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My Proposed Article on Bristol’s Slavery Reparations – Ignored and Rejected by the Press?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 8:20pm in

Okay, I’ve blogged about it before when Bristol City council first passed the motion all those weeks ago. These were a couple of pieces about the motion, brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake, and seconded by Labour’s deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Green, calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all of Britain’s ‘Afrikan’ community. I criticised this because this motion effectively means the payment of reparations to the African peoples responsible for the raiding and enslavement, and their sale to outsiders. It wasn’t just European, who purchased and enslaved the continent’s peoples, but also Muslims, Arabs and Indians. The motion falsifies history by reducing a complex situation to simple Black and White – White Europeans versus Black Africans. I believe Lake and Craig are playing racial politics here by trying to create a unified Black British community by presenting all British Blacks as the victims of White, European, British slavery when this was not historically the case.

The motion also raises other issues by setting the precedent for formerly enslaved peoples to sue their former captors. Thus Black Africans could also demand reparations from Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and the successors to the great Arab caliphates of the Middle Ages – perhaps Saudi Arabia? – Oman and other states for their enslavement. As could Europeans. 2.5 million White Europeans were carried off into slavery by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algiers. Would the councillors, who supported and passed Lake’s and Craig’s slavery reparations motion also support similar motions for the payment of reparations to these people from their former masters?

I wrote to Lake and Craig raising these issues, and so far have received no reply. Perhaps they’re too busy. Craig has received 6,000 racially abusive messages, which I condemn, so perhaps she hasn’t looked at it because it’s been lost in all the other mail she’s received about it.

I tried to get the press interested in this issue, and so submitted an article about it. I first sent it to the Guardian, and then to a number of right-wing newspapers when I heard nothing from the Groan. I thought the right-wing press would be perhaps be more likely to publish it, and it contradicts some of the attitudes and assumptions of the pro-Black activists that newspapers like the I, Independent and Observer share and promote. Along with the article itself, I sent the following cover message.

Dear Sir,

I would be very grateful if you would consider the attached article laying out some of the problems with the motion passed a few weeks ago in Bristol calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black community. There are a number of difficult and complex issues raised by this, which I do not believe have been adequately discussed in the press. One of these is that the motion calls for both Africans and Afro-Caribbean people to be granted reparations. While I’ve no doubt that Black African people are as disadvantaged as people of West Indian heritage, there is a problem here as historically it was African peoples who did the dirty business of slaving, selling them not just to Europeans, but also to Muslim, Arab and Indian slavers. It would therefore be unjust for people the British enslave or who actively collaborated in slaving to receive compensation for slavery.

Other problems with the motion are that it sets a precedent for other peoples to demand reparations for their enslavement. White Europeans would, following this logic, also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of 2 1/2 million Europeans by the Barbary pirates. And Black Africans would also be entitled to ask Muslim and Arab nations for reparations for their enslavement of them.

I also consider the motion to be racially divisive, as it seeks to create a unified Black community, who are represented as equal victims, against Whites, who are considered slavers, thus simplifying a complex historical issue.

I hope you will consider the article suitable, and look forward to your reply.

Yours,

And here’s the article itself.

Slavery Reparations: Not All Blacks Were the Victims, Some Were the Slavers

A few weeks ago Bristol Council passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations to the Black British community for their enslavement. The motion was introduced by Cleo Lake, a former mayor and the Green Councillor for Cotham in the city, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. The reparations were to be both financial and cultural. It was moved that they should take the form of proper funding for projects to improve conditions for the Black community and raise them to the same, sustainable level of equality with the rest of British society. These projects were to be led and guided by Black organisations themselves. And the reparations should include all ‘Afrikans’, by which eccentric spelling Councillor Lake meant both Afro-Caribbean people and Black Africans. The motion was passed 47 to 11. It was supported by the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Tories opposed it. They said that while it came from ‘a good place’, the motion was ‘divisive’. In fact, there are a number of reasons why it should be opposed. The most important of these is that Black Africans were hardly innocent of slaving themselves.

Slavery existed in Africa long before the European invasion, and Britain wasn’t the only country that traded in enslaved Africans.  So did the Arabs, Ottoman Turks, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The first Black slaves in Europe were enslaved by Arabs and taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. In addition to the transatlantic slave trade, there was also an Islamic slave trade to north Africa and Muslim nations in Asia. Although there were exceptions, Europeans did not directly enslave their African victims. Before the 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, powerful African states prevented Europeans from penetrating inland and seizing African territory. The European slave merchants were largely confined to specific quarters, rather like European ghettos, in these state’s main towns, from whom they purchased their human cargo. By the 19th century powerful African slaving nations, such as Dahomey, Whydah and Badagry had emerged in West Africa. In East Africa, the Yao, Marganja and Swahili peoples enslaved the people of other nations to sell to the Arabs. Some were purchased by the Imaum of Muscat, now Oman, for labour on his immensely profitable clove plantations in Zanzibar. It was to prevent Indian merchants from importing enslaved Africans into British India that the British government opened negotiations with the Imaum to halt the east African slave trade.

Part of the rationale for British imperialism was to stamp out the slave trade and slavery at its point of supply, and this was one of the causes of African resistance to British expansionism. The Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, for example, was caused by the British attempting to abolish the Arab enslavement of Black Sudanese. It was to halt slaving by Dahomey that Britain fought a war against its king, Guezo. In some parts of Africa, slavery continued up to the 20th century because these countries had not been conquered by Europeans. The slave trade to Morocco continued to 1910 because the European powers had blocked the European invasion of that country. Slavery also persisted in Ethiopia, whose armies also preyed on the peoples of the surrounding African states, prompting a British punitive expedition in the 1880s.

This obviously presents problems for the payment of reparations to all sections of the Black British community, because some African nations weren’t the victims of White enslavement. They were the slavers. Someone once remarked on this situation that if reparations were to be paid, it should be by Africans compensating the Black peoples of the Caribbean and Americas.

And there are other problems with slavery reparations. If reparations were paid to Blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors, it would set a precedent for similar demands by other ethnicities. For example, up until the conquest of Algeria by France in the 19th century, White Europeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim pirates from Morocco and Algiers. About 2 ½ million people, including those from Bristol and the West Country, were carried off. The demand for reparations for the Black victims of slavery means that, by the same logic, White Europeans would also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors from those countries. At the same time, Black Africans would also be entirely justified in claiming reparations from the Muslim nations that enslaved them, such as perhaps Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But there have been no such demands, at least to my knowledge.

I don’t doubt that Black Africans in Bristol or elsewhere in the UK suffer the same problems of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and discrimination as the rest of the Black population, nor that there should be official programmes to tackle these problems. And it is only fair and proper that they should be guided and informed by the Black community itself. But reparations cannot justly be paid to the Black community as a whole because of the deep involvement of some African peoples in slavery and the slave trade.

Furthermore, there’s a nasty, anti-White dimension to Lake’s motion. By claiming that all Blacks, both West Indian and African, were equally victims of the slave trade, she and her supporters seem to be trying to create a unified Black community by presenting all of them as the victims of White predation, simplifying a complex historical situation along racial lines.

