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House GOP Seeks to Curb Yemen War

By Dennis J Bernstein | Consortium News | July 26, 2017

Republicans are taking the lead in blocking U.S. participation in the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, which has plunged that country to the brink of starvation and sparked a cholera epidemic. Surprising to many, there was a vote by the Republican-led House of Representatives to block U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war.

The key amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — prohibiting U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of Yemen — was sponsored by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio. Though the amendment gained bipartisan support — and another restrictive amendment was sponsored by Rep. Dick Nolan, D-Minnesota — the Republican leadership on this issue reflects the changing places in which Democrats have become the more hawkish party in Congress.

I spoke to Kate Gould, Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation about this pressing issue of life and death in Yemen. We spoke on July 17.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, this is a terrible situation and getting worse by the day. Could you please remind everyone what it looks like in Yemen on the ground?

Kate Gould: It is a catastrophic situation. According to the United Nations, it is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now. And despite the fact that this humanitarian crisis has been a direct result of the Saudi/United Arab Emirate-led war in Yemen, backed by the United States, most Americans have no idea that we are so deeply involved in this war.

A conservative estimate is that seven million people are on the verge of starvation, half a million being children. The people in Yemen are experiencing the world’s largest cholera outbreak. A child under the age of five is dying every ten minutes of preventable causes. Every 35 seconds a child is infected.

This is all preventable with access to clean water and basic sanitation. This war has destroyed the civilian infrastructure in Yemen. We’re talking about air strikes that have targeted warehouses of food, sanitation systems, water infiltration systems. The World Health Organization points out that cholera is not difficult to prevent. The problem is that so many Yemenis lack access to clean water as a result of the infrastructure being in ruins.

DB: What about the medical infrastructure, what about the ability to deal with this kind of epidemic, or is it just going to get worse?

KG: Well, unless we do something to change the situation, it is definitely going to get worse. In Yemen, 90% of food is imported and the Saudis have made this much more difficult. They imposed more restraints on one of the major ports and have refused to allow Yemen to repair the damage caused by air strikes. Often it is difficult for ships to get permission to berth. All these complications have driven up the price of food so that even when food manages to be imported it is too expensive, even for those earning decent incomes. So what we are seeing is a de facto blockade as well as a war.

DB: Could you say a few words about the campaign of the Saudi military and what kind of weaponry they are using? Later I would like to discuss US support for all of this.

KG: The Saudi-led war began about two and a half years ago in March, 2015. At that time they asked for US support and got it from the Obama administration. The air campaign has resulted in the carpet bombing of Yemen. It is the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates who have been driving this massive bombardment. There has been an all-out assault on civilians and civilian infrastructure.

And, of course, as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has pointed out, the Saudis would not have been able to carry out this bombing without full US support. Their planes cannot fly without US refueling capacity. In fact, since October the US has actually doubled the amount of fuel it provides to Saudi and Emirati bombers. Last October is significant because at that time there was a major bombing of mourners coming out of a funeral hall which killed about 140 civilians and wounded another six hundred. Since that atrocity, the US has doubled its refueling support.

DB: How does the US justify its support for the Saudis, from a human rights perspective?

KG: We’ve heard very little discussion of the human rights angle from the Trump administration. The Obama administration claimed to be pressuring the Saudis to take precautions to prevent civilian casualties, that this is why the US has provided precision-guided smart bombs, to limit civilian casualties. There has never been an official US response to the fact that the Saudis and Emiratis are deliberately pushing millions to the verge of starvation. They are using hunger as a political tool to get better leverage on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. This is really what is driving the humanitarian nightmare.

DB: We know that Trump was just in Saudi Arabia and signed a massive weapons contract. Will this weaponry contribute to the coming famine and cholera epidemic?

KG: Certainly. It is providing the Saudis a blank check for this devastating war in which direct casualties from airstrikes are conservatively estimated at around 10,000 and millions of people have been displaced. It sends the message that the United States is willing to support the Saudis despite massive human rights violations.

DB: There is no way the US or the Saudis can deny the tragedy. This has been thoroughly documented by US and international rights groups.

KG: But what they will often say is that a lot of the fault lies with the Houthi rebel groups. And it is certainly true that the Houthi rebels have committed massive human rights violations. But as far as the mass devastation of public infrastructure is concerned, which is leading to the humanitarian crisis, the majority of the blame can be assigned to the Saudi-led war and the US backing.

Repeatedly, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, responding to the scene of unlawful airstrikes against civilian targets, have found either unexploded US-made bombs or identifiable fragments of US bombs. This was the case with the bombing of the funeral procession last October. Still, the US government claims that it is trying to limit civilian casualties.

DB: It is interesting that the Republican-led House has voted to block US participation in the war in Yemen. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

KG: It is definitely surprising. Although I’ve been working around the clock on this recently, even I was surprised. What happened is that last week [week of July 9] the House of Representatives voted on the major military policy bill for fiscal year 2018. This is a major piece of national security legislation which authorizes funding for the Pentagon. It has to get passed every year and it provides an opportunity for members to vote on amendments that have to do with national security.

Two of these amendments were particularly consequential for Yemen. One was introduced by a Republican, Warren Davidson of Ohio, and the other by Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Minnesota. They added language that would require the Trump administration to stop providing refueling for Saudi and Emirati bombers, as well as to stop intelligence sharing and other forms of military support. It wouldn’t stop the weapons sales, which is another process, but it would stop military support for this indiscriminate war.

The Davidson amendment would prohibit US military action in Yemen that is not authorized by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Given that US participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen is not targeting Al-Qaeda, it is not authorized by the 2001 AUMF and is prohibited by this amendment. The Nolan amendment prohibits the deployment of US troops for any participation in Yemen’s civil war.

This means that the House just voted to end US funding of our military for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This is really unprecedented and it builds on the wave of congressional momentum that we saw last month when 47 senators voted against sending more of what we call “weapons of mass starvation” to Yemen. So we have clear signals from both the House and the Senate that there is no support for Trump’s blank check to Saudi Arabia for this devastating war.

DB: So now this goes to the Senate?

KG: Yes, and there we are going to face a more difficult fight. We’re preparing for that now. We definitely will see some important Yemen votes in the Senate. It could come up right after a health care vote in early August or it might not be voted on until the fall. But we will see votes on Yemen. It is unclear whether a Senate member will offer amendments similar to the Davidson or Nolan amendments.

Yemeni capital of Sanaa, Oct. 9, 2015 (Wikipedia)

After the Senate votes on the various amendments, they will both have versions of this and they will have to come back and conference a final version to send to the president. This is definitely a time to push our senators to follow suit with the House and oppose US involvement in this devastating war in Yemen.

DB: Finally, who are some of these Republican Congressional members who stood up in this effort to restrain this oncoming famine? Who were some of the surprise votes?

