Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, speaks during a televised speech in Sa’ada, on April 23, 2017.
Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, says the United States and the Israeli regime are two sides of the same coin and together they seek to destroy Yemen through a brutal military campaign launched by Saudi Arabia.
Addressing a group of Yemenis in Sa’ada, thorough a video conference, Houthi further said on Sunday that the US, Israel and their allies are trying to impose their values on regional nations, adding that enemies view Yemenis as a worthless tool to sustain their own interests in the region.
“Independent forces in the region from Yemen to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are considered as rogue from the American perspective, and sympathy for the oppressed in these countries is viewed as a crime,” he said, adding that Washington is trying hard to turn regional players into its own puppets.
The Yemeni leader also noted that collusion in the atrocities committed against the Yemeni people is not an issue in the eyes of the American leaders, but when the oppressed and independent forces cooperate with each other, the US perceives it as a crime.
He called on all Yemenis to stand united against the aggressors and defend their country.
“[When] anyone says Israel is a threat to our nation, the United States and its allies say they are supporters of Iran, and with the help of this false justification, they (Washington and allies) target anyone that does not accept adopting a hostile attitude towards Iran,” he added.
He also said the only sin committed by Iran, from the perspective of the United States, was that it freed itself from being a puppet country in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
‘US, Israel main source of terrorism worldwide’
The Yemeni leader added that Washington considers regional or international threats all those countries that are not its ally, “but the reality is that the US and Israel are themselves the main source of terrorism worldwide.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Houthi said the Yemeni nation, from all walks of life, should boost their awareness of the realities of regional developments and use it as a tool to battle the US propaganda against the Arab country. Ignorance, he said, makes people an easy target for the US and the Zionists.
Houthi also stated that only Yemenis can decide about their future and the internal affairs of their country and that absolutely no other country or organization, even the United Nations and the Arab League, can impose their so-called solutions to the crisis in Yemen.
He described as utterly ridiculous Washington and Riyadh’s claim that they want to liberate Yemeni cities from “Yemeni occupation.”
“You are Yemenis, who have occupied the capital Sana’a? The US wants to liberate Sana’a from Yemenis?!” he asked.
Houthi reiterated that the Yemeni nation’s resistance against the Riyadh regime’s incessant attacks was deeply rooted in religious orders and was meant to safeguard national sovereignty and freedom.
Saudi Arabia launched its deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 to push back the Houthi Ansarullah fighters from Sana’a and to bring back to power Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s president who has resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The campaign, which lacks any international mandate and has faced increasing criticism, has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.
Certain Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, are partners to the military aggression.
A series of moves by NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partner, the United Arab Emirates, has many observers in the Indian Ocean littoral nations wondering out loud whether the «North Atlantic» military pact is moving into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula, courtesy of an «outsourcing» deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.
On January 27, while the world’s eyes were on the one-week old Donald Trump administration in Washington and believing that NATO would become a shell given Trump’s belief that it was «obsolete,» NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg helped open the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Center in Kuwait. Gathered with Stoltenberg for the opening ceremony were the Secretary General of the GCC, representatives of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Council, and government officials from host Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. The opening of a NATO facility in the Persian Gulf represented an unprecedented leap by the bloc designed for the defense of the «North Atlantic» into far-off waters in Asia.
The Kuwait operation followed the signing of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) between NATO and the UAE last October. The agreement is designed to bolster existing links between NATO and the UAE on NATO-led operations and missions and enhanced interoperability. The de facto admission of the UAE into NATO follows several major military forays by the seven-member Gulf federation into the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. There is a belief that NATO is now using the UAE to extend its military and political influence around the Indian Ocean and associated waters, including the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea.
NATO already has a sizeable military footprint in the Gulf region and Indian Ocean. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is homeported in the Bahrain capital of Manama. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar remains one of America’s largest outposts in the Middle East. The base serves as the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, the United States Air Forces Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group British Royal Air Force, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force. The UAE has its fair share of NATO and NATO partner military bases, including the Royal Australian Air Force facility at Al-Minhad airbase south of Dubai, a U.S. Air Force facility at the Al-Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi, the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai, and a naval base in Fujairah in the Arabian Sea.
There are also U.S. military bases at the Ali Al Salem Airbase, Camp Arifjan, Camp Buehring, and the Kuwait City naval base in Kuwait; the Masirah and Thumrait airbases in Oman; the Isa airbase in Bahrain; Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti; Eskan Village, outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Manda Bay, Kenya; Victoria International Airport on Mahé Island in the Seychelles; the Baledogle airbase in Somalia; and the large Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The U.S. has shown an interest in developing a maritime surveillance facility on the Australian-ruled Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. U.S. Special Operations personnel have been spotted in Zanzibar, from which the U.S. military was ousted in 1964. A six-acre seaside site, said to be the new U.S. embassy complex in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, is believed by locals to also serve as a military base.
Under the guise of supporting the GCC coalition battling against Houthi-led rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war, the UAE has been on a real estate buying spree in the region. Chief among the UAE’s prized acquisitions is the strategic island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. Long-sought by the United States as a naval and intelligence base since the end of the Cold War, there are reports that the exiled Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE in 2014, before fleeing to Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Kuri is a sparsely-inhabited island located 65 miles southwest of Socotra. Since the beginning of the Yemeni civil war, the UAE has taken advantage of the absence of a stable government in Yemen to expand its influence in Socotra. The UAE deal on Socotra was allegedly in return for the UAE’s support for Hadi and his Saudi allies in their military quest to wrest control of north Yemen from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
Formerly a part of the Yemeni province of Hadhramaut, Socotra became a separate province in 2013. Before the former nation of South Yemen was granted independence by Britain, Socotra was a possession of the Mahra Sultanate of Qishn in Hadhramaut in the Protectorate of South Arabia. Hadi’s removal of Socotra from Hadhramaut control and his reported lease of the island to the UAE is not recognized by the pretender to the throne of the former Mahra Sultanate, Abdullah bin Isa. U.S. military operations in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition is reportedly targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but increasingly it appears that the actual targets for American drones, missiles, and special operations forces are tribes loyal to former rulers like bin Isa, Houthi rebels, and South Yemen independence fighters.
