UK admits involvement in the genocide of civilians in Mosul, Iraq

Britain Confirms Involvement in West Mosul Bombing of Civilians

Refuses to Provide Details on Where They Were Operating

US-led coalition airstrikes against western Mosul killed a large number of civilians in recent weeks, and there is increasing reason to believe that British warplanes were involved in the operation, with the Royal Air Force (RAF) confirming that their planes were active in Mosul at the time.

The RAF is looking quite evasive on the details of their involvement, however, saying they will support investigations “as required,” but refusing to offer details of what their planes were doing at the time all the civilians were killed, beyond “liberating western Mosul.”

British Tornado aircraft in the area were previously reported to have fired five 500 lb missiles into western Mosul, but since reports of civilian deaths they’ve offered little detail on what they were firing at, beyond “terrorists,” and seem eager to avoid any details on proximity to the civilian poll.

Officials were also quick to insist that the day when all the civilians were killed was “very challenging,” because it was cloudy, and that visibility wasn’t nearly what it should have been. This lack of visibility did not, apparently, have an impact on the decision to bomb densely populated areas.

The UK has made 10 times more in arms sales to Saudi Arabia than it’s given in aid to Yemen

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Similarly, the US sold a record amount of arms to Saudi Arabia under Obama’s administration, with sales set to continue under Trump. Earlier this month the State Department approved a resumption in the $300m sale of US-made precision-guided missiles, a deal blocked late in Obama’s administration due to concerns over civilian casualties

yemen-children.jpgUN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien looks at a child during a visit to the Mother and Child hospital in the Yemeni capital Sanaa Getty

Bustling, buzzing and bartering. That is how I would once have described a typical market (or souk) in Yemen.

Not any longer. These days they’re often barren and lifeless. During my many visits, I’ve seen the devastation of once busy souks destroyed by Saudi coalition airstrikes. Skeletal structures of buildings and stalls lie empty where once vibrant businesses sold coffee, spices, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, clothes and children’s toys.

By contrast, on the other side of the world a lucrative market in high-tech weaponry is positively thriving. Over the past two years, the UK and the US have sold billions of pounds’ worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, arms used to obliterate Yemeni markets and much else.

In Yemen, I’ve met countless victims of airstrikes who’ve lost loved ones or had livelihoods destroyed, leaving them impoverished and destitute. After two years of this, the country is facing a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions, with more than 18 million Yemenis requiring humanitarian assistance.

On the one hand, the UK and US have supported Yemen with around £371.5m in aid during the past two conflict-ridden years. On the other, British and American arms companies, with the authorisation of the UK and US governments, have busily supplied much of the weaponry that Saudi Arabia has used for its devastating attacks in its southern neighbour.

Nearly 2,600 UK ex-soldiers jailed in 1 year for violent crimes as well as sexual offences.

Nearly 2,600 UK ex-soldiers jailed in 1 year

British military forces in Afghanistan (File photo)
British military forces in Afghanistan (File photo)

Nearly 2,600 British war veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the US-led invasion of the two countries have been imprisoned over the past year over committing violent crimes as well as sexual offences.

The figure represents between four and five percent of Britain’s total prison population, according to UK’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ), prompting concerns about the impact the military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq has had on the mental health of former members of the British armed forces, The Guardian reported Saturday.

The MoJ began identifying the convicted ex-soldiers as they entered the prison system in January 2015 after concerns over the management of British war veterans were raised in a review of the criminal justice system.

Based on the figures, the former members of the armed forces accounted for 721 of the “first receptions” from July to September 2015, the initial period when they were released.

The numbers, the report adds, appear to have dropped since, 545 arrived in the system in the same period a year later. In the year leading up to last September, 2,565 veterans were imprisoned.

The development came after historic murder conviction against British soldier Alexander Blackman, who shot dead a seriously wounded Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan, was overturned earlier in the week and replaced with the lighter charge of manslaughter on the grounds of “diminished responsibility,” according to the report.

Blackman’s lawyers argued that he had adjustment disorder at the time of the killing after “serving for months on the frontline in terrible conditions.”

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Although the British veterns of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent five percent of UK’s prison population, “but they represent a disproportionate number of serious violent offences and sexual offences, and that raises questions that need answering,” said Fraces Crook, the chief executive of independent charity organization, the Howard League for Penal Reform.

“These are not victimless crimes. They have a terrible effect on the victim,” he added.

Crook further added that several factors contributed to the number, including alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Research by the organization also found that 25 percent of former combat forces were in prison for sexual offences, compared with 11 percent of the civilian prison population.

The report further quoted a Defense Ministry spokesperson as saying, “Most former service personnel return to civilian life without problems and are less likely to commit criminal offences than their civilian counterparts, but we’re determined to help those who fall into difficulty, and last year awarded £4.6m to schemes targeted at tackling this issue.”

“The government has enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law to make sure veterans are treated fairly and receive the support they deserve, including with mental health issues, getting on the housing ladder, and applying for civilian jobs,” the official added.

British soldiers represented the second largest contingent of mostly Western military forces that took part in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 under the purported “war on terror” schemes. Nearly 15 years later, both countries are struggling with unrelenting incidents of terrorism amid growing suspicions that they have directly and indirectly aided the establishment of some terrorist elements in both countries.

Yemen war: More than half of British people unaware of ongoing conflict seeing UK weapons deployed by Saudis

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More than half of British people are unaware of the “forgotten war” underway in Yemen, despite the Government’s support for a military coalition accused of killing thousands of civilians.

A YouGov poll seen exclusively by The Independent showed 49 per cent of people knew of the country’s ongoing civil war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced three million more and left 14 million facing starvation.

The figure was even lower for the 18 to 24 age group, where only 37 per cent were aware of the Yemen conflict as it enters its third year of bloodshed.

More than 2,100 people were given a list of 16 countries and asked to identify any “currently involved in an ongoing armed conflict” for the research, with 84 per cent naming the Syrian civil war.

The Human Appeal, a Manchester-based charity that commissioned the poll, warned a lack of international awareness was worsening a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Yemen.

“The crisis in Yemen has been forgotten about or ignored completely,” said CEO Othman Moqbel.

“We believe this is because that the conflict has not generated a huge amount of refugees coming to Europe and there is the misperception amongst the public that it’s only a regional crisis.

“To treat what is currently happening in Yemen, and has been happening for two years, as something insignificant is turning a blind eye to the escalating humanitarian emergency.”

At least 75 people are estimated to be killed or injured every day in the conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine as 14 million people lack a stable access to food.

Almost 3,800 civilians have been killed by the conflict, where President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government is fighting Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to the former President, President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The conflict started in March 2015 after an opposition offensive drove the government out of the capital Sana’a, sparking an intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies to support the internationally recognised government.

The UN human rights office said the Saudi-led air campaign, seeing rebel-controlled areas heavily bombarded, was responsible for 60 per cent of civilian deaths – almost 2,300 lives.

British-manufactured weapons, including cluster bombs, have been used in the strikes, despite calls by MPs to suspend sales to Saudi Arabia over war crimes allegations.

Peter Salisbury, a senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, said Britain was the principal sponsor of a UN Security Council resolution used by Saudi Arabia to justify its intervention.

“The UK is also a huge arms supplier and provides a great deal of logistical support to Saudi forces,” he told The Independent.

“Arguably the UK has also given political coverage to the Saudis by preventing various resolutions and investigations from happening.”

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Theresa May meeting King Salman of Saudi Arabia in December at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain (Getty)

Mr Salisbury said that while opposing the attempted coup in Yemen, the British Government was “quiet” about the military overthrowing Egypt’s elected government in 2013.

“The decision was made that Yemen was a ‘bad coup’,” he added. “And that in many ways comes down to where allies sit.”

Iran supports Houthi forces in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies supporting the Hadi government.

As battles continue, the Human Appeal is among international charities attempting to provide aid to Yemen’s impoverished population.

It has provided food parcels to thousands of families, clean drinking water for 37,500 people, blankets, clothing and healthcare projects including supporting the Al Jumhori public hospital.

Hundreds of Somali refugees who originally fled conflict in their home country are among those caught up in the violence in Yemen, with more than 40 massacred by a helicopter gunship as they attempted to flee on a boat on Thursday night.