KG: Actually, this was added in a whole block of legislation so we can’t point to exactly who supported and who opposed it. It was good to see Warren Davidson taking a leadership role on this issue. He is relatively new in the Senate, having taken [Former House Speaker John] Boehner’s seat. It is noteworthy also that the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry from Texas, allowed this amendment to go forward. Just that the House Republican leadership allowed this to move forward is really interesting in itself.

DB: Yes, it is. It seems to me that the Democrats have really become out-of-control Cold Warriors, either lost in Russia-gate or dropping the ball on this very important foreign policy issue. We thank you, Kate Gould, Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

KG: And I just want to say that we can win on this one and we need everybody to get involved. You can go to our website, fcnl.org, to get more information. Again, 47 Senators voted last month to block these bomb sales and we only need 51 votes. And with Trump’s massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia, I’m sure we will have more votes on this. But it is really important to stay engaged and we need everybody to get involved and contact your members of Congress.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Made in the West: New era of global famine thanks to war and chaos

By Dan Glazebrook | RT | July 16, 2017

The famines threatening many parts of the world today have one thing in common: Western aggression and destabilization.

In February of this year, the world’s first famine in six years was officially declared in South Sudan. A month later, the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien warned the Security Council that three other countries – Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria – also stood on the brink of famine, with 20 million at risk of starving to death within months.

The world, he said, was now “facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.” Unless $4.4billion in emergency funds was raised by the end of March, warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 20 million would likely starve to death. When the deadline was reached, he had received less than a tenth of that, a paltry $423 million.

The amount raised has increased since then but stands at little above one-third of the target. It is almost certain not to be met, with donations dropping sharply since mid-May.

For context, the New York Times helpfully pointed out that $4.4 billion is almost the same amount Britain has made selling weapons to Saudi Arabia in the past two years – most of which have been used against the famine-stricken Yemenis, and less than 10 percent of the $54 billion in additional spending Donald Trump pledged for the US military.

Yemen was in the news again this week, twice. First the announcement by the Red Cross that cholera cases in Yemen have now reached 300,000. Then came the ruling by Britain’s High Court – choosing to believe private government assurances over volumes of first-hand eyewitness accounts – that the UK government’s arming of the vicious Saudi war against the Yemeni people is perfectly above board. These two declarations are not unrelated. For it is precisely Britain’s proxy war against Yemen that has led to the medieval levels of famine and disease now sweeping the country.

In October 2015, the head of the International Red Cross wrote that “Yemen after five months looks Syria after five years.” Today, according to Save the Children, one Yemeni child is infected with cholera every 35 seconds. This epidemic comes hot on the heels of a dengue fever outbreak, which the World Health Organization struggled to control due to the “near collapse of the health system,” and “disruption of water supplies” resulting from the Western-supplied bombing campaign. Hospitals have regularly been bombed. Following Philip Hammond’s justification of bombing raids on three Yemeni hospitals in as many months, the MSF warned that targeting hospitals was now becoming the “new normal.”

The bombing of hospitals and grain distribution centers, however, is just part of the story of the West’s genocide against the Yemeni people. Yemen is dependent on imports for more than 80 percent of its fuel, food, and medicine, and 70 percent of these imports come through the Huydadeh port. This port was bombed in August 2015 by the Saudi-led coalition and has been blockaded ever since, directly creating the current situation in which 21 million suffer food shortages, including seven million facing famine. As the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions has noted, this blockade is “one of the main causes of the humanitarian catastrophe,” helping to lead to what he called “this man-made famine.” Needless to say, this blockade – along with every aspect of the Saudi genocide in the Yemen – is fully supported by the US and Britain.

Yemen is not the only place where Western policy is leading to famine.

This week marks the sixth anniversary of the independence of South Sudan. For the second year in a row, the planned celebrations have been canceled because, in the midst of starvation and civil war, there is nothing to celebrate.

The country’s descent into famine was officially announced on 20th February this year, with 100,000 starving and a further one million on the brink of starvation. The established criteria for a famine are that 20 percent of a population must be suffering “extreme food shortages,” 30 percent suffering acute malnutrition, and at least one per 5,000 dying each day. While those criteria are no longer being met; acute hunger has now reached six million, up from five million in February – over half the population. As in Yemen, this is a crisis of biblical proportions. As in Yemen, it is man-made. And, as in Yemen, it is the thoroughly predictable outcome of Western militarism.The US and Britain were instrumental in the partition of Sudan in 2011, and it is precisely this partition which has bequeathed the country’s current tragedy. Just as in Libya, in the same year, a loose coalition of rebels with no unified program was effectively placed in power by Western largesse. And just as in Libya, the inevitable collapse of this coalition has brought total devastation to the country.

The Southern People’s Liberation Movement was formed by rebel army colonel John Garang in 1983, and in the 1990s, under Clinton, the US began pouring millions of dollars into the insurgent movement. Although formally an uprising against the government in Khartoum, it has often relied on an appeal to ethnic chauvanism to galvanize support. According to former national committee member Dr. Peter Nyaba, for example, the movement’s very first mobilization “that took more than ten thousand Bor youth to SPLA training camps in 1983 was not for the national agenda of liberation but to settle local scores with their neighbors, the Murles or the Nuers.” Similarly, Riek Machar’s faction of the SPLM, based mainly within the Nuer community, conducted a massacre of thousands of Dinka civilians in 1991. Dr. Nyaba argues that political training was neglected in favor of, often very brutal, military training, leading to often horrific excesses against the population under their control. After liberating a particular area, said Nyaba, the movement should have instituted “democratic reforms: a popular justice system, a new system of education, health and veterinary services.” Such a move, he says, “would have given the SPLM the opportunity to prove itself to the people and the world and, therefore, to build a solid popular power base making the SPLM/A the authentic representative of the people…the ‘New Sudan’ would have been born in the physical and objective reality of the people, allowing the SPLM/A to acquire political sovereignty and diplomatic recognition.” These, indeed, are the normal steps taken by genuinely successful revolutionary movements the world over. But this is not what happened. Rather, says Nyaba, the SPLM “denigrated into an agent of plunder, pillage and destructive conquest.” It was at precisely this point that the US began funding the movement, with the initial $20 million provided by Clinton soon expanding to $100 million per year under Bush’s satirically-named “Sudan Peace Act” of 2002.

Just as in Libya, the impact of such US largesse has been to enable insurgent groups to achieve their aims without providing the visionary leadership or mass organizational skills necessary to galvanize genuine mass support. Put simply; US support has rendered mass support unnecessary. Genuine revolutions – that is, revolutions attained primarily through the efforts of the masses themselves, rather than through pressure applied by external patrons – can only succeed with a visionary program capable of winning the total commitment of the masses. In South Sudan, the SPLM, thanks to US support, were able to come to power without this. The long-term impact of this lack of popular, inspirational leadership has been an ideological vacuum into which have poured power struggles over patronage and resource networks.