A UAE airline, Rotana Jet, now provides direct air service between Abu Dhabi and Socotra. Air Yemenia provides direct service between Socotra and Dubai.
There is reason to believe that the UAE was fronting for the United States in acquiring the lease on Socotra and that it is only a matter of time before U.S. and NATO personnel arrive on the island, likely under the guise of the ICI-NATO partnership. Some reports claim the lease is for 99-years, which is noteworthy for being the same period of time that the U.S. leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base from a newly-independent Cuba. The U.S. has abrogated the Guantanamo lease terms by refusing to depart from the base upon the lease’s termination in 1999.
Abu Dhabi is the home to the private military company Reflex Responses (R2), which is run by Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet. Prince is reported to have provided consulting to the Trump transition team by sneaking into meetings through a back door at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Middle East observers see R2 as a CIA contrivance that farms out mercenaries from such countries as Colombia, South Africa, and Chile to fight as U.S. proxies in wars such as the civil war in Yemen. R2’s operational personnel are headquartered at the Zayed Military City UAE military base outside of Abu Dhabi. Prince and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi jointly command some 1400 Colombians at the base whose officers are mainly American and British ex-military personnel.
The UAE has been engaged in further military real estate grabs in the Indian Ocean region. It recently signed an agreement with the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland to establish a major naval base at the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.
In October 2015, UAE forces took control of the Yemeni island of Perim in the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The island had been under the control of Yemeni Houthi rebel forces battling the Saudi puppet government of Yemen. The UAE president has built a massive vacation palace on Mahé island in the Seychelles, at what was once a U.S. Air Force listening station.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly buying Faafu Atoll in the Maldives. The «mega project» planned for the atoll by the Saudis may be a joint commercial/naval base. The Maldivian government denies it is selling Faafu to the Saudis, but did admit to the Saudi $10 billion mega project. Atoll inhabitants are worried about the Saudi deal. A protest by Faafu islanders against the Saudi deal has taken place on the main island of Bilehdhoo.
The U.S. and NATO enjoy access to French military bases in Mayotte, near Madagascar; the French island of Reunion; and the Kerguelen archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, near Antarctica. France also maintains facilities in Abu Dhabi at the Al-Dhafra airbase; the Mina Zayed naval base, and a French Foreign Legion base 50 miles from the city of Abu Dhabi.
The United States and NATO are militarizing the Indian Ocean region as much as they have the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. NATO and its masters in Washington, now allied with ICI partners in the Persian Gulf, are intent on pushing the «Atlantic Alliance» far beyond the Atlantic Ocean and into Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. The question remains. To what end?
US Defense Secretary James Mattis says the conflict in Yemen needs to be resolved “as quickly as possible” through UN-brokered peace negotiations.
“Our aim is that this crisis can be handed to a team of negotiators under the aegis of the United Nations that can try to find a political solution as quickly as possible,” Mattis told reporters on Tuesday as he flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“We will work with our allies, with our partners to try to get it to the UN-brokered negotiating table,” the Pentagon chief said.
Mattis is expected to meet senior Saudi officials, including King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
Several UN brokered ceasefires and peace talks have so far failed to end the conflict in Yemen.
Mattis gave no details on what additional support, if any, the United States would provide to the Saudi-led coalition. Washington already provides intelligence as well as aerial refueling to coalition warplanes carrying out air strikes in Yemen.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for causing civilian casualties. The campaign has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.
Saudi Arabia launched its deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 with the alleged goal of pushing back the Houthi Ansarullah movement from the capital, Sana’a, and to reinstate the regime of Yemen’s former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Yemeni students study in a classroom on March 15, 2016, which was damaged in a Saudi air strike. (Photo by AFP)
The Saudis and their allies have also suffered considerable casualties in the operation on Yemen as official estimates say more than 500 soldiers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been killed since March 2015.
Some officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration have called for more American military support for the Saudi-led coalition.
In late January, US special forces carried out an attack against a purported position of al-Qaeda militants in the central Yemeni province of Bayda, killing about 30 civilians.
The raid, in which just about everything went wrong, was the first known American-led ground mission in Yemen since December 2014.
The White House hailed the operation as a success, but critics said it was a failure since it resulted in the death of civilians and 36-year-old Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.
The US military carried out a flurry of air strikes in Yemen after the botched raid, involving a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of the chaos and breakdown of security in Yemen to tighten its grip on the southern and southeastern parts of the Arab country.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned last week that 20 million people are in danger of starvation because of conflicts and drought.
If you missed this shocking and very important news, then it’s no surprise, as it didn’t receive too many headlines – certainly not in the West. Those have been dominated instead by expressions of faux-outrage from the pro-war political and media Establishment over footage of children in Syria who appeared to have been the victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack, which the US and its allies were very quick to blame, without firm evidence, on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
How do we know that the Establishment concern we saw about child victims of war was insincere? It’s easy. True humanitarians care about all victims equally. The concern of phony humanitarians is only for those who have been killed, or who appear to have been killed, by an ‘Official Enemy’ of the Western elites – like Assad. This ‘outrage’ has to be expressed strongly, and very publicly, in order to build support for the bombing of the ‘Official Enemy’ country, and further the case for regime-change, which helps the arms industry and the 1% get even richer. However, if it’s an ally of the West or Western powers themselves responsible for the atrocities, it’s a very different story. Then it’s a case of: “Don’t mention the war!” Let’s change the subject as quickly as we can! Bellicose ‘liberal interventionists’ become as quiet as church mice.
What made the double standards even more glaring this week is the fact that a large proportion of those facing starvation, as identified by the UNHCR, are in Yemen, which has been bombed by staunch Western ally Saudi Arabia for two years now.
“In Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with almost 19 million people in need of humanitarian help, around 17 million people are food insecure,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
The very same countries who are directly responsible for the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis” in 2017 are – surprise, surprise! – the ones who have sought to take the moral high ground over Syria. The same neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’ who screech “Something must be done about Assad!” on social media from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night are quite happy for absolutely nothing to be done to stop the suffering in Yemen.
One man who did try to end the slaughter in the country was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn- a consistent target of the Endless War lobby. Last October Labour put forward a motion in the British Parliament calling for the UK to suspend its support to Saudi Arabia. The resolution failed because over 100 Labour MPs either didn‘t turn up- or abstained. One of them was Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson. ‘How can Labour ‘humanitarians’ support Saudi Arabia’? asked Stop the War’s Lindsey German.
Last week Watson broke with Corbyn yet again to issue a statement in favour of Trump’s illegal cruise missile strikes on Syria- saying, without any sense of irony, that they were a ‘a response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’
When it comes to humanitarian humbug there’s no difference between right-wing Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. Or, in America, between Democrats and Republicans. Vicar’s daughter Theresa May has spent most of the last few days robotically denouncing ‘the Assad regime’-which is battling ISIS and al-Qaeda and protects Syria’s Christian community from religious persecution. Yet just ten days ago the British Prime Minister was defending UK ties to Saudi Arabia on a trip to Riyadh. For all the moral grand-standing by May and Johnson and Trump and Tillerson, the bloodshed and chaos unleashed by the west and its allies in recent decades dwarfs any crimes that could be laid at Assad’s door. In 2015, it was revealed that at least 1.3m people, the vast majority of them Muslims, lost their lives in the US‘s so-called ‘War on Terror’ in just three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan- between 2001 and the end of 2013.
The Body Count death toll as I pointed out in my earlier OpEdge does not include deaths among the 3m refugees from Iraq subjected to privations, nor those killed in Libya and Yemen. But in spite of the mind-boggling numbers involved the victims of US-led military interventions are ’un-people’ who have been airbrushed out of western history.
Only Muslims killed by ‘Official Enemies’ are mourned- and splashed on the front pages of Establishment-friendly newspapers. When it comes to infanticide, the same grotesque double standards are on display. In a 1996 television interview about the impact of sanctions on Iraq, the US Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying. She replied ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it’. Just imagine if Putin or Assad had said such a thing! In an interview with David Edwards of Media Lens, Denis Halliday, the former UN Assistant Secretary General- and the co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian oil for food programme – said that the shortage of food and medical supplies in Iraq was the direct responsibility of Washington and London. ’For the British government to say that the quantities involved for vaccinating kids are going to produce weapons of mass destruction, is just nonsense. That’s why I’ve deliberately used the word ‘genocide’ because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq’, Halliday said.
The genocide which preceded the Iraq war is a taboo subject in the west- like the genocide which came after it. Instead, we’re encouraged to focus solely on the ’heinous crimes’ of our ‘Official Enemies’. They- Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic- are always ‘butchers’- ‘our’ leaders can never be called that- even if they kill millions more and illegally attack, or threaten to attack, different countries every few years.
Back to the UNHCR warning. In South Sudan, 100,00 people face starvation- and a further 1m are on the brink of famine. In northern Nigeria seven million people ‘are now struggling with food insecurity and need help’. The situation is perilous in Somalia too. Getting food supplies to these unfortunate people ought to be the number one priority for genuine humanitarians. But what was the top of the agenda for last week’s G7 meeting? How to get Russia to end its support for Assad!
This is the neocon agenda of the warmongering elites and not of those who really care about humanity. Next time you come across a ‘humanitarian’ saying that toppling Assad and ‘dealing’ with Putin is the most pressing issue, ask them why it’s more important than saving 20 million people close to starvation. They won’t have a satisfactory answer.
Question: I’d like to start by asking you about your forthcoming meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, we’ve read in the press that the two of you may be meeting soon.
Sergey Lavrov: So they say.
Question: Could you perhaps tell us about your expectations and goals in dealing with Secretary Tillerson?
Sergey Lavrov: Well, after the American election, soon after Election Day President Putin and President-elect Trump talked over the phone. It was a good but very general discussion touching upon the key issues in our relations, and of course the key international issues. And they agreed that they would continue being in touch and after the inauguration they talked again, and they reconfirmed the need to look for ways which would be effective in handling international problems. And of course to see what could be done to bring the bilateral relations to normalcy. They also agreed that Mr. Rex Tillerson and I would look into the agenda in some more details, and would also discuss the preparation for the presidential meeting which should take place when both countries, both leaders feel comfortable.
And we met with Rex in mid-February in Bonn on the margins of the G-20 ministerial meeting, and covered quite a lot of the bilateral agenda. I briefed him about the relationship on bilateral issues with the Obama administration, the problems which accumulated during that period. We did not go into the substance of this, I just briefed him so that his team, which is still being assembled, could take a look at these issues and determine what kind of attitude they would have on them. And we discussed Syria, Iran, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East in general, relations between Russia and the West, it was a very general, but rather substantive discussion, obviously it was the first contact and Mr. Rex Tillerson is just getting into the shoes of his new capacity. We discussed the possibility of personal meeting and have been continuing these discussions. As soon as we finalize them it will be announced.
But my feeling is that from the point of view of personal relationship, we feel quite comfortable. I feel quite comfortable, I believe Rex had the same feeling, and our assistants should work closer but of course this could only be done when the team in the State Department is complete.
Question: Of course. If I could follow up on your answer there, you mentioned bringing normalcy to the U.S.-Russia relationship. What do you think “normal” is?
Sergey Lavrov: “Normal” is to treat your partners with respect, not to try to impose some of your ideas on others without taking into account their own views and their concerns, always to try to listen and to hear, and hopefully not to rely on a superiority complex, which was obviously the case with the Obama administration. They were obsessed with their exceptionality, with their leadership. Actually the founding fathers of the United States, they also spoke of their leadership, and they believed that the American nation was exceptional, but they wanted others just to take the American experience as an example and to follow suit. They never suggested that the United States should impose, including by force, its values on others.
And the Obama administration was clearly different. Actually, long before Ukraine, long before Crimea, in early December 2012, there was an OSCE ministerial meeting in Dublin. And Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and was the head of the delegation, we had a bilateral meeting with her, she was trying to persuade me on something which was a difficult issue on the agenda, but I recall this situation because in the margins of this ministerial meeting she attended a meeting in the University of Dublin, and she delivered a lecture in which she said something like: “We are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent the move to re-Sovietize the former Soviet space.” December 2012.
What kind of action she was considering as the move to re-Sovietize the space, I really couldn’t understand. Yes, there were discussions about Ukraine, about Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia, forming the Customs Union, and if this was the reason, then of course it showed very obviously the real attitude of the Obama administration to what was going on in the former Soviet space and the area of the Commonwealth of Independent States, its obvious desire to take over this geopolitical space around Russia without even caring what Moscow might think.
This was the reason for the crisis in Ukraine, when the U.S. and European Union bluntly told the Ukrainians: either you are with us, or you are with Russia against us. And the very fragile Ukrainian state couldn’t sustain this kind of pressure, and what happened- happened: the coup, and so on and so forth (if you want I can discuss this in some detail later). But my point is that they considered normal that the people in Obama’s team should call the shots anywhere, including around such a big country as the Russian Federation. And this is absolutely abnormal in my view.
At the same time, when we visited Venezuela with our naval ships, they were raising such hell, as if no one could even get closer to what they believe should be their backyard. This mentality is not adequate for the twenty-first century. And we of course notice that President Trump is emphasizing the need to concentrate on U.S. interests. And foreign policy for him is important as long as it serves the United States’ interests, not just some messiah projects doing something just for the sake of showing that you can do it anywhere. It’s irrational, and in this he certainly holds the same position as we do in Moscow, as President Putin does, that we don’t want to meddle in other people’s matters. When the Russian legitimate interests are not, you know involved.
Question: You just mentioned at the end of your statement that the United States shouldn’t meddle in others’ affairs, and obviously many Americans today feel that Russia has meddled in American affairs, in the 2016 election. Your government has denied that. But how do you explain what happened in the United States? Do you feel that Russia had any involvement or any responsibility at all for what transpired?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that these [are] absolutely groundless accusations – at least I haven’t seen a single fact that this was substantiated. I believe these accusations were used as an instrument in the electoral campaign, which for some reasons seemed to the Democratic Party to be an efficient way to raise support among the American people, playing on their feelings that no one shall meddle with American affairs. This is a Russophobic instrument. It was a very sad situation because we never wanted to be unfriendly with the American people, and apparently the Obama administration, the elite in the Democratic Party, who made every effort during the last couple of years to ruin the very foundation of our relationship, decided that the American people should be brainwashed without any facts, without any proof. We are still ready to discuss any concerns of the United States.
As a matter of fact, in November 2015, long before this hacker thing started, we drew the attention of the U.S. administration to the fact that they kept hunting Russian citizens suspected in cybercrime in third countries, and insisting on them being extradited to the United States, ignoring the treaty on mutual legal assistance which exists between Russia and the United States, and which should be invoked in cases when any party to this treaty has suspicions regarding the citizen of another one. And this was never done.
So what we suggested to them in November 2015, that we also don’t want to see our citizens violating law and using cyberspace for staging all kinds of crimes. So we would be the last one to try to look aside from them. We want them to be investigated and to be disciplined. But since the United States continued to avoid invoking this treaty on legal assistance, we suggested to have a meeting between the Justice Department and the Russian prosecutor-general, specifically at the expert level, on cybercrime. To establish confidential, expert, professional dialogue to exchange information.
They never replied; when we reminded them that there was a request, they orally told us that they were not interested, but in December 2016, more than one year after our request was tabled, they said, “Okay, why don’t we meet?” But this came from Obama administration experts, when they already were on their way out, some technical meeting took place, it was not of any substance but at least they responded to the need to do something about cyberspace.
And of course on cybercrimes the discussions in the United Nations are very telling. When we are leading the debate on negotiating an instrument which would be universal and which would be mandatory for everybody, the U.S. is not really very much eager, and is not very enthusiastic.
Speaking of meddling with others’ matters, there is no proof that Russia was in any way involved either in the United States, or in Germany, or in France, or in the United Kingdom – by the way, I read yesterday that the Swedish prime minister is becoming nervous that they also have elections very soon and that Russia would 100 percent be involved in them. Childish, frankly speaking. You either put some facts on the table or you try to avoid any statements which embarrass you, even if you don’t believe this is the case.
It’s embarrassing to see and to hear what we see and hear in the West, but if you speak of meddling with other countries’ matters, where facts are available—take a look at Iraq. It was a very blunt, illegal intervention, which is now recognized even by Tony Blair, and those who were pathetically saying that they cannot tolerate a dictator in Iraq. Take a look at Libya, which is ruined, and I hope still has a chance to become one piece. Take a look at Syria, take a look at Yemen: this is the result and the examples of what takes place when you intervene and interfere. Yes, I’m sure you can say about Ukraine, you can say about Crimea, but for this you have to really get into the substance of what transpired there.
When the European Union was insisting that President Yanukovych sign an association agreement, including a free-trade zone with zero tariffs on most of the goods and services crossing the border between Ukraine and the European Union, and at that point it was noted that Ukraine already had a free-trade area with Russia, with some different kind of structure, but also with zero tariffs. So if Russia has zero tariffs with Ukraine, Ukraine would have the same with European Union but we have some protection, under the WTO deal with the European Union, so the only thing we said: guys, if you want to do this, we would have to protect our market from the European goods which would certainly go through Ukraine to Russia, trying to use the zero-tariff arrangement. And the only thing suggested, and Yanukovych supported, is to sit down the three—Ukraine, EU and Russia—and to see how this could be handled. Absolutely pragmatic and practical thing. You know what the European Union said? “None of your business.”
Then-President of the European Commission Mr. Jose Manuel Barrosso (my favorite) stated publicly that we don’t meddle with Russia’s trade with China, so don’t meddle with our deal with Ukraine. While the situation is really very different and the free-trade area argument was absolutely ignored. And then Mr. Yanukovych asked for the signature of this deal to be postponed, for him to understand better what will be the consequences—for his industry, for his finances, for his agriculture—if we would have to protect ourselves from potential flow of cheap goods from Europe. That’s so, and then the coup was staged, in spite of the fact that there was a deal between Yanukovych and the opposition, witnessed by Germany, France and Poland.
Next morning, this deal was torn apart under the pretext that Yanukovych disappeared, and therefore all commitments were off. The problem is that he did not leave the country, he was in another city of the country. But my main point is that the deal which they signed with him was not about him; it was about his agreement to go to early elections – and he would have lost these elections – but the deal started by saying, “We agree to create a government of national unity.”
And next morning, when they just tore apart this deal, Mr. Arseniy Yatsenyuk then a leader in Ukraine’s Batkivshchyna party and others who signed the deal with the President, they went to this Maidan, to the protestors, and said, “Congratulations, we just created the government of the winners.” Feel the difference: “government of national unity” and “government of the winners”. Two days later, this parliament, which immediately changed their position, announced that the Russian language is no longer welcome.
A few days later, the so called the Right Sector, the group which was an instrument in the violence in Maidan—they said that Russians have nothing to do in Crimea, because Russians would never honor the heroes of Ukraine, like Bandera and Shukhevych, who were collaborating with Nazis. These kinds of statements led to the people in the east of Ukraine just to say: “guys, you did something unconstitutional, and we don’t believe this is good for us”, so leave us alone, let us understand what is going on in Kiev, but we don’t want any of your new ideas to be imposed on us. We want to use our language, we want to celebrate our holidays, to honor our heroes: these eastern republics never attacked anyone. The government announced the antiterrorist campaign in the east, and they moved the regular army and the so-called voluntary battalions in the east of Ukraine. This is not mentioned by anyone. They are called terrorists—well, they never attacked a person.
And investigations of what actually happened on that day of the coup is going nowhere, the investigation of the murder in Odessa on the second of May, 2014, when dozens of people were burned alive in a trade-union office building, is moving nowhere. Investigation of political murders of journalists and opposition politicians is not moving anywhere. And they basically passed amnesty for all those who were on the part of the opposition during the coup. And they prosecute all those who were on the part of the government.
But even now they want to prosecute Yanukovych in absentia, but one interesting thing maybe for your readers to compare: there was a deal on the twenty-first of February, next morning they said, Yanukovych is not in Kiev, so our conscience is clean and we do what we please, in spite of the commitment to national unity. About the same time there was a coup in Yemen. President Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia. Not to some other city in Yemen, but he fled abroad.
More than two years passed, and the entire progressive international community, led by our Western friends, insists that he must be brought back to Yemen and that the deal which he signed with the opposition must be honored by the opposition. My question is why Ukraine’s situation is treated differently from the situation in Yemen. Is Yemen a more important country? Are the deals which you sign and the need to respect your word and your deals, more sacred in Yemen than in Ukraine? No answer.
Sorry for getting into all these details, but people tend to forget, because they’re being brainwashed every day with very simple phrases like “Russia is aggressor in Ukraine,” “annexation of Crimea” and so on and so forth, instead of laboring your tongues, people should go there. Those who go to Crimea, see for themselves how the people live there, and they understand that all these hysterical voices about violation of human rights, about discrimination vis-à-vis Crimean Tatars, is a lie.
Question: Maybe coming back, just for a moment, to the U.S. election, and setting aside the question of evidence, because your government has its perspective, the U.S. intelligence community has its perspective—I don’t think those differences are likely to be reconciled. Setting that question aside, many Americans believe that Russia did interfere in the election; it’s contributed to a particular political climate in the United States. Do you view that as an obstacle to the U.S.-Russia relationship, and do you believe there is anything that Russia can or should do to try to address these widespread concerns?
Sergey Lavrov: You said a very interesting thing. You used the word “perspective.” You said, “Russia has its own perspective; the American intelligence community has its own perspective.” Perspective is something which many people have. We speak about facts, about proofs. And with all these perspectives, these hearings which sometimes are shown on CNN, on Russian TV, I haven’t heard any, any proof. Except the confirmation that the FBI and the NSA started watching what the Trump team is doing sometime in July. I heard this recently.
And I take this as acceptance by those who were doing this, for whatever reason, and they clearly said that this was not because of the suspicion that he had something to do with Russia but this was a routine process during which they find a trace leading to the Trump headquarters. Fine, this is a fact: they admitted that they started this. So what? If by admitting this they make their perspective regarding Russia a fact, I cannot buy this.
And then you said, they have their own perspective, and that the American people believe Russia had something to do with the American elections. Categories like perspective and belief are not very specific. And we speak about some very serious accusations. I understand that in the West, people who indeed profess Russophobic feelings, and unfortunately they are—they used to be very powerful, they are still very powerful even when they lost the elections: and Russophobic trends are obviously seen even in the Republican camp. You know, it’s very easy to find some external threat and then to put all the blame on this particular external threat.
When in 2014 the Malaysian plane was shot down over Ukraine, two days later I think, in the UN Security Council, when we insisted on adopting a resolution demanding further investigation, the American officials said yes, we believe investigation must be held, but we already know the result.
What about the presumption of innocence? The same happened on Litvinenko, the poor guy who was poisoned in London, when from the very beginning they said, we will have an investigation but we know who did it, and they never made this trial public. And they never accepted the offer of assistance which we were ready to provide. And so on and so forth.
Now, yesterday, this terrible murder of the Russian and Ukrainian citizen, who used to be an MP in Russia, and did not stay in the current parliament, and President Poroshenko two hours after the guy was murdered says that this was a terrorist attack from Russia—who also blew up the munition depot near Kharkov. It was said a few hours later by the president of a democratic country, whom our American and European friends call a beacon of democracy. I thought democracy was about establishing facts when you have suspicions.
And democracy is about division of power, and if the the chief executive takes upon himself the functions of the legal system, of the judicial system, that does not fit with my understanding of how Western democracy works. We’re ready to discuss anything, any facts, I mean. We’re ready to assist in investigations of whatever issues our partners anywhere might have. Whether this is going to be an obstacle to normal relations, I don’t think so. I believe the Russian people, at least if we are asked, I would say no, if it depends on us. I understand that there are some people in the United States who want this to become an obstacle, and who want to tie up the team of President Trump on the Russian issue, and I believe this is very mean policy, but we see that this is taking place.
What can Russia do to help? Unfortunately, not much. We cannot accept the situation, but some absolutely artificial hysterical situation was created by those who severed all of the relationship—who dropped the deal on the Bilateral Presidential Commission between Moscow and Washington with some twenty-plus working groups, a very elaborate mechanism of cooperation—and then after they have done this, after they prevent the new administration from doing away with this absolute stupid situation, to ask us to do something? I don’t think it’s fair.
We said what we did, that we are ready to work with any administration, any president who would be elected by the American people. This was our line throughout the electoral campaign, unlike the acting leaders of most European countries who were saying absolutely biased things, supporting one candidate, unlike those who even bluntly warned against the choice in favor of the Republican candidat, and this somehow is considered normal. But I leave this on the conscience of those who said this and then immediately chickened out and then started praising the wisdom of the U.S. electorate.
We said that we would be ready to come back to the relationship and to develop the relationship with the United States to the extent, and to the depths, to which the administration is ready to go. Whatever is comfortable for our partners, we will support and provide it. We talk on the basis of mutual respect and equality, trying to understand the legitimate interest of each other and to see whether we can find the balance between those interests. We will be ready to cover our part of the way, as President Putin said, but we will not be making any unilateral steps. We offered cooperation on very fair terms, and we will judge by the deeds of course.
Question: Perhaps we can pivot to international affairs. In the United States there’s been discussion of a new Cold War; you, for your part, recently talked about a post-West international order, which as you may imagine is not something that many in the United States and other Western countries would readily embrace. In fact, some may even be strongly inclined to resist the emergence of a post-West order. What do you think a post-West order is, and do you think that it makes confrontation between Russia and the United States, or Russia and the West, inevitable?
Sergey Lavrov: Well first, I don’t believe that we are having another Cold War. Ideologically, we’re not different, we’re not apart. Yes, there are nuances in how the countries in the West and Russia and its neighbors are run. But all in all the basis is democracy, which is elections, basically, and organizing the system, the way you respect the opposition and it’s also market economy. Again with «give and take» you know in some countries the state is much more involved in economy than in others but this happened in France some time ago, in the UK some time ago, so this is all secondary details, I would say. There’s no ideological differences as far as democratic principles and market economy are concerned. Second, these days, unlike the days of the Cold War, we have much clearer common threats, like terrorism, like chaos in the Middle East, like the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This was never the case during the Cold War days, which was a very negative balance with sporadic conflicts in periphery. This time we have global universal threats, not sparing anyone and this is what we witness almost daily, with these terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe, there was one in the United States, and so on and so forth.
So this absolutely makes it necessary to reassess where we are and what kind of cooperative structure we need. Post-West system, post-West order: I mentioned this term in Munich at the Munich Security Conference, and I was really surprised that people immediately made me the author, the coiner of this term, because the title of the conference contained “post-West order”—with a question mark, yes. I put the question mark aside for one very simple reason: if we all agree that we cannot defeat terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, climate change without a universal coalition, if we all agree that this is the case, and I believe we do, then it would certainly be necessary to recognize that the world is different, compared to the many centuries than when the West was leading with culture, philosophy, military might, economic systems, and so on and so forth.
We all have, China, the whole Asia-Pacific region, which President Obama, by the way, said is the place where the U.S. would be shifting, which in itself means that he was not thinking of the West order but post-West order. And, of course, Latin America, Africa, which is hugely underdeveloped but has the potential with resources and labor, young and vigorous, still untapped. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just a few days ago in Washington convened a coalition to fight terrorism—sixty-eight countries if I am not wrong, double the number of the countries in the West. This meeting was post-West order, or a manifestation of post-West order. So I don’t believe the Western countries should be really offended or should feel that their contribution to the world civilization has been underestimated—not at all. It’s just the time when no one can do it alone, and that’s how we feel. It’s a polycentric world. Call it multipolar, call it polycentric, call it more democratic—but this is happening. And economic might, financial might and the political influence associated with all this, they’re much more evenly spread.
Question: Let’s zero in on Syria. You mentioned the terrorism issue and certainly the struggle with ISIS is an important focus for the U.S., for Russia. There has been, as I’m sure you’re aware, some skepticism in the United States about Russia’s role in Syria. President Donald Trump, when he was a presidential candidate, certainly referred many times to a desire to work with Russia in Syria. How do you envision the opportunities and constraints on the U.S. and Russia in working together in Syria, and do you have any specific new ideas about how to do that?
Sergey Lavrov: First, when this coalition was created by the Barack Obama administration (the coalition which was convened in Washington just a few days ago) it was understood that out of sixty-some countries only a few would be actually flying air force and hitting the ground. Others were mostly political and moral support, if you wish, solidarity show—which is fine, it’s important these days as well to mobilize the public opinion in as many countries as you can. We were not invited. The Iranians were not invited. Some others were not invited, who I believe should be important partners in this endeavor. But this was motivated by some ideological considerations on the part of the Barack Obama administration. I just don’t want to go into the reason for why they assembled this particular bunch of people.
But what I can attest to is that one year into the creation of this coalition, it was very sporadically using the air force to hit some ISIL positions. They never touched the caravans who were smuggling oil from Syria to Turkey and, in general, they were not really very active. This changed after we responded to the request of President Assad, who represents, by the way, a legitimate government –member of the United Nations. After we joined, President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama spoke in New York in September 2015, and President Putin clearly told him that we would be doing this and we were ready to coordinate, and they agreed to have these deconfliction discussions, which did not start soon actually, not through our fault. But when we started working there the U.S.-led coalition became much more active. I don’t want to analyze the reason for this. I’m just saying before we moved there with our air force, the U.S. coalition was very rarely hitting ISIL positions and almost never hitting the positions of Jabhat al-Nusra, which many people believe has been spared just in case at some point they might be needed to topple the regime. And this feeling, this suspicion, is still very much alive these days, when Jabhat al-Nusra already twice changed its name, but it never changed its sponsors who continue to pump money and whatever is necessary for fighting into this structure. And people know this. So when we moved there, at the request of the government, we suggested to the U.S. to coordinate our efforts. They said, “No, we can only go for deconfliction,” and deconfliction procedures were developed and are being applied quite well, but we believed it was a shame that we couldn’t go further, and coordinate targets and what have you. And then my friend, John Kerry, who was very sincere in his desire to overcome the ideological—not ideological, but to overcome some artificial barriers, and to indeed start military coordination—we spent almost from February 2016 to September 2016 when, eventually, we had a deal to separate the armed groups, with whom the U.S. and the allies cooperate, from ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra, and then to coordinate the targets and basically to strike only those targets which would be acceptable to both Russians and the Americans. Quite a few people really understood the quality of this deal.
I put myself in the shoes of those who were criticizing us for hitting wrong targets. You remember, there was so much criticism. So the deal we reached with Kerry, when none of us could strike unless the other supports, was solving this problem. And the fact that the Pentagon just disavowed what Kerry did, and Obama could not overrule the Pentagon, meant for me only one thing: that he, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, was motivated by the desire to have some revenge on Russia, for whatever reason and for whatever situation, rather than to capitalize over the deal reached between John Kerry and us, to make the war against terror much more efficient in Syria. But let God judge him.
Now, whether we have an opportunity to resume the cooperation: yes we do. Yes, President Donald Trump said that fighting terrorism is his number one international goal, and I believe this is absolutely natural. We will be sharing this approach, I am sure, and it’s also, in this sense, coming back to our first question which we discussed, about intervention in other parts of the world, terrorism is a universal threat. So when you interfere to fight terrorist manifestations, it’s in the interest of your country. It’s another matter that you have to be faithful to international law. And the coalition, of course, led by the United States, was never invited to Syria. We were, Iran was, Hezbollah was. Still, the Syrian government, while complaining that the coalition were there uninvited, they said, “If and since you’re going to coordinate with Russians, with those who fight ISIL and Nusra, we take it as this is what you want, to defeat terrorism, not to do anything else in Syria.” So deconfliction procedures continue to be applied.
You might have heard that the chief of general staff of the Russian Army, General Gerasimov, met with General Dunford.
Question: Twice, I understand.
Sergey Lavrov: Twice, at least, and they talked over the phone. And this is something the military discussed. I assume that if their discussions go beyond deconfliction, I don’t want to speculate, this would be a welcome sign that we can really do what is necessary to bring about the situation when everyone who confronts ISIL and Nusra on the ground acts in coordination. If not under the united command—this, I think is unachievable—but in a coordinated manner.
The Turks have troops on the ground. Iran, Hezbollah are invited by the government. Russian air force with some ground special military police helping keep law and order in the Sunni quarters of Aleppo and Damascus, the military police from Russia is largely composed of Russian Sunnis from the northern Caucasus—Chechens, Ingush and others.
The U.S. Air Force and the coalition air force; U.S. special forces on the ground. Apparently there are French and U.K. special forces on the ground. The military groups who are part of the so-called Free Syrian Army, the military armed groups who are part of the Kurdish detachments—there are so many players: I listed all those who declare that ISIL and Nusra are their enemies. So some harmonization is certainly in order, and we are very much open to it.
When the United States dropped from the deal, which we negotiated with John Kerry, we shifted to look for some other opportunities and we had the deal with Turkey later—which was later supported by Iran—which brought about some kind of cessation of hostilities between the government and a group of armed opposition. And we created, in Astana, a parallel track supportive of the Geneva negotiations concentrating on mechanisms to monitor the cessation of hostilities, to respond to violations, also to build up confidence by exchanging prisoners, and so on and so forth.
It is not welcome by quite a number of external players who try to provoke and encourage the radicals, radical armed groups in Syria, to make trouble and to stage some terrorist attacks. They launched a huge offensive now in the northern part of the Hama province, and they basically coordinate with Jabhat al-Nusra, under its new name. So it’s also a game for influence in Syria, unfortunately, which prevails in the minds of the people who promote such an approach, rather than the need to get united to fight terrorism, and then to have a political deal. It’s the fight for influence on the battleground, and this is unfortunate. We don’t need this now. What we need is to strengthen the cessation of hostilities and to support strongly the political process in Geneva, concentrated on the new constitution, which would be accompanied by a division of power between the government, the opposition, all ethnic groups, then elections and so on and so forth. But all this would be absolutely meaningless if people sacrifice the fight against terror for the sake of their goal, their obsession, with regime change.
Question: In Iran, the Trump administration seems to have signaled an intent to try to enforce the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, more strictly, perhaps to be more assertive in challenging Iran’s regional role. And I’d be curious about your reaction to that and the degree to which Russia could work with, or not work with, the United States on either of those things. Then there is Ukraine. Clearly a very complex problem, the Minsk Process I think to many outside observers really seems to have stalled. Is that process dead? Is there any way to move forward?
Sergey Lavrov: On Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a product of collective work—it’s a compromise. But the key things were never compromised. It’s a compromise which allows for all of us, with the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to be sure that Iran’s nuclear program is going to be peaceful, that all the elements which cause suspicion would be removed, and handled in a way which gives us all certainty and gives us control over the implementation of those arrangements.
I don’t think that the Trump administration is thinking in the same terms as the slogans during the campaign, that Iran is the number one terrorist state; we don’t have a single fact to substantiate this claim. At least when we were facing a huge terrorist threat, when we were under terrorist attack in the 1990s in the northern Caucasus, we detected and discovered dozens and hundreds of foreign terrorist fighters from very close neighborship to Iran, but not from Iran at all. And we know that the political circles in quite a number of countries were really encouraging these terrorist groups to go into the northern Caucasus. Iran had never challenged the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, never used its own links with Muslim groups to provoke radicalism and to create trouble. What we do now with Iran and those that cooperate with us and the Syrian army is fighting terrorists in Syria. Iran is a powerful player on the ground, legitimately invited by the government. Iran has influence over Lebanese Hezbollah, which is also legitimately on the ground. And if we all want, you know, to topple, to defeat terrorists in Syria, there should be some coordination. I have already touched upon this.
The IAEA regularly reports on this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action implementation. The latest report once again confirmed that there are no violations of the part of Iran, and that the deal is being implemented in line with the commitments of Tehran and all others. It’s another matter that the steps which were promised in return to the implementation, namely sanctions relief, are not being undertaken by all Western participants as fast and as fully as was promised. But that’s another matter.
On the Minsk agreements, I believe that the Ukrainian government and President Poroshenko personally want them dead. They want them dead in a way which would allow them to blame Russia and the people in the east of Ukraine. They certainly encountered huge opposition from the radicals, and the radicals believe that this government is weak enough just to wait it out and to have either early elections or to have another Maidan. The biggest mistake of President Poroshenko, I am convinced, was that after he signed this agreement in February 2015 in Minsk, and he came back with the success, with the support of Germany, France, then the Security Council in New York endorsed this deal, and he should have used this moment to impress upon his parliament, upon the opposition, that this was a good deal supported by the European Union, where he wanted to join.
Instead, he started apologizing in front of his opposition when he got back to Kiev saying, you should not think this is serious, I did not commit myself to anything in the legal way—in the legally binding way—this is not what you read. And so on and so forth. He cornered himself in the situation of an absolutely irresponsible politician who signed one thing and who was saying that this is not what he signed one week later when he came back. The opposition felt that this was his weakness and they started carving out of his position anything which was still reasonable. The fact that every day he is in contact with President Vladimir Putin, they talk over the phone sometimes, they talk on the margins of the meetings of the Normandy Format when the leaders have their meetings; the last one was in October in Berlin last year. But my impression is that he tries to be constructive, to find ways to come back to the Minsk implementation. But the next day he comes back to Kiev or goes abroad, and goes public saying things which are absolutely aggressive and are absolutely unfair.
One very simple example: the Minsk agreement, they provide for preparation for elections on the special status of these territories, the status itself is listed in the deal, and the law on this special status is already adopted by the Rada, but it is not in force. Then amnesty, because you don’t want to have a «witch hunt», and the constitutional confirmation that this special status is permanent. That was all. And after this is done, the Ukrainian government restores full control over the entire Russian-Ukrainian border. They are saying now: no elections, no special status, no constitutional change, no amnesty, until we first take control of the border. But everyone can read the Minsk agreement—it’s only three pages. And it says absolutely clearly that the border transfer is the last step, and everyone understood why when this was negotiated. Because if you just under these circumstances, with all these animosities, with all these so-called voluntary battalions, Azov, Donbass and all the radicals, not reigned in by the government—when you just say, okay, take the border and we trust you that will do everything else, these people would just be victims. They will be suffocated and burned alive like the people in Odessa. So the political guarantees are crucial, and Germany, France and others understood this very well, just like the Americans understood this very well, because we did have parallel track—parallel to the Normandy Format—with the U.S. and we are ready to revive it again.
But one very simple example. October 2015, Paris: the Normandy leaders meet. And there is very specific discussion regarding the law on special status. The logic and sequence of the Minsk agreement is that you first have the special status, and then you have elections. Because people would normally want to know what kind of authority those for whom they are going to vote would have. Poroshenko said, no, we first have to have elections. Then I, Poroshenko, would see whether the people elected are to my liking. And if they are, then, we will give them the special status.
Which is rather weird. But still, we decided just to move forward, we would be ready to have some compromise on this thing, in spite of the fact that it was absolutely clearly spelled out in the Minsk agreement. And then the former foreign minister of Germany, who was participating in the meeting, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is now president of Germany, he said, why don’t we have a compromise formula which would mean that the law on the special status is adopted, but it enters into force on the day of elections temporarily, and it would enter into force, full fledged, on the day when the OSCE reports that elections were free and fair, and in line with democratic OSCE standards?
Everyone says okay. Poroshenko says okay. One year later, in October 2016 in Berlin, the same group of people, the leaders with the ministers. And President Putin is saying the formula of Steinmeier is still not embodied in any papers, in the Contact group process, because the Ukrainian government refuses to put in on paper. Poroshenko said, well, but it is not what we agreed, and so on and so forth. And then Putin said, well this is Mr. Steinmeier, ask him about his formula, and he reiterated this formula: temporary entry into force on the day of elections, full entry into force on the day the OSCE confirms they were free and fair. Merkel said the same, Hollande said the same, that this was absolutely what we agreed.
And then Poroshenko said, okay, let’s do it. October 2016 is almost half a year ago. And we are still not able, because of the Ukrainian government opposition in the contact group, to fix this deal on paper. So I can go for a long time on this one, but I am sure that those people who are interested can go and who follow the developments in Ukraine, they understand why we are not at the point of Minsk implementation.
The Ukrainian government wants to provoke the other side to blink first and to say, enough is enough, we drop from the Minsk deal. That’s why the economic blockade, that’s why the prohibition for the banks to serve the population in the east. By the way, in the Minsk agreements, two years ago we discussed the difficulties in banking services for this part of Ukraine and Germany and France committed themselves to organizing mobile banking, and they failed because they could never get cooperation from the Ukrainian authorities.
Well, I leave it to your readers to study what is going on, what is happening in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.
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.