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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

‘The BBC Has Betrayed Its Own Rules Of Impartiality’: Yemen, Saudi Arabia And The General Election

Media Lens – June 5, 2017

A key function of BBC propaganda is to present the perspective of ‘the West’ on the wars and conflicts of the world. Thus, in a recent online report, BBC News once again gave prominence to the Pentagon propaganda version of yet more US killings in Yemen. The headline stated:

US forces kill seven al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, says Pentagon

Seven ‘militants’ killed is the stark message. A veneer of ‘impartiality’ is provided by the weasel words, ‘says Pentagon’. BBC News then notes blandly, and without quotation marks:

The primary objective of the operation was to gather intelligence.

Nowhere in the short article was there any attempt to provide an alternative view of who had been killed and why. Were they really all ‘militants’? How is a ‘militant’ distinguished from a ‘civilian’, or from a soldier defending his country against foreign invaders? There was not even a cautious statement to the effect that the Pentagon’s claims could not be verified, as one might expect of responsible journalism.

Instead, we have to turn to Reprieve, an international human rights organisation founded in 1999 by the British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith. The group reports that five of the ‘militants’ were civilians, including a partially blind 70-year-old man who was shot when he tried to greet the US Navy Seals, mistaking them for guests arriving in his village.

But their civilians are mere ‘collateral damage’ in war. Since January 2017, the US has launched 90 or more drone strikes in Yemen, killing around 100 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This death toll includes 25 civilians, among whom were 10 children, killed in the village of al Ghayil in the Yemeni highlands during a US raid that was described by President Trump as ‘highly successful’.

Mentions of such atrocities were notable by their absence in ‘mainstream’ media coverage of Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia where he signed trade deals worth around $350 billion. This included an arms deal of $110 billion which the White House described as ‘the single biggest in US history.’ It would not do for the corporate media, including BBC News, to dwell on the implications for Yemen where at least 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in 2015. 14 million Yemenis, more than half the population, are facing hunger with the Saudis deliberately targeting food production.

The World Health Organisation recently warned of the rising numbers of deaths in Yemen due to cholera, saying that it was ‘unprecedented’. Save the Children says that at the current rate, more than 65,000 cases of cholera are expected by the end of June. The cholera outbreak could well become ‘a full blown-epidemic’. Moreover:

The upsurge comes as the health system, sanitation facilities and civil infrastructure have reached breaking point because of the ongoing war.

As US investigative journalist Gareth Porter observes via Twitter:

World leaders are silent as #Yemen faces horrible cholera epidemic linked to #Saudi War & famine. Politics as usual.

Iona Craig, formerly a Yemen-based correspondent for The Times, notes that ‘more than 58 hospitals now have been bombed by the coalition airstrikes, and people just do not have access to medical care in a way that they did before the war.’ As if the bombing was not already brutal, Saudi Arabia has imposed a cruel blockade on Yemen that is delaying, or even preventing, vital commodities from getting into the country. Grant Pritchard, interim country director for Save the Children in Yemen, says:

These delays are killing children. Our teams are dealing with outbreaks of cholera, and children suffering from diarrhoea, measles, malaria and malnutrition.

With the right medicines these are all completely treatable — but the Saudi-led coalition is stopping them getting in. They are turning aid and commercial supplies into weapons of war.

As one doctor at the Republic teaching hospital in Sanaa commented:

We are unable to get medical supplies. Anaesthetics. Medicines for kidneys. There are babies dying in incubators because we can’t get supplies to treat them.

The doctor estimated that 25 people were dying every day at the hospital because of the blockade. He continued:

They call it natural death. But it’s not. If we had the medicines they wouldn’t be dead.

I consider them killed as if they were killed by an air strike, because if we had the medicines they would still be alive.

None of this grim reality was deemed relevant to Trump’s signing of the massive new arms deal with Saudi Arabia. BBC News focused instead on inanities such as Trump ‘to soften his rhetoric’, ‘joins Saudi sword dance’ and ‘no scarf for Melania’. But then, it is standard practice for the BBC to absolve the West of any blame for the Yemen war and humanitarian disaster.