Confident of external support, the SPLM – and its leader since Garang’s death in 2005, Salva Kiir – had no pressing need to win the support of all the tribes of the South. Without Western funding, Kiir would have to have reached out to the Nuer and the Murle and the other non-Dinka groups to secure enough support to force concessions from Sudan’s government. Had he done so, on the basis of a genuine mass program capable of galvanizing all the peoples of southern Sudan on a non-ethnic basis, this very program would have formed the basis of a viable unity government following independence. However, confident of US backing, Kiir had no need to develop any of this. Instead, his clear patronage from the US enabled him to impose a false unity on his Nuer and Shilik rivals, in which his proximity to the US alone was enough to force them to fall in line if they did not want to be completely excluded from the power and the money coming his way. Political struggles for mass support were to be eclipsed by factional rivalries over who would control the flow of resources.The same pattern has continued after independence. Assuming, correctly, US support would continue to flow, President Kiir has had no particular need to endear himself to those outside his primary Dinka constituency, even going so far as to sack his Nuer deputy Riek Machar in 2013, triggering the latest round of civil war. This latest round of war has taken on particularly nasty ethnic dimensions, as the SPLM’s rival factions, for years bound together by US dollars rather than by a genuine program of unity, unravels.

While Yemen’s near-famine was caused by the Western-directed bombing and blockade of that country, then, South Sudan’s actual famine is the result of years of proxy war funded by the West and the disastrous partition it produced. The situation in Nigeria is also a result of war, in this case, the Boko Haram insurgency – an insurgency which owes its massive spread in recent years directly to the NATO destruction of Libya, which opened up the country’s weapons dumps to Boko Haram and its partners. Have no doubt, the latest wave of famine is thus a direct by-product of Western aggression – creating another 20 million victims for whom US and British governments must be brought to justice.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Most Britons oppose UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia: Poll

Press TV – July 16, 2017

A majority of the British public believes the UK must end arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its large-scale slaughter of civilians in Yemen, according to a new poll.

An exclusive poll conducted by BMG Research for The Independent has found that 58 percent of people say it is wrong for Britain to supply billions of pounds of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The poll also shows that 64 percent of the public want the government of Prime Minister Theresa May to release a suppressed report into Saudi Arabia’s funding of extremism in Britain, even if it damages relations with Riyadh.

On Wednesday, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd cited national security reasons for not publishing a report commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron that shows the majority of foreign funding for extremism in the UK came from Saudi Arabia.

The survey underscores the public’s deep concern about the UK’s close relationship with an autocracy embroiled in a devastating war in Yemen.

The UK has licensed 3.3 billion pounds worth of weapons since the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen in March 2015.

The United Nations and other international organizations have accused the Saudi-led coalition of bombing hospitals, schools and wedding parties in Yemen.

The UN has declared Yemen a “humanitarian catastrophe,” with sanitation systems destroyed and at least 300,000 people infected with cholera.

The opposition to weapons sales has extended into the government, with key Conservative lawmakers thought to be debating privately for arms sales to be halted.

“This just shows how fast the Conservatives are moving away from public opinion,” said Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat lawmaker. “Instead of giving the Saudis a stern talking to, ministers are flogging them arms.”

Last week, the UK High Court ruled that London’s weapons sales to Riyadh are not against the law.

The ruling came despite the judges conclusion that there was “a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the [Saudi-led] coalition committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”.

Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since March 2015 in a bid to restore Yemen’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a Riyadh ally, to power. Yemen’s crisis began after Hadi stepped down as president and refused to negotiate power-sharing with the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Yemen: Court Battle Exposes UK-Saudi Arms Deals And Humanitarian Tragedy

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | July 14, 2017

On Monday 10th July, a ruling was handed down by London’s High Court, which should, in a sane world, exclude the UK government ever again judging other nations’ leaders human rights records or passing judgment on their possession or use of weapons.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) lost their case to halt the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the case based on the claim that they may have been used to kill civilians in Yemen.

Anyone following the cataclysmic devastation of Yemen would think it was a million to one that the £3.3 Billion worth of arms sold by the UK to Saudi in just two years, had not been used to kill civilians, bomb hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, decimate vital and economic infrastructure and all necessary to sustain life.

In context, a survey released by the Yemen Data Project in September last year found that between March 2015 and August 2016 in more than 8,600 air attacks, 3,158 hit non-military targets.

How casual the slaughter is, Saudi pilots (as their British and US counterparts) apparently do not even know what they are aiming at. So much for “surgical strikes” – as ever:

Where it could not be established whether a location attacked was civilian or military, the strikes were classified as unknown, of which there are 1,882 incidents.

All those “unknown” killed had a name, plans, dreams, but as in all Western backed, funded or armed ruinations “it is not productive” to count the dead, as an American General memorably stated of fellow human beings.

In context, the survey found that:

One school building in Dhubab, Taiz governorate, has been hit nine times … A market in Sirwah, Marib governorate, has been struck 24 times.

Commenting on the survey, the UK’s shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, said:

It’s sickening to think of British-built weapons being used against civilians and the government has an absolute responsibility to do everything in its power to stop that from happening. But as Ministers turn a blind eye to the conflict … evidence that Humanitarian Law has been violated is becoming harder to ignore by the day.

Forty six percent of Yemen’s 26.83 million population are under fifteen years old. The trauma they are undergoing cannot be imagined.

The original CAAT Court hearing which took place was a Judicial Review in to the legality of the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi, held on 7th, 8th and 10th of February in the High Court.

CAAT stated, relating to the case:

For more than two years the government has refused to stop its immoral and illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of International Humanitarian Law in Yemen.

They also quoted Parliament’s International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, who opined in October 2016:

Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria. (Emphasis added.)

UK supplied arms since the onset of the assault on Yemen are:

£2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)

£1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles,

countermeasures)

£430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks.)

Contacting CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith I queried what “countermeasures” might be (point two.) He said technically, protective items.  However:

CAAT feels that the overwhelming majority will be bombs and missiles including those being used on Yemen.

On 5th June CAAT had pointed out some further glaring anomalies:

The last two months have seen three terrible terrorist attacks carried out in the UK. The attacks were the responsibility of those that have carried them out, and they have been rightly condemned.

However:

Last week it was revealed by the Guardian that the Home Office may not publish a Report into the funding of terrorism in the UK. It is believed that the Report will be particularly critical of Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Smith commented:

Only two months ago the Prime Minster was in Riyadh trying to sell weapons to the Saudi regime, which has some of the most abusive laws in the world. This toxic relationship is not making anyone safer, whether in the UK or in Yemen, where UK arms are being used with devastating results.