I’ve written to councillors Lake and Craig about these issues, but so far have not received an answer. In Councillor Craig’s case, it may well be that my message to her got lost amongst the 6,000 abusive emails she is reported to have received. It is, of course, disgusting that she should suffer such abuse, and she has my sympathies in this. But this does not alter the fact that reparations for Black slavery raise a number of difficult issues which make it unsuitable as a means of improving conditions for Black Britons.

Well, I haven’t heard anything from any of the newspapers I submitted it to, not even an acknowledgement. It seems the news cycle has moved on and they’re not interested. But this doesn’t mean that the arguments against the motion are any less valid, and I thought people would like to read these arguments again for themselves, as well as about my efforts to raise them in the press.

As Tide Turns, Houthis Reject US, Saudi “Peace” Deals for the Recycled Trash They Are

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/03/2021 - 9:00pm in

SANA’A, YEMEN — March 26 marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing campaign in the war-torn country of Yemen and massive demonstrations took place across the country on Friday in commemoration.

Hundreds of thousands of people took the streets in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a near the besieged Sana’a International Airport, and in Hodeida, home of the country’s largest and most important seaport. In fact, thousands of Yemenis gathered in more than twenty city squares across the northern provinces, carrying Yemeni flags and holding banners emblazoned with messages of steadfastness and promises to liberate the entire country from Saudi control. Images of the demonstrations show a sea of Yemeni flags, posters bearing pictures of Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, and the slogan “Six years of aggression — We are ready for the seventh year — We will win.”

“We are here to send a message to both the United States and Saudi Arabia that we are ready to make more sacrifices against the Saudi-led Coalition,” Nayef Haydan, a leader of the Yemeni Socialist Party and member of the Yemeni Shura Council, said. “Any peace initiative must contain a permanent end to the war, lift the blockade completely, include a detailed reconstruction program, and compensate Yemenis,” he added.

 

Having bombed for six years, Saudis now talk peace

For six years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the richest countries on the planet, have relentlessly bombed the poorest nation in the Middle East, with crucial assistance from three consecutive U.S. administrations. For 2,160 days — six years straight — the Royal Saudi Air Force and the UAE Air Force have, with American assistance, launched nearly 600,000 airstrikes in Yemen. The bombing has targeted civilian homes, schools, hospitals, roads, funerals, food facilities, factories, mosques, water, pumps and sewage, markets, refugee camps, historical cities, fishing boats, fuel stations, a school bus full of children, and Bedouin camps, making any potential reconstruction very long and costly.

The bombing continues even as talks of new peace initiatives begin to surface. Just last Sunday, March 21, consecutive Saudi airstrikes destroyed a poultry farm in Amran province. The attack was especially egregious as Yemen is suffering from one of the most severe famines in recent history. In fact, the country faces a humanitarian, economic, and political crisis of a magnitude not seen in decades. According to the United Nations, almost 16 million Yemenis live under famine, with 2.5 million children suffering from malnutrition. And thousands of Yemeni state workers now face hunger as their salaries have gone unpaid for years after the Saudi Coalition seized control of the country’s central bank.

 

Relentless destruction

As the war enters its seventh year, the country’s war-weary masses face grim new milestones. The fastest growing outbreak of cholera ever recorded and outbreaks of swine flu, rabies, diphtheria and measles are among the man-made biological threats facing Yemen. Meanwhile, hundreds of Yemenis are dying of Covid-19 every day amid a collapsed and destroyed health system. Many of these diseases and crises are not natural but have been created, artificially and intentionally, by Saudi Arabia. The U.S.-backed Saudi Coalition has completely or partially destroyed at least 523 healthcare facilities and bombed at least 100 ambulances, according to a report from the Sana’a-based Ministry of Health issued last Tuesday.

Years after Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Yemeni ports, halting life-saving supplies, Yemenis are still suffering from a lack of food, fuel and medicine. Hodeida Port, which is the primary entry point for most of Yemen’s food imports, is still under a strict Saudi blockade; even humanitarian aid is prevented from reaching the port. Sana’a International Airport, which has been bombed heavily by the Saudi Air Force in the past two weeks, has been blocked almost since the war began, leaving thousands of medical patients to die prematurely because they were unable to travel abroad for treatment.

Yemenis for their part, have resorted to targeting the Saudi Coalition in its own backyard. Hoping that taking the battle to the Kingdom will exact enough of a toll on the Saudi monarchy to cause it to rethink its quagmire in Yemen, Houthi missiles and drones have had increasing success in striking Saudi oil infrastructure, airports and military bases, leaving Saudi soil exposed to daily bombardment for the first time since the Al Saud family established their state.

In a recent statement, the spokesman for the Ansar Allah-backed Yemen Army claimed that its Air Force had carried out more than 12,623 drone strikes and reconnaissance operations during the past six years and that, in the past two months alone, 54 high-precision ballistic missiles have been fired at vital Saudi targets, some of them deep inside Saudi Arabia.

Last Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport was attacked by a number of drones, and on Friday, a facility belonging to Saudi state-owned oil giant Aramco in the Saudi capital of Riyadh was hit with six drones, causing damage to the facility, according to Yemen military sources.

 

Saudi futility

Despite its enormous onslaught, lethal Western weapons, and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on this war, Saudi Arabia has been unable to crush the will of the Yemeni people, who continue to fight for independence and sovereignty. At the end of March 2015, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman promised confidently that it would all be over within a few weeks and that Ansar Allah would quickly surrender. Now, after six years of war, Bin Salman has not only been unable to defeat The Houthis. Instead, it is The Houthis remain steadfast in their resistance and have grown even more powerful, leading to much consternation in Saudi Arabia and a half-hearted attempt by Bin Salman to ask The Houthis to accept his country’s version of peace and free the Kingdom from the quagmire it has created for itself in Yemen.

As Yemenis make their final push to recapture the strategic city of Marib, amid failed U.S. efforts to protect their Saudi ally from Houthi ballistic missiles and drones, both Washington and Riyadh have presented peace initiatives in an effort to stem the tide of Saudi Coalition military defeats. Those initiatives, however, fail to address or alleviate the humanitarian plight of Yemenis, end the war, or even lift the blockade.

 

Sour wine in new bottles

On March 12, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking announced an initiative to end the war during a webinar with the Atlantic Council. The plan is essentially a recycled version of a previous proposal presented by Mohammed Bin Salman and the Trump administration one year ago in Oman, dubbed “The Joint Declaration.” It contains a matrix of Saudi principles and conditions aimed at the surrender of the Yemen Army, the Houthis, and their allies, in exchange for an end to the war. Lenderking’s initiative gives no guarantee that the Coalition will take any measures to lift its blockade and end the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

On March 22, Saudi Arabia announced its own “ceasefire initiative” to end the war it announced from Washington D.C. six years ago. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan revealed the initiative, which would include a nationwide ceasefire under the supervision of the UN and a partial re-opening of the Sana’a International Airport to certain destinations. It also included a revenue-sharing plan that would guarantee the Saudi government access to a portion of the wealth generated by Yemen’s oil and gas deposits in Marib.