British historian Mark Curtis poses a vital question that journalists fear to raise, not least those at the BBC: is there, in effect, collusion between the BBC and UK arms manufacturer BAE Systems not to report on UK support for the Saudi bombing of Yemen, and not to make it an election issue? Curtis also notes that the BBC has not published any online article about UK arms being sold to the Saudis for use in Yemen since as far back as January. This, he says, is ‘misinforming the public, a disgrace’. He also rightly points out that the BAE Systems Chairman, Sir Roger Carr, was also Vice-Chair of the BBC Trust until April 2017 (when the Trust was wound up at the end of its 10-year tenure). The BBC Trust’s role was to ensure the BBC lived up to its statutory obligations to the public, including news ‘balance’ and ‘impartiality’. How could Sir Roger’s dual role not suggest a major potential conflict of interest?

On the wider issue of ‘mainstream’ media coverage of foreign policy, the political journalist Peter Oborne notes that:

Needless to say, the British media (and in particular the BBC, which has a constitutional duty to ensure fair play during general elections) has practically ignored Corbyn’s foreign policy manifesto.

Oborne writes that the manifesto:

is radical and morally courageous.

He explains that, pre-Corbyn:

Foreign policy on both sides was literally identical. The leadership of both Labour and the Conservatives backed the wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni states in the Gulf.

London did what it was told by Washington. […] This cross-party consensus has been smashed, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, the current Labour leader. Whatever one thinks of Corbyn’s political views (and I disagree with many of them), British democracy owes him a colossal debt of gratitude for restoring genuine political debate to Britain.

And of course his extremely brave and radical decision to break with the foreign policy analysis of Blair and his successors explains why he is viewed with such hatred and contempt across so much of the media and within the Westminster political establishment.

But, as Oborne notes, this important change has not been fairly represented in media coverage. In particular, on Yemen and Saudi Arabia:

It is deeply upsetting that the BBC has betrayed its own rules of impartiality and ignored Corbyn’s brave stand on this issue.

We challenged Andrew Roy, the BBC News Foreign Editor, to respond to Oborne’s observations. He ignored us (here and here). Roy’s silence is especially noteworthy given that he had once promised:

If there is a considered detailed complaint to something we’ve done, I will always respond to it personally.

Perhaps Oborne’s challenge to the BBC was not deemed sufficiently ‘considered’ or ‘detailed’ by the senior BBC News editor. Likewise, our own challenges over many years in numerous media alerts addressing BBC foreign coverage have been ignored or, at best, brushed away.

It was noteworthy that Corbyn’s considered response to the most recent terrorist attack in London was selectively reported, arguably censored, by BBC News. Corbyn said:

We need to have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.

It is no good Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of terrorist groups. We have to get serious about cutting off the funding to these terror networks, including Isis here and in the Middle East.

Sky News broadcast Corbyn’s comments, but they do not appear to have been covered by BBC News. Certainly, as far as we can see, there is no mention of them in their ‘Live’ blog on the London attack or in Laura Kuenssberg’s analysis, ‘Election 2017: Impact of London terror attack on campaign’. And nothing about the Saudi link with terrorism appears in the BBC’s online report on Corbyn’s speech, focusing instead on the issue of May’s cuts to police numbers while Home Secretary. Even this issue alone, if properly and fully addressed by the media, should be a resigning matter for May as Prime Minister. Responding to the London attacks, Peter Kirkham, a former Senior Investigating Officer with the Metropolitan police, accused the government of lying over police numbers on UK streets. And a serving firearms officer says that:

The Government is wrong to claim police cuts have nothing to do with recent attacks.

Despite her denials, Theresa May’s cuts to police numbers have made attacks like London and Manchester much more likely.

Kuenssberg’s piece included passing mention of ‘the Tories’ record on squeezing money for the police’. But she gave no figures showing a reduction in the number of armed police; crucial statistics which she could have easily found from the Home Office.

Mark Curtis gives a damning assessment of BBC reporting on foreign affairs, particularly during the general election campaign. Noting first that:

One aspect of a free and fair election is “nonpartisan” coverage by state media.