Nevertheless:

Delivering an open judgment in the High Court in London, Lord Justice Burnett, who heard the case with Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave, said: “We have concluded that the material decisions of the Secretary of State were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim”.

CAAT called the ruling a “green light” for the UK government to sell arms to “brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers”.

Interestingly, in increasingly fantasy-democracy-land UK:

The Court (also handed down) a closed judgment, following a case in which half of the evidence was heard in secret on national security grounds.

What a wonderful catch-all is “national security.”

Moreover:

UK and EU arms sales rules state that export licences cannot be granted if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the equipment could be used to break International Humanitarian Law. Licences are signed off by the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox. (Emphasis added.)

Mind stretching!

So the oversight of what constitutes a “clear risk” of mass murder and humanitarian tragedy, goes to the Minister whose Ministry stands to make £ Billions from the arms sales. Another from that bulging: “You could not make this up” file.

‘The case … included uncomfortable disclosures for the government, including documents in which the Export Policy Chief told the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, then in charge of licensing: “my gut tells me we should suspend (weapons exports to the country).”

‘Documents obtained by the Guardian showed that the UK was preparing to suspend exports after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen in October 2016 killed 140 civilians. But even after that mass murder, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, advised Fox that sales should continue, adding: “The ‘clear risk’ threshold for refusal … has not yet been reached.”

For anyone asleep at the wheel, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is supposed to be the UK’s chief diplomat. Definition: “a person who can deal with others in a sensitive and tactful way. Synonyms: Tactful person, conciliator, reconciler, peacemaker.” Comment redundant.

‘CAAT presented “many hundreds of pages” of reports from the UN, European Parliament, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and others documenting airstrikes on schools, hospitals and a water well in Yemen, as well as incidents of mass civilian casualties.’

However, to further batter the mind:

The reports “represent a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the coalition has committed serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, the Judges wrote. “However, this open source material is only part of the picture”.

In two eye-watering fox guarding hen house observations:

The Saudi government had conducted its own investigations into allegations of concern, the judges noted, dismissing CAAT’s concern that the Saudi civilian casualty tracking unit was working too slowly and had only reported on 5% of the incidents. The Kingdom’s “growing efforts” were “of significance and a matter which the Secretary of State was entitled to take into account” when deciding whether British weapons might be used to violate international humanitarian law.

So Saudi investigates itself and the Secretary of State overviews his own actions in the State profiting in £ Billions from seemingly indiscriminate mass murder and destruction.

There was “anxious scrutiny – indeed what seems like anguished scrutiny at some stages” within government of the decision to continue granting licences, wrote the Judges. But the Secretary of State was “rationally entitled” to decide that the Saudi-led coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians and was making efforts to improve its targeting processes, and so to continue granting licences.

Pinch yourselves, Dear Readers, it would seem we live in times of the oversight in the land of the seriously deranged.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith, said:

This is a very disappointing verdict and we are pursuing an appeal. If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed.

The case had exposed the UK’s “toxic relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday 12th July, UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd again invoked “national security” (something Yemenis can only dream of in any context) and presented Parliament with a paltry four hundred and thirty word “summary” of the Report on the funding of terrorism, origins of which go back to December 2015.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott encapsulated the thoughts of many, telling Parliament:

 … there is a strong suspicion this Report is being suppressed to protect this government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia. The only way to allay those suspicions is to publish the report in full.

Caroline Lucas, co-Leader of the Green Party said:

The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from – leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Fallon condemned the refusal of the government to publish the Report as: “utterly shameful.”

Amber Rudd concentrated on pointing to individuals and organisations which might be donating, often unknowingly to: “ … inadvertently supporting extremist individuals or organisations.”

Peanuts compared to UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s appeal is to go back to the High Court and “If it fails, will go to the Court of Appeal” states Andrew Smith.

It also transpires that Saudi has dropped British made cluster bombs in Yemen, despite the UK being signatory to the 2008 Ottawa Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use, or assistance with their use. The Scottish National Party said it was a: “shameful stain on the UK’s foreign policy and its relationship with Saudi Arabia, as well as a failure by this government to uphold its legal treaty obligations”.

Final confirmation that the British government’s relations with Saudi over Arms and Yemen lies somewhere between duplicity and fantasy would seem to be confirmed in an interview with Crispin Blunt, MP., former army officer and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

In spite of the legal anomalies and humanitarian devastation, he assured the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse that the Saudis were “rigorous” in making sure there were no breaches of international law and adopted the sort of high standard of the British army.

In that case, the cynic might conclude, given the devastation caused by the British army in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps it is not only arms and money that are the ties that bind the two countries, but scant regard for humanity itself.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)

July 14, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Message from the High Court: Carry on Arming The Saudis (And Never Mind the Slaughter in Yemen)

Campaign Against Arms Trade 8628d

Campaigners are furious with a High Court decision in London allowing the UK Government to carry on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia for use against Yemenis
By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | July 13, 2017

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) brought the legal action against the Secretary of State for International Trade for continuing to grant export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia, arguing that this was against UK policy, which states that the government must refuse such licences if there’s a clear risk that the arms might be used to commit serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

It is undeniable that Saudi forces have used UK-supplied weaponry to violate International Humanitarian Law in their war on Yemen. According to the United Nations, well over 10,000 people have been killed, the majority by the Saudi-led bombing campaign which has also destroyed vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and contributed to the cholera crisis. 3 million Yemenis have been displaced from their homes and 7 million are on the brink of dying from famine. UNICEF reports that a child is dying in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable causes including starvation and malnourishment.

A crippling naval blockade of the country by the US has been key to the cruel onslaught. The European Parliament and numerous humanitarian NGOs have condemned the Saudi air strikes as unlawful. And 18 months ago a UN Panel of Experts accused Saudi forces of “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians.

Yet the UK has licensed £3.3 billions worth of arms such as aircraft, helicopters, drones, missiles, grenades, bombs and armoured vehicles to the Saudi regime and refused to suspend the supply of  weaponry for use in Yemen in the face of the horrors perpetrated. It is claimed that the Government has even ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and that some records of expressed concern have gone missing.

So who is the UK’s helping hand behind that vile regime’s murderous adventure in the Yemen? Why, it’s none other that senior Israel stooge Dr Liam Fox, now Secretary of State for International Trade and the lead on trade and investment in the defence and security sector. He of course oversees export licensing.  He also has ‘form’ when it comes to thinking silly thoughts and doing stupid things in the foreign affairs arena, and he’s known as a crazed flag-waver for Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran.

While Secretary of State for Defence, Fox told us: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”

Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011 following the scandal involving him, his ‘close friend’ Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel, and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.