 

Come back when you’re serious

Both initiatives were rejected by Sana’a. “We reject the American and Saudi peace initiatives because they do not meet the demands of the Yemeni people,” Khaled Al-Sharif, chairman of the Supreme Elections Committee, said of the proposals during a meeting held in Sana’a on Monday. According to many Yemenis, including decision-makers in Sana’a, the U.S. and Saudi plans are not intended to achieve peace, but to advance their political goals in the face of an imminent military failure following six costly years of war. The measures, according to officials in Sana’a, are also about saving face and presenting an untenable plan, so that when it is inevitably rejected the tide of public opinion will turn in favor of the Saudi-led Coalition.

In a live televised speech commemorating the sixth anniversary of the war on Thursday afternoon, ِAbdulMalik al Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, refused Washington and Riyadh’s initiatives, explaining:

The Americans, the Saudis, and some countries have tried to persuade us to barter the humanitarian file for military and political agreements. We refuse that.

Access to oil products, food, medical and basic materials is a human and legal right that cannot be bartered in return for military and political extortion.

We are, [however], ready for an honorable peace in which there is no trade-off for our people’s right to freedom and independence or to Yemen’s legitimate entitlements.”

The Houthi leadership views the policies of the Biden administration as not far removed from those of his predecessor, Donald Trump. “Biden’s administration is following the same policies as those of former President Donald Trump. [They] have not offered a new plan for peace in Yemen. Washington has rather presented an old plan for the resolution of the conflict,” Ansar Allah spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said, adding that the U.S. plan does not offer anything new. ”The plan has placed conditions for the opening of the Hodeida port and Sana’a International Airport, which are unacceptable,” he concluded.

 

No retreat, no surrender

The Houthis — empowered by six years of perseverance amid one of the most violent wars against some of the world’s most powerful military forces, not to mention the ability to reject the proposals set forth by those same powers — have little incentive to accept Riyadh’s offer. They see the end to the conflict coming from Washington in the form of an announcement of an immediate ceasefire, a departure of all foreign forces from the country, and lifting of the air and sea blockade as a pre-condition for any deal. “They should have demonstrated their seriousness for the establishment of peace by allowing food and fuel to dock at the port of Hodeida rather than put forth proposals,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said.

Over two thousand consecutive days of war have proven that Saudi Arabia is not ready to bring peace to war-torn Yemen. With the exception of a fragile ceasefire in Hodeida and a small number of prisoner releases, negotiations between the two sides generally reach a dead end, as Bin Salman looks for total surrender and nothing else. Numerous negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen have failed, including UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland in 2018. The Yemenis, who are now on the offensive, are unlikely to retreat or surrender. The offensive to recapture oil-rich Marib and sweep the shrinking areas that remain in Saudi control shows no signs of slowing down and, according to high-ranking military officials, the Saudi-controlled gas-rich province of Shabwa will be the next to be liberated. Moreover, retaliatory ballistic missiles and drone attacks against Saudi targets will continue.

Despite recent peace initiatives, the Saudi-led Coalition has only intensified military maneuvers in Yemen this week. Saudi warplanes are seen regularly above highly populated urban areas in the north of the country, dropping hundreds of tons of ordnance, most supplied by the United States. There is a near-consensus among the leadership of the Yemeni army and Ansar Allah that the current U.S. administration is participating in the battles taking place in the oil-rich Marib province. However, the Houthis have not directly accused the Biden administration of being involved in the fighting and are waiting for more evidence to do so. They may not have to wait long. On Tuesday, a sophisticated, U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed with a surface-to-air missile as it was flying over the Sirwah district in Marib.

Feature photo | A Houthi supporter holds a weapon as he attends a rally marking six years of the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen in Sanaa, March 26, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post As Tide Turns, Houthis Reject US, Saudi “Peace” Deals for the Recycled Trash They Are appeared first on MintPress News.

US, Lobbyists and Arm Dealers Scramble to Reposition Amid Impending Saudi Defeat in Yemen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/03/2021 - 3:03am in

WASHINGTON — In his last months in office, former President Donald Trump gave American defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Reaper drone manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems billions in projected earnings through a controversial $23 billion arms deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a deal now “under review” by the Biden administration.

President Joe Biden’s temporary halt to the U.S. arms deal and his decision to remove the Yemeni Houthi rebels from the state department’s list of global terrorist organizations have been touted as a harbinger of peace in Yemen, where a civil war that erupted during Barack Obama’s second term in office has persisted and expanded to include regional powers.

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has dropped more than 22,000 bombs in Yemen since its intervention in 2015 and has contributed to the death of nearly a quarter of a million people since the conflict began. American weapons systems have played a key role in the genocidal war that has produced millions of war refugees in what can only be characterized as the greatest human tragedy of the 21st century.

As the American arms industry rides a wave of record sales to the Saudi regime and the Middle East in general, a pause to the relentless advance of the biggest war economy on the planet strikes one as a political strategy, widely telegraphed by Biden even before he became the Democratic nominee. As soon as the former vice president was projected as the winner of the 2020 election, Saudi Arabia went on a lobbyist hiring spree to prepare for what the regime led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew was coming.

Nevertheless, a bleaker reality may be conspiring to quash the designs of American arms dealers. Recent developments in the war are increasingly pointing to the possibility that Biden’s ostensible moves towards peace may simply be an attempt to control the narrative and save face around what is looking like yet another defeat in the long-running American-sponsored global “war on terror” and, more awkwardly, an attempt to protect the defense industry from a spectacular debacle.

 

The high stakes of defeat

Major advances by Houthi forces on the strategically vital oil and gas hub of Marib last week have forced Saudi Arabia to offer a ceasefire agreement to the rebels. The offer came on Monday, after the rebel army seized Mount Hilan, threatening the Yemeni military’s first line of defense and causing a disruption in global energy prices.

The ceasefire proposal includes collecting “taxes, customs and other fees generated” by oil imports in the Red Sea port of Hodeida in a joint account that would be accessible to the Houthis. Further evidence that the Saudi-led coalition finds itself with their backs against the wall is the partial loosening of the oil blockade, as four fuel ships were given the go-ahead to dock at Hodeida on Wednesday.

The bid for a truce came two days after Saudi Coalition-manned American warplanes carried out airstrikes against Houthi targets in Marib, with Saudi media claiming heavy losses on the side of the rebel forces. But the partial lifting of the blockade by the Saudi Coalition and the UN-backed Yemeni government indicates that it is the Houthis who are making headway.

The fall of Marib would mean Houthi control of one of the key production centers of natural gas in Yemen — one that supplies the entire country — as well as oil fields owned by Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. Given that the Houthis already control most of Yemen’s urban centers, taking Marib would likely tilt the momentum irreversibly in the Houthis’ favor.

In light of the Houthis’ bolstered position in the conflict, Biden’s decision to remove them from the list of global terrorist organizations, while overtly maintaining continued U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s “security” needs could very well be a signal that Washington has tacitly admitted that their proxy war in Yemen is not yielding the desired results. Meanwhile, in a joint statement, last week as preparations for Friday’s major attack on Marib were in the offing, Western governments attempted to make a show of strength in the press in lieu of actual results on the battlefield.

“We, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America,” said the statement, “condemn the sustained Houthi offensive on the Yemeni city of Marib and the major escalation of attacks the Houthis have conducted and claimed against Saudi Arabia.”

 

Who will think of the arms dealer?