He continues:

Yet BBC reporting on Britain’s foreign policy is simply amplifying state priorities and burying its complicity in human rights abuses. The BBC is unable to report even that Britain is at war – in Yemen, where the UK is arming the Saudis to conduct mass bombing, having supplied them with aircraft and £1 billion worth of bombs, while training their pilots.

Curtis then provides some telling statistics:

From 4 April to 15 May, the BBC website carried only 10 articles on Yemen but 97 on Syria: focusing on the crimes of an official enemy rather than our own. Almost no BBC articles on Yemen mention British arms exports. Theresa May’s government is complicit in mass civilian deaths in Yemen and pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation; that this is not an election issue is a stupendous propaganda achievement.

Indeed, our newspaper database searches reveal that, since the election was called on April 18, there has been no significant journalistic scrutiny of May’s support of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen. The subject was even deemed radioactive during a public meeting in Rye, Sussex, when Amber Rudd, standing for re-election, appeared to shut down discussion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Electoral candidate Nicholas Wilson explains what happened:

At a hustings in Rye on 3 June, where I am standing as an independent anti-corruption parliamentary candidate, a question was asked about law & order. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in answering it referred to the Manchester terrorist attack. I took up the theme and referred to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia & HSBC business there. She spoke to and handed a note to the chairman who removed the mic from me.

The footage of this shameful censorship deserves to be widely seen. If a similar event had happened in Russia or North Korea, it would have received intensive media scrutiny here. Once again, we note the arms connection with the BBC through BAE Systems Chairman, Sir Roger Carr. Wilson has also pointed out a potential conflict of interest between HSBC and the BBC through Rona Fairhead who was a non-executive director of HSBC while serving as Chair of the BBC Trust.

These links, and Theresa May’s support for the Saudi regime, have gone essentially unexamined by the BBC. And yet, when BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg responded to Corbyn’s manifesto launch, her subtle use of insidious language betrayed an inherent bias against Corbyn and his policies on foreign affairs. She wrote: ‘rather than scramble to cover up his past views for fear they would be unpopular’, he would ‘double down… proudly’. Kuenssberg’s use of pejorative language – ‘scramble’, ‘cover up’, ‘unpopular’ – delivered a powerful negative spin against Corbyn policies that, in fact, as Oborne argues, are hugely to his credit.

When has Kuenssberg ever pressed May over her appalling voting record on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen? In fact, there is no need for May to ‘scramble’ to ‘cover up’ her past views. Why not? Because the ‘mainstream’ media rarely, if ever, seriously challenge her about being consistently and disastrously wrong in her foreign policy choices; not least, on decisions to go to war.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Calls on Britain to stop arms exports to UAE

MEMO | June 1, 2017

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Britain (AOHR) has called on the UK government to stop exporting arms to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of its role in fuelling armed conflicts in the Middle East.

The organisation said the British government granted 509 arms licenses to the UAE worth £182 million ($233.3 million) in 2016 including defensive and offensive weapons with most of these weapons being transported to conflict zones in Yemen and Libya.

The organisation warned that the UAE government does not abide by the last user condition stipulated in the arms licenses which is documented in UN and international reports and therefore it is imperative that the UK government stop the export of arms to Abu Dhabi and investigate the fate of arms deals which were concluded previously.

The UAE not only provided the parties to the conflict with weapons, AOHR explained, but carried out military operations in the field like the continued bombing against the Darna region in Libya in cooperation with Egypt which resulted in civilian deaths and the destruction of many civilian facilities.

Using the pretext of fighting terrorism, the UAE and its allies are committing gross violations of the rules of international humanitarian law, AOHR added.

It went on to express deep concern that the UAE is expanding its military activity in Africa, where it has built military bases in Eritrea and Somalia.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yemen descending into total collapse as world watches: UN

Press TV – May 30, 2017

The United Nations says impoverished Yemen is on the brink of total collapse, as the country is facing an ongoing bloody military aggression by Saudi Arabia, an emerging famine, and an outbreak of cholera.

“Crisis is not coming, it is not looming, it is here today, on our watch and ordinary people are paying the price,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien in a speech on Tuesday, addressing the UN Security Council.

“The people of Yemen are being subjected to deprivation, disease and death as the world watches,” he said, adding that the crisis is triggering “total social, economic and institutional collapse” in the Arab country.

O’Brien told the council that “the time is now” to finish the world’s largest food emergency and to put Yemen on the path of survival.

His alarming remarks come as the UN Security Council has so far failed to turn off the Saudi war machine and prevent it from inflicting more damage to the kingdom’s poor southern neighbor.

Since March 2015, Yemen has been heavily bombarded by Saudi warplanes as part of a brutal campaign against the impoverished country in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the president who has resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh.

Latest tallies show that the war has so far killed over 12,000 Yemenis and wounded thousands more. Indiscriminate Saudi bombardments have also taken a heavy toll on the Yemeni infrastructure, schools and hospitals, with prominent rights groups censuring Riyadh’s military for the use of internationally-banned weapons against Yemeni civilians.

The relentless airstrikes have put more than half of all health facilities in Yemen in a state of complete or partial shutdown. Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition.

Some 19 million out of the country’s 28 million population are in dire need of humanitarian aid and many of them are reported to be on the brink of famine. The relentless airstrikes have also put more than half of all health facilities in Yemen in a state of complete or partial shutdown.

Furthermore, the war-torn nation has been grappling with a deadly cholera outbreak since last October. Over 55,200 Yemenis, one third of them children, are infected by the disease. The UN figures show that since late April nearly 500 Yemeni have lost their lives due to cholera infection. It is estimated that some 150,000 new cases of cholera are surfaced in the next six months.

The chaos in Yemen, caused by the Saudi campaign, has also given the Takfiri al-Qaeda and Daesh terror groups room to operate in the country, further complicating the situation on the ground there.

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Five Civilians Killed in Yemen Raid

Reprieve | May 23, 2017

Reprieve has learned that five civilians were killed in the raid by US Navy SEALs overnight. It is thought that at least two al-Qaeda fighters were also killed.

This contradicts the version of events put forward by the US military, which claimed seven militants were killed.

Reprieve has spoken to sources from the village of Al-Jubah in Marib province, Yemen who witnessed the raid. They confirmed the names of the five dead as:

  • Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal
  • Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal
  • Saleh Al-Taffaf
  • Yasser Al-Taffaf Al-Adhel
  • Shebreen Saeed Salem Al-Adhal

None of them were fighting for al-Qaeda. One of those killed, Nasser al-Adhal, was around 70 years of age and partially blind. According to witnesses, he was shot when he tried to greet the Navy Seals, mistaking them for guests arriving in the village.

The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69-years-old.

Al-Qaeda fighters gathering nearby, who are thought to have been the original target of the raid, were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy SEALs then left with the help of air support from a helicopter.

Commenting, Kate Higham, Head of the Assassinations Programme at Reprieve said:

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian. When even a 70-year-old is shot dead, it is clear these attacks are not targeted or precise. President Trump must order an immediate investigation into what went wrong and halt all raids and drone strikes before more innocent Yeminis are killed.”

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

US attack kills 7 in central Yemen: Pentagon

Press TV – May 23, 2017

At least seven people have lost their lives in a US ground and aerial operation in Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib, the Pentagon says.

Centcom, the US military command in the Middle East, said in a statement that the Tuesday raid had been carried out with the support of the former Yemeni government and had targeted a compound belonging to the al-Qaeda militant group.

“During this operation, US forces killed seven AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) militants through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes,” the statement read.

It said that such assaults “provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” apparently referring to intelligence that may be obtained as a result of the raids.

On January 29, a similar US attack was conducted in Yakla Village in Bayda Province, the first authorized by President Donald Trump. A $75-million US aircraft was destroyed while dozens of Yemeni civilians and a US Navy SEAL were killed in the ill-prepared commando raid.

The Pentagon claimed that the attack had produced intelligence about al-Qaeda. However, senior US officials rejected the claim, saying that they were not aware of any actionable intelligence.