The reason for the British government’s hostility towards Iran was spelled out by David Cameron in a speech to the Knesset in 2014: “A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world not just Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.” That position carries forward into the present day.

And in June 2015 Fox declared: “It is logical to assume that Iran’s intentions are to develop a nuclear weapons capability and any claims that its intentions are exclusively peaceful should not be regarded as credible… Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be seen outside the context of its support for terror proxies, arguably the defining feature of its foreign policy. The risks are clear.”

What he omitted to say was that Iran’s intentions must also be seen in the context of Israel’s foreign policy, its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the grave threat posed by the Zionist regime’s 200 (or is it 400?) nuclear warheads. Israel hasn’t signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either, and has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, likewise the Chemical Weapons Convention. Iran and all the other nations in the region have every right to feel nervous.

As is well known, Israel and Saudi Arabia have formed a cosy alliance. No entities deserve each other more. And Britain will do anything, it seems, to get at Iran through these repulsive ‘friends’.

Instead of dangling from a lamp-post on Tower Bridge, Fox was quickly rehabilitated and re-promoted to senior office by fellow stooges like Theresa May. Just lately prime minister May has accused Iran of working with Hezbollah, interfering in Iraq, sending fighters to Syria to help Assad, and supporting the Houthis in the conflict in Yemen. The British Government, of course, can meddle where it pleases and do dirty weapons deals with the Saudis which, Mrs May assures us, are for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. “Gulf security is our security,” she says, arguing that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe.

Toxic relationship with Saudi Arabia exposed

So how did Fox manage to defeat the campaigners in court? After all, as Rosa Curling of Leigh Day (acting for CAAT) said, “The law is clear: where there is a clear risk that UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arm sales cannot go ahead.

“Nothing in the open evidence presented by the UK government to the court suggests this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real…. Our government should not be allowing itself to be complicit in the grave violations of law taking place by the Saudi coalition in Yemen.”

Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law….

“This case has seen an increased scrutiny of the government’s toxic relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is a relationship that more than ever needs to be examined and exposed. For decades the UK has been complicit in the oppression of Saudi people, and now it is complicit in the destruction of Yemen.”

Rachel Sylvester in The Times noted that the judges concluded there was “a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the [Saudi-led] coalition committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, but the ruling was based on a narrow legal point about whether ministers had followed proper procedures and acted rationally in assessing the risks.

“Whatever the result of the legal process,” she wrote, “it’s time for the government to reconsider Britain’s poisonous relationship with Saudi Arabia, starting with the suspension of arms sales to a country that stands accused of appalling human rights abuses within its own borders as well as the funding of extremism abroad. What is UK foreign policy for if not the promotion of this country’s values around the world?”

And, as she points out, last year the UK committed £85 million to the aid effort in Yemen, making the Department for International Development the fourth largest donor to the crisis.

So, just as we pour £millions of aid into the Palestinian Territories to subsidise the illegal Israeli occupation while at the same time supplying the regime in Tel Aviv with arms to sustain its occupation, we are spending all this taxpayers’ money in Yemen to clean up the mess we’re helping the Saudis to make.

Secret evidence favours the evil

Fox succeeded thanks to ‘closed sessions’. This meant that CAAT and their legal team weren’t allowed to see much of what was presented by the Government, which could only be examined by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

The secret evidence is said to have included Saudi Arabia’s “fast-jet operational reporting data”, “high-resolution MoD-sourced imagery” and “UK defence intelligence reports and battle damage assessments”. The MoD and Foreign Office analysis had “all the hallmarks of a rigorous and robust, multi-layered process of analysis” while the evidence presented by the campaigners was “only part of the picture”. The Court said the secret evidence could not be referred to in open court for reasons of “national security”.

But what has all the MoD’s high-faluting technical tosh to do with justice? Or the basic concept of right and wrong? An especially International Humanitarian Law?

And our national security? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the slaughter must go on in that distant land…

Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardenier suggested in the House of Commons that the “secret” evidence should be made available to MPs for scrutiny “on privy council terms” or handed to the Intelligence and Security Select Committee. Sounds reasonable enough.

But Fox is reported saying: “This idea that somehow, if we have closed sessions, that makes the judgment less valid, I simply don’t accept. Because I don’t accept this idea that we simply can’t have closed sessions that protect our national security or the personnel involved in our national security. Our sources need to be protected.”

Yeah, and so do Yemeni civilians…. from us.

He admitted that “Yemen is indeed a humanitarian disaster” but said it was right to keep selling arms to Saudi Arabia. He may have won the legal point – for now. But he has clearly lost his moral compass, if he ever had one.

As Rachel Sylvester remarks, “So craven is the Whitehall establishment that the government has refused to publish a report on the foreign funding of terrorism, for fear of annoying its Saudi friends.”

*(London, UK. 11th July, 2016. Human rights campaigners dressed as Grim Reapers protest against the Farnborough International arms fair, and in particular against arms sales to Saudi Arabia used in human rights abuses in Yemen, at Waterloo station. Image credit: Campaign Against Arms Trade/ flickr).

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Saudi-Israeli Alliance

By Abdel Bari Atwan | YemenExtra | July 9, 2017

Riyadh (YE) – The evolving relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia is set to become a key feature of regional politics in the forthcoming phase. This goes beyond the creeping normalization of relations between the two sides and the holding of discreet contacts, to the formation of an undeclared but far-reaching alliance.

Retired Saudi general Anwar al-Eshki shed some light on this in an interview last week on the German TV channel Deutsche Welle, in which he provided insights into a number of unexplained issues: most importantly, why Saudi Arabia has been so adamant about getting the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir transferred from Egypt’s sovereignty to its own as quickly a possible.

Eshki made clear that once Saudi Arabia assumes sovereignty over the two islands, it will abide by the Camp David Accords, and that the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace deal — which cut Egypt off from the Arab world and the Palestinian cause and led to the opening of an Israeli embassy in Cairo – would cease to be a purely bilateral agreement.

The general, who has been Saudi Arabia’s main frontman in its normalization process with Israel, explained that the new maritime border demarcation agreement with Egypt places both islands within the kingdom’s territorial waters. Egypt and Saudi Arabia will therefore share control over the Strait of Tiran through which Israeli ships pass as they sail in and out of the Gulf of Aqaba, and the kingdom will accordingly establish a relationship with Israel.

True, Eshki also said that normalization of Saudi relations with Israel was contingent on the latter accepting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. But he also spoke of an Israeli peace initiative that would ‘bypass’ that plan. According to him, this proposes the establishment of a confederation that would connect the occupied Palestinian territories – he did not specify how or to whom – while postponing discussion of the fate of Jerusalem.

