CLASHES ERUPT IN EASTERN YEMEN AS LOCAL TRIBES BLOCK SAUDI INFLUX OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT

Written by Ahmed Abdulkareem; Originally appeared at Mint Press

The latest incident came amidst a precipitous rise in tensions in eastern Yemen, where local residents have been grappling with an increasingly brazen military buildup by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Clashes Erupt in Eastern Yemen as Local Tribes Block Saudi Influx of Military EquipmentMercenaries allied with the Saudi-led coalition are pictured at the port of Aden in Aden, Yemen, Dec. 12, 2018. Jon Gambrell | AP

Fierce clashes have erupted between local tribes and Saudi forces supported by local mercenary groups in the Haat district of Yemen’s eastern Mahrah province. The clashes were sparked when local tribal members prevented Saudi shipping containers containing military equipment and household appliances from entering the country via al-Shihan border crossings with Oman, where Saudi Arabia plans to build a new military base.

Witnesses told MintPress News that the tribal groups stopped the trucks and checked them, then forced them to return. In the wake of this incident, fierce clashes erupted leaving Saudi mercenaries injured. Saudi warplanes could also be seen circling the skies above the area.

The latest incident came amidst a precipitous rise in tensions in eastern Yemen, where local residents have been grappling with an increasingly brazen military buildup by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Just last week, Saudi troops, tanks, and artillery arrived at the coastal area of Eienah, east of al-Gaydah, without coordinating with local authorities, a Yemeni official who spoke on condition of anonymity, told MintPress.

The attack has dangerous connotations for the region and comes less than six months after three protesters were killed by Saudi forces during a sit-in opposing the Saudi Coalition’s military buildup in eastern Yemen. Following the attack on the peaceful protest, local tribes in al-Mahrah vowed to take up arms against Saudi-led forces in order to prevent the construction of more checkpoints and military bases in their country.Al-Mahrah residents see the build-up of Saudi troops in the district as part of a pattern of malign and colonial Saudi policies in their country. Riyadh has deployed its forces in al-Mahrah under the guise of reconstruction and counter-smuggling operations. But Saudi forces have taken control of an increasingly long list of local government facilities, including the al-Ghaydah Airport, the Nishtun port, Sarfit, and the Shehn border crossing, as well as a number of coastal areas.Last week, Ali bin Salem al-Huraizy, al-Mahrah’s former deputy governor said: “The Saudis are determined to militarize the sea and land. They [Saudis] try to build a Saudi camp [base] every ten kilos.” He called on the people of al-Mahrah province to prepare to defend their sovereignty against Saudi Arabia by force of arms if necessary.The Deputy Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the peaceful sit-in, Aboud Qamasit, said that Saudi Arabia and its local allies have not shown any goodwill — quite the contrary, they increasingly build military bases in the province. He promised that al-Mahrah’s residents will continue to hold sit-ins and protests.The sit-in committee, which was formed by al-Mahrah residents, said in a statement on March 12 that Saudi Arabian forces kidnapped two civilians, taking them to al-Ghaydah Airport prison, a Saudi secret prison in the region, where dozens of detainees are subjected to serious abuses and assaults according to the sit-in committee.Ahmed Belhaf, a leader in the protest movement, said in a statement on March 2, that “there are an estimated 24 Saudi camps in the Ghaydah Airport operating under the supervision of the airport commander and training hundreds of extremist and terrorist militias.”Saudi Arabia launched a brutal military campaign in late 2017 against al-Mahrah, which borders Oman and has remained largely immune to the broader war in Yemen, as both the Houthis and other armed groups have little presence in the province. Saudi Arabia claims that arms smuggling operations by the Houthis are being carried out from Oman into Yemen via the al-Mahrah border crossing, though the Saudis have provided no evidence to back their claim, which Oman has repeatedly denied.

Saudi meddling in Mahrah politics

Clashes Erupt in Eastern Yemen as Local Tribes Block Saudi Influx of Military EquipmentProtesters in al-Ghaydah demand the expulsion of Saudi forces from the province. Photo | Ahmed AbdulKareem

A local Yemeni official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Saudi Arabia has begun implementing a plan to eliminate Oman’s allies in the province, including the Mahri General Council, the largest opposition party to Saudi policies and plans in al-Mahrah, which is comprised of political and tribal forces and led by Sultan Abdullah bin Isa Al Afar, a key ally of Oman.In an effort to undermine local opposition to its military expansion in the region, Saudi Arabia plans to establish a new tribal council, replacing the Mahri General Council, which is to be led by Rajeh Said Bakrit. Bakrit was appointed by the Coalition as a governor of al Mahrah on November 27, 2017, to replace Mohammed Abdullah Kuddah after Kuddah spoke out against Saudi Arabia’s presence. The first phase of that plan includes monthly payoffs of 30,000 Saudi riyals ($8000) to 60 tribal elders and influential figures.Many strategic analysts see the Saudi plan as a way to apply pressure on Oman, which enjoys long borders and solid relations with the residents of al-Mahrah. Much to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Oman also enjoys cordial relations with Saudi rival Iran, a relationship that the Coalition is eager to undermine.In an effort to stem Saudi influence in the region, residents of al-Hawf, which lies east of al-Mahrah, announced the formation of a General Forum to bring area management back into the hands of local Mahrahi residents and organize civil projects in the area. The General Forum is being supported by the government of Oman and the effort is expected to spread to nearby districts.Saudi forces in eastern Yemen have recently been accused of planting monitoring devices into local communications networks — developed by a foreign engineering team and supported by Bakrit, according to a local official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said that the devices would allow Saudi forces to monitor and spy on residents and leaders who oppose the Saudi occupation and undermine the local opposition identifying and then assassinating or arresting its leaders.

Infiltration, assassination

Clashes Erupt in Eastern Yemen as Local Tribes Block Saudi Influx of Military Equipmental-Mahrah residents in the Hwaf district carry slogans rejecting the militarization of the province, the presence of militias, and Saudi intervention, Jan, 2019. Photo | Ahmed AbdulKareem

A Saudi military commander in al-Mahrah allegedly asked Bakrit to reveal the names of the most prominent leaders who oppose the Saudi presence in the province, threatening to ‘physically liquidate’ them. On Wednesday, members of a UAE assassination squad arrived in al-Ghaydah. The same squad is thought to be responsible for the assassination of 27 religious leaders in Yemen who opposed the Saudi-led occupation.Saudi Arabia has also launched a campaign to recruit hundreds of al-Mahrah’s young for a local security force, called the “Mahri Elite Forces” and modeled around other Coalition-backed mercenary forces operating in Yemen, including the Hadhrami Elite Forces in Hadhramaut province, the Shabwani Elite Forces in Shabwa, and the Pioneer Security Belt Forces (al-Hizam) brigades in Aden.The campaign has sparked dismay amongst al-Mahrah’s tribes, who held a meeting and issued a subsequent statement on Monday saying: “Trying to copy the bad experience of the security belts in Aden and transfer them to al-Mahrah would open the way for armed conflicts and undermine local authorities.” The tribes called on the young Mahrahis to refuse to join the Saudi forces, saying the creation of the paramilitary group would create a combustible environment that threatens to upset the local balance.Like many paramilitary forces created by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen, the Mahri Elite Force was formed by recruiting members from specific tribes, not on the basis of one national army for the country as a whole. The predictable impact has been to exacerbate tribal differences, revive the desire for revenge among tribes, and create the desire for separate states.Al-Huraizy said in a statement:

The UAE seeks through its armed formations to create a new situation that will enable the UAE to dominate Yemen, control its ports and capabilities, and rob the national decision, violate its sovereignty and bring the country into chaos.”

Saudi Arabia’s policies in eastern Yemen lack a realistic reading of dangers and consequences, according to Abaad Studies and Research Center, a Yemeni research center closely aligned with Saudi Coalition allies in the country. As Saudi Arabia dismantles traditional social structures, ideological systems, and political parties, militia alternatives have predictably emerged.Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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“We Are Real Arabs”: Hezbollah MP tells Speaker of Saudi Shura Council

March 16, 2019

Hezbollah MP Ihab Hamade

Heated argument took place between a Hezbollah MP, Ihab Hamade, and Speaker of Saudi Shura Council, Abdullah Al Sheikh, earlier this week at the 14th Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States (PUIC) in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Ihab Hamade, member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc, was representing Lebanon, along with other MP, at the conference. The two Lebanese MPs confronted Saudi and UAE attempts to make changes on the final statement of the conference, Lebanese newspaper, Al-Akhbar reported.

The UAE demanded that the final statement “condemn the Iranian occupation” of 3 disputed islands, while Saudi demanded that the statement condemn “Iranian interference in Syria and Arab World affairs,” according the daily.

Al-Akhbar added meanwhile, that both Saudi and UAE demanded that the final statement cancel the paragraph that calls for preserving the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, as well as the paragraph that condemns US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

According to the daily all the Saudi and UAE demands were not met, adding that Hezbollah MP Hamade voiced the Lebanese delegation’s opposition to such demands.

The discussion then devolved into heated argument when Speaker of Saudi Shura Council Abdullah Al Sheikh t addressed Hamade as saying: “Are you Lebanon’s representative or Iran’s?”

The Saudi speaker’s question prompted Hamade to respond as saying: “Why are you here? You have no elected parliament at your county. You are the imported one, while we are real Arabs who preserved the dignity of Muslims and Arabs.”

The Lebanese delegation then walked out of the session, Al-Akhbar reported.

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper

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Trump”s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other”s arms

Trump’s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other’s arms

MARTIN JAY | 15.03.2019 | FEATURED STORY

Trump’s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other’s arms

Trump’s foreign policy gambles in the Middle East just continue to shake the region up, causing confusion, betrayal and, more recently, a new arms race which is all heading towards more bloodshed there, as ISIS appears to be in decline and Russia, Iran and Turkey continue to look like stronger players.

Despite Iran sanctions, Tehran continues to show its strength in its sheer resilience and its brash cavalier attitude towards other countries in the region; barely days after if foreign minister resigns – but then withdraws it – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani takes a trip to Iraq, to remind the Americans that Tehran still wields considerable power and influence there, as well as Syria, Lebanon and also Qatar and Turkey.

The shake-up which is as a direct result of Trump’s erroneous decisions in the region has led though to an arms race starting, amid rumours of Trump wanting to sell nuclear arms to Saudi Arabia – despite Riyadh going rogue recently on arms procurement and looking more to Russia and China. In recent weeks we heard of reports of Hezbollah’s new missiles in Lebanon having updated heads fitted which makes them even more precise than previously thought, which is a chilling thought for the Israelis who have been mulling the timing of Hassan Nasrallah’s threat to use them if Israel continues to target Hezbollah fighters in Syria. More recently, American THAAD missiles were sent to Israel, as a direct consequence of the Nasrallah comment, as the Hezbollah leader never does empty threats; but it’s also about Iran’s missile capability which is making the Israelis a tad skittish.

And they’re right to be, but not exclusively because of the Iran sanctions and its missile capabilities.

It’s also about Turkey. In January, a secret document revealed that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE considered Turkey to be the real threat to their power in the region, which has changed the focus of their aggression and, in part, is responsible for a number of embassies reopening in the Syrian capital. The West believes that a softening of isolation might bring Assad farther away from Iran and Russia and align itself more with the Arab super powers in the region.

This idea, on its own, had some feasibility, until just very recently when it looked like Turkey’s firebrand leader had fired the starter’s pistol on a new level of difficult relations with Washington by making it clear that Ankara’s new accord with Russia over missiles – the revered S-400 system – is a done deal. President Erdogan has made it clear that nothing will stop this deal going ahead which means for Israel that he is edging closer to the Russia-Iran powerbase and, critically, towards a situation which the author has been arguing for months is inevitable: a thaw of relations with Assad.

Given that part of the Saudi-Israeli plan was to support the Kurds in Northern Syria in a new campaign to clear Turkish forces of their large enclave – perched in between Al Qaeda extremists on one side and Kurdish fighters on the other – it has pushed Erdogan to do what many would argue would be a no brainer, which is to consider cooperating with Assad, as both have a common objective of hitting the Kurds, Israelis and the Saudis at the same time. A triple whammy for both of them.

This scenario, if it pans out (as so far we have only heard reports of back channel talks between Ankara and Damascus) would be devastating for Israel, which is struggling presently with having Russia as an Assad ally to bypass before it hits Hezbollah targets; but for Turkey to be even a distant ally of Assad could spell disaster for Israel, which cannot afford to clash with Turkey – itself the premise of a completely new conflict which has been brewing for years, given the acrimonious and vociferous exchange of insults both leaders have flung at one another last year; Erdogan attacks Netanyahu over the latter’s appalling treatment of Palestinians, while the Israeli leader uses Erdogan’s unparalleled fondness of locking up journalists as return-fire ammo.

In reality, both of them are tarnished with an abysmal human rights record but both have used one another for political capital. That arrangement, until now a verbal one, might change if Assad were to actually let bygones be bygones and strike a deal with Erdogan.

If that were to happen, Trump would also completely slam the door on Turkey and make it also a target of hatred and ridicule – as no one but Trump will take it as personally as the US president, who has shown remarkable resilience towards the Turkish leader who has tested his patience on a number of occasions in the last two years. An Assad-Erdogan pact could spark a crisis within NATO and make Russia and Iran bolder than ever before in the region as Trump’s refusal to stop arming Kurdish factions in northern Syria – along with suspending the F-35 fighter jet program – is likely to reach a tipping point between Ankara and Washington. For Erdogan to play the ace card – Assad – would be a smart move to put Trump in his place, assert Turkey’s power in Syria and weaken the Kurds in one blow.

Rouhani’s Visit to Iraq: Huge Economic Cooperation at Eastern Gate of Arab World

Wed Mar 13, 2019

Rouhani’s Visit to Iraq: Huge Economic Cooperation at Eastern Gate of Arab World

TEHRAN (FNA)- The agreements sealed during the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq mark the start of the largest economic cooperation project between the two neighboring states in the region.

In the 1990s, when the US decided after Operation Desert Storm and annihilation of 70 percent of Iraq’s Army to re-instate Saddam Hussain rather than conquering Baghdad, there was only one thing revolving in the mind of Washington’s politicians: to prevent the Shiite revolutionary movement, which was gaining momentum after the Intifada (uprisings) in Southern Iraq and becoming an independent powerhouse, from getting strengthened.

Despite the fact that in 1991 the Iraqi army had lost control of all Shiite regions, the scale was tipped in favor of Saddam’s regime when the US-led coalition allowed the dictator to fly his Mil Mi-24 helicopters which led to the largest massacre of the Shiite population in Iraq.

Interestingly, in 2014, when the ISIL terrorists conquered Mosul, one of the biggest cities in Iraq, a parallel course of event was to happen. While the terrorists were approaching the gates of Baghdad and the repetitive calls of the Iraqi government for winning the air support of the US-led coalition had failed, Iran’s strong entry into war to help its Western neighbor turned the whole tide. Now after 5 years, not only nothing has been left of the ISIL in Iraq, but also the position of Shiite-led central government in the Arab country has been cemented more than ever.

From The Fall of the Eastern Gate To The Resistance Front  

Iraq was the Eastern Gate of the Arab World, in the mindset of Saddam Hussain, to resist against Iran’s infiltration. Wafiq al-Samarrai, Director of Iran desk in Iraqi Army’s Intelligence Organization during the 8-year war of the Baathist regime against Iran has thoroughly evaluated and discussed this concept in his book of memoirs, ‘The Ruins of the Eastern Gate’.

Now after the falloff of the ISIL in a few-year-old war, Iraq has become part of an alliance which is called the Resistance Front. A front which is based on not religious motives as claimed in the West’s Shiite Crescent theory, but on a pro-independence essence opposing the Westerners’ interference in the fate of Muslim countries.

Heading Toward $20Billion Trade

President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq is exactly highlighting the same strategic cooperation. Although the Tehran-Baghdad strong ties in security areas have fruited great successes in the past couple of years, it seems that the ties are expected to develop at a serious level to other areas.

Economy is one of the main areas which was placed under the spotlight by the officials of the two countries during the recent visit of President Rouhani to Iraq. Undoubtedly, Iran enjoys a unique status for develop economic cooperation with Iraq.

The two countries share more than 1000 kilometers of borderline fittingly tied with identical ethnic patterns across the borders. For instance, Iran’s Kurdish provinces share borders with the Iraqi region of Kurdistan and accordingly can serve as an economic hub in the region because of the ethnic and lingual commonalities.

Also most of Iran’s Southwestern provinces which share border with Iraq are resided by Arab and Shiite Iranians which again positively contribute to cross-border interactions.

Besides, despite the fact that Iraq’s Western and Northern governorates like al-Anbar and Nineveh are home to bloody battles with the ISIL terrorists, security has been preserved so far in Eastern governorates which share border with Iran.

All these realities as well as the nearly 2 million Iranians who travel to the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf in Arbaeen pilgrimage season have ushered in good trade between Iran and Iraq.

However, a study of economic figures shows that Iran’s share of Iraq’s market, particularly its growth in the past couple of years, still fails to match the two sides’ potentials.

This is exactly one of the very issues which drew much of the attention in the recent visit of President Rouhani to Iraq. Iranian and Iraqi officials held countless meetings and seminars before the Rouhani visit to discuss proper and wide avenues for expanding relations.

The truth is that Iran is competing with serious regional and international rivals in Iraq’s market. Turkey is one of the countries which are seriously marketing and expanding their share of the market in the food products section in Iraq.

Nevertheless it has to be born in mind that Turkey’s presence in Iraq’s market is nothing anew and an outcome of the last years. Rather, Turkey was one of the big suppliers of Iraq’s market during the reign of Saddam Hussain. Yet, the facts stated earlier display that Iran enjoys better capabilities for exporting goods to Iraq.

China and the UAE are among the other competitors in Iraq’s market, specially in the field of consumer durable goods.

Considering the situation, Iranian and Iraqi merchants held numerous meetings on the ways to expand trade between the two countries during President Rouhani’s visit.

Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi had already said at an economic seminar in Baghdad that the two countries have set a $20 billion objective for the volume of their trade.

This figure may seem a bit out of reach at the first sight, but it is assuredly accessible considering that Iraq is now entering a phase of reconstruction after the war against terrorism and peace has been restored in its cities.

The decision to issue visas for the nationals of the two countries free of charge was another important accomplishment of President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq which can act as a catalyst further facilitating cross-border travels for the nationals of the two sides.

US Worried About Sanctions-Busting

One of the motives behind President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq was the capacities of this Arab country in helping Iran to bypass the US’ unilateral sanctions.

Tehran is going to use Iraq’s help for finding a way around new sanctions to meet its financial needs, as it did in the last round of bans with the help of Turkey.

The fact is that thanks to broad suitcase trade between Iran and Iraq in areas of trade of commodities and foreign currencies exchange, the typical sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department are unable to cause a sensible disruption in the bilateral channels between the two sides.

The reiterations of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Iraqi officials about the suitcase trade of hard currency across the border of Iran and Iraq is reflecting the same very concern.

Iran is capable of importing many of its needed goods, which are not easily accessible because of financial and insurance limitations caused by sanctions, immediately through re-exporting them from Iraqi market. Accordingly, Iraq would be playing the same role once played by the UAE.

Many hold that oil rich port of Basra in Southern Iraq which is also the richest city of the country is enjoying the potential to become the second Dubai in the region. Iran can play the same role it played for flourishing Dubai in the 1980s.

The recent visit of the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnasser Hemmati and the serious memorandum of understanding signed on banking relations between Tehran and Baghdad underlines the importance of Iraq’s banking system for Iran. Besides, Iraq has a broad network of currency relations with the world, through a system of exchange centers, particularly with East European countries, which is of high value for Iran.

One of the objectives of President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq which was not announced publicly was to expand these very kind of relations, and assuredly the officials of the two countries have discussed this issue in their meetings, and certainly the Americans are after stopping these relations at any level.

Iran and Iraq as Pillars of Future Energy Exchange Hub in Region

Expanding cooperation on energy was also among the issues discussed for broadening bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the meetings of President Rouhani in Iraq.

This was the very same demand that made US President Donald Trump to agree with granting exemptions to Iraq to import energy from Iran during the first batch of sanctions against Tehran. However, some US-backed regional countries are after undermining Iran’s position in Iraq.

For example Saudi Arabia is after weakening Iran’s role in this area with exporting electricity to Iraq. The main point is that Rouhani’s visit to Iraq can mark a starting point for broader energy cooperation of the two countries in the region’s energy market.

Iraq has three gas fields and the country will start producing gas by the next five years. Although the early production of gas by Iraq may make the country needless of importing the energy carrier, the growing demand for electricity in the Arab country means Baghdad will continue importing energy from Iran.

In addition, Iraq is bordering Kuwait and Jordan which both are electricity thirsty and Iraq can act as an energy hub in the region to export Iran’s gas to the two countries besides meeting its own needs.

The same scenario is applicable to electricity to let Iraq play a stabilizing role in the region. The path may seem very long but Prescient Rouhani’s visit to Iraq marked a golden start for this long march.

Start of Huge Economic Cooperation in Region

Eleven years ago, when Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Iraq, the country was still under the US occupation.

And now in era of Rouhani, these are the Iraqi security forces who are providing security in Baghdad with the help of their Iranian partners.

Moving along the same line, we may rightfully expect inaguration of mega projects during the visit of the next Iranian president to Baghdad. This path, despite being long, is the future within the reach of the hands of the two nations.

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US Senate Passes Yemen War Resolution: No for Trump’s Support of Saudi War

By Staff, Agnecies

The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a resolution that would end US involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal war in Yemen, countering President Donald Trump’s support for the controversial conflict.

The Yemen War Powers resolution, which passed 54-46, blocks US forces from any involvement in the increasingly unpopular war without further authorization from Congress. Its backers have argued that US involvement in the conflict violates the constitutional requirement that Congress alone can authorize participation in war.

An earlier version of the resolution passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives but was rejected by the Senate; the resolution must now pass the House again before it is sent to the White House, where Trump has promised to veto it.

A small group of Republicans were willing to cross party lines to rebuke Trump over his support for a conflict the United Nations has declared a humanitarian disaster, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and left half the population of Yemen on the brink of starvation.

US forces previously provided targeting support for coalition airstrikes and even mid-air refueling for coalition planes, until that practice was reportedly discontinued late last year.

The Yemen War Powers resolution also serves as a vehicle to pressure Trump to condemn the Saudi government over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence agencies have pinned on Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, revelations that interests connected with the Trump administration were in negotiations to sell the Saudis nuclear technology have shed new light on the president’s cozy relationship with the embattled kingdom.

Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have relentlessly bombed Yemen since 2015.

Half of Yemen’s population relies on food aid to survive, placing them in immediate danger of starving to death after coalition forces blockaded the port city of al-Hudaydah last year.

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Arms sales to Middle East increase dramatically, research shows

Saudi Arabia’s arms purchases grew by 192 percent over 2014-2018 (AFP)

By 

in

New York, United States

Arms flows to the Middle East grew by 87 percent in the past five years and now account for more than a third of the global trade, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Sunday.

The defence think tank’s annual survey showed that Saudi Arabia became the world’s top arms importer between 2014-18, with a growth of 192 percent compared to the preceding five years.

Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq also ranked in the top 10 list of global arms buyers.

The report shows how the United States and European nations sell jets, jeeps and other gear that is used in controversial wars in Yemen and beyond, SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman told Middle East Eye.

“Weapons from the US, the UK and France are in high demand in the Gulf, where conflicts and tensions are rife. Russia, France and Germany dramatically increased their arms sales to Egypt in the past five years,” said Wezeman.

The growth in Middle Eastern imports was, in part, driven by the need to replace military gear that was deployed and destroyed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, said Wezeman.

It was also driven by tensions and a regional arms race, he added.

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The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel are readying for a potential conflict with Iran, said the 12-page report. Since 2017, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others have rowed with Qatar in a rift, which, at times, looked like it could turn violent.

Between 2014-18, Saudi received 94 combat jets fitted with cruise missiles and other guided weapons from the US and Britain.

Over the next five years, it is set to get 98 more jets, 83 tanks and defensive missile systems from the US, 737 armoured vehicles from Canada, five frigates from Spain, and Ukrainian short-range ballistic missiles.

Between 2014-18, the UAE received missile defence systems, short-range ballistic missiles and some 1,700 armoured personnel carriers from the US as well as three corvettes from France, the report says.

Qatari imports grew by 225 percent over the period, including German tanks, French combat aircraft and Chinese short-range ballistic missiles. It is set to receive 93 combat aircraft from the US, France and Britain and four frigates from Italy.

Iran, which is under a UN arms embargo, accounted for just 0.9 percent of Middle Eastern imports.

For Wezeman, “the gap is widening” between Iran and its foes across the Gulf, which have more advanced weapons.

US remains top arms seller

The US has kept its position as the world’s top arms seller. Its exports grew by 29 percent these past five years, with more than half of its shipments (52 percent) going to customers in the Middle East.

British sales grew by 5.9 percent over the same period. A total of 59 percent of UK arms deliveries went to the Middle East — most of it combat aircraft destined for Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Arming governments in the turbulent Middle East is increasingly controversial in the West, said Patrick Wilcken, an arms control specialist with Amnesty International, a UK-based rights watchdog.

He pointed to cases where sales are merited – such as re-tooling Iraq’s army after it lost much of its hardware and territory during the so-called Islamic State (IS) group’s surprise attack in 2014.

But, more often, western arms end up being used in human rights abuses, he added, pointing to Egypt’s crackdown on opponents, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

He blasted the “hypocrisy” of western governments not following their own rules by continuing to supply authoritarian leaders who commit wartime abuses or violations against their own people.

“A critical problem for the region is the emergence of armed groups like IS,” Wilcken told MEE.

A critical problem for the region is the emergence of armed groups like IS

– Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International

“In Yemen, totally unaccountable militias are being armed and supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is setting the scene for a future period of instability and human rights violations.”

The problem has not gone unnoticed in western capitals.

In the US, lawmakers in both houses have passed resolutions to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition, though US President Donald Trump has vowed to veto the document if it reaches his desk.

In Britain, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a ban on arms exports to Saudi. Last month, a parliamentary committee concluded that the UK was on “the wrong side of the law” by arming Riyadh.

In October, Amnesty released a report about French-built armoured vehicles being used by Egyptian government forces to “disperse protests and crush dissent” in crackdowns between 2012-2015.

Germany, however, has taken a stand. This week, it extended until the end of March a unilateral freeze on arms supplies to Saudi over its war in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

This has caused a rift with Britain and France, its partners in European defence projects, as it puts a question mark over orders, including a $13.1bn deal to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Riyadh.

Jeff Abramson, a scholar at the Arms Control Association, an advocacy group, said the US should follow Germany’s example.

“Instead of being challenged, the US continues to claim a larger share of an expanding global arms market,” Abramson told MEE.

“As such, the US should take the lead in promoting responsible behavior, rather than encouraging trade to repressive and irresponsible regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Other findings

The report made other interesting findings.

These past five years, Turkey has increased exports of armoured vehicles, missiles and other gear by 170 percent, becoming the world’s 14th most important arms exporter and the second biggest in the Middle East, after Israel.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were among Turkey’s top three importers of weapons in the past five years, despite Ankara being at odds with its customers over Khashoggi and the blockade on Qatar.

Continuing to buy arms from Turkey may be a bid by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to keep ties with Ankara on track despite the rift, said Wezeman.

Also, Algeria increased its arms imports by 55 percent over the past five years, with shipments from Russia, China, Germany and elsewhere.

This made it the world’s fifth biggest arms importer despite only having a $168bn economy.

Algeria buys arms for military prestige, to tackle militants from neighbouring Libya and because of its “long-standing rivalry with Morocco”, said Wezeman.

Sipri measures the volume of deliveries of arms, not the dollar value of deals. The volume of deliveries to each country tend to fluctuate, so it presents data in five-year periods that a give a more stable indication of trends.

نبيه بري العربيّ الفلسطينيّ

مارس 5, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– شخصياً لم أتمالك نفسي من الشعور بتيار كهربائي يجتاحني وأنا أسمع دولة رئيس مجلس النواب اللبناني نبيه بري يصدح بصوته الرخيم وتعابيره الجزلة، المكتوب والارتجالي منها، في الكلمة الرسميّة وفي مناقشات البيان الختامي في مؤتمر الاتحاد البرلماني العربي. هو شعور بالفخر ممزوج بشعور بالفرح والثقة بأن دنيانا العربية لا تزال بخير، وأن فلسطين ليست وحيدة، وأن كلمة الحق هي العليا، وأن هناك رجالاً رجالاً بهمم قمم، تنوء تحت حملها الجبال فلا تكلّ ولا تملّ، ولا تقرأ إلا في كتاب الحق، بينما يقرأ ما يتوهّمه الآخرون في كتاب القوة، وقد صار الحق بذاته قوة وصارت له قوة، ويعرف من يعرف أن المقاومة التي يزلزل ذكرها حسابات كبار القادة في كبريات عواصم العالم، قد ولدت في رحم هذا الإيمان، وقد كان لهذا الإنسان القمّة والهمّة البصمة الأساسية والتأسيسية.

– يتحدّث كثيرون ويتفلسفون ويغمزون بعيونهم، فيغمضون واحدة ويفتحون أخرى في الحديث عن علاقة الرئيس نبيه بري بسورية، سورية الرئيس حافظ الأسد، وسورية الرئيس بشار الأسد، ويوهمون لكنهم في الحقيقة يتوهّمون، أنّهم يعرفون ما لا يعرفه الآخرون عن مشاكل تمرّ بها هذه العلاقة، فيتلو النبيه على مسامعهم جميعاً مزاميره، «لا نستطيع الشعور بالمسؤولية تجاه الفلسطينيين وفلسطين ونحن نعزل سورية»، فسورية كانت ولا تزال وستبقى في العقل الذي نظر وينظر من خلاله نبيه بري المناضل والمقاوم، قبل رئيس المجلس النيابي، للمشهد العربي، حيث هي منذ البدايات إلى نهاية النهايات، حيث لا نهايات، فهي قلب العروبة النابض وهي قلعة المقاومة العصيّة على العصر والكسر معاً، وهي عرين أسود لا تُضام، ويكفي أنها القلب في بلاد الشام، وهو لمن لا يعرفون أو لا يعترفون، مع سورية ظالمة أو مظلومة، يجادلها وهي في عزّ سطوتها، حيث لا يجرؤ الكثيرون، من موقع البحث عن مكامن القوة العربيّة وتعزيزها، ونقاط الضعف والوهن وتلافيها، كشريك في الغرم، وليس كباحث عن شراكة في الغنم، لكنه عندما تتعرّض سورية للضيم ويأتي زمن الضراء، يشهر قلبه ويقاتل بشغافه كي تبقى سورية القوية القادرة الحاضرة، وهي مرتع الأحلام وساحة البطولات، وموطن الشهامة والوفاء، يعرفها وتعرفه، كما يعرف السيف غمده، وتعرف القلعة حراسها، وتعرف الساحة فرسانها، وفي الميدان يسرج برّي صهوة جواده ويقتحم، حيث لا يصل إلا صوته، فيُشهره عالياً، سورية مصدر فخركم وبدونها أنتم ذلّ وهوان، فحافظوا على بقايا الشهامة العربية المتهالكة، واحتموا بها، سورية لا تحتاج حمايتكم بل أنتم مَن يحتاجها، علامة أمة لم تُهزَم.

– عندما يتحدّث الرئيس نبيه بري عن فلسطين في خطابه الرسمي فهو لا يفاجئ، لأننا نعرفه، وليس لأن المقال لا يناسب المقام، لكن عندما يناقش بعفويته وتدفقه نصوص البيان الختامي، مداخلاً ومتدخّلاً، تشعر برغبة أن تقفز من وراء الشاشة لتطبع قبلة فخر على جبينه، فيناقش رئيس الجلسة عند فقرة التطبيع، ويقول «هذا البند هو كل المؤتمر سيدي الرئيس»، «لأن التطبيع يعني إزالة الحاجز النفسي بين العرب وبين العدو الإسرائيلي، دون إعطاء أية حقوق للفلسطينيين، نحن نقول ذلك وأمامنا مؤتمر القمة، وأحدد مؤتمر القمة في 2002 الذي دعت إليه المملكة العربية السعودية، فإذا سمحتم تنبّهوا أن هذا البند هو كل المؤتمر»، وعندما يستجيب المؤتمرون لإضافة الفقرة المقترحة برفض التطبيع، وفيها الدعوة لقيام دولة فلسطينية على الأراضي المحتلة العام 67 وعاصمتها القدس، يتذاكى المتزحلقون لنيل الرضى الأميركي بتحفيف مضمون النص، فيقترحون إضافة الشرقية إلى القدس، لتصير القدس الشرقية، فيهمّ بري إلى جواده مجدداً في جولة جديدة يكسبها، فيقول، أنا أقول القدس الشريف ويتلفت حوله منتظراً، ولما يأتي رد متفذلك، يلاحقه بكلمة قائلاً، لماذا نعطي بالمجان، طالما هم لا يعترفون فلماذا نتسابق على الاعتراف؟ ويمسك كلمة ويكتب، ويقول بصوت عالٍ: «نعم، القدس الشريف وينتهي الأمر».

– القضية ليست بأهميّة مصيريّة تقريريّة يتمتع بها مؤتمر الاتحاد البرلماني العربي، بل بأهمية نسخة من المواجهة التي تدار ويتم ربحها، من منصة يسيطر عليها وعلى التفكير فيها، عقل الهزيمة، فيطغى صوت الحق والحقيقة رغم قلة العدد والمال، حيث يجتمع المال والعدد، لأن المهابة التي تجلل صاحب الكلام، فيحضر التاريخ المليء بالنبض العربي الأصيل، فهو نور مبهر، ونصل صقيل، وصوت جهير، وهو في اللغة حقل مزهر، وفي الخطاب نصٌّ جزيل، وفي المضمون كبير وكثير وخطير.

– جولة ربحناها، ربحها نبيهُنا لنا، ربحتها العروبة ليكون الأمل بالغد لفلسطين.

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