Saudi America

May 18, 2017

by Jimmie MogliaSaudi America

As a European commentator noted recently, it is symbolic that the president of the most advanced democracy in the world makes his first foreign trip to the most feudal among Arab monarchies.

On the other hand, US citizens at large see happening what they vaguely expected, and probably wanted when they voted for Trump. Namely, that the curtain of elitist euphemisms and contrived metaphors masking the lying and the rudeness of previous administrations, would be dropped in favor of greater coarseness of expression and less palpable disguise.

This is apparent even in the body language and voice of (at least some) members of the Cabinet. I think particularly of the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. With his cowboy name, he may not have an Eastwood smile and a Robert Redford hair, but when he begins to speak, it is as if he said, “I am sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark.”

Still, for unbiased observers of the worldly scene, the de-facto alliance between Israel, the US and the Saudi monarchy, however thinly disguised, is unspeakable, unbelievable and unimaginable. It is a truly unholy trinity where Israel is God, the US the Son, and Saudi Arabia the hellish Ghost.

For while everybody knows who did 9/11 but is not allowed to say it, everybody is now allowed to say who financed it. And, equally, who set up, funds and finances the mercenaries of the so-called ISIS and their associates with sundry other names.

It will be the task of a courageous and dedicated historian to trace the seeds of the faked resurgence of a Mohammedan Sect – Salafists or Wahabis or whatever – and of its conversion into a well funded and organized mercenary army and state, with an actual political and economic infrastructure to boot.

For no one, unless he be a cultured Muslim, heard of Sunnis, Shias, Salafists and Wahabis, until after Reagan financed the plot to remove the lay government in Afghanistan that had called the Soviet Union to its aid. And apart from the spilled blood of thousands, it is ironic that the emblem image of “pre-freedom” Afghanistan is the picture of young girls in European skirt and uniform walking to their school. Whereas the iconic image of “post-freedom” Afghanistan is the dynamiting of the 5th centuries “Buddahs of Bamiyan,” by the US-financed and now somewhat unruly “freedom fighters.” And most recently, the footprint left by the explosion of the American “mother of all bombs,” and alleged consequent hecatomb of “insurgents.”

As for Saudi Arabia, I can say I know something about the country through direct experience. During my first job, my employer sent me to Saudi Arabia to explore the option, the difficulties and the opportunities of opening a branch office in Riyadh, the capital.

While still on the plane, I had bought a Glen Fiddich in one of those mini bottles shaped like the original. Then, through the speaker, passengers were reminded that no alcoholic beverages were allowed off the plane after landing in Dhahran, the port of entry. Still infused with some of the goliardic spirit, I decided on the spot to conduct a test – partly a student’s prank and partly a sociological experiment.

Waiting in the lounge for the next connection, I positioned the unopened mini Glen Fiddich in the geometrical center of an empty seat in a row of empty seats, and waited at a distance for what would happen next.

After a few minutes an Arab in his night-gown (which experts call jillaba, but it still looks like a night gown to me), began to circle the seats, much as a bird of prey hovers over the center of its killing field.

After two rounds, the Arab sat down on the chair and when he got up the Glen Fiddich had disappeared.

Later in Riyadh I was struck by the almost total absence of women in the streets. Of course women could not (and still cannot) drive. No doubt a sign of progress for die-hard male chauvinists.

My other discovery was that, in the world of local business people dealing with American and European counterparts, there were few who were not either sheiks or princes, as printed on their business card.

My immediate reference was a sheik who could not speak English but used the services of his factotum-manager for interpretation. He was a Pakistani, who spoke an amusing English, with words reminiscent of Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” made even more amusing by his Pakistani accent.

In fairness, the sheik entertained me in a way that seemed royal to me, given my humble expectations. His house was richly decorated with the beautiful intricate Arabic geometrical mosaics and scripts, and with enormous rugs.

He organized a banquet, held in the center of his house-compound, under the stars, with guests customarily accommodated on the ground. Several of them spoke English, and throughout the dinner I was vaguely aware of some black moving shadows hardly standing out against the obscured background of the other inner side of the building.

As we stood up at the banquet’s end, a group of several uncounted children jumped out from the dark and eagerly partook of the large quantity of unconsumed food. The black, hardly-noticeable shadows, I learned later, were the four wives of the sheik and the children were his offspring.

After the initial introductions and discussion, the sheik left me in the hands of his interpreter-manager who accompanied me through the length of my stay in Riyadh. And he also told me something about local customs and culture.

From the notes of my faded diary, I read that at one time he said,

“Here in Saudi Arabia, if you kill a man they cut your head. If you are a thief and make a theft, they cut your hand. And if you go with a girl and do an evil thing…. “

“Hold it – I said – you need not go any further. I think I’ve got the picture.” “No – he said – you have an evil mind. If you go with a girl and do an evil thing, they stone you to death.”

Of course I had no intention to do any evil thing of the sort, especially in Saudi Arabia, but my host’s lecture strengthened my determination. Even if…. “all this the world well knows, yet none knows well how to shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

But I digress. It seems, however, that so many years later, little has changed as far as Saudi Arabia-American relations. And if it did, I think it did for the worse – compounded with a widespread perception that, for the Western-Zionist-Saudi cabal, the world at large is a den of fools, save the 1% or equivalent.

Circumstances of no elegant recital concur to raise disgust. One example, as clear as the summer’s sun, is the election of the Saudi Mr. Abdulaziz Alwasil as representative of the UN Human Rights Council. And, notwithstanding Saudi Arabia’s record on religious freedom and justice at large, this worthy official will have vote and oversight, among other things, on “freedom of religion and belief” and “integrity of the judicial system.”

That could even pass for a joke. But, apart from the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the US driven cabal is dropping ever more rapidly the myth of America as a custodian of liberty. It is not an exaggeration that whatever US foreign policy touches becomes scorched earth, with victims in the millions, assassination of progressive leaders and annihilation of the soul of nations. To pay homage to the genocidal murderers of Yemen says much about what is loosely called the American image.

As evident at large, to destroy the capacity of independent thought, the cabal has completely subjugated academia, through the lure of money or the threat of harm. For no one really understands the true nature of fawning servility until he has seen an academic who has glimpsed the prospect of money, or personal publicity.

The Constitution is still held as an untouchable symbol of American democracy. In practice it is a myth, quoted for effect or convenience, and more honored in the breach than in the observance.

There is a universe of lies, distortions and deformations that the capitalist world wraps around the masses – masses it despises and detests. It is the reflection of the pervading subservience to the interests of the 1%, and of a mythical and in itself distorted vision of the Western world.

As observed recently in France, a ruthless Fascism won the elections pretending to be anti-Fascist. And as a journalist noted, the European Union is but a media dictatorship, practicing the utopia of supreme selfishness.

To peddle the European Union as a means to prevent European nations waging war against each other is a sick joke. Sick because it implies that without the EU, Europeans were and would continue to seethe with lust at the idea of killing each other. Whereas, it was two fascisms – different in name but not in kind, and competing with each other for supremacy – that led Europe to slaughter, twice.

Furthermore, the famed prosperity that the EU should deliver to its citizens is a senseless euphemism to mask the implementation of extreme capitalism, imposed by the local servants of the transatlantic master.

For a while, the presence of the Soviet Union forced so-called Keynesian policies across the European continent. They led to the greatest growth and income distribution in the Western world. It’s no wonder that it was necessary and indispensable to destroy the only remaining obstacle to the end of history.

We are living in the final winning stage of neo-liberal capitalism, primitive, ruthless, instinctive, though masked in its spirit and action by the airy and almost meaningless lexicon of academic lackeys and economists. Neo-liberal philosophy spreads misery at large, more often not by a heavy crush of disaster, but by the corrosion of less visible evils, which undermine security and by building anxiety inject a chronic fear of life.

All this has slowly, inadvertently but steadily become custom. And established custom is not easily broken, till some great event shakes the whole system of things, and life seems to recommence upon new principles.

Meanwhile, a “super-centrist”, multi-level, multi-form and multi-faceted world government, meaningfully renamed ‘governance’ is clearing away the remnants of democracy, while the democrats applaud. On both sides of the pond, and probably in Saudi Arabia as well.

In pictures: Tens of thousands take to the streets in Sanaa to protest Saudi, US war on Yemen

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:10 P.M.) – On Saturday, tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Sanaa hours after Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first overseas tour to Riyadh.

In the morning hours, mosques across the capital called on civilians to join the protests, Yemeni correspondent Naseh Shaker told Al-Masdar News. Subsequently, people amassed in the Sabaeen Square around noon in a rally dubbed “No to US terrorism on Yemen”.

The Houthi-led Supreme Revolutionary Committee organized the protest in the heart of capital, just one hundred meters from a spot where Saudi warplanes killed 140 residents and injured more than 500 back in October 8, 2016.

Somewhat ironically, Saudi warplanes could be heard buzzing over the capital amid Saturday’s protests which condemned US and Saudi war crimes in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Protesters also mocked a controversial statement by Donald Trump in which he reffered to Saudi Arabia as a “milk cow”, hinting at the Gulf Kingdom’s oil reserves. In line with characteristic Houthi humour, some Yemeni peasants brought a cow to the Sabaeen square dressed as a Saudi cow ready to be milked.

Photos of the event:

Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News
Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News
Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News
Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News
Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News
Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News

The demonstration comes just one day after the troops loyal to Sanaa launched a long-range ballistic missile called ‘Burkan 2’ on the Saudi capital Riyadh.

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Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes

Photo by Mark Taylor | CC BY 2.0

MAY 19, 2017

President Donald J. Trump closed out his first hundred days in office on April 29.  Not marked by any notable achievements, Trump’s first hundred days did yield an impressive and ever-lengthening list of scandals.

And war crimes.  During his short time in office, Trump has racked up an impressive list of war crimes.  Congratulations, Mr. President!

Where to begin?  Nine days after Trump’s Inauguration, US Navy SEALs together with elite troops from the United Arab Emirates descended on the village of Yaklaa in the Yemeni governorate of Bayda.  At the time, the White House said that the mission’s objective was to enter a compound controlled by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and gather intelligence by grabbing computers and cell phones.  It was not until a week later that US military officials stated that the prime objective of the raid was to capture or kill AQAP emir Qassim al-Rimi.

The January 29 raid was executed with the same meticulous care President Trump brings to all facets of his administration.  What was conceived as a swift there-and-gone operation descended into an hour-long firefight with AQAP, bodies everywhere, and the loss of a $70 million MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

Two deaths stand out.  One was the Trump Administration’s first combat fatality: 36- year old Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens.

The second was an 8-year old American citizen, Nawar Al-Awlaki.  Nawar’s father was the US-born cleric and Al-Qaeda recruiter and propagandist, Anwar Al-Awlaki.  Al-Awlaki was assassinated in a US drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011.  Shortly afterwards, Nawar’s 16-year old brother Abdulrahman was also killed by a US drone, probably inadvertently.

Thanks to the US, the Awlakis—father, son, and daughter—are together again.  It’s too bad the Awlakis can’t thank the Pentagon themselves.

Civilian Fatalities

Trump has killed enormous numbers of civilians in drone strikes, attacks by manned aircraft, and ground assaults.  Many of these attacks have taken place far from any battlefield, in places such as Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.  International humanitarian law (IHL), however, restricts the use of military force to areas of “armed conflict.”[1] Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and co-chair of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, observes that the United States is not involved in an armed conflict with Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.[2]  Nor has any of these countries attacked the United States.  If any of them had, that would have triggered the United States’ right to self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

President George W. Bush maintained that the “armed conflict” against terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda extended over the entire world.  That would have allowed Bush to launch attacks anywhere he pleased.  The World Is a Battlefield, the subtitle of investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill’s 2013 book Dirty Wars, encapsulates this notion.[3]  Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have likewise believed that there are no limits to their power to project force anywhere in the world.

But even when an armed conflict does exist, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, other principles of IHL must be observed.

Under the principle of discernment, civilians are not to be deliberately targeted. (There is an exception for civilians who “directly participate in hostilities.”)  Precautions must be taken to minimize civilian casualties.

The principle of proportionality prohibits using excessive force in achieving a legitimate military objective.  To simplify greatly, you cannot kill one hundred innocents in order to kill one terrorist.

Large numbers of civilians have been killed in US attacks.  Fourteen militants died in Trump’s January 29 raid in Yemen, but US forces also killed twenty-five civilians, including women and nine children under the age of 13—these figures from the independent Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Not killed was AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, the object of the raid.  Al-Rimi got away, later mocking Trump on video as a “fool.”

Trump’s worst slaughter of civilians is the March 17, 2017 US airstrike on west Mosul in Iraq which killed 200+ civilians.  The Iraqi government had told the residents of Mosul, then under occupation by ISIS, to remain indoors.  The US knew or ought to have known west Mosul’s residents were in harm’s way.

War Crimes by Remote Control: Targeted Assassinations by Drone

President Barack Obama had launched ten times as many killer drone strikes as President George W. Bush.  Donald Trump looks set to top Obama’s record.

Micah Zenko is an expert on drone strikes at the Council on Foreign Relations.  In a March 2 tweet, Zenko calculated that Obama conducted a drone strike every 5.4 days; Trump has upped the rate to a drone strike every 1.6 days.

Again, apart from Iraq and Afghanistan, US drone strikes take place outside areas of armed conflict.  Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, who teaches law and conflict resolution at the University of Notre Dame, writes:  “[T]he law absolutely prohibits … targeted killing beyond armed conflict zones.”

There are some differences between how Obama and Trump have used drones.  President Obama took most drone strikes out of the CIA’s hands.  Instead, Obama left most drone strikes to the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  Trump has brought the CIA back into the picture.

Obama set certain restrictions on drone strikes outside war zones, such as requiring “near certainty” that civilians will not be injured or killed.  Trump’s National Security Council is considering abandoning the Obama era restrictions.

Still, Obama was not over-scrupulous in who qualified as a civilian.  Any military-age male in an area where terrorists were active was presumed to be a terrorist himself.  Many victims, under Obama as well as Trump, have been children: “fun-size terrorists” as some drone pilots call them. US drones have attacked weddings and funerals. “Double-tap” strikes fire on first responders hurrying to aid people wounded in a drone’s initial strike.

In a just world, Bush, Obama, and Trump would share a cell at The Hague.  Obama largely escaped criticism from the liberal left for his drone strikes because, as Mike Whitney observes:  “[L]iberals always sleep while their man is in office.”  Whitney might have added that liberals will go back to sleep once the Republicans are out of the White House.

Escalating the Illegal US War in Syria

On April 4, a suspected sarin gas attack killed more than 70 people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.  Who launched the attack—rebels or the Syrian government—still hasn’t been proven.  Does it matter?  Those 70 people are just as dead no matter who killed them.  All of the belligerents in Syria have committed war crimes, including the United States.  The antiwar movement holds firm to its demand that the US withdraw from Syria now.

Donald Trump, not a man plagued by doubt, was certain that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was the culprit.  On April 7, 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles pounded a government airfield in Syria while Trump was eating chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago with the President of China.  Whether the US attack accomplished anything is unclear; Syrian military aircraft were taking off from the field a few days later.  At nearly $1.59 million for each Tomahawk missile, Trump would have achieved the same end result if he had burned $93 million on the White House lawn.

It suddenly occurred to the American public that the US was at war in Syria.  It seems to have escaped Americans’ notice that the US has been bombing ISIS in Syria since September 23, 2014 and in Iraq since August 8, 2014.  According to Airwars.org, which monitors Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, 3,530 civilians have been killed as of May 16.  Also overlooked was the fact that Obama had sent Special Operations Forces to both countries to fight ISIS.  So has Trump.  According to Professor Marjorie Cohn, as of April 5 there were close to a thousand US Special Ops forces, Marines, and Rangers in northern Syria.  The Trump Administration plans to up that number.

The Syrian government, needless to say, has refused consent to both US bombing and the presence of US troops within its borders.  (In sharp contrast, Russian military forces are in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government.)  US military involvement in Syria is, thus, prima facie a violation of international law.  Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter requires states to “refrain … from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”  Article 51 provides an exception for self-defense “if an armed attack occurs” (and then only “until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”).  Syria has not attacked the United States.  Not even the Trump Administration has claimed that the April 7 attack was made defensively.  Instead, the Trump Administration said that the purpose of the US attack was to deter future uses of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  That makes the April 7 attack a reprisal.  Reprisals are forbidden under international law.  Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, one of the foremost authorities on the use of force under international law, quotes the 1970 UN Declaration on Friendly Relations which says: “States have a duty to refrain from acts of reprisal involving the use of force.”

In theory, US attacks on Syria expose Obama and Trump to prosecution for “waging aggressive war,” the principal charge against the Nazis at Nuremberg.  George W. Bush, of course, would face the same charge for his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

I say “in theory” because what court would try them?  President George W. Bush “unsigned” the treaty that created the International Criminal Court.  (And we thought Bush was stupid.)  In the 1990s, the UN Security Council created ad hoc criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia.  The US would veto any attempt to create an ad hoc tribunal empowered to try US leaders for war crimes in Syria.

There have been no prosecutions under the federal War Crimes Act which criminalizes “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions.  In fact, President Barack Obama expressly ruled out prosecuting officials from the George W. Bush Administration.

Trump’s actions are by no means a sharp break with the past.  War crimes are how the Pentagon rolls.  Noam Chomsky has stated that if the standards of the Nuremberg Trials were applied, every American president since World War Two would have been hanged as a war criminal.  Something to think about.

Notes.

[1]  IHL is the branch of international law which “prescribes rules for the conduct of war.”  The sources for IHL are primarily the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 together with their two Additional Protocols.  The central concern of IHL is protection of civilians.  Jeanne Mirer, US Policy of Targeted Killing with Drones:  Unsafe at Any Speed, in DRONES AND TARGETED KILLING: LEGAL, MORAL, AND GEOPOLITICAL ISSUES (Marjorie Cohn, ed. 2015) at pages 136, 138.

[2]  Mirer at pages 136, 139.

[3]  JEREMY SCAHILL, DIRTY WARS: THE WORLD IS A BATTLEFIELD (2013), at page 78.

Nearly 23,500 Cholera Cases, 242 Deaths in Yemen in Three Weeks: WHO

May 19, 2017

Cholera in Yemen

A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen has killed 242 people, and left nearly 23,500 others sick in the past three weeks alone, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The UN health agency said that in the past day alone, 20 cholera deaths and 3,460 suspected cases had been registered in the country, where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

“The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented,” WHO country representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria told reporters in Geneva by phone from Yemen, warning that a quarter of a million people could become sick by the end of the year.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.

Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating Saudi-led war has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service.

Zagaria pointed out that humanitarian workers cannot access some parts of the country, and that the number of suspected cholera cases could be far higher than those registered.

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 40,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO.

Zagaria pointed out that many of the remaining health workers in the country had not been paid for seven months.

At the same time, he said, lacking electricity meant water pumping stations were only functioning in an intermittent way, and the sewer systems were damaged.

“The population is using water sources that are contaminated,” he said.

Zagaria said the United Nations agencies were preparing to “release an emergency response cholera plan in the next 48 hours,” aimed at dramatically scaling up the number of treatment centers and rehydration centers.

At the same time, he said there was a dire need for funding to help Yemen authorities to make the necessary infrastructure repairs.

“The spread of the disease is too big and they need substantial support, in terms of repairing the sewer system, … treating and chlorinating the water sources.”

Without dramatic efforts to halt the spread of the disease, “the price that we will pay in terms of life will be extremely high,” he warned.

Source: AFP

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Houthi Ansarullah leader: US, Israel are two sides of the same coin

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:31 A.M.) – 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, PressTV reported.

“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.

“[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 continued.

“[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.

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America’s Yemen Crisis Is Bigger than Just Yemen

 

America's Yemen Crisis Is Bigger than Just Yemen

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 22.04.2017

America’s Yemen Crisis Is Bigger than Just Yemen

Broken alliances and competing political factions are emperiling America’s goals

Mohamed ZEESHAN

Long before the Trump administration launched missiles at an Assad regime air base in Syria and dropped the world’s most lethal nonnuclear bomb in Afghanistan, it undertook its first military offensive in Yemen. In late January, just two weeks into his term, President Trump ordered a military raid on suspected Al Qaeda targets in that country.

That operation then became infamous for the death of a Navy SEAL, but it has been followed more recently by increased U.S. military attacks on terrorists holed up in Yemen. But whether or not Washington’s military involvement is part of a larger policy in Yemen, America needs to deal with an increasingly difficult conflict of interests in that country, which threatens to make the war against terrorist groups far harder.

But Hadi’s stronghold on the country was short-lived. In September 2014, the new resident was forced to flee to the south, after his presidential palace and the capital city of Sanaa were captured by Shiite rebels called the Houthis. Hadi attempted to move his capital city to the southern port city of Aden, but in early 2015, he fled to Riyadh in exile, where he still resides despite the odd flying visit to Aden.

Meanwhile, Saleh has begun to exert increased influence over the Houthi establishment in Sanaa, leaving his imprints on its leadership and filling in positions in its rebel government with his own people. Yet, today, Yemen still lacks an effective centralised authority. Neither the rebels in Sanaa, nor Hadi’s government in Aden, seems to have the capacity to control the entire country.

The underlying cause of this complicated civil war could be traced back to the age-old divisions between the North and the South. While Yemen was reunited in 1990, the resource-rich South always held resentment towards what it saw as the unfair exploitation of its economy by the Saleh government in the North, where the capital Sanaa is located. Saleh’s crackdown on protesters in the South strengthened calls for secession from leaders in the region.

When Saleh was deposed in 2012, the national dialogue process that followed had promised to heal these old wounds. Hadi was himself from the South, and therefore raised hopes among fellow southerners. Yet, despite protracted negotiations, the talks could not produce an agreement on the political status of the South: several popular southern leaders boycotted the negotiations and campaigned for secession, and while the dialogue finally agreed on a federal structure with greater autonomy for the South, it was unable to work out the details of the devolution of power.

The breakdown of the transition government—and the takeover of Sanaa by rebels, increasingly controlled by Saleh—only tested the South’s patience further. Now, with Hadi away in Riyadh, reports suggest that secessionist leaders have once again come to dominate the South’s political landscape, with no compromise in sight. Even in Aden today, the transition agreement seems all but dead, with the local governor and police chief calling the shots, as the Houthis make inroads. As one southerner was quoted as saying, “Hadi has already brought the Houthis to Aden, and then brought al-Qaeda, so we are not stupid to trust him anymore.”

In the midst of all this, the international community is struggling to salvage the irreparably crippled Hadi government—despite most public opinion across the country now seeming to be against him. Saudi forces have been bombing rebel holdings in the North, causing widespread collateral damage but doing nothing to strengthen the transitional government. United Nations resolutions have placed embargoes on the Houthi rebels, and repeatedly called for the complete implementation of the transition agreement that put Hadi in charge.

But the Iranians also seem determined not to let the Saudi-sponsored agreement see the light of day. In recent months, they have stepped up weapons support to the Houthi rebels, turning the Yemeni battlefield into the latest theater in the Middle East’s own Cold War. With Hadi away in exile and his government being overwhelmed by secessionists in Aden, it seems inconceivable at this point that the Iranians would lose this battle to the Saudis.

With all this chaos in the background, America’s war against Al Qaeda and ISIS is under threat. On the one hand, Washington wants to preserve its alliance with the Gulf states, who are fighting to save their irretrievably lost transition agreement. As a former U.S. Defense Department official pointed out in the Atlantic recently, when Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed visited the United States last month, the red carpet was well and truly rolled out.

Yet, on the other hand, Washington can’t afford to let Yemen’s chaos prolong indefinitely, lest ISIS militants cash in on the instability and lawlessness, just as they lose territory in Syria. In August of last year, a UN report said that both Al Qaeda and ISIS have already begun to gain a foothold in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

The challenge for Trump would be in reconciling his Saudi alliance with the fact that the Saudi-backed Hadi government is no longer in a position to rule. Backing the aimless Saudi operation—whether verbally or militarily—will only make Iranian interests in the country more deeply entrenched, and the conflict unending. If Trump wants to get rid of militants in Yemen, he’s going to have to find a way to bring the Middle East’s Cold War rivals to agree on a government.

 

Mohamed Zeeshan is a scholar of international affairs at Columbia University and online editor of the Columbia Journal of International Affairs. He has written for The Diplomat, India Today and HuffPost India.

US to Plunge Into Yemen’s War

US to Plunge Into Yemen’s War

ANDREI AKULOV | 02.04.2017 | WORLD

US to Plunge Into Yemen’s War

The US administration is on the way to escalate its involvement in Yemen – a drastic change of its Middle East policy in an attempt to roll back Iran’s influence in the region.

It wants Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and local Yemeni forces to jointly defeat the Houthis, a militarized Shiite group strong in northern Yemen fighting side by side with the Yemeni army loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

According to Foreign Policy, the Saudis came away extremely pleased after a series of meetings in Washington in mid-March when Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the White House. Saudi officials celebrated the meeting as a milestone in resetting a relationship that had frayed under the Obama administration. Saudi Gen. Ahmed Asiri, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said that teams from the two countries are already engaged in talks, and the stepped-up cooperation would likely involve «intelligence sharing, equipment, and training», for Saudi pilots and troops. «We had a commitment that they will increase cooperation», Asiri said.

US State Secretary Rex Tillerson established good, business-like relations with Saudi Arabia in the days he headed ExxonMobil.

The civil war in Yemen has created a humanitarian disaster. According to United Nations estimates, two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population needs some kind of assistance. Seven million people are hungry, 10,000 have been killed in the war. UN-brokered peace talks have so far led nowhere, with all parties seeking a battlefield victory. On March 13, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the situation in Yemen in a statement.«It is our firm belief that the Yemeni conflict cannot be resolved by military means», it reads. Russia calls for an immediate cessation of all hostilities.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is pushing for the president to remove all restrictions on US military support for the Saudi invasion of Yemen, which would enable the military to support Emirati operations against the Houthis with surveillance and intelligence, refueling, and operational planning assistance, without asking for case-by-case White House approval. He seeks support of National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster for Yemen operations being conducted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The plans reportedly also include using drones to help gather intelligence for strikes on Houthi targets and assistance in planning the recapture of the critical Red Sea port city Hodeidah from Houthi forces. According to him, a planned Emirati offensive to retake the port would be a contribution into combatting a common threat.

The Washington Post reports that a plan developed by the US Central Command to assist the operation includes other elements that are not part of Mattis’s request. While Marine Corps ships have been off the coast of Yemen for about a year, it was not clear what support role they might play.

If approved, the policy would mark a significant shift from counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida‘s affiliate in Yemen and limited indirect backing for Saudi and the UAE war efforts to direct «limited» involvement. As history shows, «limited involvements» often lead to participation in large-scale conflicts of great duration. It’s enough to remember how the Vietnam war started. It would also indicate that the administration has taken a more aggressive stand on Iran, the country Washington and Riyadh would like to squeeze out of the Middle East.

The US State Department has given permission for a resumption of the supply of precision guided weapons to Saudi Arabia. It signed off on a $350 million package of smart bombs. The deliveries were suspended last year after Saudi aviation killed 100 civilians by mistake. The US has been refuelling Saudi aircraft and has advisors in the Saudi operational headquarters since the kingdom started its military involvement in March 2015. Billions of dollars in tanks, munitions and spare parts were sold to Saudi Arabia as a profitable way to demonstrate to the Saudis that the United States supported their efforts.

The more intensive involvement into Yemen’s crisis should be seen in a broader context of the US policy change in the Middle East. The administration is considering delegating more authority to the Defense Department to conduct anti-terrorist operations overseas, which at the moment require the White House approval. If approved, the authority would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. They will have more freedom of action in Yemen and Somalia, where military involvement is also to be intensified. The US Defense Department’s tentative plan (strategy review) on the anti-Islamic State strategy calls for the military operations abroad to be expanded.

President Trump has said many times the main enemy is the Islamic State (IS). The involvement in Yemen will divert forces from this mission. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost the US about $1.6 trillion from 2001 to 2014. Can America afford to fight two wars – against the IS and Iran – with the national debt equal to $20 trillion? Does it have to confront Iran after the nuclear deal was reached and complied with? Does the US have vital interests in Yemen? The president has talked about his intention to adopt the policy of making good deals. He can make good by joining an international effort to bring peace to the war-torn country instead of getting America plunged into a new conflict with no end in sight.

Moscow has never taken sides in Yemen. It has maintained good working relationship with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Unlike practically all other pertinent actors, except Oman, Moscow has maintained the relationship of trust with ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted from the presidency in 2012, and the Houthis, the movement the ex-president is allied to, which currently controls the Yemeni capital and large parts of the country, especially in the north. Last year, Ali Abdullah Saleh even asked Russia for a military intervention, talking of reactivating old Yemeni agreements with the Soviet Union and offering «all the facilities» of Yemen’s bases, ports and airports to Russia.

Even after President Hadi moved to Saudi Arabia and the hot phase of the conflict started, Russia maintained its diplomatic presence in Sana. Representatives of various Yemeni political forces: Ansar Allah, the General People’s Congress, the Southern Movement, the Yemeni Socialist Party and many others have visited Moscow since the crisis erupted. Moscow is a participant in the activities of the Group of 18 Ambassadors to Yemen.

Russia has excellent relations with Iran. This fact was confirmed during President Rouhani’s visit to Moscow on March 27-28.

All in all, Russia is perfectly fit to play the role of mediator between the warring sides and other pertinent actors. Russia and the US could launch a diplomatic initiative to end the conflict – the same thing they should do in Syria.

The war in Yemen is unwinnable; the complicated conflict is caused by many reasons, some of which go back to the ancient history. Suffice it to remember the conflicts and tensions between the nation’s South and North. The war in Yemen can last for many years with devastating results. Sending military to fight in Yemen would amount to a unilateral declaration of war on a new enemy that poses no whatsoever threat to the national security of the United States. The move has not been authorized by Congress. Meanwhile, the opportunities for mediation and peaceful solution are far from being exhausted. As influential actors, Russia and America could join together in an effort to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict. Instead, the US gives priority to the use of force stepping on the same rake again.

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