Eshki also used the interview to confirm what Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has often reiterated: that Saudi Arabia does not consider Israel to be an enemy. He maintained that this view is shared by ordinary Saudis, and is reflected in their tweets and comments on social media which they point out that Israel never once attacked the kingdom so is not its enemy, and that these citizens support normalizing relations with Israel.

Eshki is not a policymaker but a mouthpiece. He was carefully selected for the job of saying what he is told and promoting it. To understand what his words are aimed at achieving – and the main features of the new normalization scheme that is rapidly unfolding – we need only paraphrase the statements made by the current Israeli defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman: Normalization between the Arab states and Israel should be achieved first, and then followed by a Palestinian-Israeli peace. Israel cannot accept a situation in which normalization with the Arab states is left hostage to a resolution of the Palestinian issue. After all, Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan without ending the Palestinian conflict.

The point that the handover of Tiran and Sanafir would commit Saudi Arabia to the Camp David accords, and to all obligations arising from them, was also stressed by the head of the Egyptian parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee, Gen. Kamal Amer.

The conclusion that can be drawn is that the main purpose of the rush to restore the two islands to Saudi sovereignty is to accelerate the pace of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia and ‘legitimize’ their evolving alliance. After all, Saudi Arabia possesses countless thousands of neglected islands dotted along its Red Sea and Gulf coastlines. It has no need for two additional small, barren and uninhabited outcrops. Even if it did, it managed well enough without them for 50 years during which they were either under Israeli occupation or Egyptian protection. Had it wanted, it could have waited and postponed this thorny issue for ten, twenty, or a hundred more years, so as to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian government and angering the Egyptian people.

The Saudi government’s stage-setting for normalization with the Israeli occupation state is already well underway and gaining pace. Following Eshki’s ‘academic’ visits to Israel and former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal’s security encounters, we have now begun to see Saudi ‘analysts’ appearing on Israeli TV. The next step may be for Saudi ministers and princes to do the same.

The Saudi citizens who Eshki claimed were tweeting their support for friendship with Israel on the grounds that it has never attacked their country, and who support normalizing relations with it, are soldiers in the Saudi electronic army. They number in the thousands, and work under the auspices of Saudi intelligence and police. The overwhelming majority of Saudis are opposed to any form of normalization with the occupation state, for religious, Arab nationalist, patriotic, and moral reasons. We have absolutely no doubt about that. But we can understand the pressure they are under when a single tweet expressing sympathy for Qatar or criticism of ‘Vision 2030′ can cost the tweeter 15 years in prison or a $250,000 fine.

According to Haaretz and other Israeli media outlets, Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman, who is leading the Saudi march towards normalization and alliance with Israel, occupation state visited occupied Jerusalem in 2015. He has also holds regular meetings with Israeli officials, most recently when during the Arab summit held in Amman in March.

Not long ago Riyadh hosted the American journalist Thomas Friedman. (Perhaps this was a reward for his comment after the 9/11 attacks that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia – the real source of terrorism — rather than Iraq in retaliation.) Friedman met with a number of officials before being granted a lengthy audience with Muhammad bin-Salman. He reported afterwards that not once during the five-hour encounter did the prince utter the word ‘Palestine’ or mention the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Indeed, I challenge anyone to come up with a single instance in which the up-and-coming Saudi strongman refers to ‘Palestine’ in any of his televised interviews.

Meanwhile, priority has been given to silencing and countering Arab voices that confront this evolving Saudi-Israeli alliance and expose its aims, implications and likely consequences – whether in the social or conventional media. Riyadh’s demand for the closure of the Al-Jazeera channel affirms that the war it is currently waging is not against ‘terror’ but against critical and free media.

We, too, have been and remain on the receiving-end of that war, subject to a furious on-going assault by the Saudi electronic army and a vicious and deliberate campaign of defamation. All one can say in response is to quote the saying: the coward dies one hundred times; the brave and free just once.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Court rules Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia are ‘lawful’, despite destruction of Yemen

RT | July 10, 2017

London’s High Court has ruled that UK arms sales to the Saudi Arabian regime are “lawful” in response to a judicial review brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

The case hinged on the question of whether the UK failed to suspend sales in line with legal obligations, given the Saudi’s current war in neighboring Yemen, which has been waged in part using British manufactured military equipment.

Documents cited in court showed that civil servants had, in fact, recommended that sales should no longer go ahead, but ministers had ignored the advice.

“This is a very disappointing verdict, and we are pursuing an appeal,” Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said.

“If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.”

CAAT’s lawyer, Rosa Curling, said: “Nothing in the open evidence, presented by the UK government to the court, suggests this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia.

“Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real. You need only look at the devastating reality of the situation there.”

CAAT, who have said they will appeal, had argued that the UK’s continued sales are a breach of international law while the EU’s common council also insists that sales to nations where violations of the law might occur must be halted.

In the last two years, the UK has licensed the sales of £3 billion (US$3.86 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi government, with which Britain is a longstanding ally.

Arm sales have included Typhoon and Tornado jets and the UK has had military personnel embedded in Saudi headquarters throughout the Yemen conflict, which has raged since 2015.

The British government maintains that the personnel are there to support adherence to international law and advice on rules of engagement.

Both Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Artillery (RA) personnel have been deployed to train the Saudi military during the war.

The conflict – which has been accompanied with a blockade of major ports – has drastically worsened the humanitarian situation in the already-impoverished gulf nation.

The UN says 17 million people in Yemen are at imminent risk of famine, while dwindling medical supplies and lack of trained medical personnel have led to epidemics.

Leading humanitarian organizations, including the Red Cross, have named the aerial bombing campaign and blockade as the main causes behind the ongoing cholera epidemic in the capital, Sanaa, that has already claimed some 200 lives, while over 11,000 cases of the disease have been registered.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

US court dismisses Yemen drone strike wrongful death suit

RT | July 1, 2017

A US appeals court has upheld a decision dismissing a lawsuit brought by a Yemeni man whose family was killed by a US drone strike. The plaintiff alleges that his family members were innocent bystanders when they were struck by the missile.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which consisted of a three-judge panel, came to an agreement with lower courts that stated they, too, did not have the authority to judge government military actions. An August 2012 drone strike in Yemen, which killed, among others, Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber, is what this case is based upon.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber is a Yemeni engineer. He and his family sued the US government for the deaths of Salem, his brother-in-law, and Waleed, his nephew. Jaber made the claim that the deadly strike was in violation of the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute.

Jaber’s family members were killed by a “signature strike,” which target individuals through information and data obtained from electronic devices such as mobile phones.

In 2015, the families of the two deceased men brought a case against the US government, then-President Barack Obama and other US officials, for “wrongful deaths.”

Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote a rare separate opinion, although she also wrote the decision in the case as the three-judge panel was unanimous.

“Of course this begs the question, if judges will not check this outsized power, then who will?”

