Press TV – February 15, 2017
At least six women have been killed in a Saudi airstrike targeting a funeral in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.
According to a preliminary count, 10 people were also injured in the strike on Arhab district on Wednesday, Yemen’s al-Masirah television reported.
It is not the first time Saudi Arabia hits funerals in Yemen.
In October 2016, a similar strike in Sana’a left more than 140 people dead and over 520 wounded.
The first strike on October 8 hit the hall of the funeral that was packed with hundreds of adults and children. The second came three to eight minutes later when medical personnel were trying to help casualties from the first attack.
People carry the coffin of a man who was killed in Saudi airstrikes in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, January 28, 2017. (Photo by AP)
Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym as MSF, has said the Saudi war on Yemen has left about 200,000 people facing shortages of food, water and medicine in the city of Ta’izz.
The head of MSF’s Yemen mission, Djoen Besselink, said in a press conference in Jordan on Wednesday that attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical staff had severely limited the MSF activities in the city, which he visited in January.
He added that he saw unprecedented levels of destruction at the four MSF-supported hospitals in Ta’izz, adding, “There’s not a single room without bullet holes, the windows are gone, there’s no more equipment. It’s total failure.”
Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015. Riyadh’s aggression, which has killed more than 10,000, was launched in an attempt to restore power to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, who has resigned as Yemen’s president but seeks to force his way back into power. The campaign also seeks to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement
Donald Trump’s first concrete decision as commander in chief was a major fiasco that killed nine children, eight women, and a U.S. soldier in a botched raid on al Qaeda in Yemen.
It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump making the situation worse in Yemen, but he did.
Impoverished to begin with, Yemen is two years into a civil war that has killed 10,000 people and displaced millions. A U.S.-supplied bombing campaign has turned schools, hospitals, essential infrastructure, and ancient heritage sites into rubble. And a U.S.-backed blockade is preventing the trade of food and basic goods, starving a country that previously relied on imports for 90 percent of its food.
As a result, the United Nations this week declared that Yemen is on the brink of famine. Officials held a news conference Wednesday to announce that 19 million Yemenis — more than two-thirds of the country’s population — need some form of humanitarian assistance, 7.3 million people do not know where their next meal will come, and more than half of the country’s medical facilities have closed.
Jan Egeland, a former UN official and chair of the Norwegian Refugee Council, described the situation by saying “if bombs don’t kill you, a slow and painful death by starvation is now an increasing threat.”
Even so, the toll of Trump’s botched raid was so high that it drew criticism from the ousted government-in-exile of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi — the party supported by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Hadi’s ministers had withdrawn their support for the U.S. to conduct ground missions in Yemen. The Pentagon and the Hadi government quickly denied the report, but Hadi’s foreign minister then said the government is conducting a “reassessment” of the raid.
Trump is evidently so sensitive to the criticism that he has tried to smother it by shamefully smearing critics and trying to stifle dissent.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused critics of being disrespectful of Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL Trump sent to his death. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and does a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said.
On Thursday, after Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., described the raid as “a failure,” Trump — who repeatedly insisted it was a success — lashed out on Twitter, saying McCain’s criticism “emboldens the enemy” — likening congressional truth-telling to sedition.
And signs are that Yemen is in for more suffering at Trump’s hands. Trump’s Defense Department is reportedly considering a proposal to designate Yemen a formal battlefield in the war on terror, which would allow for an “intensified pace of operations, rather than one-off raids or drone strikes.”
Yemen is one of seven countries included in Trump’s immigration ban. In New York City, Yemeni-Americans have led strikes and large protests against the ban, which separates many from their extended families.
And the Washington Times reported on Wednesday that the administration is set to approve an arms transfer to Saudi Arabia that the Obama administration denied to them on human rights grounds.
The shipment contains hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons guidance systems that would allow Saudi Arabia to convert dumb bombs into precision missiles.
Targeted bombing is normally safer for civilians than indiscriminate bombing. In fact, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during his confirmation hearing that the U.S. should provide Saudi Arabia with “better targeting intelligence” and “better targeting capability” in order to minimize “collateral damage.”
But the Obama administration, despite its reluctance to offend the Saudis, halted the guidance-systems sales after concluding that the Saudi-led coalition was targeting civilians deliberately.
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015 after Houthi rebels overran the capital and deposed Hadi, the Saudi-backed leader, who now splits his time between the Saudi capital and southern Yemen. The U.S. has been a silent partner in the kingdom’s campaign against the Houthis, refueling warplanes, supplying targeting intelligence, and resupplying the coalition with more than $20 billion in weapons.
Since the beginning of their campaign, Saudi Arabia has destroyed vital civilian infrastructure including farms, fisheries, water infrastructure, roads, and hospitals. Other targeting decisions have sparked global outrage: the bombing of a children’s school and a school for the blind, and the October attack that turned a funeral at a community center into a “lake of blood.”
Congress has not yet been notified of the weapons shipment, and the Pentagon declined to comment on it.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign has also allowed al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate — the target of Trump’s botched raid — to grow exponentially in personnel and finances. According to State Department reports, the group quadrupled in size the year that Saudi Arabia started bombing. The same year, al Qaeda seized a prominent port city, which netted them an estimated $5 million a day off customs tariffs and smuggled goods. Al Qaeda in Yemen is also fighting the Houthis.
While Trump ramps up U.S. militarism in Yemen, Democrats have largely ignored the plight of the Yemenis. When a Yemeni refugee who had lost her father to Saudi bombing questioned Nancy Pelosi at a CNN town hall on January 31, Pelosi condemned Trump’s Muslim travel ban — but said nothing about U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war. “Your family is suffering because our president is reckless” she said.
RT | February 4, 2017
The Pentagon’s website no longer shows an “important intelligence” video obtained in a fatal Yemeni raid, since officials realized the footage has been available online for a decade.
On Friday, the Pentagon posted a video to the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) website they said justified the operation in Yemen which cost the life of one US Navy SEAL and several Yemeni civilians.
“The raid resulted in the seizure of materials and information that is yielding valuable intelligence to help partner nations deter and prevent future terror attacks in Yemen and across the world,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) declared in a statement.
President Donald Trump also hailed the raid as a success, citing the fact that “important intelligence” was obtained, which he said would “assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.”
The video released by the Pentagon depicted a man in a white robe and black mask demonstrating how to make Triacetone Triperoxide, an explosive used in the attempted “shoe-bomber” attack in 2001 and the London attacks in 2005.
Only problem is, the video clips, titled, “Lessons in How to Destroy the Cross,” were first posted to the Site Intelligence group website in 2007.
Several hours after its posting, the material was removed from the DVIDS site.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the video was obtained in the raid, along with other intelligence the Pentagon was not able to release to the public.
“It does not matter when the video was made; that they had it is still illustrative of who they are and what their intentions are,” Davis said, according to Reuters.
The January 29 raid in Yemen was the first major military operation autrhorised by Trump and resulted in the death of American Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, and several civilians, which “may include children,” CENTCOM wrote in a press release after the raid.
An eight-year-old girl, Nora, the daughter of US-born Yemeni preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was among the children killed in the raid, according to her grandfather.
The raids were first proposed in the last weeks of the Obama administration, but as Colin Kahl, a national security official under President Barack Obama, said in a series of tweets, “This particular raid was NOT discussed” by the Obama administration.
Kahl’s tweets further reveal that the Obama administration wanted to park the raid for the next administration who would have more time to plan the details.
The U.S. Attack “against Al Qaeda” In Yemen, “They Killed Anyone in Sight” Including Women & Children
The Fake Outrage About Trump piece included a part on a U.S. special force attack in Yemen that had happened just hours before:
The rural home of a tribal leader’s family, friendly with some Yemeni al-Qaeda members, was raided by a special operations commando. A U.S. tiltrotor military aircraft was shot down during the raid. One soldier was killed and several were wounded. The U.S. commandos responded with their usual panic. They killed anyone in sight and bombed the shit out of any nearby structure. According to Yemeni sources between 30 and 57 Yemenis were killed including eight women and eight children (graphic pics). The U.S. military claimed, as it always does, that no civilians were hurt in the raid.
One of the killed kids was the 8 year old daughter of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.
But an open question is still why the raid happen. The military and the administration claim it was to get intelligence, laptops, hard-drives and the like. But that is not a good explanation for an elaborate raid that needed lots of resources and backup. We had noted that “Yemeni sources say that at least two men were abducted by the U.S. military.” The U.S. Central Command claims that no prisoners were taken only intelligence material. But a few days ago it also claimed that no civilians were hurt which it now admits indeed happened. My gut tells me that we will hear more on this issue.
There are also some weir conspiracy theories around the raid.
Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel headlined: Trump Fulfills Another Campaign Promise: Kills 8-Year Old American Girl and asked “Was that the point?”
That is crazy and impossible theory. Trump had been in office for less than ten days. The “raid” included SEAL Team 6 forces, UAE special forces, attack helicopters, U.S. Marine MV-22 tiltrotor planes, various drones and intelligence assets, a ship off the coast that launched Harrier jets and who knows what else. An organization like the U.S. military can not possibly vet, arrange and coordinated such a collection of different units and assets without several weeks of intense preparations. It is impossible that Trump ordered this raid up within very few days and just to kill some girl. Also – the military hierarchy would have very likely rejected such an order.
One can file Marcy’s piece next to the dissection about the Liberals On the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown. Note: A loudmouth ruling in the White House does not make the sky fall down.
Another crazy piece was published by Reuters today:
U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.
One wonders who these three “U.S. military officials” are who try to back-stab Trump and his advisors. The raiders surely had prior and current intelligence, they surely had enough forces on the ground and in the air. Lots of backup actually did come in when needed.
The “three military officials” are also lying about the “reinforced al-Qaeda base”. The pictures show a few normal houses in a small tribal village. All reports from Yemen speak of a few local families of which men were hired by the Saudis as anti-Houthi fighters. Such may at times align with local al-Qaeda groups who are also supported by the Saudis but that does not make them al-Qaeda terrorists.
The attack in Yemen must have been planned for months under the Obama administration for reason we likely do not yet know. It was then delayed and handed over “ready to go” to the Trump administration. That was my best guess days ago and it is also what the NYT now reports:
[O]ver dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions [… ] Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.
Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.
[M]onths of detailed planning that went into the operation during the Obama administration […] the Defense Department had conducted a legal review of the operation that Mr. Trump approved and that a Pentagon lawyer had signed off on it.
The “U.S. military officials” Reuters quotes must known this. Why do they try to plant their false story and thereby blame not only Trump but also Mattis, Dunford and Flynn – (former) generals who agreed on the mission? Is there some nonsense ongoing like an amateurish “military coup” attempt against Trump that Rosa Books fantasizes about?
The military attack in Yemen was a bad idea. Killing some local Yemenis who work the U.S. “ally” Saudi Arabia for what? To be hated by their families, clansmen and tribal allies for the next decades?
Then there is the operational failure. According to the NYT and others the SEALs were detected early on, recognized they had been detected and still proceeded. The surprise effect was gone and they ran into an ambush. The operation should have been stopped as soon as they noticed that it was not going as planned. They screwed up just as their command screwed up – up to the strategic level of Obama and Trump.
Just think about the background fight between the local “allies” in the war on Yemen. From my comment at Mary’s site:
Take the bigger view. The Saudis want a united Yemen under their full control. The UAE (while said to be allied with Saudis) supports the southern separation movement in Yemen. Dubai Port (DPWorld) wants exclusive rights to Aden and the south Yemeni oil terminals. (These to avoid the strategic problems of the street of Hormuz passages.)After UAE forces took Aden they were attacked by Saudi supported al-Qaeda (and ISIS) groups. The U.S. military supports the UAE in this family strife because it dislikes the Saudi support for al-Qaeda.
The U.S./UAE hit against that “al-Qaeda aligned” Saudi mercenary gang was as much against the Saudis themselves as it was against al-Qaeda.
Unless there is a really big secret about it yet to unveil, the raid was planned and done for little effect and more out of (Obama typical) pettiness than out of sound strategic necessity. That Trump agree to it was a stupid mistake he by now probably regrets.
That all can and should be criticized. But that does not require unfounded conspiracy theories about some spontaneous raid Trump ordered out of malice or incompetence.
There are plenty of reasons to attack him for what he does. Inventing “bad Trump” stories will only help him along.
Are Saudi Jihadis Entitled to a “Safe Zone”? By Pepe Escobar
|A Trump-House of Saud anti-Iran axis is on the move.|
Sputnik” – Straight after the “extreme vetting” blitzkrieg – which, technically, is not a “Muslim ban” – President Trump called the lucidity-impaired King Salman of Saudi Arabia and “requested, and the king agreed to support” (in the words of the White House), safe zones in Syria and Yemen.
No wonder serial eyebrows were raised facing the prospect of a Trump/House of Saud alliance in Syria — which the Saudis have been destroying for years via weaponizing/cash support for “rebels” – and Yemen – which the Saudis have been bombing in an unwinnable war.
Trump and King Salman did not exchange a single word on the “Muslim ban”. And why should they? Saudi Arabia is mercifully excluded from the “Muslim ban”.
The official White House statement did mention a Saudi request for Trump to lead “an effort” not only to “defeat terrorism” but also to improve the Middle East socially and economically. This could be easily interpreted as the House of Saud asking Trump to lead the Arab world. It will be no doubt exciting to monitor how the pan-Arab street will manifest its “approval”.
As for the safe zones, everyone is waiting for the Trump-ordered Pentagon assessment, to be led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, on how they would be enforced. Drones? Multiple Black Hawk patrols? Squadrons of fighter jets? Boots on the ground?
Certified jihadis with Saudi passports, meanwhile, enthusiastically turbo-charge their celebrations.
I’ll bomb your visa to ashes
On the “Muslim ban”, let’s cut to the chase. Trump’s seven-nation list is the Obama administration’s list. These nations were “rounded up” by the Obama administration already in 2011, and are included in Obama’s Terrorist Travel Protection Act 2015.
Homeland Security was already targeting these seven nations as “countries of concern”. Customs and Border Protection, detailing the “Visa Waiver Program and Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015”, even explicitly mentioned the seven nations. The whole package was signed into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of fiscal year 2016.
So the Trump White House is essentially enforcing a law that already exists. In a nutshell, it has been official USG policy for over a year to target, and turn admission to the US, an absolute odyssey for these nationals.
Whether these nations should be in the list is a completely different issue. The notion that Iran “exports terrorists” exists only in the fantasies of neocons/deranged Likudniks and their shills.
What the list does is to evoke the notorious neocon-penned Pentagon memo, revealed by former NATO supreme commander Gen. Wesley Clark, describing “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and then finishing off (with) Iran.” Yemen ended up replacing Lebanon.
The record shows the USG has bombed (into democracy or otherwise), directly or indirectly, no less than six out of the seven nations on Obama/Trump’s list. The exception is Sudan. In the case of Iran, Washington destroyed a packed Iran Air passenger jet in mid-air in 1988 with a missile, and has been consistently mute on Israeli targeted attacks on Iranian nationals.
Saudi Arabia’s ideological matrix inspires Salafi-jihadis all across “Syraq” and beyond.
Yemeni refugees are fleeing a Saudi war — conducted with US weapons — on their nation. Syrian refugees are fleeing a war on Damascus where Riyadh plays a major role “facilitating” the work of “moderate rebels” which are in fact Salafi-jihadis.
Not to mention that most Daesh jihadis hail from Tunisia; their numbers are ahead of Saudi Arabia, Russia (essentially Chechens), Turkey and Jordan. None of these American allies — Russia, of course, is a strategic competitor — are on the seven-nation list.
Where’s section 6?
Something extraordinary happened along Trump’s Executive Order (EO)’s path to stardom.
On both there’s no explicit mention of Muslims or Islam. Yet the key fact is how the former section 6, Establishment of Safe Zones to Protect Vulnerable Syrian Populations, simply disappeared.
The only reasonable explanation is that Trump, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who helped draft the EO) and chief strategist and new National Security Council stalwart Steve Bannon, had to acknowledge that it’s Moscow who’s in charge in Syria, not Washington.
So the safe zones had to go, just to reappear in Trump’s call to King Salman.
The House of Saud is frantically spinning its (glorious?) absence from the list, plus the phone call, as evidence of Saudi Arabia configured as leader of the Arab/Muslim world.
For the official Saudi Press Agency, “the view of the two leaders were identical” in terms of confronting terrorism and extremism, as well as “those who seek to undermine security and stability in the region and interfere in the internal affairs of other states.”
That’s a not exactly subtle reference to Iran. A Trump-House of Saud anti-Iran axis is on the move – part of the Kissinger-advised strategy of breaking up Eurasia integration by seducing Russia away from China and harassing Iran.
Tehran, cautiously but predictably, is already engaged to retaliate against the visa ban. And the tension will be up a notch next week, when naval exercise Unified Trident starts in the Gulf, with US, British and French naval vessels simulating an attack on – who else — Iran.
So, essentially, Trump’s EO – while not technically a Muslim ban — is extremely harsh, and unfair to multiple actors (including Iranians, Iraqi “collaborators” with the US military, Syrian refugees). It is already being drawn into a swamp infested with crossfire bureaucracy, multiple lawsuits and even possible civil rights violations.
But the irrational seven-nation list is inherited from Obama. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus though has left open the possibility that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan may be added to the list. No mention of Tunisia.
This list is yet another proof that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) is the gift that will keep on giving. The Cheney regime blew the Middle East apart; the Obama/Clinton continuum entertained the illusion of managing it; and Trump wants an easy way out. Iranian engineers, Iraqi interpreters, Syrian and Yemeni refugees, are all caught in the crossfire.
Meanwhile, GWOT will remain a pathetic parody as long as Wahhabi Saudi Arabia – the ideological matrix of Salafi-jihadism — is not dealt with for what it is: a huge, unaccountable, threatening danger zone.
Locals Knew About ‘Secret’ US Raid Long Before Troops Arrived
The weekend raid by SEAL Team 6 forces into Yemen to target what was described as “al-Qaeda headquarters,” was championed by the administration as a great success in the initial wake of it, but subsequent accounts have instead shown a complete disaster, with losses among the attack US forces and substantial harm to civilians, virtually destroying the entire village and leading Yemen’s Foreign Minister to fault the attack as “extrajudicial killings.”
The attack on the village of Yakla didn’t target a “headquarters,” but rather the home of a person the US believed was an al-Qaeda “collaborator.” This would explain why the named casualties from reports were all from the same family, the in-laws of US-born cleric Anwar Awlaki, whose 8-year-old daughter was slain in the raid.
The raid was scheduled for a night with no moon to make the multi-mile ground raid into the village a total surprise. Locals knew long before the troops got there, however, saying there were more US surveillance drones than usual and they were flying lower than would be normal long before the attack. The SEALs knew their mission was compromised but went in anyway.
Without the element of surprise, locals had set up a substantial defense, taking up positions around the village. As troops attacked and called in airstrikes, women started picking up weapons and opening fire on the SEALs as well, leading to more airstrikes.
This turned a “secret” raid on one guy’s house into the obliteration of almost the whole village, and despite Pentagon claims of “14 al-Qaeda fighters killed,” local estimates put the overall death toll around 57, with a lot of women and children shot to death as the fighting went from bad to worse.
Though the administration is holding out hope that data seized during the raid will somehow vindicate the operation, the fact that the targeted “headquarters” was actually just a personal residence of a collaborator with an al-Qaeda affiliate makes hopes of a bin Laden-level of intelligence unlikely in the extreme.
‘Too many Yemen hospitals caught up in bombings’ – Doctors Without Borders ex-head of mission
A report by Doctors Without Borders has complied the experiences of medics working in Yemen. They claim the health system has all but collapsed. The country has been under the constant bombardment of Saudi-led coalition air strikes. The medics also say that for many the only option is to stay at home and bleed to death, rather than risk traveling to hospital.