, too. Soon enough, those reporters began referring to the daily announcements of those figures as the “Five O’Clock Follies.”
On the ground, the pressure within the military to produce impressive body counts for those “Follies” resulted in what GIs called the “Mere Gook Rule.” (“If it’s dead and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC [Viet Cong].”) And soon enough anything counted as a body. As William Calley, Jr., of My Lai massacre fame, testified, “At that time, everything went into a body count — VC, buffalo, pigs, cows. Something we did, you put it on your body count, sir… As long as it was high, that was all they wanted.”
When, however, victory proved illusory, that body count came to appear to ever more Americans on the home front like grim slaughter and a metric from hell. As a sign of success, increasingly detached from reality yet producing reality, it became a death-dealing Catch-22. As those bodies piled up and in the terminology of the times a “credibility gap” yawned between the metrics and reality, the body count became a symbol not just of a war of frustration, but of defeat itself. It came, especially after the news of the My Lai massacre finally broke in the U.S., to look both false and barbaric. Whose bodies were those anyway?
In the post-Vietnam era, not surprisingly, Washington would treat anything associated with the disaster that had been Vietnam as if it were radioactive. So when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration’s top officials began planning their twenty-first-century wars in a state of exhilarated anticipation, they had no intention of reliving anything that reeked of Vietnam. There would be no body bags coming home in the glare of media attention, no body counts in the battle zones. They were ready to play an opposites game when it came to Vietnam. General Tommy Franks, who directed the Afghan invasion and then the one in Iraq, caught the mood perfectly in 2003 when he said, “We don’t do body counts.”
There would be no more “Five O’clock Follies,” not in wars in which victory was assured for “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known” (as presidents took to calling the U.S. military). And that remains official military policy today. Only recently, for instance, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby responded to a journalist’s question about how many Islamic State fighters and civilians U.S. air power had recently killed in Washington’s latest war in Iraq this way: “First of all, we don’t have the ability to — to count every nose that we shwack [sic]. Number two, that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal… And we’re not getting into an issue of body counts. And that’s why I don’t have that number handy. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t have asked my staff to give me that number before I came out here. It’s simply not a relevant figure.”
From 2003 to 2015, official policy on the body count has not reflected reality. The U.S. military has, in fact, continued to count bodies. For one thing, it kept and reported the numbers on America’s war dead, bodies that truly counted, though no one would have called the tallies a body count. For another, from beginning to end, the military has been secretly counting the dead on the other side as well, perhaps to privately convince themselves, Vietnam-style, that they were indeed winning in wars where a twenty-first-century version of the credibility gap appeared all too quickly and never left the scene. As David Axe has written, the military “proudly boasts of the totals in official documents that it never intends for public circulation.” He added, “The disconnect over wartime body counts reflects a yawning gap between the military’s public face and its private culture.”
To Count or Not to Count, That Is the Question
But here was the oddest thing: whatever the military might have been counting, the fact that it stopped counting in public didn’t stop the body count from happening. It turned out that there were others on this planet no less capable of counting dead bodies. In the end, the cast of characters producing the public metrics of this era simply changed and with it the purpose of the count. The newcomers had, you might say, different answers to both parts of the question: Who counts?
Over the last century, as “collateral damage” — the deaths of civilians, rather than combatants — has become ever more the essence of war, the importance of who is dying and in what numbers has only increased. When the U.S. military began refusing to make its body count part of a public celebration of its successes, civil society stepped in with a very different impulse: to shame, blame, and hold the military’s feet to the fire by revealing the deeper carnage of war itself and what it does to society, not just to the warriors.
While the previous counters had pretended that all bodies belonged to enemies, the new counters tried to make “collateral damage” the central issue of war. No matter what the researchers who have done such counts may say, most of them are, by their nature, critiques of war, American-style, and included in them were no longer just the bodies, civilian and military, found on the battlefield, but every body that could somehow be linked to a conflict or its fallout, its side effects, its afteraffects.
Think of this as a new numerology of defeat or disaster or slaughter or shame. In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, distinctly non-military outfits took up this counting or estimating process. In 2004 and 2006, the Lancet, a British medical journal, published studies based on scientific surveys of “excess Iraqi deaths” since the American invasion of 2003 and, in the first case, came up with an estimated 98,000 of them and in the second with 655,000 (a much-criticized figure); such studies by medical and other researchers have never stopped. More recent counts of such deaths have ranged from 500,000 in 2013 to one million or 5% of the Iraqi population this year.
The most famous enumeration of civilian casualties in Iraq, however, comes from the constantly upgraded tally — based on published media reports, hospital and morgue records, and the like — of Iraq Body Count, the independent website that bills itself as “the public record of violent deaths following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” At this moment, its most up-to-date top estimate for civilian deaths since that invasion is 156,000 (211,000, including the deaths of combatants). And these figures are considered by the site and others as distinctly conservative, no more than what can be known about a subject of which much is, by necessity, unknown.