Curiously, most of the other members who came together to condemn the Houthis’ advance on Marib have also publicly halted their own arms trade with Saudi Arabia or its coalition forces, in one way or another. Nonetheless, sub-surface efforts continue to bolster Saudi security in the region.

France, which last week voted to end the sale of security equipment “that fuels conflict in Yemen,” was nevertheless second behind the U.S. in arms exports to Saudi Arabia, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), and reports have surfaced of French private mercenary companies training Saudi soldiers in Yemen. Meanwhile, the UK authorized a $1.9 billion arms deal after a ban imposed by a court ruling in 2019 had expired.

The arms trade report released on March 15 by SIPRI shows that, between 2016 and 2020, arms exports to the Middle East grew by a staggering 25% — an increase led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar.

According to an Open Secrets report, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the second-biggest buyer of U.S. arms, with $26 billion in sales reported to Congress since 2017. Riyadh is also the sixth largest spender by any foreign lobbying operation in the U.S., racking up nearly $108 million in U.S. influence operations over the last five years.

In addition, the top four defense contractors that count the kingdom as one of their best clients – F-35 fighter jet-maker Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Boeing – also grace the top five defense-related companies that spend the most on wooing Washington lawmakers, with approximately $40 million spent among them in 2020 alone.

Despite the hold announced by the Biden administration, arms sales have not been entirely stopped. On February 17, Biden approved a $200 million arms sale to Egypt, which has pledged its support for the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels and has been taking in thousands of refugees from the war-torn area since 2015.

 

Seller beware

Since December 2020, when most of the world was confident Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia added a few new lobbying organizations to its payroll. According to CNBC, one of the most recent contracts was signed with a “full-service grassroots mobilization, public affairs and public relations consulting firm” called Arena Strategy Group through the Larson Shannahan Slifka Group, or LS2group, which signed a $1.5 million retainer agreement with the Kingdom in 2019.

Both organizations have deep ties to the Republican Party. Their services — which will revolve around “informing the public, government officials, and the media about the importance of fostering and promoting strong relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” — were mainly sought to influence the Republican-controlled Congress on behalf of Saudi interests.

The arms trade lobby, for its part, is coming off substantial victories from the previous administration — which, among other things, loosened drone export laws, directly benefiting companies like General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and its pending $3 billion drone purchase order, which is part of the $23 billion arms deal currently on hold.

Squire Patton Boggs (“a perennial K Street powerhouse,” per Open Secrets), Akin Gump, and American Defense International are three of the top defense industry lobbying firms that alternate between representing defense contractors like Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, and their weapons systems manufacturers’ biggest clients in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to push through legislation and secure government contracts their customers require.

But, perhaps there is a much more mundane reason why all these multi-billion-dollar contracts are on hold and it’s that the potential buyers simply can’t – or won’t – pay for the merchandise.

Despite all the glamour and fantastical riches ascribed to the Saudi royal family, their wealth is quite literally all in one basket. If the price of oil plummets, so does the ability of the Saudi princes to close billion-dollar weapons deals. In 2017, when the colossal $110 billion arms deal was made between the Trump administration and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thanks to the work of Squire Patton Boggs, only $14.5 billion had been “earned” one year later.

The reality is that such deals are hardly worth the name. They are mostly comprised of letters of intent and proposals, which prospective buyers may or may not take up. In the case of American client states, like Saudi Arabia, there are ways to make them loosen the purse strings, but when these strings are tied to resources like oil extracted out of a foreign country teeming with armed groups intent on asserting their sovereignty, deals have a tendency to fall through.

However, it would be naïve to believe that the biggest war economy in the world would turn back and leave tens of billions of dollars on the table. If Saudi Arabia or its coalition partners can’t come up with the cash, history has shown that the Military Industrial Complex would not shy away from the chance to bring others to the negotiating table and expand the war to do so.

Feature photo | US special envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking, accompanied by State Department spokesman Ned Price, right, speaks via teleconference during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 16, 2021. Andrew Harnik | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post US, Lobbyists and Arm Dealers Scramble to Reposition Amid Impending Saudi Defeat in Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

Recruited, Arrested, On Trial: Yemeni Spies Tell of Their Reluctant Work for CIA, MI6

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 4:37am in

SANA’A, YEMEN — There is little dispute that the United States and the United Kingdom have been major benefactors to the Saudi Kingdom in its six-year-long attempt to use military might to bring Yemen to heel. Both countries have provided billions in hi-tech weapons, intelligence information, and training to what is arguably the Middle East’s most repressive monarchy. But according to the confessions of six men arrested last month amid the ongoing battle over Yemen’s strategic Marib province, Western support for the Saudi-led Coalition goes much farther than conventional military support.

 

Arrested Yemeni spies speak to MintPress

The CIA and MI6, its British counterpart, have recruited hundreds of Yemenis to work as mercenaries and spies gathering intelligence and coordinates of Yemeni military positions in Marib, al-Mahrah, Sana’a and Sadaa, and providing that information to their handlers, according to confessions given to the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service (YSIS) by at least six Yemeni nationals currently on trial in Sana’a for violating Article 130 of Yemen’s Penal Code.

The six men, who are being held in a detention facility in Sana’a, agreed to speak to MintPress about their experiences. They insist that abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war drove them to participate in the operation, which they said came with the promise of a $300 payout.

According to the men, the operation was carried out primarily at the Ghaydah Airport in eastern al-Mahrah. There, they joined dozens of young Yemenis recruited by the CIA for training by  American and British officers on how to properly identify and describe; the use of cameras, sophisticated software programs and devices used to share coordinates; information gathering; and how to find and identify military leaders and headquarters, workshops, factories, laboratories, warehouses, checkpoints and launching sites for missiles and drones. Even the locations of the personal homes and vehicles of Ansar Allah members and other vocal opponents of the Saudi intervention were sought, according to the men.

 

A careful recruitment process

Their recruitment process was long and delicate, beginning when the men were approached by Yemeni officers working for the Aden-based National Security Agency. After agreeing to travel to al-Mahrah to learn more, the men were housed in hotels before being brought to special cottages at the Ghaydah Airport where they were interviewed by American and British intelligence officers. Muhammad Har, one of the six charged, told MintPress that he was initially approached by Fayez Muhammad Ismail Al-Muntaser, a former officer of the National Security Agency and commander of the Saudi-led Coalition’s Special Missions Battalion.

“When it was my turn, I entered the [unintelligible] and was surprised that members of the committee were Americans. One was asking the questions, the second was writing data, the third was taking fingerprints, while the fourth black-skinned one was translating,” Ali Mohammed Abdullah al-Jomani, a 34-year-old detainee from Haddah recalled. Al-Jomani, who says he used to earn the equivalent of about $10 per day, was put up in the Taj Al-Arab Hotel for three months during the initiation process. “When we went back to conduct the second interview, we did not find the Americans, but rather British officers. They repeated the previous questions about our ability to use maps, drive cars, and use computers.” This tracks with allegations by the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service that the CIA was recruiting young Yemenis and handing them over to British officers for training and further handling.

According to the men, there were two separate camps at the airport, one American and the other Saudi. “After we were accepted, we were trained on how to describe people, cars, and homes and how to share data and photos through WhatsApp,” recalled Basem Ali Ahmed al-Kharouga, a 29-year-old detainee from Sana’a. “The training included field exercises inside and outside of the airport.” Al-Kharouga had long dreamed of traveling abroad and thought that he had finally found his way to flee the violence when he was promised a foreign passport in exchange for the work.

 

Few options for young Yemenis

In addition to poverty and unemployment, there are other reasons that Yemen’s youth would risk life and freedom to work with foreign intelligence services, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country for business, pleasure and to seek medical care. Now — with seaports and airports, especially the once-bustling Sana’a International Airport, effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel abroad, leaving many desperate young Yemenis with few options.

Hospitals, schools, office buildings, and infrastructure like water wells and sewage networks have been destroyed in the wake of Saudi bombing campaigns, which are often carried out with U.S. and British targeting information gleaned from their network of recruited spies. Funerals, weddings, homes, and other civilian facilities have been targeted, leading to the death and wounding of thousands of civilians and making American and British intelligence services complicit, at best, in the wanton violence.

“We were sent to Marib, me and another guy who went by the name of ‘Akram Amer,’ on one mission that lasted for four days. We were assigned by [a man named] ‘George’ to spy on the home of Ali Salem al-Huraizy near al-Rawda Park,” Aymen Mujahid Qaid Muhammad Harish, one of the six detainees, told MintPress. Among Harish’s tasks was to monitor sites in the city of Arhab, north of Sana’a, where the Saudi Coalition would later target a home where a funeral was taking place. The double-tap airstrike left a child and nine women dead and, according to Harish, his Western handlers, who were responsible for providing the Saudis with targeting data, are to blame for the attack.

Feature photo | Men are silhouetted against a large representation of the Yemeni flag as they attend a ceremony in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Recruited, Arrested, On Trial: Yemeni Spies Tell of Their Reluctant Work for CIA, MI6 appeared first on MintPress News.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Yemen’s Marib Offensive Born of Desperation, with No Sign Saudis/US Will Cease Their War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 7:53am in

MARIB, YEMEN — Overcoming a rugged and Sahara-like desert climate and under the constant fire of Saudi warplanes, Tawfiq Hassan, a third-term Sufi law school student, along with a cadre of other young Yemeni fighters, partook in the recent liberation of the Nakhla Valley near the western gate of the city of Marib.

“To recapture Marib and its natural resources is the last chance to secure its oil,” Tawfiq told MintPress. But for Khaled Mudaher, a soldier in Yemen’s Republican Guard, liberating Marib is a sacred patriotic duty. ”They bomb us, kidnap our women, block medicine and fuel, and steal our wealth,” Mudaher lamented.

Battles over Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province, which lies only 100 kilometers east of the capital Sana’a, have raged on since 2015 when the war began. The clashes pit Saudi-led Coalition soldiers and their Salafist militant allies against Yemeni forces supported by the Houthis as well as partisans from local tribes. Those clashes have become more fierce as the war and Saudi-imposed blockade approach six years’ duration on March 26, and amid a new push by Sana’a to liberate the last strongholds of the Saudi-led Coalition from Riyadh’s control.

For the past few months, Yemeni forces have fought a grueling ground campaign to recapture strategic points on Marib battlefields, including villages and military positions surrounding Marib city. Across the western and north-western oil-rich fronts, fierce clashes have erupted as more and more local tribes join battles to reclaim ancient landmarks with evocative names from Saudi forces. From The Thunders and The Hunter’s Birthmark to the strategic Shower Heights overlooking the Dish of Jinn and the tribal Balkan Mountains near the famous Marib Dam itself, long battles slog on, peppered with small but frequent hit-and-run battles in outlying districts, including Altielat Alhamra. Coalition forces for their part claim that they are thwarting ٍSana’a’s advance and have recaptured many of the liberated sites.

 

Escalation born of desperation

The recent escalation is not only a result of the brutal siege and bombardment of Yemen, which has bred a communal sense of desperation, but it is also born from a recognition that there are no real intentions on behalf of the Saudis or Americans to stop the war. That sense of hopelessness has had fuel poured onto it in the form of violent acts carried out by Saudi forces that violate the core tenants and mores of Yemeni people, not to mention their very dignity.

On February 1, Saudi-backed militants raided the homes of an unknown number of displaced families in Marib and kidnapped seven women who were allegedly then sold to Saudi Arabia. Five of the women were kidnapped on a Saturday night and, as locals were still reeling, the militants returned the next morning and kidnapped two more women by force. The news quickly spread across Yemen and anger mounted, sparking dozens of protests against Saudi forces. Major tribes in Marib, who for decades have maintained either neutrality or loyalty to Saudi Arabia, held a meeting in Sana’a to declare their desire to create a united front and expel Saudi forces and their allies. The declaration came on the heels of historic non-aggression treaties signed between Houthi-backed Yemeni forces and elders from Marib’s indigenous tribes of Ubaidah, Murad, Jahm, and Jadaan in the weeks leading up to the kidnappings.

 

Tragic stories drive the fight

Yemen’s battlefields, especially those in Marib, are a picture of contradiction. On one side are the latest warplanes and weapons made by the likes of Raytheon and BAE; fighters from a variety of backgrounds, including al-Qaeda and ISIS; Egyptians; American and British experts; and an extensive network of intelligence agents from around the world monitoring everything. On the other, young partisans with Kalashnikovs and machine guns; sometimes artillery or missiles mounted to the back of an old pickup truck; and explosive charges, usually old Soviet-era RPGs. They advance under heavy airstrikes and bombings through the rugged terrain, usually wearing sandals but sometimes barefoot.

There are no paranormal forces aiding their advance, but incentives born out of desperation. Some are steeped in patriotism, some bear a sense of religious duty; but a majority are driven by some tragic story. A loved-one lost in an airstrike or to hunger or disease, unable to travel abroad for treatment. Others have had to pull family members from beneath the rubble of their own homes. Most have lost their jobs, homes, or farms. But all of their stories speak to the suffering endured by Yemenis.

Yemen

A Yemeni boy prays at the grave of a relative killed fighting Saudi-led forces, at a cemetery in Sana’a,. Mar. 2, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

The Saudi-led Coalition’s campaign in Marib is not limited to the massive airstrikes for which it is now known, but it relies heavily on ideologically-driven fighters from al-Qaeda and Daesh armed with the latest Western weapons. On the al-Murad battlefield, members of al-Qaeda led by Mansur Mabkhout Hadi al-Faqir al-Mouradi, known colloquially as “Zubair Al-Mouradi,” have many tasks including artillery bombardment, bomb-making, and their trademark across the Middle East, planting IEDs.

According to a recent report from Yemen’s Security and Intelligence Agency (SIA), the Saudi government has facilitated a massive al-Qaeda presence in the oil-rich Marib province. This includes a fully-equipped headquarters, shelters, houses, farms, camps, and hotels used openly by al-Qaeda-linked groups. The SIA released the names of more than 100 leaders and members of the so-called “State of Marib” and presented the tasks assigned to them.

According to the SIA, the leadership of the organization in the “State of Marib” has established a safe haven for the group in the Shabwa governorate, establishing medical and reception shelters to aid Saudi-led military operations. Moreover, the villages of Al-Khatla and al-Fageir, the al-Jufina region, and the Wakra region in Marib have all turned into al-Qaeda strongholds.

In fact, al-Qaeda has become more organized and publicly active. They have a fully-functioning organizational structure with Samir Rayan, also known as Mutaz al-Hadhrami, appointed as “Amir of the state of Marib,” and Jamal al-Qamadi, known as Abu Abdul Rahman al-San’ani, appointed as a medical officer and military logistics official. Osama al-Hasani, also known as Muath al-San’ani, has been appointed as head of al-Qaeda. Their organizational structure includes an official to oversee transportation, a medical representative at the Commission Hospital in the Marib, a procurement officer, and even an official to head the organization’s “housing.”

 

“No Iranians here”

Bakeil al-Murady’s face immediately began to redden and a thoughtful grin appeared when I asked the 35-year-old, who had been captured on Marib’s al-Alam battlefield, whether he really believed that he was on a sacred mission to defend against the Iranians. “There are no Iranians here, but there are Saudi Rials and we are in need,” he answered. Like most Yemenis, al-Murady was inundated by warnings of Iranian intervention in Yemen from Saudi-funded media but never saw it with his own eyes. Most hear tidbits of news about the Iranian nuclear program or other aspects of the country that lies two thousand kilometers away but has been tied ad nauseam to the war in Yemen.

As the media ties recent developments in Yemen to the Iranian nuclear issue or to Houthi attempts to position themselves favorably for potential American-led negotiations, the tragic truth on the ground is that the plight of 17 million Yemenis is being wholly ignored.

The offensive against Saudi Arabia taking place in oil-rich Marib, a province deep inside of Yemen, was launched as part of an effort to end, or at least deter, ongoing Saudi airstrikes against civilian targets and to force the Saudis to allow the entry of life-saving goods. It has nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear program or a future settlement. In fact, most Yemenis, including the Houthis, have announced repeatedly that their only demand is that the blockade against Yemen ends and that the airstrikes be halted. The simple reality of the battle over Marib is that, regardless of the outcome of the Iranian nuclear deal, it will rage on until Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign in Yemen grinds to a halt.

 

Death from the air

On Sunday, scenes of frightened children and families fleeing their homes amidst plumes of rising smoke were repeated after Saudi warplanes bombarded the densely populated al-Nahdhah neighborhood in central Sana’a. The airstrikes hit near Halima Girls School, causing damage to the school and surrounding houses and civic facilities. The attack was one of more than a hundred Saudi airstrikes that targeted populated areas and military sites this week across Yemen, including a scientific center in Arhab.

Yemen

Smoke rises following Saudi airstrikes in a residential area of Sanaa, Mar. 7, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

In retaliation for the airstrikes, on Sunday the Houthi-backed Yemeni military launched 22 drone and missile attacks against Saudi targets, including an Aramco oil facility in the port of Ras Tanura, the largest of its kind in the world, located north of the capital of Saudi Arabia’s eastern province of Dammam. The attacks came on the back of other Yemeni strikes on Saudi targets, including on the Abha Airport and King Khalid Air Base, located near Khamis Mushait, some 884 kilometers south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Both of the airbases have been used to launch airstrikes against targets in Yemen, according to officials.

Yemen’s Houthi-backed Army unveiled the ballistic missiles and drones that were used in Sunday’s attacks on Ras Tanura last Thursday in an event in which Mahdi al-Mashat, the president of the Supreme Political Council, reiterated that attacks on Saudi Arabia will stop if the Kingdom halts airstrikes in Yemen and lifts the blockade on the country.

 

“Sparkling words”

The UN has warned that the recent clashes in Marib could trigger the displacement of thousands of civilians. “An assault on the city would put two million civilians at risk, with hundreds of thousands potentially forced to flee — with unimaginable humanitarian consequences,” U.N aid chief Mark Lowcock said on Tuesday, urging de-escalation.

According to the UN, more than 8,000 people have been displaced in and around Sirwah since early February, many of them fleeing existing refugee camps. Sana’a said the camps are being used as human shields and that Saudi-backed militants are preventing civilians from leaving the province in order to obstruct the advance of Houthi-led forces towards Ma’rib or to spur anger from the international community should the advance continue.

Marib

A girl plays at a camp for internally displaced people in Marib, October 2, 2020. Ali Owidha | Reuters

ِThe advance on Marib has sparked panic among Saudi Arabia and her allies, including the United States, which called on the “Houthis” to stop military operations, warning them that they should not interpret President Joe Biden’s public pivot on Yemen as a sign of weakness. “The Houthis are under the false impression that this administration intends to let its leadership off the hook,” U.S. State Department spokesman and former intelligence officer Ned Price said, adding, “They are sorely mistaken.”

On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that “The United States joins France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom in condemning the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and their offensive in Ma’rib,” concluding, “We call on all parties to engage in the diplomatic efforts through the Yemen process to bring peace to Yemen.”

Mohamed AbdulSalam, the official spokesman and chief negotiator for Ansar Allah, the political arm of the Houthis, responded by tweeting “The U.S. depicts the battle of Marib as an aggression, asking us not to defend ourselves and leave the terrorist recruitment centers to operate with freedom.” AbdulSalam insisted that the military operation in Marib was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, nor was it decided on January 20, when President Biden assumed power. He added, “So far, the American statements have been still [just] words. We have not noticed any actual progress; the airstrikes and the blockade are continued with American backing. Sparkling words will not deceive us.”

The Yemenis’ rush to liberate Marib, which is home to sizable oil reserves, may be understood in light of the stifling humanitarian crisis foisted upon the country for the past six years — especially the ongoing fuel crisis, which has plunged much of the nation into darkness. It is incomprehensible to many Yemenis that international criticism has now surfaced over the advance on Marib when the same critics cannot muster condemnation of the battles, airstrikes, and blockade that are battering and squeezing more than 30 million people already struggling against famine and Covid-19.

Feature photo | Houthis fighters hold posters of relatives killed in recent fighting by Saudi-backed forces during a funeral procession in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 16, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Yemen’s Marib Offensive Born of Desperation, with No Sign Saudis/US Will Cease Their War appeared first on MintPress News.

On Shedding an Obsolete Past

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/03/2021 - 5:26am in

The Biden national security team consists of seasoned operatives who earned their spurs in Washington. Don’t look for new policy. Continue reading

The post On Shedding an Obsolete Past appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

World: There’s a New Administration in Town

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 28/02/2021 - 2:49am in

At the very least, it seems the Biden administration is sending a signal to other countries that there is a new administration in America, one that will not tolerate foreign intrusions into US affairs the same way its predecessor did. Continue reading

The post World: There’s a New Administration in Town appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Futile: Saudi’s Decade-Long Attempt to Bottle Up Yemeni Youth Revolution is Failing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 5:25am in

SANA’A, YEMEN — A decade has passed since a massive popular uprising was sparked in Yemen by the wave of pro-democracy protests surging across the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring. The protests called for the overthrow of dictatorial regimes and sought democracy, sovereignty, and the elimination of poverty and unemployment. For Radwan Ali al-Haimi, a Yemeni youth and one of the leaders of the uprising, the hope for a new era of freedom and democracy cannot be crushed by Saudi Arabia and will come true with time.

In early 2011 — in a square in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a just outside of Sana’a University, in an area dubbed Change Square — thousands of people gathered to demand the overthrow of Saudi-backed strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had held power for more than three decades. The square was transformed into a sea of tents, flags, and banners. Despite the difference in their affiliations, all of the protesters slept, ate, chatted and chanted together, all the while peacefully calling for the end of a regime they viewed as corrupt, oppressive, and a mortgagee of Saudi Arabia.

The scale of the protests was rarely seen in Yemen before the uprising. “Our uprising aimed to overthrow the corrupt regime. We were looking to create a modern civil state, equality, a national army, sovereignty, and to liberate our homeland from Saudi tutelage,” Radwan — who had become a voice of the revolution — told MintPress.

 

A decade of oppression and destruction

For a decade, Saudi Arabia has worked to ensure Yemen’s steady dissolution from a nation hoping to transition to democracy during the Arab Spring to a nation fragmented by war and military intervention — a land of warring statelets, mass suffering, and despair. Today, Yemenis are living in worse conditions than they were before 2011, thanks in large part to Saudi oil riches.

While some leaders of Yemen’s youth-led revolution ended up as refugees or among the ranks of al Qaeda or ISIS, or as mercenaries of necessity allied with Saudi Arabia in order to earn a living, most continued their struggle for independence.

Yemen Revolution

Soldiers push back protestors demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Saleh in Taiz, Yemen, April 9, 2011. Yemen Lens | AP

Many of the youth that participated in the uprising told MintPress that they place some blame on all of Yemen’s political forces for the failure of their movement, but most of their ire is reserved for Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has crushed our revolution, turned our lives into hell because our uprising was interpreted by the ruling family as a threat to [their] influence and because of their fear of the revolution spreading to the Saudi interior,” artist Aisha Ali Saeed told MintPress. Aisha joined the youth revolution hoping for a decent life; instead, she now struggles to secure her next meal.

 

Bottling up the uprising

After the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia took down their respective Saudi-backed strongman leaders, Riyadh devoted itself to encircling Yemen’s youth revolution there and maintaining its paternalistic role and influence over its southern neighbor. In fact, just months after the outbreak of the uprising (which bore the slogan of independence and sovereignty as one of its goals), Saudi Arabia flew Saleh and members of the youth-led opposition to Riyadh. A power-sharing political settlement was signed in November 2011 dubbed the GCC Initiative.

The initiative not only granted Saleh unconditional immunity, but it also replaced him with then-Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who was more loyal to Saudi Arabia. Hadi, a southern military leader, had been appointed by Saleh in the wake of the 1994 war as a reward for betraying the South and likely because his inefficiency and weakness of personality posed little threat to Saleh. To this end, the GCC initiative included a number of anti-democratic mechanisms, including presidential elections with Hadi as the only name on the ballot.

Saudi Arabia’s claim of legitimacy for Hadi’s presidency is tenuous at best. In the wake of the one-candidate election in 2012, Hadi overstepped his mandate, which was supposed to be just two years long. His two-year term was extended for one year in 2014 and, following mass protests in the wake of rising fuel prices, Hadi fled the capital south to Aden and then eventually on to Riyadh after submitting his resignation to the House of Representatives. That resignation was used as a pretext to invite foreign intervention in March 2015. Now, Hadi’s term as propped-up president has become indefinite.

 

Youth and Houthi alliance

To many of the participants in Yemen’s youth movement, it was clear that their demands had been swept aside. Not only by the political parties known as “the Joint Meeting Parties” — led by the Islah Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen — but also by the United States and Saudi Arabia, which were pursuing their own agendas in Yemen and gave Hadi international legitimacy. Without an ally or a movement, many of the participants of the youth revolution did not stand by while their dreams faded. Instead, they decided to close ranks behind Ansar Allah (Houthis), a partner who rejected the GCC Initiative and saw it as little more than an attempt to crush the Arab Spring in Yemen.

Houthi Arab Spring

Houthi fighters escort protesters during a four-day march from Taiz to Sanaa demanding the prosecution of Saleh, Dec. 23, 2011. Hani Mohammed | AP

The Houthis were committed to the principles of the revolution that had sparked the initial uprising in 2011, and together they thwarted the Gulf Initiative and continued to organize rallies and demonstrations until the United Nations-sponsored National Dialogue Conference in 2013. The conference included disenfranchised representatives from the youth movement, the Houthis, and the Southern Movement — all parties that were excluded from the Gulf Initiative.

 

Saudi sabotage, airstrikes, fail to quench Yemeni determination

Instead of entering the talks inspired by goodwill, and respecting Yemen’s sovereignty and bridging points of view between the various parties, Saudi Arabia further polarized and torpedoed the nearly year-long National Dialogue Conference, which was meant to bring Yemen’s various factions to a consensus on how to address the country’s most pressing issues. The Kingdom attempted to impose a six-region federation of Yemen, a move that was refused by the conference’s other parties, which saw it as a project to break up the country.

Still, Yemeni parties were close to signing a settlement under the auspices of the United Nations when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia surprised the world by launching Decisive Storm in March 2015. Jamal BenOmar — the former UN envoy to Yemen, who worked with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter on human rights issues — confirmed that a political deal was close before the Saudi airstrikes began.

Yemen Arab Spring

The young relative of a protester killed in clashes with security forces prays next to his grave in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 30, 2011. Hani Mohammed | AP

Chants of independence and patriotism were not the only factor for Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom was driven by concerns that, should new players be empowered, ones with whom Riyadh was not experienced in dealing, the result could lead to unforeseen and uncontrollable developments in Yemen. Hence, the first motives for their fierce war against the country in 2015. This Saudi approach, however, failed to take into consideration how the youth revolution had merged with Ansar Allah and risen to prominence in a form fundamentally different from what the Saudis had previously known.

Like many members of his generation, Radwan took the street in Bab al-Yemen in the capital city of Sana’a on Friday to call for the liberation of areas still under the control of the Saudi Coalition forces — particularly the oil-rich Marib province, which is witnessing an unprecedented mobilization of youth volunteers, tribes and the Yemeni army to liberate it from the Saudis.  Radwan declared, “We are determined to achieve the goals of our revolution, and we believe that victory is closer than ever.”

Feature photo | Protestors run through the streets holding peace signs during a demonstration demanding the prosecution of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 24, 2011. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Futile: Saudi’s Decade-Long Attempt to Bottle Up Yemeni Youth Revolution is Failing appeared first on MintPress News.

This Is Yemen After Biden Declared an End To American Support for the War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 6:57am in

SANA’A, YEMEN — Seated next to his 13-year-old daughter Hakimah’s bed in al-Thawra Hospital, S. al-Hanishi watches a breaking news report on a small TV screen announcing that the president of the United States has announced an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war on his country.

But al-Hanishi took the news with skepticism. “[Biden] said he’ll end support to Mohammed Bin Salman but will help Saudi Arabia to defend her herself… Come on!” S. al-Hanishi, who asked that only his first initial and tribal surname be used for fear of reprisal, said in dismay.

Al-Hanishi now lives in Dubuea village in Yemen’s Nihm district about 25 miles east of Sana’a after living for years as an internally displaced person in the country’s capital. He remembers the moment that the war on his country was first announced from a podium in Washington D.C. by Adel al-Jubeir, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, and he believes just as it began in Washington, the war can only end from there.

Despite recent talk of the U.S. ending support for the war, the Saudi-led Coalition has only intensified military maneuvers in Yemen in recent weeks. Saudi warplanes are seen regularly above highly populated urban areas in the north of the country, dropping hundreds of tons of weapons, most supplied by the United States.

In the oil-rich Marib province, which lies adjacent to Yemen’s Houthi-led capital of Sana’a, Saudi warplanes are trying to prevent local militant groups and militias once allied with the Saudi-led coalition to yield territory to quickly advancing Houthi-led troops. Saudi warplanes now target not only Houthi troops but the retreating fighters that once faced them.

Since February 3, when the Biden administration announced it would end support for offensive Saudi military action against Yemen, the Saudi-led Coalition has also doubled down on its blockade of the country, preventing oil ships and even materials used to dispose of unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, from entering the country.

In Sadaa, Hajjah, and the oil-rich Marib province, more than 150 airstrikes using the U.S- made bombs, including MK 81-82-83-84 cluster bombs, have been carried out according to the Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), an organization backed by the United Nations.

These attacks, according to the Houthi-led government in Sana’a, could not happen without a green light from the U.S. government, and all the talk about peace and an end to support for Riyadh are little more than talk for the sake of diplomatic consumption.

Last week, Hakimah al-Hanishi lost her left hand to an unexploded ordnance. She was playing with her younger brother when they came upon an unusual looking object they thought looked like a toy. But it was no toy, it was an unexploded cluster munition dropped by a Saudi jet.

Ali Safra, the director-general of the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) said that the civilian casualties from unexploded ordnances far exceed 1,000, most are women and children from agricultural and grazing areas. Safra says that Saudi-led Coalition has dropped 3,179 cluster bombs on Yemen, including the BLU 61-63-97 A/B, the M71, the BLO 108, and BLU 77. All U.S.-made cluster bombs. Safra says that European and Latin American cluster bombs, such as the British BMLT 1/2, the French ZP 39, and the Brazilian S-A-2, have also been used.

All together, YEMAC has identified at least 13 different types of cluster bombs, all dropped by warplanes, most often supplied by the United States, and often on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants.

 

Cautious optimism

“Over there, they are talking about peace, but here, we hear nothing but the roar of American-made warplanes over our heads and the sounds of explosions from their bombs,” one father told MintPress. His 13-year-old son Ra’ad and two other children, 13-year-old Raghad Salah al-Shawl and 10-year-old Najwa Ali Matari are being treated for serious injuries at al-Thawrah Hospital after they were struck by a cluster bomb as they were grazing their sheep in al-Gafrah in nearby Sana’a province. “We need an end to the airstrikes and a lifting of the blockade, not deceptive statements,” Ra’ad’s father added angrily.

The Houthi-led Ansar Allah movement and its allies initially welcomed Biden’s statements about bringing peace to Yemen with cautious optimism, promising to act as a good faith partner in any negotiated settlement to end the war. Yet that optimism has quickly waned in the face of continued Saudi violence, as did the overwhelming conviction of most Yemenis that the United States is not serious about peace nor that it will halt the sale of lethal weapons, intelligence sharing, or even training to Saudi Arabia.

There is an overwhelming sense among Houthi leadership that if a settlement will be reached, they will not have a seat at the table. Last Thursday, Houthi forces targeted a Saudi Air Base and the Kingdom’s Abha Airport near the Yemeni border with ballistic missiles and drones. And while a statement from the group claims that the attacks came in retaliation for Saudi airstrikes and to pressure Saudi Arabia to reopen Yemen’s airports and other ports of entry, Yemeni political analysts told MintPress that the attack was meant to send a message to the United States that a solution to the war could only be found in Sana’a, not in neighboring Tehran or Muscat.

The Houthi attacks coincided with a visit to Tehran by Martin Griffiths, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Yemen, and visits to Saudi Arabia and Oman by Timothy Lenderking, the new U.S. envoy to Yemen. Much to the Houthis’ dismay, neither Griffiths nor Lenderking met any Houthi officials in Sana’a.

Biden’s announcement to end support to Saudi Arabia did little to alleviate Yemenis’ concerns. It lacked clarity or specificity as to what policies would be introduced to effect that change. It did not mention the blockade on Yemen and it reiterated Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself. That statement left many Yemenis feeling that Biden was expressing sympathy towards Saudi Arabia and ignoring the plight of Yemenis, who have been much harder hit by the war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement that Ansar Allah would be delisted as a terrorist organization did little to help, as it came with renewed efforts from Washington to apply pressure on the leadership of Yemen’s popular movement.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the highest-ranking Houthi official said “peace is not made with invitations but by signed agreements. And any sentiment that we do not see applied on the ground is an expression of feeling only. We will exchange practical steps with the stopping of aggression and lifting of the blockade with simultaneous steps if agreed upon and signed.”

 

The onslaught rages on

Doctors struggling to keep 13-year-old Hakimah alive say she must travel abroad for treatment as al-Thawra Hospital, like most in Yemen, is suffering from a shortage of medical equipment, medicine, and lack of fuel to run generators. ”I can not evacuate her, the airport is closed. What am I supposed to do?” Hakimah’s father asked MintPress.

The ongoing blockade on Sana’a International Airport imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition and supported by the United States has caused the deaths of more than 80,000 medical patients. More than 450,000 patients still need to travel abroad to receive treatment according to the Director General of the Sana’a International Airport, Khaled Al-Shayef as well as a number of civil society organizations that participated in a joint press conference last Sunday.

According to the Yemeni Ministry of Health, over 3,000 patients registered with the Ministry suffer from cardiac abnormalities and urgently need to travel abroad for treatment. Over 12,000 patients with kidney failure need urgent transplants, and more than 65 cases of cancer risk death if they are unable to get treatment outside of Yemen. He confirmed that the airport is completely safe and in complete technical readiness to receive flights, indicating that the only obstacle to reopening the airport and lifting the ban is the intransigence of the coalition countries and the complicity of the United Nations.

The United States has not only been complicit in supporting Saudi attacks which have killed more than a quarter of a million people, destroyed infrastructure, and left Yemen one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world, it has directly assisted in the enforcement of a blockade that has caused Yemen’s complete economic collapse.

Yemenis are now left with the stark reality that Biden’s statements have changed little on the ground. People are still suffering from cholera, malnutrition, and starvation; from horrific atrocities and indiscriminate bombing and shelling; from the destruction of infrastructure and the economy. Hundreds of thousands have perished, millions are displaced, and tens of millions have been left impoverished. The long-term effects of malnutrition and trauma on an entire generation of young Yemenis ensure the costs of this war will continue for decades to come.

Just as the war was announced from Washington, the only likely end to the war will be announced from Washington.

Feature photo | A nurse holds a malnourished girl at a malnutrition treatment ward of the al-Sabeen hospital in Sana’a, Yemen, October 27, 2020. Khaled Abdullah | Reuters

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post This Is Yemen After Biden Declared an End To American Support for the War appeared first on MintPress News.

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