While the humanitarian situation deteriorates, the conflict has largely reached a stalemate, with rebels controlling much of densely populated western Yemen, the Hadi government in the centre and east and pockets of territory held by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsuala (AQAP), Islamist militias and Isis.

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Yemenis inspect damaged houses following reported Saudi-led coalition air strikes on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital Sanaa (Getty)

But the UN Refugee Agency has warned of intensified hostilities in recent weeks, forcing more than 62,000 people from their homes in western and central Yemen, who are now sleeping in public buildings, tents, on the streets or in ruined buildings.

Calling Yemen a “forgotten war”, Mr Salisbury said neither a peaceful resolution nor an outright victory for any party was likely in the near future.

“The Trump presidency could see US play a more decisive role,” he added, although American forces have mainly been targeting AQAP terrorists, including in a botched raid that killed dozens of civilians earlier this year.

“Yemen is not an island, it is connected to other countries and the rest of the world and we’re seeing this massive growth in sectarian violence.

“All of these things have long-tern consequences for countries outside of Yemen.”

The British Government stresses that although it the Saudi-led intervention “to deter aggression by the Houthis and allow for the return of the legitimate Yemeni Government”, it is not part of the coalition.

“British personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen, nor involved in the Saudi targeting decision-making process,” a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told The Independent

“Peace talks are the top priority. The UK has played a leading role in diplomatic efforts, including bringing together key international actors to try and find a peaceful solution.”

The UK is the fourth largest donor to Yemen, committing £103 million in humanitarian aid last year.

UK facing court battle over right to BDS

UK facing court battle over right to BDS

Foreign minister Boris (The clown) Johnson promoted economic ties in Jerusalem last week. (Israeli Goverment Press Office)

A court challenge against British restrictions on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is going ahead, according to human rights campaigners.

The British government had undertaken to prevent local councils from using pension policies to protest against the arms trade and repressive regimes, particularly Israel.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is seeking a judicial review of the British government’s policies. The campaigners have been informed by a judge that the review can proceed “as soon as possible” after 1 April.

The campaigners are seeking to overturn changes to the rules on local authority pension schemes, announced by the British government in October 2015.

The Conservative government also published guidance in February last year that was intended to discourage the use of BDS tactics.

Publicly-funded bodies were told these amounted to a “BDS ban” – although closer reading of the text revealed this not to be the case.

But in June 2016, the first case to cite the “ban” failed in the British high court. The case – led by anti-Palestinian lawyers – targeted decisions by a number of local councils to support the BDS movement.

Attack on protest

The government tried to justify the October 2015 pension measures, claiming they aimed at stopping the “growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defense and Israeli firms.”

But speaking to The Financial Times, one top pension official accused the government of “ridiculous nannying”

He said that “the government should stop sticking its nose in. If a democratically elected council body wishes to pursue an investment strategy with money generated by council taxpayers, they should be able to.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the judge had agreed the case was of “significant public importance.”

Ben Jamal, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director, said the guidance on pension schemes “represents a wider attack on people’s rights to protest about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, including via the promotion of the peaceful campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

The legal fight is being supported by War on War and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

The UK government’s increasingly open defense of Israel comes in the context of growing Israeli-backed efforts to restrict BDS activities across the world.

In the US, there has been a wave of laws aimed at punishing and silencing activists. But campaigners and human rights lawyers have fought back, often successfully drawing on constitutional protections to free speech.

NATO (UK) Weapons shipped to Al Qaeda Near Damascus, Seized by Syria Government Forces

NATO Weapons to Al Qaeda Near Damascus, Seized by Government Forces

By Arabi Souri

Flag_of_NATO.svg

NATO weapons (Made in the UK) in possession of terrorists from al-Qaeda group were found and seized by a Syrian Arab Army unit in Damascus Countryside.

The first truck loaded with weapons, described as the smaller one, had a full arsenal of missiles and munition made in UK and hidden under boxes of vegetables. It was coming from Daraa city in the south where the SAA is fighting a fierce battle against a new wave of terrorists attacks re-enforced from Jordan.

image-nato-weapons-heading-to-alqaeda-confiscated-by-saa-near-damascus

SAA Seizes 2 Shipments of NATO Weapons to Al Qaeda Near Damascus

The second truck heading to Kiswa city south of the Syrian capital Damascus loaded with automatic machine guns, firearms, and live munitions. The arsenal was boxed and wrapped with aluminum foils to avoid detection by the SAA checkpoints.

This shipment of weapons was shipped the same time the NATO sponsored terrorists of FSA blew up civilian buses in the heart of Damascus killing scores of mostly Iraqi pilgrims on a religious visit to shrines in Bab Sgheir cemetery in the old famous Shaghour neighborhood.

It’s of no surprise the NATO’s full engagement arming terrorists fighting to destroy Syria and turn it into a failed state, similar to their previous ‘achieved goals’ in Libya and Iraq and elsewhere. The timing however might be surprising to the Russian leadership which keeps falling in the same trap time and again trying to struck deals with their ‘Western partners’ and the Erdogan regime in NATO member state Erdoganstan (formerly Turkey).

Made in Britain, tested on Yemenis: The reality of working for the bombmakers

Made in Britain, tested on Yemenis: The reality of working for the bombmakers

Saudi jets flown over Yemen begin life in Lancashire factories. Workers there ask how else can they earn a living

A child is carried from fighting in Taiz, Yemen (AFP)
Areeb Ullah's picture

PRESTON, UK – Jack sits down with his pint in the Fielden Arms in Mellor, and contemplates his latest shift making Typhoon warplanes for the Saudi air force.

Tucking into steak and chips, the 25-year-old talks of moving in with his girlfriend, his good pay at the nearby BAE factory – £40,000, almost twice the local average – and the security it brings.

And then he thinks of the people those planes will be sent to kill.

“You see the children in Yemen starving on the 10 o’clock news,” he tells Middle East Eye. “But you try to not pay attention and just get on with it.”

You are in essence building a weapon of mass destruction

– Harry, BAE worker

His friend, Harry, interjects: “It’s really weird and there is no way to describe it, because you are in essence building a weapon of mass destruction.”

So why don’t they quit? “Good pay and job security,” Jack responds, taking another sip of his beer. “If the military contracts go, 7,000 people go with them.”

Jack is like thousands of others who works at the BAE Systems factory in nearby Samlesbury, outside Preston in Lancashire, making parts that will be assembled in nearby Warton to create Typhoons, the most advanced jet fighters operated by the Saudis over Yemen.

There, the Saudis have contributed to a civil war with the most terrible violence: bombing civilians, blowing up hospitals, and imposing a siege that has condemned millions of Yemenis to slow starvation and poverty.

And Britain, in its wisdom, has sold the Saudis the hardware to do it. Since the war began in 2015, the UK has approved arms sales to Riyadh worth more than $3.3bn. Many of those weapons have come from BAE factories like Samlesbury, built by workers like Jack.

This prompted anti-arms trade campaigners to launch a judicial review in February to stop arms exports to the Saudi government until it stops committing human rights atrocities in Yemen. The decision on that review is due in the coming months.

St Oswald’s church in Warton (Wikipedia)

All the while, BAE continues to expand its operations in the north-west of England, and the contracts keep coming. It is building a solar farm the size of nine football fields, creating hundreds of new apprenticeships, and is already Preston’s largest employer with 9,000 staff. Under the £40bn al-Salam deal, signed in 2007 to a 25,000-strong celebration in Preston, BAE has delivered 68 of 72 Typhoons ordered, and another 48 may soon be agreed.

And in the surrounding villages, where the quiet life is punctuated by the sonic booms of jets and the rumble of lorries on narrow roads, the business is welcomed, even venerated. BAE is woven into the fabric of a local life, where generations have manned BAE’s machine rooms.

There is pride in what they do. “Lancashire has a strong history of building fighter jets, and we are proud to be building them,” said Mike Harris, who has worked as an electric fitter in Samlesbury. “We produce the best in the world.”

“We can’t build washing machines because we have a history of building fighter planes,” Harris said. “That’s what we do and want to carry on doing.”

And a block on that expertise would be devastating.

If they didn’t do it here they would do it somewhere else

– Lynn Shuttleworth, Warton

Audrey Charnley sits in the old church opposite BAE’s Warton factory, the main assembly site for Typhoon jets, and speaks of the “problem” for locals if it was to close or lose business due to the efforts of anti-war activists.

Many villagers like Audrey have family who have worked for there. She doesn’t like the “idea” of Warton building fighter jets – “but somebody would be building the jets if Warton wasn’t”.

As to the war in Yemen, “we want peace, just like the peace we feel in this church”, she says.

The same thought is echoed across the way at the local village hall, which Lynn Shuttleworth helps run. “If they didn’t do it here they would do it somewhere else,” she says, before commenting on a more pressing local issue: “Does cause a lot of traffic I must admit.”

Britain has sold Saudi Arabia dozens of Typhoon fighter jets (wikimedia)

And at the Clifton Arms, next to Warton’s factory, Taylor James pulls pints for the workers emerging from their shifts. He knows that victory for the judicial review will hit him and his family’s pub hard.

He’s never really heard of Yemen, or its current catastrophe, and neither – he says – have many people in the area.

“Because it’s not personally affecting me, I don’t really get involved or have an interest in what the planes are used for.”

Politics by other means

Politics may not be the concern of some locals, but it plays a central part in the world in which they live. What is made by BAE has local, national and international repercussions, and has turned parties and traditional allies against each other.

Many in Samlesbury and Warton are members of Unite, the union that helped propel anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. Twice.

He is opposed to Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and its bombing campaign in Yemen. Union representatives say opposition to Saudi exports is “misguided”.

Simon Brown, who represents thousands at Warton, rationalises that position. He says maintaining trade with Saudi Arabia ensures Britain has a say in what it does.

“Trading gives us influence to talk about the things we’re not happy about in these regimes,” he said at a discussion at the Unite HQ in Salford. “If we left them on their own, we won’t have influence.”

Another senior Unite official, who spoke to MEE anonymously, skips the platitudes for a more succinct answer: it’s about the jobs.

“Of course our members don’t agree with what Saudi are doing in Yemen, it’s barbaric,” says the official.

However, he absolves his members of responsibility: “The government’s created a situation where people can do nothing but work for BAE.”

Andy Clough, a Unite union spokesman at Warton and worker since 1979, agrees: “I’ve seen whole families work there,” he says. “It’s still like that now. There are fathers and sons. That’s the sort of culture that we have.”

Smoke rises after a Saudi air strike in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa (AFP)

Nigel Evans, the local Conservative MP for the Samlesbury factory, has been a staunch defender of BAE systems in parliament.

His last appearance in parliament described the presence of BAE systems in Lancashire as “important” and providing “thousands of jobs for the Ribble Valley and Lancashire” area.

Their loss, he said, would be devastating.

But Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade disagrees. He says that the arms trade is, in fact, a very small part of the British economy.

“Arms companies enjoy a huge influence in the corridors of power, which has bought them a lot of power,” he says.

“We want to see an industrial strategy that puts the skills of industry workers to good use and focuses on positive, substantive jobs and not those dependent on war and conflict.”

According to the Oxford Economics group, BAE in 2013 exported £3.8bn worth of weapons, including missiles, naval systems and jets – 69 per cent of which was sent to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

But that £3.8bn represents just one percent of all the British economy’s exports.

Smith’s group has another option – last year it launched its “arms to renewables” campaign, which argues skilled engineers could be moved into industries that can build a new future, rather than destroy it.

Skilled engineers will always be in demand, it says.

The Lightning that stands outside the Samlesbury factory (screengrab)

Back in Samlesbury, such high-minded thinking is just that.

When the shifts change, workers file in and out of the steel gates of the 700-acre site, guarded by a life-sized model of a Lightning, a famous cold war fighters built by English Electric, a forerunner of BAE.

A real one used to stand here – in active service, it was flown by the Saudis in the 1970s.

Workers who take a moment to speak to MEE have the unmistakable pride of decades of excellence, while conceding their concerns about where their jets end up.

But that’s just the way it is.

And the BAE of the future will continue to build expert killing machines: The company has recently signed a multi-million contract to develop a new generation of armed drones, another weapon common in the skies of Yemen, and beyond.

Jack, in the pub in Mellor, is aware this is where his future may lie: building robots for foreign states to kill foreign people in foreign lands.

“There’s nothing we can do,” he says. “We’re caved in, making it impossible to work anywhere else, because we’ve all got specific skills.”

Editor’s note: the names of some BAE workers have been changed to protect anonymity and employment

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