In Afghanistan, there has been less tallying, but the U.N. Mission there has kept a count of civilian casualties from the ongoing war and estimates the cumulative figure, since 2001, at 21,000 (though again, that is undoubtedly a conservative figure). However, when it comes to the American drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, in particular, where the Obama administration has adamantly resisted the idea of significant civilian casualties, the civilian counters have been there under the most impressively difficult circumstances, sometimes with representatives on the ground in distant parts of Pakistan and elsewhere. In a world in which drone operators refer to the victims of their strikes as “bug splat” and top administration officials prefer to obliterate those “bugs” a second time by denying that their deaths even occurred, the attempt to give them back their names, ages, and sexes, to remind the world of what was most human about the dead of our new wars, should be considered a heroic task.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in particular, has done careful as well as dogged work tabulating drone casualties in Pakistan and Yemen, including counts and estimates of all those killed by drones, of civilians killed by drones, and of children killed by drones. It even has a project, “Naming the Dead,” that attempts to reattach names and other basic personal information — sometimes even photos — to the previously nameless dead (721 of them so far). The Long War Journal (a militarized exception to the rule when it comes to the counters of this era) has also kept a record of what it could dig up about drone deaths in Pakistan and Yemen, as has the New America Foundation on Pakistan. In 2012 the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic studied the three sources of such counts and issued a report of its own.
Among the more fascinating reports, the human-rights group Reprieve recently considered claims to drone “precision” and surgical accuracy by doing its own analysis of the available data. It concluded that, in trying to target and assassinate 41 enemy figures in Pakistan and Yemen over the years, Washington’s drones had managed to kill 1,147 people without even killing all the figures actually targeted. (As Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian wrote, “The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.”)
In other words, when it came to counting, civil society rode to the rescue, though the impact of the figures produced has remained limited indeed in this country. In some ways, the only body count of any sort that has made an impression here in recent years has been sniper Chris Kyle’s 160 confirmed Iraqi “kills” that played such a part in the publicity for the blockbuster movie American Sniper.
In his public apology for deaths that were clearly embarrassing to him, President Obama managed to fall back on a trope that has become ever more politically commonplace in these years. Even in the context of a situation in which two innocent hostages had been killed, he congratulated himself and all Americans for the exceptional nature of this country. “It is a cruel and bitter truth,” he said, “that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
Whatever our missteps, in other words, we Americans are exceptional killers in a world of ordinary ones. This attitude has infused Obama’s global assassination program and the White House “kill list” that goes with it and that the president has personally overseen. Pride in his killing agenda was evident in the decision to leak news of that list to the New York Times back in May 2012. And this version of American exceptionalism fits well with the exceptionalism of the drone itself — even if it is a weapon guaranteed to become less exceptional as it spreads to more countries (in part through recently green-lighted U.S. drone sales to allies).
On the rarest of occasions, Obama admitted in that White House briefing room, drone strikes even kill exceptional people (like us) who need to be attended to presidentially, whose deaths deserve apologies, whose lives are to be highlighted in special media accounts, and whose value is such that recompense is due to their families. In most of the places the drone goes, however, those it kills by mistake are, by definition, unexceptional. They deserve neither notice nor apology nor recompense. They count for nothing.
One thing makes the drone a unique weapon in the world of the uncounted dead on a planet where killing otherwise seems like a dime-a-dozen activity: its pilot, its “crew,” those who trigger the launch of its missiles are hundreds, even thousands of miles away from danger. Though we speak loosely about drone “warfare,” the way that machine functions bears little relation to war as it was once defined. Conceptually, the drone represents a one-way street of destruction. Because in its version of “warfare” only one side can be hurt, its “signature” is slaughter, not war, no matter how carefully it may be used. It is an executioner’s weapon.
In part because of that, it’s also a blowback weapon. Though it may surprise Americans, those to be slaughtered, the hunted, don’t take to the constant buzz of drones in their skies in a kindly fashion. They reportedly exhibit the symptoms of PTSD; they are resentful; they grasp the unfairness and injustice that lies behind the machine and its form of “warfare” and are unimpressed with the exceptionalism of the Americans using it. As a result, drones across the Greater Middle East have been the equivalent of recruitment posters for those who want revenge and so for extremist outfits everywhere.
Drones should be weapons of shame and yet, despite the recent round of criticism here in the wake of the hostage killings, their use is still widely supported in Washington and among the public. The justification for their use, whatever “legal” white papers the Obama administration has produced as cover, is simple enough: power. We send them across sovereign boundaries as we wish in search of those we want to kill because we can, because we are us.
So all praise to the few in our world who think it worth the bother to count those who count for nothing to us. They do matter.
“Slaughter Yemenis civilians, and win a free Bentley.” That pretty much sums up Saudi Arabia’s frivolous four-week military jamboree in Yemen otherwise known as Op “Decisive Storm”, if not its entire foreign (and now military) policy in the region; it may have been a “slip of the tweet” on the part of Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, a Forbes top 100 billionaire who offered via his Twitter account to award Saudi fighter-jet pilots a fleet of 100 Bentley luxury cars, a bonus if you will, for their (bombing) services rendered; nonetheless it paints a vivid, albeit repulsive, picture of how politics are conducted in the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf: at the deviant whims of their Kings and Princes.
No wonder the Arab World is a complete mess of constant wars and conflicts; everything is subject to the often violent impulses of the ruling monarchies in the GCC club who now seem more than intent on leading the entire region, Kamikaze style, into a sectarian abyss with no foreseeable point of return; and Op Decisive storm, a codename that was shamelessly borrowed from America’s wars on the Arab World, was just that; a violent outburst that started, ended and now has even morphed into Op “Restoring Hope” at the mere sectarian fancies of Saudi Arabia with the helpless lot of Arab governments tagging along for the now routine trip of bombing yet another Arab country back to the stone age, and when you have a seemingly bottomless well of petrodollars, wield all the clout of mainstream media and a far-reaching religious authority; then forming a military coalition, especially one that is purely based on vicious sectarian grounds, is almost as easy as picking players for a football squad.
This is, in a nutshell, how the Saudi Government managed to crowbar eight countries into a military coalition comprising a mishmash of Gulf Cooperation Council members (sans Oman), Gulf Cooperation Council rejects (Jordan and Morocco) and Gulf Cooperation Council scroungers (Egypt and Sudan) to intervene in Yemen against a local political movement that just so happens to adhere to a religious sect that is often faintly (and inaccurately) traced back to Shia Islam. You could almost instantly smell the vile stench of oil and sectarianism all over Saudi Arabia’s latest, ongoing still, disastrous endeavor in Yemen.
The Saudis’ delusional sales pitch this time was that Iran (who else?) was about to take over Yemen via local militant “Shia” proxies attempting a coup against the “legitimate” government of outgoing/incoming/fleeing president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (still holed up in Riyadh till now); therefore a military intervention with all (Sunni) guns blazing was in urgent order to safeguard “legitimacy” and maintain “stability” in an already impoverished and war-torn Yemen, and we know just how much the GCC club adores peace and stability in the region, its horrific portfolio of destabilization handiwork in Libya, Syria and Iraq is a bloody testament to that.
Of course legitimacy in this (Saudi) context refers to a flip-flopping, weakling of an interim president who, only with the help of Saudi money and support, managed to win a presidential election where he was actually the only candidate on the ballot, a president who outstayed both his tenuous welcome and his presidential term, resigned, fled to the port city of Aden, rescinded his resignation and declared himself president again only to flee once more, chased after by his people, into the waiting arms of the Saudis (perhaps better known to everyone else as his sole meal tickets) but of course not before demanding that his oil-rich patrons bomb his own country into smithereens because evidently that’s what “legitimate” presidents do, at least in the GCC’s book (of horrors).
Show me one of Saudi Arabia’s (many) lackeys in the region who didn’t ask for foreign military intervention into his own country, and I’ll show you Flying Pigs! The standard refrain of extending open invitations for foreign powers to wage devastating wars is strictly (and curiously) espoused by those whom the Saudi Kingdom considers (or designates) “legitimate representatives” of their people. From the Bahraini monarchy to the current Libyan government to the 14th of March alliance in Lebanon and the entirety of the Syrian opposition mismatched posses; not one of these handpicked Saudi puppets has missed an opportunity to ask, in fact beg, for the bombardment of his own country by a foreign government, as if it’s a mandatory rite of passage for those who wish to be on the Saudi payroll/leash and get the GCC’s stamp of approval. And this Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (none) character, whose return to power in Yemen was the only stated goal behind Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen, is no different.
We’re told that the current blitzkrieg in Yemen is all about “restoring legitimacy”, but it’s near-impossible to take that claim seriously without bursting into an uncontrollable wave of laughter; none of the Saudi-led coalition members are exactly known for their democratic credentials, on the contrary; If you played a word-association game, the words “dictatorship”, “tyranny” and “authoritarianism” (or any random combination thereof) would elicit every single time the exact member list of the coalition currently bombing Yemen today into their warped versions of democratic rule and legitimacy.
In fact the war on Yemen is essentially nothing but an ego-boost for the Saudis in response to what’s perceived by the Kingdom as Iran’s growing influence in the region especially after an interim nuclear deal was signed with the west; a shot of (military) adrenaline for the oil-rich Kingdom to assert its political relevance and nothing beyond that at a time when its foreign policy is beginning to resemble a non-stop tragic-comedy of errors and blunders.
This ego-trip masquerading as a military operation has left, so far, more than a 1,000 Yemenis killed, countless others wounded and the wanton destruction of the country’s infrastructure; and although we’re thankfully spared the sight of Saudi-led coalition forces’ spokesman waffling around, trying in vain to finagle a military feat out of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas in Yemen in his daily briefings (or awkward rendezvous with his pro-war, GCC-funded media entourage); the war still goes on, given a new lease of life under a new codename; “Restoring Hope”, despite its “rosy” moniker which has tasteless PR written all over it, promises to be just as vicious and devastating as Decisive Storm if not more; now that free Bentleys are at stake here for outstanding achievements in criminality, I’m sure these hefty royal “incentives” will show in the destructive zeal the next time coalition pilots fly their sorties and drop their load of explosives on unsuspecting Yemenis.
We were told that Decisive Storm had “fulfilled its objectives”, according to a statement by Saudi Defense Ministry. What objectives? We don’t know; deposed Yemenis president is still in Riyadh and the Houthis along with the Yemenis army control much of the ground in Yemen, now unless the real objective was the step-by-step reenactment of Israel’s wars on the Gaza strip, in which case: mission accomplished indeed with flying colors (or overflowing blood of Yemenis!), the Saudis cannot claim any success whatsoever beyond reducing the country to debris and waste; a feat that was bizarrely celebrated in GCC-funded media as a “decisive blow” to Iranian influence in the region.
At the start of Operation Decisive Storm; then Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., current foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir said that the military operation was “…designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by a violent extremist militia”; protecting the people of Yemen… by bombing them into blind submission and a state of near-servitude, to keep the country an impoverished Saudi implantation and nothing more, I mean how dare the Yemenis even entertain the outrageous notion of self-determination when (Saudi) fate has ordained they be reduced to nothing more than an Oil-rich Kingdom’s backyard for gutter politics and inglorious exploits (or Achilles heel for that matter).
And no, in his statement; Ambassador Al Jubair was not referring to Al Qaida or the Islamic State militias which have been laying all manner of terror and destructive waste to Libya, Iraq and Syria with complete financial, logistical, political and ideological cover from the legitimacy-loving GCC folk, by “violent extremist militia”; Al Jubair was referring to the Ansarullah group; an indigenous Yemeni faction accused of being a mere tail for Iran, you know unlike the very independent Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, when in fact it does enjoy considerable political sway and popularity in Yemen.
Al Jubair also said that “all of Saudi Arabia’s allies were consulted before launching military operations in Yemen”. I’m guessing the consultations went something like this: the Saudis telling their allies to jump and everyone replying in unison, with a-cheese-eating-grin on their faces: “how high? … and please write those checks out to cash”.
And that’s the long version too.
“Coalition of the Willing…. to Get Paid from the GCC”
Only Pakistan, which the Saudis were hoping would join in the fun of leveling another impoverished Arab country into rubble; solely based on its “Sunni credentials” of course… and nuclear power, managed to bow out of this “coalition of the unwitting” escapade; thanks, ironically, to the only problem the Saudis can’t just fix or deal with no matter how much money they throw at it: Democracy… or a semblance thereof; when the Pakistani Parliament unanimously voted to remain neutral in the war on Yemen (i.e.: not to be a member of the GCC’s Suicide Squad parade).
There you can find a group of people with enough sense about them not to blindly follow the Saudis’ caprices into the Yemenis quagmire for a handful of cash and oil barrels, and heed instead the national interests of their own country first. Sadly this was not the case with the rest of coalition members whom are mostly made up of Arab governments posing as hired yes-men for Saudi Arabia (or yes-men posing as governments for that matter).
First we have Egypt; fresh out of an economic bash in Sharm Al Sheikh, which will sure keep Egypt locked in a tight GCC financial death grip for years to come, with billions of (petro) dollars dropping off his pockets; General Abdel Fattah al Sisi (“legitimate” President of Egypt, lest we forget, because this war is all about defending legitimacy against coup’d’etats) was the first in line to fully commit to Operation Decisive Storm, ground-troop-warts and all.
The man who sold himself to Egyptians as the Second Coming of President Jamal Abdel Nasser trampled all over Nasser’s legacy by fighting the Saudis’ dirty war in Yemen in an unholy alliance with the reactionaries of the Gulf (to paraphrase Nasser himself who’s probably rolling in his grave right about now).
Suddenly and at the flick of a (Saudi) switch; Egypt’s priorities were reshuffled beyond recognition or even the slightest bit of logic to best suit the GCC’s depraved interests in the region; the Houthis taking control of the Yemeni capital somehow became an existential threat to Cairo’s national security, trumping even threats coming from a terrorism-infested Sinai peninsula or over 1,000 km of open borders with the abyss of lawlessness and violence that is Libya today. And Bab Al Mandeb Strait in Yemen became the top priority for Sisi’s Egypt at a time when the land of the Nile faces potential drought and is threatened with the vanishing face of its landmark river, thanks to Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, along with another coalition member: Sudan.
Desperately wanting to prove that he too can wade in sectarian blood with the best of them; Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, probably lured by the promise of future-petrodollar-riches and the perfect opportunity to break his ICC-imposed isolation, stumbled over himself to heed Saudi Arabia’s call to (Sunni) arms and bomb some “infidel” Yemenis into god-forsaken oblivion (according to Sudanese state owned media). Never mind the embarrassing fact that the Sudanese “Air Force”, which is now dropping its load of bombs with a wanton exuberance on Yemeni civilians, stood completely idle and useless when Israel, on more than one occasion, practically used the entire country of Sudan as an open-field target practice for its fighter jets and F-16s under the pretext of targeting weapons’ depots and convoys destined for Palestinian Resistance factions in Gaza. Talk about priorities gone south.
It was only two years ago when the Saudis practically humiliated Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir when they blocked their own airspace to his plane as he was heading to… yes you guessed it, Iran to attend the inauguration of then newly elected president Rouhani, and now here is Al Bashir jumping into (criminal) action alongside the Saudis to bomb another Arab country into the throes of sectarian discord and potential partition.
Give that a moment’s thought and you might get a headache: Sudan, a country which itself is still reeling from a Western-sponsored partition scheme, is actively (and foolishly) participating in carving up yet another Arab country into two warring entities. There’s an almost Alice-in-Wonderland feel to it.
GCC hopefuls Jordan and Morocco of course happily tagged-along with the Saudis into yet another sectarian misadventure in what’s starting to look like a long drawn out series of auditions to join the GCC club which entail the two tiny monarchies to get down and dirty in the destruction of other Arab countries for the benefit (and amusement) of the Saudis; starting with Libya and Syria, and God knows where it’s going to go after Yemen; but you can be sure it’ll be under the spurious pretext of the “Shiite threat”,
And then you have the Arab League whose complete transformation from a schlocky, ineffectual entity into the proverbial make a wish foundation for the imperial West was epitomized in full shameless splendor in the unfortunate case of Yemen.
Gone are the days when the Arab League would grovel at the feet of NATO governments to intervene militarily somewhere in the Arab world or co-conspire with the West for yet another foreign invasion of one of its member states, now the Arab League, essentially nothing more than a mere echo chamber for the mercurial whims of the GCC nowadays, is finally taking matters into its own unreliable hands and summoning its American-made military might.
No time for niceties of the UNSC resolutions under the seventh chapter sort à la Libya or good-ol’ fashioned UN sanctions; Nah, the Arab League will no longer stoop to such pedestrian and banal methods, in the latest Arab League summit in Sharm Al Shaikh, the one which hastily rubber-stamped the Saudi war on Yemen, Arab leaders decided to resurrect a 65-year old near-dead defense pact and form a joint military force, which was about as thoughtful and welcome a notion as a fourth Netanyahu term, to counter… the Shiite threat in Yemen; kind of makes you yearn for the not-so-distant days when Arab Summits were all about vacuous, fig-leaf statements and “strong-worded” condemnations at best and public bickering and laughable finger-pointing at worst.
To put things into proper, albeit depressing perspective; neither Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine nor America’s criminal invasion of Iraq has ever prompted Arab governments to even get near that defense pact; the GCC’s unhealthy obsession with Iran, bordering on hysteria, did.
Sectarianism is the New Black
“The Israel occupation of Palestine does not exist; it is a figment of our collective imagination. Iran is the enemy and Netanyahu and co. are allies.” that’s the only way we can reconcile ourselves with the bleak reality of the Arab world today which can be summed up in one word: Iranophopia… on Wahhabi steroids.
It’s quite telling when Netanyahu’s latest address to the Congress and the entirety of the last Arab league summit seem blurred into one big anti-Iran screed; Netanyahu could’ve made the same exact firebrand speech in Sharm Al Shaikh, steeped in anti-Iran buffoonery and short on intelligence, and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place or different… except for the number of standing ovations which I suspect would have been significantly higher than what he received from the jump-and-applaud-every-other-line U.S. Congress back in March.
So Iran… or Shiism (two interchangeable terms in GCC political discourse) is the enemy, evidently the alleged threat posed by Iran (and represented through the mere “presence” of Shiite indigenous communities in some Arab countries) supersedes the real existential threat posed by the Israeli expansionist project in Palestine (does anybody remember Palestine these days?) and beyond, notions like “Arab unity” and “Arab joint military pact”, which were constantly mocked by the monarchies of the Gulf as “wooden language” whenever they’re used in the context of the Palestine/Israel conflict, are now being used (and abused with a xenophobic fervor) by the GCC-camp only in relation to Iran.
So the GCC is perfectly fine with droves of illegal European settlers migrating all the way to Palestine, expelling Palestinians from their lands and squatting comfortably in their midst, but when it comes to indigenous Yemenis for instance, god forbid they “march towards the city of Aden”.
Pan-Arabism is for suckers; sectarianism is the new black in the Arab world… in the literal and most depressing sense of the word. The map of the Arab world has been reconfigured into areas of contending Saudi and (alleged) Iranian influence, and feuding mini-statelets laden with sectarian discord and internal bloodletting thanks only to Saudi Arabia’s growing and self-inflected paranoia against the “Shiite threat”.
Nothing makes sense in the Arab world unless put in a sectarian bracket; this is what more than ten years’ worth of a constant barrage of fear-mongering against Shiites has yielded so far; a trail of failed Arab states and conflict-ridden regions.
The Saudis (controlling the majority of media outlets in the Arab World along with the rest of the GCC) have managed to turn a minority religious sect, approximately one-fifth of the world’s Muslims if not less, into the new big bad boogeyman for the remaining majority of Muslims, and what started as laughable, clumsy attempts courtesy of the GCC at provoking friction among Muslims in the wake of Bush’s invasion of Iraq; is now a no-holds-barred sectarian confrontation engulfing the Arab world where everything from suicide bombings all the way up to F-16s goes, with Israel comfortably cheering from the sidelines, unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine, as both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide tear each other to shreds.
Speaking of Israel; “the coalition of willing… to get paid from the GCC” is taking entire pages right out of the Israeli military’s own scorched-earth playbook by carpet-bombing civilian areas, vital infrastructure, schools, hospitals, factories, dairy plants, airports, one football stadium and, on at least two occasions, refugee camps, all the while imposing a no-fly-zone (we all know how the GCC is fond of those) coupled with a draconian siege reminiscent of that forgotten Israeli blockade on Gaza, which by the way, went totally unreferenced in the final statement of the latest gung-ho Arab Summit. Collective punishment is the name of the military campaign here, a strict “disciplinary” treatment delivered via extensive aerial bombardment to keep the Yemeni population in check and obediently toeing the Saudi line. I wonder where we have seen all of this before.
The parallels between Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope and Israel’s own criminal wars on Gaza are ominously striking and equally horrid; the guilty-by-nonexistent-association doctrine, pioneered and espoused by Israel to justify its deliberate targeting of civilians by deeming all Palestinians in Gaza, including newborns and children, to be members of Hamas, was adopted with a demented zeal by the GCC in their own military misadventure in Yemen.
Thus all these ashen-faced victims of the coalition’s bombing campaign are militant “Shia Houthis”, and every charred skeleton, burned beyond recognition and crumbling in the arms of a shrieking loved one, is that of an Iranian agent’s, or so it’s reported in the callous sectarian coverage of Gulf-funded media which seem to fetishize the murder of Yemenis and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure with frenzied abandon, even the “courtesy” of at least shoving some of the nameless casualties of the air strikes under the euphemism of “Collateral Damage” is not extended to the Yemenis; just like it wasn’t extended to the Libyans when the city of Sirte was virtually flattened to the ground during Operation “Odyssey Dawn for Benghazi/Living Hell for the rest of the country”, these weren’t residential areas and universities that NATO was bombing back then we were told, but Gaddafi’s military command and control centers. In Yemen it’s Houthis’ training camps or “concentration centers”, whatever that means.
The deliberate de-Yemenization and even dehumanization of the victims of Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope is practiced on a daily basis on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya channels. Constantly referring to the victims of the bombing campaigns strictly as “Houthis”, prompting the viewer to think they’re an invasive alien breed and not indigenous people comprising almost 40% of the Yemeni population, while true Yeminis, according to the GCC, are those Hadi-supporters pathetically paraded all over Gulf-funded networks rallying in support of the Saudi airstrikes on their country.
Aljazeera Arabic TV talk-show host Faisal Al Qasem (known for his vulgar and trashy persona which makes Jerry Springer look like the paragon of classy journalism) summed up the entire sordid coverage of GCC funded media of the war on Yemen when he screamed at one of his guests; “look at the Houthis, just look at their faces… they don’t even look like us Arabs”.
Remember those leaflets with badly translated, “pseudo-apologetic” Arabic messages that the Israeli Army used to dump on Gazans before bombing the living daylights out of them with all manner of cluster ammunition and dime bombs? Well the same leaflets with the same exact clumsy messages are being dropped on Yemenis courtesy of the GCC’s coalition of the unwitting in another disgusting display of kinship verging on pathological idol-worship towards the IOF’s criminal tactics. Thus claims by Houthi rebels that the coalition is using White Phosphorous (Israel’s favorite weapon of choice) may not be that farfetched; the harrowing images trickling out of Yemen and shown on (few) Media outlets are proof positive that Yemen is being used as a test ground for GCC’s multi-billion dollar, American-made arsenal of death and destruction, including the use of internationally banned weapons.
The complete lack of subtlety in borrowing from the Israeli military’s book (of terrorism) and openly recycling its brand of criminality up to the smallest details against the Yemenis leaves no doubt that the alliance between the GCC and the Zionist entity has taken another gigantic leap forward into an all-hands-on-deck political, military and diplomatic integration.
The war on Yemen, like all wars waged on defenseless populations including Israel’s mass murdering sprees against Palestinians, is nothing but an ego boost, Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope was probably prompted by the Interim nuclear agreement Iran managed to strike with the West last month; I don’t even want to imagine how the Saudis will react if and when a full comprehensive deal is reached come June 30.
Saudi Arabia has deployed a “limited” ground force to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Sunday, officials said.
“A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way” to the southern port city, said the official who requested anonymity.
The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting an air on Yemen since March 26 but this is the first reported ground deployment inside the country. The strikes have claimed the lives of many civilians, mostly women and children.
A leading member of a militia loyal to fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, told AFP that the force “will start helping us in fighting the Houthis and (former president Ali Abdullah) Saleh’s forces”.
He said the troops will mainly back Al-Qaeda militants around the international airport, which was the focus of renewed heavy fighting overnight.
Other militia commanders confirmed that a few dozen coalition soldiers, mostly Saudis and Emiratis, were on the ground in Aden.
Coalition spokesman Ahmed Assiri had said repeatedly during the first phase that a ground intervention was on the table ‘if needed’.
Saudi Warplanes have reportedly targeted the bureau of a major TV station in Yemen as Riyadh’s illegal aggression continues to take its toll on civilians.
According to reports on Thursday, Saudi fighter jets targeted the office of the al-Masirah TV, a major broadcasting service run by the Ansarullah Houthi movement.
The TV channel is regarded as the main source of information on Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen, providing up-to-date coverage of the attacks and concomitant fatalities across the impoverished Arab country.
Meanwhile, Saudi warplanes continued to target several cities and areas in Yemen with the latest airstrikes targeting Salif air defense camp in Hudaydah, west of Yemen.
Elsewhere, in eastern Ma’rib province, Saudi warplanes launched air raids on an anti aircraft battalion. The presidential palace in Ta’izz was also pounded.
Earlier in the day, Saudi fighter jets bombarded different regions north of the capital Sana’a, while areas in the northern province of Sa’ada also came under attack.
Riyadh launched its airstrikes against Yemen on March 26 without a United Nations mandate. Saudi Arabia aims to undermine the Houthis and restore power to fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The regime’s warplanes have repeatedly targeted residential areas across the country.
On April 21, Riyadh announced the end of the first phase of its unlawful military operations, which claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people; but airstrikes have continued with Saudi bombers targeting different areas across the country in a new phase.
Official Yemeni reports say nearly 250 women and children have been killed so far.
In order to break the stalemate in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has reportedly started training hundreds of Yemeni tribesmen to fight the Houthis on the ground, while Riyadh continues its bombardment campaign.
“You cannot win a war against the Houthis from the air – you need to send ground forces in, but now there’s a program to train tribal fighters on the border,” a Doha-based military source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
According to another Yemeni official source, some 300 fighters have already managed to return to Yemen after getting Saudi training. They were allegedly sent to the Sirwah district in the central Marib province to battle Houthis in the area. According to the source the newly trained unit managed to push the Houthis back.
Saudi Arabia’s coalition spokesman failed to either confirm or deny the reports.
“We always confirm that we are helping the resistance and the popular groups, the loyal army … but we cannot go into details on where, how, how much,”Brigadier Ahmed Asseri said.
The training received by the Yemeni tribesmen in Saudi Arabia allegedly includes light weapons and tactical advice knowledge. According to another Reuters source, the Kingdom plans to boost deployment of such units to fight the Houthis resistance.
Rhiayad is reportedly gathering all tribal leaders loyal to the ousted president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia, to unite their tribal forces against those of the Houthis.
“Saudi Arabia wants to unite tribal leaders in this meeting but the feeling is that there’s not much hope for that,” a Yemeni source in Riyadh told Reuters. Apparently the tribal delegations seem more concerned battling the jihadi elements in Yemen in addition to the Houthi opposition.
“The Saudis have decided that they are going to intensify the unstable situation by providing arms to an oppositional group, a group that has been traditionally oppositional to the Houthis,” Ajamu Baraka, Middle East expert told RT.
On the ground in Yemen, the Shiite Houthi fighting force and army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are in control of central and southern areas.
The fighting is ongoing on a number of major fronts. In Aden, the Houthis are engaging tribesmen who are supported by Saudi-led air forces. In Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, Houthis are fighting the Sunni Islamist fighters. The Houthis and their allies have been also fighting both Islamists and local tribesman in Marib and in Shabwa provinces.
The forces in Yemen which Saudi Arabia is arming can turn jihadi, Baraka says, as they have some “traditional, Whabis, Islamic leanings,” which is the “main ideological, Islamic foundation for Al Qaeda.”
“The only force that is gaining as a consequence of this conflict is in fact Al-Qaeda,” he went on to stress.
Meanwhile, the airstrikes continued throughout the country on Wednesday, targeting Houthi forces in Aden, Saada, Hajja, Taiz, Ibb and Bayda.
Amid constant shelling by the Saudi-led coalition, Yemen is struggling to import even essentials such as food and water, with a UN-imposed arms blockade on Houthi fighters interrupting any deliveries to the country.
Speaking at UN Security Council closed-door consultations on the crisis in Yemen, the United Nations envoy to Yemen warned that UN arms embargo targeting the Houthis is having a collateral impact on aid deliveries.
“Implementation of the new targeted arms embargo … could inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian assistance to Yemen, including food, fuel and medical supplies,” Jamal Benomar told reporters after the briefing.
Around 10 vessels containing food supplies for Yemen are still waiting to enter the country’s ports, as many Yemeni sea outlets are now being cut off by Saudis who refuse to allow any international vessels to dock in Houthi-controlled areas.
According to the UN, the number includes three ships awaiting clearance at Hodeida, with one carrying 13,500 tonnes of rice. Another six ships carrying fuel, corn and construction products are awaiting clearance from the coalition to dock at the nearby Salifa port.
Yemen which imports more than 90 percent of its food, mainly by sea, has been struggling to feed the population for weeks. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that at least five merchant ships were not allowed to pass. Only two or three of those vessels have been able to offload their cargo, ship tracking data and shipping sources told Reuters.
“Ships with wheat need to wait up to five days for permission to enter. Several seem to be delayed,” a German commodities trade source told the news agency.
Aid deliveries have also been hindered by the Saudis who have now been engaging the Houthi forces from the air for over a month now.
Two Iranian cargo planes headed for Yemen were forced to turn back by Saudi Arabia last week. On Friday Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s chargé d’affaires in Tehran to express its protest over the move.
“We consider all options for helping the Yemeni people and immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid and transfer of the injured,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Sunday.
The food that does eventually enter the war-torn country is being moved slowly around Yemen as shortages of fuel continues, United Nations’ World Food Programme said.
With a price tag of $10 per liter of petrol, hospitals are suffering the worst, with the UN humanitarian agency OCHA warning that fuel supplies to generate powers will dwindle for one more week before running out in two weeks time.
Prices for wheat products have also skyrocketed in the country and have risen by more than 40 percent since February. Medicine prices have risen by more than 300 percent, the UN said.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, humanitarian agencies said on Monday, as over 12 million people need help, according to UN figures.
“It was difficult enough before, but now there are just no words for how bad it’s gotten,” said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Marie Claire Feghali. “It’s a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe.”
The lack of safe drinking water supply is also becoming a widespread problem in Yemen, a country of vast sand dunes and dessert.
“There’s a consensus on water sharing across the Middle East – since water is generally pretty scarce there. President Hadi cut the water budget by 70 percent and that was one of the many decisions that created the sentiment against him,” Danny Makki of the Syrian Youth Movement, told RT.
Meanwhile Yemen’s exiled government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared three areas in Yemen as “disaster” zone. Yemeni Human Rights Minister Izzedine al-Asbahi proclaimed that fighting in the country has “turned Yemen back 100 years,” due to the destruction of infrastructure. Provinces of Aden, Dhalea and Taiz, have suffered the most, al-Asbahi told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Since the Saudi-led bombings started on March 26, more than 1,000 people, including an estimated 551 civilians have been killed, the United Nations said last week. UNICEF said at least 115 children were among the dead.
“The impact on civilians is the major concern – a bombing campaign has been happening for over a month, and a hundred of killed civilians are children,” Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch told RT.
Commenting on Monday’s UN Security Council meeting, Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin said that the warring parties have agreed on some measures in resolving the conflict.
“They [the warring parties in Yemen] agreed on a whole series of arrangements for settling the political crisis. The only remaining issue was the way the collective leadership would be structured,” Churkin told reporters.
Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said the first phase of the campaign, codenamed operation Decisive Storm, had achieved all of its goals and was concluded. The new phase, operation Restoring Hope, was announced with a focus on diplomacy, but didn’t rule out new airstrikes. Less than 24 hours later, airstrikes resumed with fighting continuing until this day.
The recently resigned UN envoy to Yemen says Yemeni political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Sana’a.
Jamal Benomar told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that Riyadh’s military campaign derailed the negotiations between Yemeni warring parties aimed at forming a unity government, which would have included Houthi Ansarullah fighters.
“When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,” said Benomar, who spearheaded the negotiations until he resigned last week.
Benomar resigned on April 15 due to sharp criticism from Saudi Arabia and its allies for what they called his little success in influencing the political scene in Yemen in their favor.
Saudi Arabia launched its air campaign against Yemen on March 26 – without a United Nations mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to former fugitive President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
However, the Ansarullah movement later said Hadi had lost his legitimacy as president of Yemen after he escaped the capital, Sana’a, to Aden in February.
On March 25, the ex-president fled the southern city of Aden, where he had sought to set up a rival power base, to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after popular committees, backed by Ansarullah revolutionaries, advanced on Aden.
The Ansarullah fighters took control of the Yemeni capital in September 2014. The revolutionaries said Hadi’s government was incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and containing the growing wave of corruption and terror.
Benomar said that Houthi fighters had agreed to withdraw from the cities they were controlling under the deal that had been taking shape, and that the UN had worked out details of a new government force to replace them.
In exchange, Western-backed fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi would have been part of an executive body that would run the country temporarily, Benomar said.
The Houthis had agreed to that reduced role for Hadi until Riyadh launched its military aggression against Yemen, he said, adding this led to the Houthis’ opposition to any role for Hadi in government.
“A very detailed agreement was being worked out, but there was one important issue on which there was no agreement, and that was what to do with the presidency,” Benomar said, adding “We were under no illusion that implementation of this would be easy.”
Benomar is scheduled to address the UN Security Council behind closed doors on Monday and to report on the suspended political talks in Yemen.
On Friday, former Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh urged all sides involved in the conflict in the impoverished country, including the Ansarullah fighters and forces loyal to Hadi, to “return to dialogue,” adding that he was ready to reconcile with all Yemeni political factions.
The 73-year-old former Yemeni leader, who stepped down in February 2012, further called on the army and security forces to come under the control of local authorities in each province.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pushes ahead with its deadly air raids against neighboring Yemen.
According to latest figures released by the World Health Organization, the death toll from the violence in Yemen since late March has exceeded 1,000.