The outcome that Jaber and his family wanted for the case was a declaratory judgement, which would make the court admit that the US violated international law governing the use of force when killing his family members with the drone strike.

Court documents from 2015 say the family made the claim that the hellfire missile attack by a US drone, which was deployed in the Yemeni village of Khashamir, which killed their family members, was unlawful.

Judge Brown didn’t hesitate to question some of the US government’s practices in the case.

“Of course this begs the question, if judges will not check this outsized power, then who will?” She continued, “the spread of drones cannot be stopped, but the US can still influence how they are used in the global community – including, someday, seeking recourse should our enemies turn these powerful weapons 180 degrees to target our homeland. The Executive and Congress must establish a clear policy for drone strikes and precise avenues for accountability,” Brown said in her opinion of the case.

Brown also stated that US congressional oversight is a “joke” and that “our democracy is broken.”

The other two judges on the panel did not join in Brown’s separate opinion, Reuters reported.

Read more:

  Families sue US govt, seek official apology over drone killings in Yemen

July 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

A warrior prince rises in Arabia as the monarch of all he surveys

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 22, 2017

The royal decree of June 21 by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointing his son Mohammed bin Salman as the Crown Prince and next in line to the throne is a watershed event in Middle East politics. Such a development has been expected for some time, but when it actually happened, it still looks momentous and somewhat awesome.

For a start, 31-year old MbS, whom many tend to deride as the “warrior prince”, has earned a reputation for being rash in the use of force. The extremely brutal war in Yemen is his signature foreign-policy project. Saudi Arabia, famous for its caution and its glacial pace of decision-making, has changed remarkably since MbS trooped in alongside King Salman to the centre stage of the Saudi regime in January 2015.

Considering King Salman’s age and health condition, MbS is being positioned in advance so that there will be no succession struggle. MbS has been steadily tightening his grip on the key instruments of power through the past 2-year period – national security apparatus and intelligence, armed forces and oil industry – in a grim power struggle with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has now lost the game and is retiring from the arena.

With the vast powers of patronage vested in MbS as the Crown Prince, make no mistake, the winner takes it all. In short, the Persian Gulf’s – nay, Middle East’s – power house is about to get a new ruler who is only 31 and he may lead Saudi Arabia for decades.

The timing of the shift in the power fulcrum cannot but be noted. It is exactly one month since US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia. Trump’s visit revived the Saudi-American alliance, which was adrift during the second term of President Barack Obama. MbS has emerged as the Trump administration’s number one interlocutor in the Saudi regime, superseding Nayef who used to be the favorite of the Obama administration.

MbS has forged links at personal level with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In a rare gesture, the Prince invited Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump to his residence for a private meal during father-in-law Trump’s visit to Riyadh. So, Saudi-US relations from now onward will be a cozy, exclusive, secretive family affair imbued with a “win-win” spirit – as it used to be in the halcyon days when the Bush family was holding power in the US.

Trump’s visit to Riyadh signalled that Saudi Arabia has regained its stature as the US’ number one partner in the Muslim Middle East. Trump has publicly endorsed the Saudi stance in their standoff with Qatar, which, incidentally, is widely attributed to MbS.

MbS is widely regarded as the mastermind of the tough policy policy to isolate Qatar to make it submissive and has personally identified with the virulently anti-Iran thrust in the Saudi regional strategies. Therefore, MbS’ ascendancy impacts Middle East politics along the following fault lines:

·         The war in Yemen;

·         The standoff with Qatar;

·         The Saudi-Iranian tensions;

·         The nascent Saudi-Israeli regional axis;

·         Situation in Syria and Gaza and/or Lebanon; and,

·         The crackdown in Bahrain.

It remains to be seen whether the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can be preserved. MbS enjoys personal rapport with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. But other GCC states — Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — will have a profound sense of unease about the “warrior prince” and this may lead to some major realignments in the Persian Gulf.

On the one hand, MbS may advance a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. If that happens, Israel breaks out of isolation and the Arab-Israeli conflict can never be the same again. Again, it is conceivable that MbS may throw the Palestinians under the bus. On the other hand, Iran too may finally succeed in breaching the GCC cordon that Saudi Arabia had erected, which in turn, may somewhat blur the sectarian divide in the Muslim Middle East and bring about a convergence of interests with Qatar and Turkey as regards perceived Saudi hegemony.

MbS is a man in  a hurry. He has radical ideas to transform Saudi society and its economy under the rubric of Vision 2030. He has brought in western-educated technocrats into the governmental apparatus, replacing the Old Guard. How the conservative religious establishment views these winds of change remains the big ‘unknown unknown’ — especially MbS’ management style such as his openness to out-of-the-box thinking, his uniquely public profile in a deeply conservative country, his risk-taking character and his willingness to break conventions.

There is indeed a lot of pent-up disaffection within Saudi Arabia, which makes the period of reform and transition very tricky. The example of Shah’s Iran readily comes to mind. In the ultimate analysis, therefore, the big question is Who is the real MbS?

Clearly, his conduct so far cannot be the yardstick to fathom his personality, since it was primarily a swift, decisive action plan to elbow out the incumbent Crown Prince and take his job. Now that MbS’ actual hold over the levers of power is going to be unchallenged, his priorities can also change. Indeed, there are intriguing sides to his personality – his personal role in forging Saudi Arabia’s working relationships with Moscow, his determination to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, his appeal to the Saudi youth as the harbinger of “change” and so on. The bottom line is that social and political stability in the country is vital for the success of Vision 2030, in which MbS has staked his prestige, envisaging wide-ranging structural reforms, geo-economic restructuring and the infusion of massive investments.

King Salman’s recent visit to China underscored that MbS understands the potential linkage between his Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, China is highly receptive to the idea, too. Deals worth $65 billion were signed in Beijing during King Salman’s visit. Similarly, MbS has been a frequent visitor to the Kremlin and enjoys some degree of personal rapport with President Vladimir Putin. The OPEC decision on cut in oil production has been a joint enterprise in which Putin had a “hands-on” role. Rosneft has signalled interest in acquiring shares in Aramco when its “privatisation” begins next year, and at the recent meet of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the two countries agreed to set up a joint energy investment fund.

MbS, who is Saudi Defence Minister, has also intensified his country’s military cooperation with Russia and China. A notable project will be the Chinese drone factory to be set up in Saudi Arabia. Again, Russia is in talks currently for the sale of T-80 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, among other weaponry.

Suffice to say, MbS is quite aware of the seamless possibilities that the multipolar world setting offers. It is useful to remember that MbS is a unique Saudi prince who never attended a western university. He is far from a greenhorn in the world of politics either, having begun as fulltime advisor to the council of ministers in 2007.

Indeed, his trademark is his assertiveness in foreign policies that stands in sharp contrast with the traditional Saudi style, and, which, therefore, looks aggressive. But then, it needs to be factored in that the war in Yemen and the strident anti-Iran outlook are immensely popular in the domestic opinion in terms of the surge of Saudi nationalism. The big question, therefore, will be how he deploys the surge of nationalism — amongst the youth, in particular — in his hugely ambitious plan to reform and modernise the country. Traditionally, Saudi rulers used to derive legitimacy from the approval of the Wahhabist religious establishment. (Read an Al Jazeera write-up on MbS’s profile here.)

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All of Saudi Arabia’s moves benefit Israel: Iran’s parliament speaker

Press TV – June 20, 2017

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has slammed Saudi Arabia for working covertly with Israel, saying all Riyadh’s actions in the region serve the Tel Aviv regime’s interests and are to the detriment of Muslim nations.

Larijani made the remarks in a meeting with ambassadors of Muslim countries to Tehran on Monday.

“We have tried hard to make the Saudis understand that their measures are to the detriment of the Muslim Ummah, but they only make harsher remarks every day and engage Muslim countries,” he said.

Larijani further pointed to Saudi Arabia’s “very unpleasant” policies in dealing with regional countries, saying the Saudis exert force in Syria, attack Yemen to make it their own backyard, fuel tensions in Bahrain, and have now targeted Qatar.

“Eventually, all Saudi moves are in favor of Israel,” said Larijani, adding that they want to keep terrorists on their feet and even provide support to some terror groups such as al-Nusra Front.

The top Iranian parliamentarian further warned Muslims “not to be trapped in a bigger plot.”

Iran had obtained documents showing that the Saudis provided Israel with intelligence during the 33-day war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, he added.

“The dependence of some Muslim countries on Israel is catastrophic and a stain of shame, while the Muslim Ummah should be sensitive to the fate of Palestine,” Larijani said.

As a result, he said, International Quds Day is of great importance, expressing hope that Muslims would demonstrate their unity on this day.

The late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, named the last Friday of the lunar fasting month of Ramadan as the International Quds Day, which falls on June 23 this year.

The day is commemorated each year by worldwide rallies, with participants voicing their support for the Palestinian nation and calling for an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities and its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian parliament speaker stressed that the Islamic Republic pursues the policy of creating consensus and unity.

He further thanked the Muslim ambassadors for expressing sympathy over the twin terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital, which killed 17 people and injured over 50 others.

On June 7, gunmen mounted almost simultaneous assaults on Iran’s Parliament and the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assaults.

Additionally, Larijani said that the Islamic Republic has been grappling with terrorism for years and in recent years the scourge has affected the Muslim world.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UNSC liable for consequences of Saudi war on Yemen: Ansarullah

Press TV – June 17, 2017

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has held the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) accountable for the consequences of the deadly Saudi aggression, stressing that the nation reserves the right to defend itself.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, the movement’s spokesman, said on Saturday that the UNSC issues statements that encourage the invader to continue its attacks and sieges, increasing the suffering of millions of Yemenis and dashing hope for a political resolution of the conflict, the al-Masirah television network reported.

The Yemeni army and allied popular forces would use all means to respond to Saudi assaults as Yemen, like other nations, reserves the right to defend itself against any invasion, Abdulsalam said.

The UNSC, which is in charge of preserving global peace, should know that the Saudi war supported by the US arms and financial aid, threatens international security, he added.

The Houthi official also stressed that the deterioration of the health situation in Yemen with the outbreak of Cholera is “a source of shame” for the body that claims to be promoting human rights.

He further held Saudi Arabia responsible for the stalemate in talks between Yemen’s warring sides, the siege on Yemen and Sana’a Airport activities.

In a lengthy statement on Thursday, the UNSC called on the Houthis and allies to cease all attacks at Saudi Arabia.

It also urged Yemen’s warring sides to reach a UN brokered deal on management of the strategic port city of Hudaydah at a time that the country slides closer to famine.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a brutal military campaign against Yemen for more than two years to eliminate the Houthi movement and reinstall a Riyadh-friendly former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The military campaign, however, has failed to achieve its goals and left over 12,000 Yemenis dead.

The country is also grappling with a Cholera epidemic.

Earlier this week, Save the Children charity said at least 942 people have been killed since the outbreak began in Yemen in April.

It further warned that the rate of infection is increasing and that one child is contracting the disease every 35 seconds.

“Disease, starvation and war are causing a perfect storm of disaster for Yemen’s people. The region’s poorest country is on the verge of total collapse, and children are dying because they’re not able to access basic healthcare,” said Grant Pritchard, Save the Children’s Yemen director.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection that is spread through contaminated food or water. It can be effectively treated with the immediate replacement of lost fluids and salts, but without treatment it can be fatal.

June 17, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

UAE-tied militants kidnap, torture hundreds in Yemen: Probe

Press TV – June 10, 2017

Militants backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reportedly kidnapped and tortured hundreds of people in southern Yemen.

On Friday, the American news and analysis website The Daily Beast published an investigation bankrolled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism NGO, which pointed to the findings.

The probe said the militants, who would fight under the banner of the Elite Forces, had spirited the men away from their homes and brought them to a secret prison compound in southern Yemen, where they were tortured.

Earlier in the year, the United Nations had likewise reported an increase in forced disappearances in southern Yemen.

The UAE has served as an ally of Saudi Arabia in the latter’s 2015-present campaign in Yemen to restore the impoverished country’s former Riyadh-allied government. The Elite Forces have been fighting in Yemen since the same year to assist the Saudi-led campaign.

The investigators interviewed local rights activists and families of those abducted, who said the situation at the al-Riyyan airport, which has been used as a place of incarceration for the abductees, compared to that in the notorious US-run prisons such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

The kidnapping spree took place under the pretext of clearing out suspected al-Qaeda-linked elements. Activists, however, told the Bureau that many of those abducted had normal jobs while al-Qaeda was in control in the area, and were not tied to the group.

According to various reports, Abu Dhabi holds notable sway in southern Yemen and looks to be trying to expand its leverage there by lending its support to southern separatists.

The separatists are led by two pro-Emirati officials of Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who have been sacked by him over suspicions of serving the Emirates.

The men, Hadi’s governor for Yemen’s port city of Aden, Maj. Gen. Aidarous al-Zubaidi, and his state minister Hani bin Breik, reacted to the sacking by breaking ranks with Hadi and forming an autonomous regional body in southern Yemen.

Saudi Arabia then “invited” the separatists to the kingdom, in what was seen as an effort at seeking explanation from them for parting ways with Riyadh-allied Hadi.

Observers say the Emirates increased activities could drag Doha into a political struggle against Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the month, Yemeni sources reported that militants backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had engaged in infighting in the southern port city of Aden, with UAE-backed militia seizing a facility there.

June 10, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment