Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov
During a meeting of the UN Security Council convened by Russia, the Kremlin has warned about “grave humanitarian consequences” that would come if Saudi Arabia goes ahead with a plan to attack Yemen’s western port city of Hudaydah.
The attendants in the UNSC meeting discussed the grave humanitarian situation in Yemen and efforts toward a peaceful conclusion of the two-year-long war imposed by the Saudi regime on the Yemeni people, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov told reporters after the closed-door meeting in New York, which had been requested by Moscow on Wednesday.
Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the Russian official as saying the meeting had been held in an attempt “to urge the UN to step up its efforts to establish a real diplomatic process.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Safronkov said all the 15 member states of the council supported a non-military approach to the resolution of the crisis. It is, the Kremlin believes, “necessary to search for a political settlement,” Safronkov added.
Hudaydah is currently under the control of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters, who have been defending the impoverished country against the Saudi aggression since March 2015. The city, Yemen’s fourth largest and its biggest port, served as a thoroughfare for the transit of about 70 percent of Yemen’s food imports in the pre-war years.
When the Saudi regime started pounding the crisis-hit country, Hudaydah turned into a primary entry point for humanitarian aid and fuel meant for areas inside Yemen, including the capital, Sana’a. If the city falls under the control of Saudi forces and mercenary soldiers, the flow of humanitarian assistance toward those areas would be blocked.
On March 13, Moscow also warned about the critical situation of the port city in providing its people with much-needed humanitarian aid.
The “plans to storm Yemen’s biggest port of Hudaydah give rise to serious concerns,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, adding that the fall of the city would cut Sana’a from “food and humanitarian aid supplies.” She also said the humanitarian situation in Yemen was “catastrophic.”
On Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) said 60 percent of Yemenis, some 17 million people, faced a “crisis” and were in urgent need of food as a direct result of the Saudi war.
The Saudi campaign has so far killed over 12,000 Yemenis. The aggression was meant to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s president who has resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh. The campaign also sought to undermine Houthis. However, due to resistance from the Yemeni nation, the regime in Riyadh has so far failed to achieve success and suffered considerable human loss in its military.
Press TV – March 17, 2017
At least 44 people have been killed and dozens of others wounded after a Saudi airstrike hit a refugee boat off Yemen’s western coast.
Yemen’s al-Masirah television reported on Thursday that the boat which came under attack was carrying Somali refugees near Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
According to the report, there are a number of women and children among the victims.
Reuters quoted a local official in Hudaydah as saying that the boat had come under attack by an Apache helicopter.
The refugees were on their way from Yemen to Sudan, the unnamed official said.
Earlier in the day, Saudi fighter jets bombed a food transport truck in the western province of al-Hudaydah, killing all the passengers, al-Masirah reported, without giving the number of those killed.
The remains of a truck hit by a Saudi strike in Hudaydah Province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.
Saudi Arabia has been leading a deadly military campaign against Yemen since March 2015. The kingdom has also imposed an aerial and naval blockade on its southern neighbor.
Britain and the US have provided huge amounts of arms and military training to the Saudi forces.
According to the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, the Saudi military campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.
McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this year that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.
However, local Yemeni sources have put the death toll from the Saudi war at over 12,000, including many women and children.
The selection of Lt. General H. R. McMaster as Trump’s new National Security Advisor to replace Michael Flynn appears to be the coup de grâce to Trump’s efforts to achieve rapprochement with Russia. McMaster has received profuse praise from all types of mainstream figures: conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans. McMaster’s expressed hostile view of Russia is the fundamental reason for this celebration since Michael Flynn was noted, and condemned for, his Russia-friendly attitude and connections. McMaster has stated that Russia’s goal is “to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.” McMaster sees Russia as being among a number of enemies that threaten the U.S. He maintains: “Geopolitics has returned, as hostile, revisionist powers—Russia, China, North Korea and Iran—annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies.” McMaster describes this conflict in Manichean terms. “We are engaged today, as General George C. Marshall’s generation [World War II and the Cold War] was engaged, against enemies who pose a great threat to all civilized peoples.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is likewise widely praised in the mainstream, also considers Russia to be an enemy that needs to be staunchly opposed. Although Rex Tillerson was considered to be friendly toward Russia in his capacity as Exxon Mobil CEO, he has expressed more critical views of Russia since he was selected for the position of Secretary of State. Moreover, he has been largely absent from any role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
But what about Iran? Trump, during his presidential campaign, depicted that nation as a major threat to the United States and insisted that the nuclear agreement with Iran was “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Flynn held an even more hostile view toward Iran, which he presented in his recent book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, that was co-authored by the notorious neocon Iranophobe par excellence Michael Ledeen. It would seem, however, that Flynn’s departure will not make the administration’s stance toward Iran more favorable.
Mattis has been ultra-hawkish on Iran. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 22, 2016, Mattis said that Iran was “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” contending that Iran’s hegemonic goals had not changed since the Islamic regime came to power in 1979.
Mattis maintains that Iran is using the turmoil of the Islamic State to achieve its goals: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief. Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates. And I would just point out one question for you to consider: What is the one country in the Middle East that has not been attacked by ISIS? One, and it’s Iran. Now, there’s got – that is more than just happenstance, I’m sure.” In short, Mattis cryptically implies that Iran is even cooperating with ISIS. Since ISIS kills Shiites and Iran is playing a major role in fighting ISIS, this conspiracy theory would seem to be something out of Alice and Wonderland, though this was also held by Flynn and Ledeen, but they are regarded as rather flaky.
Mattis continued that “as the commander in CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command, August 2010 to March 2013] with countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, every morning I woke up and the first three questions I had . . . had to do with Iran and Iran and Iran. . . . Their consistent behavior since 1979 through today shows no sign of changing. . . . They’ve increased the flow of arms . . . into Saudi Arabia, explosives into Bahrain, and arms into Yemen. In fact, in the last three months— February, March and April — the French Navy, the Australian Navy, and the U.S. Navy have all seized arms shipments each month . . . . [but] the idea that we’re catching all the arms shipments, that’s a flight of fantasy.”
Mattis advocated a militant U.S. policy in the Middle East, which would consist of amplifying what it already has been doing. For instance, he stated that “in the region we work with our partners in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council],” which is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It should be noted that all these countries are autocracies of one degree or another and some—such as Bahrain–face serious internal opposition. Thus, working with these countries means helping to prop up the existing regimes, which the U.S. has already been doing to some extent. Also, it might mean that the U.S. would be more involved in the Sunni-Shiite war which has little to do with American interests. This would entail the continuation and expansion of U.S. military support for the Saudis’ bombing and naval embargo of Yemen, which is causing a major humanitarian catastrophe with a significant proportion of the population facing starvation. And, private groups within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, if not those governments themselves, have been the principal backers of radical jihadis—including, at times, ISIS—who have served as those countries proxies in the war against the Shiites. Objective observers would almost certainly discern that it is the Sunni-controlled members of the GCC who have been far more involved in destabilizing the Middle East than has Shiite Iran. Nonetheless, with his focus on Iran, Mattis also advocates a “very robust” U.S. naval presence in the region, cooperation with allies in a missile defense, and an increase in funding for intelligence on Iran, which would also involve closer cooperation with the spy agencies of America’s regional allies.
It was Mattis’ obsession with Iran as head of CENTCOM that ultimately caused President Obama to force his retirement in 2013. However, while Trump, during the campaign, said that his “[n]umber one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Mattis has taken a moderate view toward the nuclear accord. Although critical, he maintains that the U.S. should continue to honor the agreement while emphasizing that it is strictly an arms control deal, which does not imply rapprochement with Iran. He compares it to the arms control agreements the U.S. made with the Soviet Union during the Cold War where the U.S. would continue to treat it as an enemy.
As alluded to earlier, McMaster also sees Iran as a significant American enemy, though he does not appear to be so monomaniacally hostile toward it as does Mattis. McMaster contends that Iran “has been fighting a proxy war against us since 1979.” In his view, Iran is “applying the Hezbollah model broadly to the region, a model in which they have weak governments in power that are reliant on Iran for support, while they create militias and other groups outside of that government’s control that can be turned against that government if that government takes action against Iranian interests. You see this, I think, to a certain extent in Iraq.” He holds that if “we pull the curtain back on it,” we would see “Iranian subversion and the use of pressure on the [Iraqi] government to ensure that that government remains wholly sympathetic to Iranian interests. And this is an effort, I think, to retard many of the reforms that would try to build back into the Iraqi government and security forces a multi-sectarian population that would have improved legitimacy, and that would lead eventually to the consolidation of security gains as we continue the campaign against ISIL.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump talked about jettisoning America’s broad global strategy that has militarily entangled the country in wars and alliances that do not serve its own vital interests. Instead, he said he would pursue an American First strategy that would focus on what benefitted the U.S., but he did not show how taking a harder stance toward Iran could possibly fall into this new paradigm. It seems incongruous.
It should seem obvious that the reason Iran is opposed to the United States has much to do with the fact that the United States has acted as its enemy. Moreover, as will be pointed out shortly, throughout the 20th century, Iran has been victimized by the great powers. In the United States, it is often maintained that Israel deserves special treatment because of the past victimization of Jews. For example, this has been used to justify the very creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. U.S. foreign policy experts should, at the very least, recognize that Iran’s recent history of victimization would shape its view of international affairs. It is especially odd that purported military scholars such as Mattis and McMaster do not evince this knowledge. “Know your enemy” is a maxim derived from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a famous work on military strategy that the two generals would be expected to have read. And maybe they do know about Iran’s past but realize that expressing knowledge of inconvenient history that militates against the current mainstream narrative can prevent one from having a successful career, something they wish to maintain despite their mainstream media reputations for “speaking truth to power,” reputations they would be apt to forfeit if they pushed the envelope too far.
Let us now look briefly at the history of Iran. As in other Third World countries, Iranians, who have a proud heritage extending back to the ancient world, do not want to be dominated by outside powers, and this feeling is quite intense because during the 20th century, their country had been treated as a pawn by the great powers. It had been controlled by Britain and Russia from the latter part of the 19th century through World War I, and because of wartime deprivations caused by those two occupying powers, lost a large percentage of its population. According to historian Mohammed Gholi Majd: “World War One was unquestionably the greatest calamity in the history of Persia, far surpassing anything that happened before. It was in WWI that Persia suffered its worst tragedy in its entire history, losing some 40% of its population to famine and disease, a calamity that was entirely due to the occupation of Persia by the Russian and British armies, and about which little is known. Persia was the greatest victim of WWI: no country had suffered so much in absolute and relative terms. . . [T]here are indications that 10 million Persians were lost to starvation and disease. Persia was the victim of one of the largest genocide [sic] of the twentieth century.”
Similarly, Iran was occupied by Britain and the Soviet Union during World War II. And the U.S. played a significant role in the coup that overthrew the legally-established Mossadegh government (Mossadegh was appointed not elected as is often claimed) in Iran in 1953 and essentially made Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi the autocratic ruler of Iran. Even assuming the most benign American motivation—that American policymakers were motivated by the fear of a pro-Soviet Communist takeover rather than by the ambition to acquire oil—would not make Iranians feel better about their country being used as a pawn by an outside power once again. Furthermore, the U.S. influence over Iranian politics during the rule of the Shah was so palpable that most people considered him an American puppet. Given Iran’s historical experience, it is quite natural that Iran fears the American empire and would like a reduction of its influence in the Middle East, just as the young United States wanted to keep the European powers away from the Americas, a view which was embodied in the Monroe Doctrine.
America’s backing of the Shah’s rule certainly contributed to the anti-American revolutionary rhetoric put forth by the Islamic regime after the 1979 revolution. This revolutionary stance especially resonated with the region’s Shiite minority and thus engendered fear among the Sunni ruling elites.
Fear of an internal Shiite revolt in Iraq—one Middle East country where the Shiites were in the majority—along with the desire to take advantage of the revolutionary chaos in Iran to grasp some of its territory motivated Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to launch an attack on Iran on September 22, 1980. After initial success, Iraq was soon put on the defensive. Fearing that Iran might defeat Iraq, the United States, although officially neutral, was providing substantial support to Iraq by the mid-1980s, which included military intelligence and war materiel. And the United States deployed in the Persian Gulf its largest naval force since the Vietnam War, the purpose of which was purportedly to protect oil tankers, but which engaged in serious attacks on Iran’s navy.
Significantly, the U.S. also played a role in Iraq’s use of illegal chemical weapons. U.S. satellite intelligence facilitated Iraqi gas attacks against Iranian troop concentrations. Moreover, Washington allowed Iraq to purchase poisonous chemicals, and even strains of anthrax and bubonic plague from American companies, which were subsequently identified as key components of the Iraqi biological warfare program by a 1994 investigation conducted by the Senate Banking Committee. The United States also prevented or weakened UN resolutions condemning Iraq for using chemical weapons. It should be stressed that although Iran has rhetorically advocated the overthrow of other regimes and provided some military aid to groups that take such positions, its greatest military involvement (other than the defensive war with Iraq) has been to counter offensive moves by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms. Thus, Iran has become militarily involved in Iraq to help the Iraqi government defend itself from the ISIS military juggernaut, which, at least initially, had been bankrolled by wealthy private sources in, and very probably the governments of, Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf sheikdoms, especially Qatar. If the Iranians had not become extensively involved in the defense of Iraq, it is quite conceivable that Baghdad would have fallen to ISIS.
Iranian aid to the secular Assad regime in Syria also should be classified as defensive. For three decades, Syria has been Iran’s most valuable ally in the Middle East. Although many in the West portrayed the revolt against Assad’s Baathist dictatorship as a fight for democracy, from early on radical Sunni Jihadists—who seek the establishment of an Islamic caliphate based on sharia law–have proven to be the most effective fighters. And Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar and other oil-rich Gulf sheikdoms, have been supporting these anti-democratic rebels from the outset.
The removal of the Assad regime would be a serious blow to Iran’s security. Assad’s Syria has provided a conduit for arms from Iran to Hezbollah. With Iranian arms, Hezbollah plays a critical role in Iran’s strategy to deter, and if necessary, retaliate against an Israeli attack on it. Obviously, Israel would prefer that Iran not have this capability.
Currently, in Yemen, Iran is providing some support for the Houthis, who champion the Zaidi Shiites against the Sunni forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. To avoid any false interpretations here, it should be pointed out that Zaidi Shiism is quite different from that of the Iranian variety. Zaidis make up one-third of the population of Yemen and had lived under their own rulers in mountainous North Yemen for almost 1,000 years until 1962. Since that time they have engaged in several rebellions to regain autonomy. It should be added that the Houthi rebels also have been supported by units of the Yemeni army that remained loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was removed from power during the Arab Spring. That President Hadi, the recognized head of Yemen, is some type of democratic, or even the legitimately-elected, head of state, is highly questionable, however. As Dan Murphy wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, “Saudi and the US insist that only Hadi is the legitimate ruler of Yemen, that legitimacy drawn from a 2012 single-candidate referendum that gave him 99.6 percent support.”
Houthi victories in what was essentially a civil war brought a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni states to engage in bombing attacks on the Houthis, claiming that they were Iranian proxies whose victory would expand Iranian power in a strategic region of the Middle East. The U.S. has been actively supporting the Saudi war coalition against Yemen, being engaged in such activities as refueling Saudi warplanes and working with them in selecting targets in a bombing campaign that has so far killed thousands of civilians. The Saudis and their allies have also maintained an air and sea blockade officially aimed at curtailing arms shipments to the Houthis, but also stopping goods vital for civilians. All of this has contributed to a humanitarian crisis.
However, it is not apparent that the Houthis are proxies of Iran or that Iran has the intention or capability of allowing them to achieve an all-out victory in Yemen. While Iran undoubtedly provides the Houthis some types of military aid, this would have to be quite limited since it has not been easy to detect. Moreover, much of the weaponry used by the Houthis has been provided by high-level military supporters of ex-President Saleh who had access to government supplies.
Also, in 2015, Iran presented a four-point plan to end the conflict that called for an immediate cease-fire, humanitarian aid, dialogue, and the formation of an inclusive national unity government. This was rejected by the Yemeni government of President Hadi and the Saudis (with whom the U.S. concurs) who essentially demanded that before any peace talks take place the Houthis must disarm and turn over to the Hadi government all the cities that they have taken. Obviously, such a de facto surrender by the Houthis would eliminate their bargaining position and thus would not [only] fail to address any of their grievances but likely lead to their suffering retribution for rebelling. In short, the Iranian effort in Yemen does not appear as an effort to achieve dominance of the country but rather an effort to restrain the expansion of Saudi power outside its borders.
As Trita Parsi and Adam Weinstein summarize their article, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination,” “Exaggerating the military or ideological power of Iran may serve the goal of pushing the United States to take military action against Iran. But a singular focus on Iran — while deliberately ignoring the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and their spread of Salafism — will neither provide stability for the Middle East nor further any of Washington’s other interests in the region.”
In sum, Iran is acting no differently than a country of its size, power, security interests, and historical experience would be expected to act. However, there is no apparent reason that Iran would be a threat to American interests, even if these interests are viewed from the traditional foreign policy establishment’s globalist perspective. Some of Iran’s key concerns harmonize with those of the United States, such as maintaining the flow of oil to the industrial world (which has been hindered by American-instigated sanctions) and combating Sunni jihadist radicals (ISIS and al-Qaida) who threaten regional stability. This convergence of interests has been recognized by leading figures in the American traditional foreign policy establishment, which was exemplified in the study, Iran: Time for a New Approach, produced by a Council of Foreign Relations-sponsored task force in 2004. The task force [which] was co-chaired by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Robert M. Gates (who would become Secretary of Defense in December 2006) advocated dialog and incremental engagement with Iran.
Also, in 2006, Congress created an independent, bipartisan commission called the Iraq Study Group, which was co-chaired by President George H. W. Bush’s close associate and former Secretary of State James A. Baker and by former Democratic Congressman Lee H. Hamilton. On Iran, the Iraq Study Group advocated rapprochement rather than destabilization and regime change, as had been sought by the neocons who had held sway in the George W. Bush administration. Iran and Syria were to be made integral partners of an international Iraq Support Group, which would work for the stabilization of that country.
Although alternatives to an anti-Iran policy have been made in the past, which would better reflect a real America First policy, Trump, unfortunately, holds an opposite position–that the U.S. needs to take a more belligerent stance–and in this he has been reinforced by Mattis and McMaster. And while the mainstream media anathematizes almost everything else Trump proposes, it sees little wrong with his Iran policy. This makes it apparent that a significant portion of the neocon agenda has become the mainstream position on U.S. Middle East policy, but this is an issue that cannot be dealt with in this already lengthy article.
 “Harbingers of Future War: Implications for the Army with Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster,” May 4, 2016, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/harbingers-future-war-implications-army-lieutenant-general-hr-mcmaster
 Jenna Lifhits, “McMaster on the Role of Education and Values in America’s Military Strategy,” Weekly Standard, February 21, 2017, http://www.weeklystandard.com/mcmaster-on-the-role-of-education-and–values-in-americasmilitary-strategy/article/2006918
 Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, “In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined,” Washington Post, February 22, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-first-month-of-trump-presidency-state-department-has-been-sidelined/2017/02/22/cc170cd2-f924-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.cac7b42072d9
 “The Middle East at an Inflection Point with Gen. Mattis,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 22, 2016, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/event/160422_Middle_East_Inflection_Point_Gen_Mattis.pdf
 “Middle East at an Inflection Point.”
 “Middle East at an Inflection Point.”
 Mark Perry, “James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran,” Politico, December 4, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/james-mattis-iran-secretary-of-defense-214500
 Carol Morello, “Iran nuclear deal could collapse under Trump,” Washington Post, November 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-nuclear-deal-could-collapse-under-trump/2016/11/09/f2d2bd02-a68c-11e6-ba59-a7d93165c6d4_story.html?utm_term=.25b38bdfd668
 “Harbingers of Future War.”
 Mohammed Gholi Majd, Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain (Lanham,MD: University Press of America, 2003), pp. 3-4.
 Stephen R. Shalom, “The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988,” Iran Chamber Society, http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/united_states_iran_iraq_war1.php; Jeremy Scahill, “The Saddam in Rumsfeld’s Closet,” Common Dreams, August 2, 2002, http://web.archive.org/web/20131021234920/http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0802-01.htm; Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid, “When Iraq Was Our Friend,” Accuracy in Media, October 15, 2002, http://www.aim.org/media-monitor/when-iraq-was-our-friend/; Michael Dobbs, “U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup,” Washington Post, December 30, 2002, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/12/30/us-had-key-role-in-iraq-buildup/133cec74-3816-4652-9bd8-7d118699d6f8/?utm_term=.e28029f4b093
 Trita Parsi and Adam Weinstein, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination,” Foreign Policy, January 25, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/25/irans-proxy-wars-are-a-figment-of-americas-imagination/
 Adam Baron, “What We Get Wrong About Yemen,” Politico Magazine, March 25, 2015, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/03/yemen-intervention-116396.html#.VTu2RSFViko; “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?,” BBC, March 26, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423
 Dan Murphy, “Reducing Yemen’s Houthis to ‘Iranian proxies’ is a mistake,” Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2015/0402/Reducing-Yemen-s-Houthis-to-Iranian-proxies-is-a-mistake-video; Laura Kasanof, “Yemen Gets New Leader as Struggle Ends Calmly,” New York Times,” February 24, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/world/middleeast/yemen-to-get-a-new-president-abed-rabu-mansour-hadi.html
 Matt Schiavenza, “Saudi Airstrikes Intensify Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis,” The Atlantic, April 22, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/saudi-airstrikes-intensify-yemens-humanitarian-crisis/391203/ ; Thalif Deen, “Blood Money? After Bombing Yemen, Saudis offer $274 mn. in Humanitarian Aid,” Informed Consent, April 23, 2015, http://www.juancole.com/2015/04/bombing-saudis-humanitarian.html
 Gareth Porter, “Houthi arms bonanza came from Saleh, not Iran,” April 23, 2015, Middle East Eye, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/houthi-arms-bonanza-came-saleh-not-iran-1224808066
 “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?,” BBC, October 14, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423 ; “Iranian representatives discouraged Houthi rebels from taking the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last year, according to American officials familiar with intelligence around the insurgent takeover,” Huff Post Politics, April 20, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/20/iran-houthis-yemen_n_7101456.html; Dan Murphy, “Reducing Yemen’s Houthis to ‘Iranian proxies’ is a mistake,” Christian Monitor, April 2, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2015/0402/Reducing-Yemen-s-Houthis-to-Iranian-proxies-is-a-mistake-video; Steven Inskeep talks with Robin Wright, “Is There Evidence That Yemeni Rebels are Backed By Iran?,” NPR, March 27, 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/03/27/395698502/iran-saudi-proxy-war-touches-on-other-issues; Jason Ditz, “Kerry Endorses Saudi War as Long as Houthis Resist,” Antiwar.com, April 24, 2015, http://news.antiwar.com/2015/04/24/kerry-endorses-saudi-war-as-long-as-houthis-resist/
 Parsi and Weinstein, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination”
Residents of one neighborhood in Sanaa say it has been hit by 37 bombs and rockets from the Saudi-led coalition since Riyadh began intervening in Yemen. They have nobody to help them in the dire situation, they told Ruptly news agency.
“Our homes were destroyed because of the aggression and we didn’t receive help from anyone, no one provided us with mattresses, blankets or food. We have absolutely nothing left inside our houses. All this because of the aggression,” one resident said.
Another said their home was destroyed by three rockets during a raid.
“Once we were hit by the rockets we started running away and everything was destroyed. There was fire and then we were homeless and lost everything and it started raining. We lost everything because of this aggression,” she said. “What did we do to deserve this, to be shelled? They destroyed our homes and injured our kids.”
One man said almost three dozen houses have been destroyed by the coalition in the Al-Masanie neighborhood, and many survivors have nowhere to live now.
“Some people rented other houses and some other living in tents. Their situation is so bad especially since there is no income anymore. Those families’ situation is miserable,” he said.
“The situation in this neighborhood is very bad,” another person said. “For more than a year they were targeted by rockets launched by fighter jets, which belongs to the alliance, the Saudi-American alliance. The houses were destroyed and people are living in a miserable situation.”
Since March 2015, when Riyadh sent its troops to prop up a pro-Saudi president ousted by rebel forces, an estimated 10,200 people have been killed in Yemen fighting. Up to three million were displaced, bringing the already-destitute Arab country to the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
Civilians in Yemen are suffering from a lack of basic supplies, including food, medicine, and fuel, partially due to a Saudi naval and air blockade. Civil rights groups say the Saudi intervention in the country may amount to war crimes.
People take part in a demonstration in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on March 3, 2017 to denounce the Saudi military campaign against their country
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a to express outrage over Saudi Arabia’s deadly military campaign against the impoverished Arab country.
The protesters converged in the Old City of Sana’a following Friday prayers, carrying Yemeni flags and banners in condemnation of the Saudi aggression.
Participants in the demonstration, under the motto “Tough against Disbelievers”, also held up pictures of civilians injured in the deadly Saudi airstrikes, calling on the United Nations to fulfill its responsibilities and stop the Riyadh regime’s atrocious military offensive.
They also warned the Saudi leadership that the continued attacks on the people in Yemen will only strengthen the steadfastness of the nation.
Protesters also accused the United States of being complicit in the Saudi crimes against the Yemeni nation by providing the Al Saud regime with various munitions.
Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a close Riyadh ally.
The airstrikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, says the Saudi campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.
McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this year that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.
On February 23, Yemen’s Legal Center for Rights and Development, an independent monitoring group, put the civilian death toll in the war-torn Arab country at 12,041.
The fatalities, it said, comprise 2,568 children and 1,870 women.
The Pentagon has carried out its first major military operation in Yemen since a botched raid in January that killed women and children as well as an American commando.
US forces conducted more than 20 airstrikes involving a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft early on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the airstrikes targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in three south-central provinces of Abyan, Shabwah and al-Bayda.
“The strikes will degrade the AQAP’s ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
The US military did not share a casualty estimate, but local officials said at least nine suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed.
Davis said the operation was coordinated with resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a strong ally of Saudi Arabia that has been engaged in its own military campaign against Yemen.
Troops engage al-Qaeda on the ground
Military helicopters and drones launched a flurry of fresh airstrikes in Shabwah province early on Friday, witnesses said, according to Reuters.
The raids targeted the residence of Sa’ad Atef, an al-Qaeda leader, as well as other suspected militant positions in the area.
The unidentified aircraft, believed to be American, also deployed troops to the al-Saeed area of the southern province, who engaged suspected al-Qaeda militants on the ground for nearly half an hour.
The military operations came more than a month since a January 29 raid, the first of its kind authorized by President Donald Trump, in al-Bayda which residents said left as many as 25 civilians dead.
An ongoing investigation by the US Central Command has also determined that civilians, including possibly children, lost their lives during the botched raid.
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.
Three other Americans were also wounded in the Navy SEAL Team Six mission and a military aircraft worth $75 million was destroyed after it crash-landed at the raid site.
Trump blames generals for botched raid
President Trump has tried to distance himself from the raid by emphasizing that the operation had been in the works long before he took office. “This was a mission that was started before I got here,” he said in an interview with Fox News this week.
“This was something that, you know, they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected,” the president said. “And they lost Ryan.”
During his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL, and insisted that the operation yielded valuable intelligence that would “lead to many more victories in the future.”
Some US officials, however, have disputed that claim, saying the raid gathered little, if any, workable intelligence.
The United States conducts drone strikes in Yemen and several countries. Washington claims the airstrikes target members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, civilians have been the victims of the attacks in many cases.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has grown in weapons and number since the start of the Saudi military campaign in March 2015, which was launched to bring back Hadi to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Back in the halcyon days of the election of the first Labour Government in Britain in over 18 years, the New Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook expounded a radical shift in British foreign policy making, declaring that the Labour Government of Tony Blair would put human rights at the heart of it’s foreign policy with an «ethical dimension». This was quickly christened by the British media as New Labour’s «ethical foreign policy». Questions were raised at the time how a country with such a large weapons export industry could conduct an ethical foreign policy and that question is as pertinent today as it was back in 1997. In his party conference speech, the first as British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, paid ritual homage as many British Foreign Secretaries have before him, to his belief in human rights and reflected that: «After a long post-war period in which the world was broadly getting more peaceful the number of deaths in conflict has risen from 49,000 in 2010 to 167,000 last year».
Sadly, Britain has contributed to many of these deaths. According to a study carried out with official UK Government figures by the Independent newspaper, Britain is now the second largest exporter of arms around the world, and according to Freedom House since 2010 has sold weapons to 39 of the 51 countries ranked by Freedom House as «not free». What is even more disturbing is that out of the 30 countries ranked on the British Government’s own human rights watch list, the British Government authorizes the sale of weapons to 22 of those. Indeed, according to statistics from the UK Government’s own Trade and Investment body the UK has sold more weapons on average over the last ten years than Russia, China and France combined. All exports of British manufactured bombs, bullets, weapons and other munitions must be signed off and approved by UK Government Ministers with licenses granted.
Most of these arms are sold to Middle Eastern regimes, which have serious human rights issues, if one were to apply the standards the UK Government sets on human rights. In 2016 alone Britain sold over 3 billion pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. It is odd how the British Government which constantly lectures other countries on their human rights records can sell weapons of mass destruction to regimes like the Saudis who carry out routine be-headings and lashings of their own citizens as part of their penal code; subject women to severe restrictions such as forbidding them to drive; provide funding to Madrassas that indoctrinate and radicalise young Muslims in the ways of jihad etc. The list of human rights violations could go on. But the British Government, despite wrapping itself in the language of human rights, feels very comfortable within its own «ethical conscience» in allowing shipments of British manufactured BL-755 cluster munitions to be used by the Saudi Government in its war in Yemen. Unexploded remnants of cluster munitions have proved deadly for Yemenis, killing or injuring at least 85 civilians, including children.
Since March 2015, the UK Government has approved £3.3 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia, yet in November, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office concluded, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that there was no «clear risk» of serious Saudi breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen. The British Government has continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite the Saudi Government’s vastly different approach and record regarding human rights which is incompatible with the British Government’s professed commitment to «universal human rights» and the problems that emanate from Saudi Arabia regarding Islamist extremist terrorism and radicalisation such as the fact that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers where from Saudi Arabia and the emerging information that certain sections of the Saudi Government may have been complicit in the funding and training of the 9/11 hijackers. Saudi Arabia is not the only regime that does not conform to the UK’s own professed beliefs and standards in human rights that the British supply dangerous and destructive weapons of death to.
The UK Government sells arms to Bahrain which has used British arms to quell internal dissent; Burundi, which is being investigated by the UN for human rights violations and The Maldives, which in 2015 jailed its former President, Mohamed Nasheed, for 13 years following what critics said was a politically motivated show trial. The UK Government has also authorised the sale of massive amounts of arms to Egypt despite the coup against the democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi and the violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood that followed. The British Government approved licences for the sale of £7.7bn of arms in 2015 alone. Then there have been weapons scandals in the past involving the British Government and the UK arms industry. There was the shocking Arms-to-Iraq affair of the 1990s when it came to light that the British Government had endorsed and advised on the sale of arms by British companies to Iraq, then under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Ironically, some of these British made and exported weapons to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been used by the Iraqi regime during the first Gulf War of 1991.
All of this raises serious questions regarding how the British Government can profess to on the one hand be a force for human rights and run a foreign policy based on «universal human values», upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law and yet on the other hand maintain a massive arms trade of deadly weapons around the world, arming regimes that are the exact opposite of what the British Government professes to believe in and defend when it comes to human rights. At the heart of the British Government’s position on «human rights» is hypocrisy when examined within context of UK arms sales. The British Government maintains a saintly image of itself and believes its own rhetoric that it is a great force for «universal human rights» around the world despite the contradictions in its policies and behaviour and that the British have higher standards and more noble beliefs than other cultures and countries when in reality this is not the truth. What the British Government hates above all else is to have its self-image shattered and exposed for the two-faced hypocrisy that it is. They are unable to effectively answer the inconsistencies and contradictions of their rhetorical image on the one hand and the reality of their behaviour, policies and practices on the other when confronted with reality. It is high time for the British Government, if is serious about its rhetoric on human rights, to scale back its domestic weapons export industry.
Only a few months ago, interventionists were demanding a militant response by Washington to what George Soros branded “a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions” — the killing of “hundreds of people” by Russian and Syrian government bombing of rebel-held neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo.
Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former New Republic editor, was denouncing the Obama administration as “a bystander to the greatest atrocity of our time,” asserting that its failure to “act against evil in Aleppo” was like tolerating “the evil in Auschwitz.”
How strange, then, that so many of the same “humanitarian” voices have been so quiet of late about the continued killing of many more innocent people in Yemen, where tens of thousands of civilians have died and 12 million people face famine. More than a thousand children die each week from preventable diseases related to malnutrition and systematic attacks on the country’s food infrastructure by a Saudi-led military coalition, which aims to impose a regime friendly to Riyadh over the whole country.
“The U.S. silence has been deafening,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, last summer. “This blatant double standard deeply undermines U.S. efforts to address human rights violations whether in Syria or elsewhere in the world.”
Official acquiescence — or worse — from Washington and other major capitals is encouraging the relentless killing of Yemen’s civilians by warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its allies. Last week, their bombs struck a funeral gathering north of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, killing nine women and a child and injuring several dozen more people.
A day earlier, officials reported a deadly “double-tap” airstrike, first targeting women at a funeral in Sanaa, then aimed at medical responders who rushed in to save the wounded. A United Nations panel of experts condemned a similar double-tap attack by Saudi coalition forces in October, which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians, as a violation of international law.
The Tragedy of Mokha
On Feb. 12, an air strike on the Red Sea port city of Mokha killed all six members of a family headed by the director of a maternal and childhood center. Coalition ground forces had launched an attack on Mokha two weeks earlier.
Xinhua news agency reported, “the battles have since intensified and trapped thousands of civilian residents in the city, as well as hampered the humanitarian operation to import vital food and fuel supplies . . . The Geneva-based UN human rights office said that it received extremely worrying reports suggesting civilians and civilian objects have been targeted over the past two weeks in the southwestern port city . . . Reports received by UN also show that more than 200 houses have been either partially damaged or completely destroyed by air strikes in the past two weeks.”
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator further reported that “scores of civilians” had been killed or wounded by the bombing and shelling of Mokha, and that residents were stranded without water or other basic life-supporting services.
That could be Aleppo, minus only the tear-jerking photos of dead and wounded children on American television. However, unlike Syria, Yemen’s rebels don’t have well-financed public relations offices in Western capitals. They pay no lip service to the United States, democracy, or international human rights. Their foe Saudi Arabia is a friend of Washington, not a long-time adversary. In consequence, few American pundits summon any moral outrage at the Saudi-led coalition, despite findings by a United National Panel of Experts that many of its airstrikes violate international law and, in some cases, represent “war crimes.”
Aiding and Abetting
The United States hasn’t simply turned a blind eye to such crimes; it has aided them by selling Saudi Arabia the warplanes it flies and the munitions it drops on Yemeni civilians. It has also siphoned 54 million pounds of jet fuel from U.S. tanker planes to refuel coalition aircraft on bombing runs. The pace of U.S. refueling operations has reportedly increased sharply in the last year.
The Obama administration initially supported the Saudi coalition in order to buy Riyadh’s reluctant support for the Iran nuclear deal. Over time, Saudi Arabia joined with anti-Iran hawks to portray Yemen’s rebels as pawns of Tehran to justify continued support for the war. Most experts — including U.S. intelligence officials — insist to the contrary that the rebels are a genuinely indigenous force that enjoys limited Iranian support at best.
As I have documented previously, all of the fighting in Yemen has damaged U.S. interests by creating anarchy conducive to the growth of Al Qaeda extremists. They have planned or inspired major acts of terrorism against the West, including an attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in 2009 and a deadly attack on the Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. The Saudis tolerate them as Sunni allies against the rebels, in the name of curbing Iran.
Though the Obama administration is gone, the Trump administration is flush with ideologues who are eager to take a stand against Tehran through Yemen and look tough on “terrorism.” Within days of taking office, President Trump approved a commando raid targeting an alleged Al Qaeda compound in central Yemen that went awry, killing an estimated 10 women and children. The administration has also diverted a U.S. destroyer to patrol Yemen’s coast.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to his credit, has cited “the urgent need for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen,” according to a department spokesman. But no amount of humanitarian aid will save Yemen’s tormented people from the bombs made in America and dropped from U.S.-made warplanes, with little protest from Washington’s so-called “humanitarian interventionists.”
Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military intervention in Yemen, is the world’s second-largest arms importer, according to a new report. Riyadh’s arms imports increased 212 percent compared with 2007–11, with the US remaining the world’s top weapons exporter.
Between 2007–2011 and 2012–2016 arms imports by states in the Middle East rose by 86 percent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on Monday.
India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2012–2016, accounting for 13 percent of the global total, the study said.
“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program, said.
“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions,” he added.
With a one-third share of global arms exports, the USA was the top arms exporter in 2012– 16. Its arms exports increased by 21 percent compared with 2007–2011.
Almost half of US arms exports went to the Middle East, SIPRI said, adding that arms imports by Qatar went up by 245 percent.
“The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world—significantly more than any other supplier state,” Dr. Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program, said.
“Both advanced strike aircraft with cruise missiles and other precision-guided munitions and the latest generation air and missile defense systems account for a significant share of US arms exports.”
Saudi Arabia’s defense expenditure grew by 5.7 percent to $87.2 billion in 2015, making it the world’s third-largest spender at the time, according to a SIPRI report from April.
During Barack Obama’s two terms as president, the US offered Saudi Arabia $115 billion worth of arms in 42 separate deals, the Center for International Policy, a US-based anti-war think tank reported in September. It estimated that US arms offers to Saudi Arabia were more than any US administration in the history of the US-Saudi relationship.
In December, the White House blocked the transfer of some weaponry to Saudi Arabia, over concerns about the civilian death toll from the kingdom’s bombing campaign in Yemen.
“We have made clear that US security cooperation is not a blank check,” a senior administration official told AFP. “Consequently, we have decided to not move forward with some foreign military sales (FMS) cases for munitions.”
“This reflects our continued, strong concerns with the flaws in the coalition’s targeting practices and overall prosecution of the air campaign in Yemen,” he added.
Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist, told RT earlier in February that “the Obama administration has been essentially tied to the Saudi interests in Yemen, as they have been in Syria to a great extent of the past by the degree to which the permanent government in the US – the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA – all have very, very close relations with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia.
“These war powers in the US are very unwilling to have any US policy that would criticize, much less take away, support for the Saudi war so that these arrangements can continue. I am very much afraid that the Trump administration will be subject to the same logic, the same political forces that have kept the Obama administration from taking any responsibility for what is going on in Yemen,” he said.
The death toll in the Yemeni conflict has surpassed 10,000 people, and almost 40,000 people have been wounded, a senior UN official said in January.
The British government refused to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia in November, rejecting calls from two parliamentary committees and human rights groups. According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Britain licensed £3.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) of arms sales to Riyadh during the first 12 months of the Yemen war.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in October that since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, which began on March 26, 2015, the Saudi coalition, “with direct military support from the US and assistance from the UK,” conducted at least 58 “unlawful airstrikes,” with other human rights organizations and the UN having “documented dozens more.”
Since the beginning of the conflict, there have been multiple reports of Saudi jets targeting schools, hospitals, marketplaces and other civilian buildings.
Airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition of nine Arab states in Yemen are responsible for the majority of civilians killed in the ongoing conflict, the UN found in August, while calling for an international investigation into the coalition’s violations there.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed the formation of a forum with the participation of Persian Gulf Arab states in order to build a common goal toward overcoming problems.
“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction of erecting realistic regional arrangements. It can perhaps start with a modest regional dialog forum,” he said on Sunday.
Zarif addressed the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defense officials, urging Arab states to work with Iran to address “anxieties” and violence across the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week traveled to Oman and Kuwait to try improve ties, his first visit to the Persian Gulf states since taking power in 2013.
“On regional dialog, I’m modest and I’m focusing on the Persian Gulf. We have enough problems in this region so we want to start a dialog with countries we call brothers in Islam,” Zarif said.
“We need to address common problems and perceptions that have given rise to anxieties and the level of violence in the region,” he added, when asked whether Tehran would also consider a region-wide dialog.
Zarif earlier criticized four-decades of well financed “Takfiri” ideology which has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is followed by extremist groups such as Daesh, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed ties with Iran last January after protesters in Tehran and Mashhad attacked its diplomatic premises following the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Some of Riyadh’s allies followed suit and cut or downgraded their ties with Iran.
It was choosing regional enmity, Zarif said, that had in part spawned such extremist outfits such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.
“For nearly four decades, a well-financed global proliferation of Takfiri ideology based on division, hatred and rejection, which everybody would agree has nothing to do with Islam, has been sold as promoting a so-called ‘moderate Islam’ to confront an erroneously-framed ‘radical Iran,” he noted.
The other contributors to the rise of such groups were “the endemic problem of foreign occupation and invasion,” and their arming and financing by some states in the region, Zarif added.
‘War not the answer’
Addressing other crises in the Middle East, the top Iranian diplomat said conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain “do not have military solutions,” adding “each requires a political solution, where no genuine actor is excluded.”
As a case in point testifying to “the success of diplomacy over coercion” is the 2015 conclusion of a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, he said.
The accord, he said, held “an important political lesson: All parties concerned defined the problem in a mutually acceptable way so that they could find a solution in a mutually acceptable way.”
Zarif brushed aside new pressure from the United States, declaring that his country is “unmoved by threats” but responds well to respect.
President Donald Trump has adopted a harsh language towards Iran, threatening to “tear up” the nuclear deal, calling Iran “terrorist state number one,” and imposing new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Zarif said, “Iran doesn’t respond well to threats. We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”
“Iran is unmoved by threats. Everybody tested us for many years — all threats and coercions were imposed on us,” Zarif added.
The minister once again dismissed any suggestions Iran would ever seek to develop nuclear weapons. He mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which he said merely ended with Iran having acquired thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium.
Iran has always said it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Asked how long it would take to make one if it did decide it wanted such weapons, Zarif replied: “We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”
The Munich event discusses such issues as the future of the US-led military alliance of NATO, world order and security, terrorism, extremism, and various regional matters.
Iran still the victim of unshakable Israeli influence over the UK’s political establishment
Here in the UK the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has initiated a judicial review in a bid to halt UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia on suspicion that they are being used against civilians in Yemen. The indiscriminate nature of Saudi air-strikes makes it highly likely that British weaponry is being deployed in breach of international humanitarian law.
The slaughter has been going on for nearly 2 years leading to a humanitarian crisis of appalling magnitude and great cruelty. Since the Yemen campaign began the British government has granted export licences for more than £3.3 billions worth of war equipment when there was a “clear risk” that some of it would be used in violation of all norms of human conduct.
It is claimed that the Government has ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and some records of expressed concern have gone missing. This is no great surprise when we discover that export licensing is overseen by none other than the Secretary of State for international trade, Liam Fox. For Fox has ‘form’ as a crazed stooge of Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran.
Fox, while Secretary of State for Defence, was quoted on the Conservative Friends of Israel website as saying: “… We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”
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.”
Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011 following scandalous goings-on between him, his ‘close friend’ Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel (Matthew Gould) and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.
Just lately prime minister Theresa 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 recently concluded another huge arms deal with the Saudis which, says Mrs May, is for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. She argues that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe: “Gulf security is our security.”
However, public pressure to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia is now so great that the Government has adopted a new export licensing scheme that hides the value and scale of weaponry being supplied.
The reason for the British Government’s current hostility towards Iran was plain from what David Cameron told 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 beyond, and serves as an excuse for the rednecks who rule our political swamp to carry on being unpleasant to the Muslim world.
Oh, How he loves these Photo Ops!
Theresa May lost no time in welcoming Mr Netanyahu to London. The two leaders this week agreed to establish a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group to strengthen their existing trade and investment relationship and “to prepare the ground for a post-Brexit trade agreement”. What good that will do in the face of rising popularity among the public of boycotting everything Israeli remains to be seen.
Regional issues including Syria and Iran are to be on the agenda for discussion. And regarding Palestine May repeated the mantra that “We remain committed to a two-state solution as the best way of building stability and peace for the future”…. though she doesn’t say what that will look like.
Netanyahu also met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and they sat alongside the desk on which the Balfour Declaration was composed in 1917. As for the forthcoming Balfour Declaration centenary celebrations, a statement said that May invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend events taking place in the UK “as a Guest of Government” and that Prime Minister Netanyahu “also invited her to visit him in Israel”.
Netanyahu didn’t miss the opportunity to warn that Iran “seeks to annihilate Israel” and called on nations to back renewed sanctions against the Iranian regime.
I looked up one of my old reports about how Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, argued five years ago that British policy was being driven in an underhand fashion by the Israel lobby. He linked Matthew Gould, the then British ambassador to Israel, with the Fox-Werritty scandal and raised questions about meetings between Gould, Liam Fox and Fox’s strange friend Adam Werritty. Werritty was referred to as Fox’s adviser but according to reports he was backed financially by Israel lobbyists and had no security clearance and therefore no authorised role.
Murray, with many useful contacts from his days as an ambassador, claimed to have serious evidence connecting Gould with a secret plan to attack Iran, but the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Secretary blocked questions. Murray published his story ‘Matthew Gould and the plot to attack Iran’ here.
In it he pointed out that “Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as ‘not just an ambassador who is jewish, but a jewish ambassador’. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.”
He went on to say that Gould stood suspected of participating with Fox and Werritty “in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in co-operation with Israel”. The stonewalling by the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office led Murray to conclude that “something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government”.
Labour MP Paul Flynn remarked that no previous ambassadors to Israel had been Jewish so that a conflict of interest and accusations of going native would be avoided. He was immediately rebuked. Flynn also asked about meetings between Werritty and Gould, as some reports suggested that Gould, Werritty and Fox discussed a potential military strike on Iran with Mossad. “I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories,” said Flynn, “but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran.”
Fox had earlier made the idiotic claim: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies”, and the Jewish Chronicle hailed him as “a champion of Israel within the government”. Furthermore Fox continually rattled the sabre against Iran which, of course, is no threat to Britain but regarded by Israel as a bitter enemy. Iraq too was Israel’s enemy, not ours. Yet Fox, according to the theyworkforyou.com, voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Afghanistan.
Given that Fox so eagerly waved the flag of a foreign military power and was a man with dangerous beliefs and demonstrably weak judgement, how could those who appointed him not see that he was unfit to serve as a Minister of the British Crown – unless they were similarly tainted?
When the Werritty relationship came to light Fox jumped before being flung from the battlements. But instead of melting into obscurity he has now been rehabilitated into the senior ranks of Government and is once again a Minister of the Crown. And after watching the trail blazed by our former Jewish ambassador to the Jewish State, we now gawp with fascination at the inevitably messy conflicts of interest arising from Trump’s pick for US ambassador to Israel – David Friedman, a Jewish lawyer with scant respect for international law or Middle East sensitivities.
Despite the strong whiff of misconduct David Cameron rewarded Gould with head of The Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA), which includes e-crime, working with private sector partners on exchanging information, and engaging with international partners in improving the security of cyberspace and information security. Did it seem right for such a person to be in charge of crucial security matters at the heart of our Government? What was in fellow Zionist David Cameron’s mind when he appointed him?
Could it have had anything to do with the UK-Israel academic collaboration ventures with cyber research funding, which involve partnerships between British and Israeli universities and cover research areas such identity management, regulating cyber security, privacy assurance, mobile and cloud security, human aspects of security, and cryptography?
Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on digital co-operation in March 2014. And Gould’s new appointment came at a time when the Cameron government was lecturing us on threats to national security and announcing plans to trawl through our personal emails and web browsers in order to “keep us safe”. Question was, who would trawl Gould’s private emails?
The vipers in our bosom
CAAT expect a decision on the judicial review on arms to Saudi Arabia in 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime an undercover Al Jazeera report has revealed that a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Shai Masot, was plotting with stooges among British MPs and other vipers in the political snake-pit to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan, a noted sympathiser of the Palestinian’s struggle. This should have resulted in the expulsion of the ambassador himself, the Israeli propaganda maestro and Netanyahu’s pet, Mark Regev, who took up the post last year. Regev is the sort of person no sensible government would let into their country. But he was let off the hook and the affair hurriedly smoothed over with an announcement from the Foreign Office that the matter was closed.
Craig Murray, however, has been digging again. The Foreign Office deflected his many questions and dismissed the idea that Masot was anything more than a member of the technical and administrative staff at the embassy. “This is plainly a nonsense,” says Murray. “Masot, as an ex-Major in the Israeli Navy and senior officer in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is plainly senior to many who are on the Diplomatic List.” He concludes that the Foreign Office is complicit in “a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, was so astonishingly muted.”
All this and the recent UN resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s continuing squats on Palestinian land as illegal and an obstacle to peace, has done nothing to disturb the cosy relationship between Her Majesty’s Government and the obnoxious Israelis
On the contrary, after May’s meeting with Netanyahu a Downing Street spokesperson said they focused on, yes, cyber security: “In their discussions, the Prime Ministers committed to working together to build on our longstanding relationship and the strong ties that already exist between our two countries in a wide range of areas, from trade and investment, to innovation and technology, and defence and security. They talked about the important work we do together on intelligence-sharing and cyber-security, and committed to talk further about how we can deepen this cooperation, to help keep our people safe”.
President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” under President Obama.
While reports on Trump’s ban emphasize that these are Muslim majority countries, analysts seem to have ignored another significant characteristic that these countries share.
With just a single exception, all of these countries were targeted for attack by certain top U.S. officials in 2001. In fact, that policy had roots that went back to 1996, 1991, 1980, and even the 1950s. Below, we will trace this policy back in time and examine its goals and proponents.
The fact is that Trump’s action continues policies influenced by people working on behalf of a foreign country, whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region. This kind of aggressive interventionism focused on “regime change” launches cascading effects that include escalating violence.
Already we’ve seen devastating wars, massive refugee movement that is uprooting entire peoples and reshaping parts of Europe, desperate and horrific terrorism, and now the horror that is ISIS. If this decades-long effort is not halted, it will be increasingly devastating for the region, our country, and the entire world.
2001 Policy Coup
Four-star general Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, has described what he called a 2001 “policy coup” by a small group of people intent on destabilizing and taking over the Middle East, targeting six of the seven countries mentioned by Obama and Trump.
Clark described a chance meeting in the Pentagon in 2001 ten days after 911 in which he learned about the plan to take down these countries.
After meeting with then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Clark went downstairs to say hello to people on the Joint Staff who had worked for him in the past. One of the generals called him in.
‘Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” He told Clark, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.”
Clark was shocked. He said, “We’re going to war against Iraq? Why?” The officer said he didn’t know. Clark asked if they had found information connecting Saddam to Al-Qaeda. The man said, “No, no, there’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.”
A few weeks later, Clark went back to the Pentagon and spoke to the general again. He asked whether the U.S. was still planning to go to war against Iraq.
The general replied: “Oh, it’s worse than that.” Clark says that the general picked up a piece of paper and said, “I just got this down from upstairs today. This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”
Clark asked, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.”
Clark said he was stunned: “I couldn’t believe it would really be true. But that’s actually what happened. These people took control of the policy of the United States.”
Clark says he then remembered a 1991 meeting he had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and in 1991 he was Under Secretary of Defense of Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon.
Wolfowitz is a pro-Israel neoconservative who an associate has called “over the top when it comes to Israel.”
Clark describes going to Wolfowitz’s office in March of 1991. Clark said to Wolfowitz, “You must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” Clark says Wolfowitz replied, “Not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t.”
Wolfowitz declared the U.S. had an opportunity to clean up “Syria, Iran, Iraq, before the next super power came on to challenge us.”
Clark says he was shocked at Wolfowitz’s proposal that the military should initiate wars and change governments, and that Wolfowitz believed that the U.S. should invade countries whose governments it disliked. “My mind was spinning.”
Clark says Scooter Libby was at that meeting. Libby is another pro-Israel neoconservative. In 2001 He was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, and worked closely with the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured anti-Iraq talking points.
“This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup,” Clark said in his 2007 lecture. “Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Cheney, and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
(The Project for a New American Century was a think tank that operated from 1997-2006, and was replaced by the Foreign Policy Initiative.)
Clark continued: “Did they ever tell you this? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did Senators and Congressmen stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full-fledged American debate on it? Absolutely not. And there still isn’t.”
Clark noted that Iran and Syria know about the plan. “All you have to do is read the Weekly Standard and listen to Bill Kristol, and he blabbermouths it all over the world – Richard Perle is the same way. They could hardly wait to finish Iraq so they could move into Syria.”
Clark says that Americans did not vote George Bush into office to do this. Bush, Clark pointed out, had campaigned on “a humble foreign policy, no ‘peace keeping,’ no ‘nation building.’”
Others have described this group, their responsibility for pushing the invasion of Iraq, and their pro-Israel motivation.
Neoconservatives, Israel, and Iraq
A 2003 article in Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, reported bluntly: “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history.” (Ha’aretz often highlights the Jewish affiliation of important players due to its role as a top newspaper of the self-declared “Jewish State.”)
It gave what it termed “a partial list” of these neoconservatives: U.S. government officials Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Eliot Abrams, and journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. The article described them as “mutual friends who cultivate one another.”
The article included an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who was quoted as saying:
“It’s the war the neoconservatives wanted. It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite.”
The article continued:
“Friedman laughs: ‘I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.’”
Another Ha’aretz article described how some of these individuals, high American officials, gave Israeli leaders tips on how to manage American actions and influence US Congressmen, concluding: “Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”
Ha’aretz reported that the goal was far more than just an invasion of Iraq: “at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East.” The article said that the war “was being fought to consolidate a new world order.”
“The Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment…”
We’re now seeing the tragic and violent result of that regime-change experiment.
American author, peace activist, and former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison discussed the neoconservatives who promoted war against Iraq in a 2002 article. She wrote: “Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, their ties to Israel have generally been treated very gingerly.”
The Bush administration, she wrote, was “peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy.”
“These people,” she wrote, “who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president’s office.”
Author Stephen Green wrote a meticulously researched 2004 expose describing how some of these individuals, including Perle and Wolfowitz, had been investigated through the years by U.S. intelligence agencies for security “lapses” benefiting Israel.
Yet, despite a pattern of highly questionable actions suggestive of treason, they continued to procure top security clearances for themselves and cronies. The neocon agenda also became influential in Britain.
(During the recent U.S. presidential election, neoconservatives were extremely hostile to Trump, and have been perturbed to have less influence in his administration they they expected to have with Hillary Clinton. They may be relieved to see him targeting their pet punching bags in the Middle East. It’s unclear whether neoconservatives will remain outside the White House’s inner circle for long: neocon Michael Ledeen is quite close to Trump’s recently named White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And there is talk that Trump may appoint Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State.)
1996 plan against Iraq and Syria
The neocon regime-change strategy had been laid out in a 1996 document called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by Richard Perle. Although Perle and the other authors were American citizens, the “realm” in question was Israel.
Perle was chairman of the United States Defense Policy Board at that time. He had previously been U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
The report stated that in the past, Israel’s strategy was to get the U.S. to use its money and weaponry to “lure Arabs” to negotiate. This strategy, the plan stated, “required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes.”
The report recommended, however, that Israel go beyond a strategy just focused on Israel-Palestine, and address the larger region – that it “shape its strategic environment.”
It called for “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” The paper also listed Iran and Lebanon as countries to be dealt with (and Turkey and Jordan as nations to be used in the strategy).
The plan stressed that it was necessary to obtain U.S. support for the strategy, and advised that Israel use “language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war … .”
Perle, Douglas Feith (who would be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense by 2001) and the other signatories of the report framed their proposal as a new concept, but the idea for Israel to reshape the political landscape of the Middle East had been discussed for years. (Lest we be unclear, “reshape the political landscape” means to change governments, something that has never been accomplished without massive loss of life and far-reaching repercussions.)
In 1992 Israeli leaders were already working to indoctrinate the public about an alleged need to attack Iran. Israeli analyst Israel Shahak wrote in his book Open Secrets that the goal would be “to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat.”
Shahak reported: “In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence.”
1982 & 1950s Israeli plans to fragment the Middle East
A document called “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” proposed by Israeli analyst Oded Yinon, was published by the World Zionist Organization in 1982.
The document, translated by Israel Shahak, called for the dissolution of existing Arab states into smaller states which would, in effect, become Israel’s satellites.
In an analysis of the plan, Shahak pointed out: “[W]hile lip service is paid to the idea of the ‘defense of the West’ from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power.”
Shahak noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon planned “to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.”
Shahak wrote that reshaping the Middle East on behalf of Israel had been discussed since the 1950s: “This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme.”
As Shahak pointed out, this strategy was documented in a book called Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Drawing on the memoirs of the second Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s book described, among other things, a 1954 proposal to execute regime change in Lebanon.
Returning to the present, let’s examine the situation in the “countries of concern” named by President Trump last week, by President Obama in 2015, and targeted by Wolfowitz et al in 2001.
Several years ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on General Clark’s statement about the 2001 policy coup: “If you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that vision… being fulfilled.”
Greenwald noted that the governments of Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon had been changed; the U.S. had escalated its proxy fighting and drone attacks in Somalia; U.S. troops were deployed in Sudan; “and the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel.”
Below are sketches of what’s happened:
Iraq was invaded and the country destroyed. According to a 2015 NGO report, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had led to the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis – 5 percent of the total population of the country – by 2011. More than three million Iraqis are internally displaced, and the carnage continues. The destruction of Iraq and impoverishment of its people is at the root of much of today’s extremism and it’s been demonstrated that it led to the rise of ISIS, as admitted by former British Prime Minister and Iraq war co-perpetrator Tony Blair.
Libya was invaded in 2011 and its leader violently overthrown; in the post-Gaddafi power vacuum, a 2011 UN report revealed torture, lynchings and abuse. Five years on, the country was still torn by civil war and ISIS is reportedly expanding into the chaos. A 2016 Human Rights Watch report stated: “Libya’s political and security crisis deepened … the country edged towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced.” Warring forces “continued with impunity to arbitrarily detain, torture, unlawfully kill, indiscriminately attack, abduct and disappear, and forcefully displace people from their homes. The domestic criminal justice system collapsed in most parts of the country, exacerbating the human rights crisis.” [Photos here]
Sudan: The U.S. engaged in so-called “nation-building” in Sudan, advanced the claim in 2005 that the government was perpetrating a genocide, and some U.S. players ultimately organized the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011. (Neocon Israel partisan Elliott Abrams was one of these players.) One journalist reported the result: “[A]n abyss of unspeakable misery and bloodshed … . Tens of thousands have been killed, 1.5 million have been displaced, and 5 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”
Somalia: There have been a number of U.S. interventions in Somalia, most recently a clandestine war under Obama using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies; Somali extremists, like others, repeatedly cite Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, enabled by the U.S., as motivators of their violent extremism.
Iran: Iran has long been targeted by Israel, and Israel partisans have driven the anti-Iran campaign in the U.S. Most recently there has been a public relations effort claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies and other experts do not support these accusations. Israel and the U.S. deployed a computer virus against Iran in what has been called the world’s first digital weapon. Young Iranian nuclear physicists have been assassinated by U.S. ally Israel, and the U.S. instituted a blockade against Iran that caused food insecurity and mass suffering among the country’s civilians. (Such a blockade can be seen as an act of war.) Democratic Congressman and Israel partisan Brad Sherman admitted the objective of the Iran sanctions: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
Yemen: The US has launched drone strikes against Yemen for years, killing numerous Yemeni civilians and even some Americans. In 2010, a few weeks after Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he had the military use cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. The Obama administration killed a 16-year-old American in 2011, and a few days ago U.S. forces under Trump killed the boy’s sister. In 2014 American forces attacked a wedding procession, and in 2015 the Obama administration admitted it was making war on Yemen. Today over two million Yemeni children suffer from malnutrition. The Yemeni regime that we’re attacking became politically active in 2003 as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Syria: In an email revealed by Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton wrote that the “best way to help Israel” was to overthrow the Syrian regime.
Syria seems to be a poster child for the destruction recommended by Israeli strategists. As the UK Guardian reported in 2002: “Disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.”
Half the Syrian population is displaced – 5 million have fled the country and another 6 million are internally displaced – and over 300,000 are dead from the violence. Major cities and ancient sites are in ruins and the countryside devastated. Amnesty International calls it “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
While the uprising against a ruthless dictator was no doubt begun by authentic Syrian rebels, others with questionable agendas flowed in, some supported by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s military intelligence chief said Israel does not want ISIS defeated. Israel’s defense minister has admitted that Israel has provided aid to ISIS fighters.
A major factor in Syria’s chaos and the rise of ISIS was the destruction of Iraq, as revealed by in-depth interviews with ISIS fighters by researchers for Artis International, a consortium for scientific study in the service of conflict resolution:
“Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State… but this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate.”
“More pertinent than Islamic theology is that there are other, much more convincing, explanations as to why they’ve fought for the side they did.”
One interviewee said: “The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
The report noted that the fighters “came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003.”
“They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.”
The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was imprisoned for eight months in the infamous Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run Iraqi prison known for grotesque torture of prisoners. Photos published at that time show U.S. soldiers smiling next to piles of naked prisoners and a hooded detainee standing on a narrow box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands.
An Abu Ghraib interrogator later revealed that Israelis trained them in the use of techniques used against Palestinians. General Janis Karpinski (in charge of the unit that ran the prison) and others say that Israelis were involved in interrogations. It was reported that the head of the defense contracting firm implicated in the torture at Abu Ghraib prison had close ties to Israel and had visited an Israeli training camp in the West Bank.
Another major factor in the rise of anti-Western extremism is the largely unconditional support for Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians. As a UN report documented, “The scale of human loss and destruction in Gaza during the 2014 conflict was catastrophic and has … shocked and shamed the world.”
Professor John Mearsheimer of and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard have written that U.S. policies promoted by the Israel lobby have given “extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism around the world.” Osama Bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians among his reasons for fighting the U.S. The U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day.
Reaction to the Trump executive order
Thousands of people across the U.S. have opposed Trump’s order for the extreme hardship it imposes on multitudes of refugees. The focus on Muslims (Trump has said that Christians might be exempted) has caused outrage at such religious discrimination and unfair profiling (the large majority of Muslims strongly oppose extremism).
Individuals across the political spectrum from Code Pink to the Koch brothers have decried the order. The Kochs issued a strong statement against it:
“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive. Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who supported the Iraq War and suggests God sent him to guard Israel, choked back tears at a press conference and called the order “mean-spirited and un-American.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), known for its fervent pro-Israel advocacy (and history of smearing criticism of Israeli policy as “anti-Semitism”), has vowed a “relentless fight” against the ban.
Some are concerned that Trump’s action will stoke terrorism, rather than defend against it. Many others support the order in the belief it makes them safer from extremist violence. (As mentioned above, the Obama administration undertook a similar, though milder, action for a similar reason.)
I suggest that everyone – both those who deplore the order for humanitarian reasons, and those who defend it out of concern for Americans’ safety – examine the historic context outlined above and the U.S. policies that led to this order.
For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have enacted largely parallel policies regarding the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. We are seeing the results, and most of us are deeply displeased.
I would submit that both for humanitarian obligations and for security necessities, it is urgent that we find a different way forward.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.