Yemen has been under regular US drone strikes, with Washington claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements while local sources say civilians have been the main victims.

Yemen has also been under military strikes in a prolonged war by Saudi Arabia and a number of its client states since late March 2015. The US has been providing assistance to that war, too.

UN envoy seeks to prevent any attack on crucial port city

On Monday, the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Yemen, where he said he wanted to prevent any attack on the western port city of Hudaydah, which is a major lifeline for imports into Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to attack the port city and retake it from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, a popular movement that has teamed up with the Yemeni army to defend the country against the Saudi-led war.

Cheikh Ahmed also stressed that Yemen’s central bank “must remain independent and must belong to all the Yemeni people.”

He further voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation, saying, “You all know that the cholera epidemic has increased, reaching more than 25,000 cases and there have been many deaths in less than two weeks.”

The UN envoy’s visit to Yemen was met with protests as some 200 people marched from the UN headquarters in Sana’a to the city’s airport.

The demonstrators pelted Ahmed’s motorcade with rocks, shoes, and eggs as the Mauritanian diplomat was leaving the Sana’a Airport. His bodyguards fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

The Yemeni protesters carried banners, reading “Lift the blockade of Sana’a Airport.” The airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016, after the Riyadh regime imposed an air embargo on it.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

US, Israel two sides of same coin, trying to destroy Yemen: Houthi

Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, speaks during a televised speech in Sa’ada, on April 23, 2017.
Press TV – April 23, 2017

Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, says the United States and the Israeli regime are two sides of the same coin and together they seek to destroy Yemen through a brutal military campaign launched by Saudi Arabia.

Addressing a group of Yemenis in Sa’ada, thorough a video conference, Houthi further said on Sunday that the US, Israel and their allies are trying to impose their values on regional nations, adding that enemies view Yemenis as a worthless tool to sustain their own interests in the region.

“Independent forces in the region from Yemen to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are considered as rogue from the American perspective, and sympathy for the oppressed in these countries is viewed as a crime,” he said, adding that Washington is trying hard to turn regional players into its own puppets.

The Yemeni leader also noted that collusion in the atrocities committed against the Yemeni people is not an issue in the eyes of the American leaders, but when the oppressed and independent forces cooperate with each other, the US perceives it as a crime.

He called on all Yemenis to stand united against the aggressors and defend their country.

“[When] anyone says Israel is a threat to our nation, the United States and its allies say they are supporters of Iran, and with the help of this false justification, they (Washington and allies) target anyone that does not accept adopting a hostile attitude towards Iran,” he added.

He also said the only sin committed by Iran, from the perspective of the United States, was that it freed itself from being a puppet country in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

‘US, Israel main source of terrorism worldwide’

The Yemeni leader added that Washington considers regional or international threats all those countries that are not its ally, “but the reality is that the US and Israel are themselves the main source of terrorism worldwide.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, Houthi said the Yemeni nation, from all walks of life, should boost their awareness of the realities of regional developments and use it as a tool to battle the US propaganda against the Arab country. Ignorance, he said, makes people an easy target for the US and the Zionists.

Houthi also stated that only Yemenis can decide about their future and the internal affairs of their country and that absolutely no other country or organization, even the United Nations and the Arab League, can impose their so-called solutions to the crisis in Yemen.

He described as utterly ridiculous Washington and Riyadh’s claim that they want to liberate Yemeni cities from “Yemeni occupation.”

“You are Yemenis, who have occupied the capital Sana’a? The US wants to liberate Sana’a from Yemenis?!” he asked.

Houthi reiterated that the Yemeni nation’s resistance against the Riyadh regime’s incessant attacks was deeply rooted in religious orders and was meant to safeguard national sovereignty and freedom.

Saudi Arabia launched its deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 to push back the Houthi Ansarullah fighters from Sana’a and to bring back to power Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s president who has resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh.

The campaign, which lacks any international mandate and has faced increasing criticism, has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.

Certain Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, are partners to the military aggression.

April 23, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NATO’s Emerging Outsourced Eastern Flank

By Wayne MADSEN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.04.2017

A series of moves by NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partner, the United Arab Emirates, has many observers in the Indian Ocean littoral nations wondering out loud whether the «North Atlantic» military pact is moving into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula, courtesy of an «outsourcing» deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.

On January 27, while the world’s eyes were on the one-week old Donald Trump administration in Washington and believing that NATO would become a shell given Trump’s belief that it was «obsolete,» NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg helped open the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Center in Kuwait. Gathered with Stoltenberg for the opening ceremony were the Secretary General of the GCC, representatives of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Council, and government officials from host Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. The opening of a NATO facility in the Persian Gulf represented an unprecedented leap by the bloc designed for the defense of the «North Atlantic» into far-off waters in Asia.

The Kuwait operation followed the signing of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) between NATO and the UAE last October. The agreement is designed to bolster existing links between NATO and the UAE on NATO-led operations and missions and enhanced interoperability. The de facto admission of the UAE into NATO follows several major military forays by the seven-member Gulf federation into the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. There is a belief that NATO is now using the UAE to extend its military and political influence around the Indian Ocean and associated waters, including the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea.

NATO already has a sizeable military footprint in the Gulf region and Indian Ocean. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is homeported in the Bahrain capital of Manama. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar remains one of America’s largest outposts in the Middle East. The base serves as the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, the United States Air Forces Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group British Royal Air Force, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force. The UAE has its fair share of NATO and NATO partner military bases, including the Royal Australian Air Force facility at Al-Minhad airbase south of Dubai, a U.S. Air Force facility at the Al-Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi, the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai, and a naval base in Fujairah in the Arabian Sea.

There are also U.S. military bases at the Ali Al Salem Airbase, Camp Arifjan, Camp Buehring, and the Kuwait City naval base in Kuwait; the Masirah and Thumrait airbases in Oman; the Isa airbase in Bahrain; Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti; Eskan Village, outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Manda Bay, Kenya; Victoria International Airport on Mahé Island in the Seychelles; the Baledogle airbase in Somalia; and the large Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The U.S. has shown an interest in developing a maritime surveillance facility on the Australian-ruled Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. U.S. Special Operations personnel have been spotted in Zanzibar, from which the U.S. military was ousted in 1964. A six-acre seaside site, said to be the new U.S. embassy complex in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, is believed by locals to also serve as a military base.

Under the guise of supporting the GCC coalition battling against Houthi-led rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war, the UAE has been on a real estate buying spree in the region. Chief among the UAE’s prized acquisitions is the strategic island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. Long-sought by the United States as a naval and intelligence base since the end of the Cold War, there are reports that the exiled Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE in 2014, before fleeing to Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Kuri is a sparsely-inhabited island located 65 miles southwest of Socotra. Since the beginning of the Yemeni civil war, the UAE has taken advantage of the absence of a stable government in Yemen to expand its influence in Socotra. The UAE deal on Socotra was allegedly in return for the UAE’s support for Hadi and his Saudi allies in their military quest to wrest control of north Yemen from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.

Formerly a part of the Yemeni province of Hadhramaut, Socotra became a separate province in 2013. Before the former nation of South Yemen was granted independence by Britain, Socotra was a possession of the Mahra Sultanate of Qishn in Hadhramaut in the Protectorate of South Arabia. Hadi’s removal of Socotra from Hadhramaut control and his reported lease of the island to the UAE is not recognized by the pretender to the throne of the former Mahra Sultanate, Abdullah bin Isa. U.S. military operations in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition is reportedly targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but increasingly it appears that the actual targets for American drones, missiles, and special operations forces are tribes loyal to former rulers like bin Isa, Houthi rebels, and South Yemen independence fighters.

A UAE airline, Rotana Jet, now provides direct air service between Abu Dhabi and Socotra. Air Yemenia provides direct service between Socotra and Dubai.

There is reason to believe that the UAE was fronting for the United States in acquiring the lease on Socotra and that it is only a matter of time before U.S. and NATO personnel arrive on the island, likely under the guise of the ICI-NATO partnership. Some reports claim the lease is for 99-years, which is noteworthy for being the same period of time that the U.S. leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base from a newly-independent Cuba. The U.S. has abrogated the Guantanamo lease terms by refusing to depart from the base upon the lease’s termination in 1999.

Abu Dhabi is the home to the private military company Reflex Responses (R2), which is run by Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet. Prince is reported to have provided consulting to the Trump transition team by sneaking into meetings through a back door at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Middle East observers see R2 as a CIA contrivance that farms out mercenaries from such countries as Colombia, South Africa, and Chile to fight as U.S. proxies in wars such as the civil war in Yemen. R2’s operational personnel are headquartered at the Zayed Military City UAE military base outside of Abu Dhabi. Prince and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi jointly command some 1400 Colombians at the base whose officers are mainly American and British ex-military personnel.

The UAE has been engaged in further military real estate grabs in the Indian Ocean region. It recently signed an agreement with the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland to establish a major naval base at the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.

In October 2015, UAE forces took control of the Yemeni island of Perim in the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The island had been under the control of Yemeni Houthi rebel forces battling the Saudi puppet government of Yemen. The UAE president has built a massive vacation palace on Mahé island in the Seychelles, at what was once a U.S. Air Force listening station.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly buying Faafu Atoll in the Maldives. The «mega project» planned for the atoll by the Saudis may be a joint commercial/naval base. The Maldivian government denies it is selling Faafu to the Saudis, but did admit to the Saudi $10 billion mega project. Atoll inhabitants are worried about the Saudi deal. A protest by Faafu islanders against the Saudi deal has taken place on the main island of Bilehdhoo.

The U.S. and NATO enjoy access to French military bases in Mayotte, near Madagascar; the French island of Reunion; and the Kerguelen archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, near Antarctica. France also maintains facilities in Abu Dhabi at the Al-Dhafra airbase; the Mina Zayed naval base, and a French Foreign Legion base 50 miles from the city of Abu Dhabi.

The United States and NATO are militarizing the Indian Ocean region as much as they have the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. NATO and its masters in Washington, now allied with ICI partners in the Persian Gulf, are intent on pushing the «Atlantic Alliance» far beyond the Atlantic Ocean and into Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. The question remains. To what end?

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US seeks political solution to Yemen conflict: Pentagon chief

Press TV – April 18, 2017

US Defense Secretary James Mattis says the conflict in Yemen needs to be resolved “as quickly as possible” through UN-brokered peace negotiations.

“Our aim is that this crisis can be handed to a team of negotiators under the aegis of the United Nations that can try to find a political solution as quickly as possible,” Mattis told reporters on Tuesday as he flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“We will work with our allies, with our partners to try to get it to the UN-brokered negotiating table,” the Pentagon chief said.

Mattis is expected to meet senior Saudi officials, including King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

Several UN brokered ceasefires and peace talks have so far failed to end the conflict in Yemen.

Mattis gave no details on what additional support, if any, the United States would provide to the Saudi-led coalition. Washington already provides intelligence as well as aerial refueling to coalition warplanes carrying out air strikes in Yemen.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for causing civilian casualties. The campaign has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.

Saudi Arabia launched its deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 with the alleged goal of pushing back the Houthi Ansarullah movement from the capital, Sana’a, and to reinstate the regime of Yemen’s former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Yemeni students study in a classroom on March 15, 2016, which was damaged in a Saudi air strike. (Photo by AFP)

The Saudis and their allies have also suffered considerable casualties in the operation on Yemen as official estimates say more than 500 soldiers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been killed since March 2015.

Some officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration have called for more American military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

In late January, US special forces carried out an attack against a purported position of al-Qaeda militants in the central Yemeni province of Bayda, killing about 30 civilians.

The raid, in which just about everything went wrong, was the first known American-led ground mission in Yemen since December 2014.

The White House hailed the operation as a success, but critics said it was a failure since it resulted in the death of civilians and 36-year-old Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.

The US military carried out a flurry of air strikes in Yemen after the botched raid, involving a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of the chaos and breakdown of security in Yemen to tighten its grip on the southern and southeastern parts of the Arab country.

April 18, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment