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Newspapers Accepted Money to Publish Positive Environmental Stories About Saudi Arabia Around COP26 Climate Change Summit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/11/2021 - 11:11pm in

UK Newspapers Accepted Money to Publish Positive Environmental Stories About Saudi Arabia Around COP26

A special investigation by Byline Times raises concerning questions about editorial independence and transparency at the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers

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The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers have been accused of greenwashing after they accepted an undisclosed sum of money from Saudi Arabia to publish dozens of positive environmental stories about the country before, during, and after the COP26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow.

In the days preceding the summit and during its initial days, the Independent published at least 50 stories and videos under a commercial deal with Saudi Arabia, an investigation by Byline Times can reveal.

The bulk of the stories published as part of the deal highlighted positive environmental actions related to the country and failed to mention negative contextual details – such as the fact that Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter and its domestic emissions are nearly three times the G20 average.

80% of the stories either presented Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry or an environmental scheme in the country in a positive light. Just three of the 50 pieces identified under the commercial deal provided contextual details about Saudi Arabia’s oil production. None of them mentioned its plans to increase oil production capacity from 12 million barrels per day to 13 million barrels a day by 2027.

One story was headlined: ‘Saudi Arabia Spearheads New Era of Climate Action’. Others were titled: ‘Saudi Arabia Repositions Towards a More Sustainable Future’ and ‘Princess Reema Calls for Global Leaders to Deliver On Climate Action’.

After COP26 concluded, dozens of further stories and videos were published on the websites of the Independent and the Evening Standard, under commercial deals with Saudi Arabia.

‘Partner Content’

Newspaper content that has been paid for is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority and is subject to consumer protection law. Under existing legislation, newspapers are required to make it clear that the content has been paid for.

While most of the stories covered by the commercial deals were labelled ‘Partner Content’, Byline Times identified 12 articles on the Evening Standard’s website that did not have any tag informing the reader that the content was paid for by Saudi Arabia.

These included an article and a video titled: ‘Saudi Leaders Are Embracing “Unappreciated” Ways of Facing Climate Crisis, Says Researcher’. Another such story praised a conference organised by Saudi Arabia in London, calling it the ‘COP of Doers’.

Stories that were part of the Independent’s commercial deal with Saudi Arabia were also reproduced on the websites of other news organisations, such as Yahoo News, where they did not carry any label to inform the reader that Saudi Arabia had paid for them to be created.

The Independent and the Evening Standard’s commercial deals with Saudi Arabia raise questions about editorial independence.

Jamie Peters, interim director of the environmental organisation, Friends of the Earth, told Byline Times that news organisations taking money from oil exporters need to provide increased transparency about their dealings.


Why is the Guardian Acceptinga Dodgy Subsidy from Boris Johnson’s Government?
Brian Cathcart

“If news outlets are going to take money from entities that profit from polluting activities, such as oil exports, it seems right and ethical that they make their readers aware of how much was paid to secure that coverage,” he said.

The environmental group Fossil Free London called the deals “massively problematic”.

A spokesperson said: “People should be very concerned about Saudi Arabian money pouring into publications like the Evening Standard and the Independent and the potential impact on editorial impartiality.”

The Independent confirmed to Byline Times that it was paid by Saudi Arabia to publish stories and videos ahead of COP26, as part of a partnership with the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) – a Saudi Government entity that is focused on climate change and sustainability. However, the newspaper refused to reveal how many stories it had published under the deal and how much it had been paid, saying that it was “not obliged to share details of commercial relationships”.

A spokesperson added: “The Independent was a partner on the SGI. As part of this partnership, SGI paid for content to be published by the Independent on the SGI website. As per industry protocol, both the site and the content were clearly marked as sponsored or partnership content.”

The Evening Standard did not respond to Byline Times‘ request for comment.

‘Unconventional, Complex, Clandestine’ Deals

This is not the first time the newspaper group has been accused of blurring the line between sponsored and editorial content.

In 2018, the Evening Standard agreed a £3 million deal with companies, including Google and Uber, promising them ‘money can’t buy’ content, according to an investigation by openDemocracy. One insider told the investigative site that “what was being offered was clear – theatrically constructed news, showing everything good being done”.

The London publication’s former editor – former Chancellor and Conservative MP George Osborne – was also accused of a serious conflict of interest in relation to its often positive coverage of the private taxi firm Uber. In 2017, the National Union of journalists took the rare step of publicly calling on Osborne to declare to his readers his own £650,000 job with the fund manager Blackrock, which held a major stake in Uber.

Byline Times‘ latest revelations also raise further questions about the ownership structure of both titles.

In July 2019, the Independent and the Evening Standard were explicitly accused by the Government of being part-owned by the Saudi Arabian state, with a series of “unconventional, complex and clandestine” deals used to hide the sale of stakes in the news outlets to a Saudi Government bank.

Evgeny Lebedev, who controls both publications, sold 30% stakes in the two newspapers to offshore companies fronted by a Saudi businessman, Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel, in 2017 and 2018. The Independent and Evening Standard said that they were unsure who ultimately employed the businessman.

David Scannell, the Government’s legal representative, told a court that the Saudi Arabian Government could now potentially exert editorial influence over the news outlets. He said that the sale of the shares has “public interest considerations”, citing “freedom of expression and accurate news reporting” as “relevant to this merger”.

He also accused Lebedev of going out of his way to avoid answering questions about the deals.

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Public’s Media Literacy

Fossil Fuel London is calling for newspapers to provide more information about content that has been paid for.

“In this ecosystem transparency is key,” a spokesperson told Byline Times. “The fact that the Standard and the Independent are refusing to reveal how much they are being paid to publish greenwashing articles is very worrying. If the public are told how much money is changing hands, they will be able to make their own informed opinions about how much influence Saudi Arabia has at these intuitions – and whether the editorial content is being swayed or diluted due to sponsorship deals.

“As is often the case in fossil fuel financing, there is very little transparency here and we are being forced to connect the dots to try and drag shadowy deals out into the light. If we know categorically that a newspaper has a policy to refuse sponsorship from entities that make huge profits from fossil fuels, then we can trust it much more as an independent news source on climate change.

“It’s really sad that, just weeks after COP26, business leaders and newspaper editors are continuing with business as usual.”

The campaign group also believes that clearer labelling is needed to identify content that has been paid for in newspapers.

“The system as it exists today makes huge assumptions about the media literacy of the general public,” the spokesperson said. “The way that these newspapers use the labels ‘Partnered By’ and ‘Partner Content’ create ambiguity and it won’t be clear to a lot of normal people that this is being directly paid for by Saudi Arabia.”

Duncan Meisel, director of Clean Creatives – a US-based group that campaigns against advertising by fossil fuel companies – believes that the newspaper content paid for by Saudi Arabia is damaging to society.

“It’s obvious that the advertisements that the oil-connected countries and oil industry itself run are designed to claim social licence, and to mislead the public about their commitment to climate action,” he told this newspaper. “That is the purpose of these ads – and the fact that you’re seeing so many of them around COP26 demonstrates that the role is to mislead the public at these moments of highest attention on the possibility of action.

“This is a perfect example of the function of advertising for fossil fuel companies being, not just misleading, but misleading with a very specific agenda in mind, which is: to delay climate action. The value of these ads to Saudi Arabia is that they look like normal impartial news articles – that’s why they bought them.”

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The post Newspapers Accepted Money to Publish Positive Environmental Stories About Saudi Arabia Around COP26 Climate Change Summit appeared first on Byline Times.

Despite Pledge, Biden Leaves Tap Open, Approving Billions in Arms Deals to Saudi Arabia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/11/2021 - 8:02am in

WASHINGTON — “The war in Yemen must end,” declared President Joe Biden in his first major foreign policy speech; “and to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive [Saudi] operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”

Yet studying sales records from the Department of Defense (DoD), MintPress can reveal that less than one year into his presidency, the Biden administration has already approved 20 separate weapons contracts, worth just shy of $1.2 billion, to Saudi Arabia alone. This includes a $100 million shipment of Black Hawk helicopters, support for Apache gunships, and a $78 million deal to buy 36 cruise missiles. A new and controversial $650 million deal announced earlier this month has yet to be finalized but will likely soon follow, boosting sales up to levels equal with the earlier years of the Trump presidency.

The Saudi-led Coalition is once again pummelling Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Images appear to show U.S.-made aircraft attacking ground targets. This is hardly surprising: American arms sales to Saudi Arabia have long been a point of contention. But this MintPress investigation will reveal the extent to which private American companies are profiting off the infliction of suffering on the Yemeni people.

Sorting through thousands of approved contracts, the Department of Defense has approved in excess of $28.4 billion worth of sales from American companies to the armed forces of Saudi Arabia since they began their military intervention in the Yemeni Civil War in March 2015. This includes billions of dollars worth of arms, supplies, logistical support and training services.

While this is a gargantuan number (already larger than Yemen’s gross domestic product), it is certainly a serious underestimate of just how much the military industrial complex is benefiting from what the United Nations has called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” In addition to the $28 billion figure, Saudi Arabia is also a named customer (often along with other nations) in weapons deals worth more than $34 billion over the same period. However, the amounts the Saudis actually paid in these were not disclosed, though in some of these orders Saudi Arabia was clearly the primary buyer. For example, a $3.4 billion DoD-approved radar deal with Raytheon lists only two buyers: Saudi Arabia and the tiny nation of Kuwait (population 4.2 million).

Added together, this means that the DoD has greenlighted the sale of somewhere between $28 billion and $63 billion worth of arms from American companies to Saudi Arabia since the latter began its attack on the largely civilian population of Yemen.

How Saudi State Media Feeds Fake News to Israeli, Western Audiences

Of course, the U.S. was supplying the Saudis well before the war started and also continues to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to other partners in the Saudi war on Yemen, such as Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, this number only begins to tell the story of corporate American war profiteering.

While selling weapons of war to such a repressive government was already ethically questionable, by March 2015 there was no way one could credibly argue that arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be used in a purely defensive manner. Nevertheless, they continued to grow, fueling the violence. From March to December 2015, sales to Saudi Arabia totalled $1.56 billion. But under Trump, that number ballooned to $5.47 billion in 2019 and $14.36 billion in 2020. Facing increased opposition even inside Washington, Trump even used his presidential veto to unblock an $8.1 billion deal.

Although the Biden administration has not overseen the bonanza fire sale its predecessor oversaw, the flow of arms has not stopped.

“President Biden said we were going to see an end to U.S. complicity in the Saudi war and blockade on Yemen. Unfortunately, this new $650 million weapons sale perpetuates both war and the blockade that’s pushing millions of Yemenis into famine,” said Hassan El-Tayyab — Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a pro-peace lobbying group associated with the Quaker movement — adding:

These air-to-air munitions, combined with other forms of military aid, send a message of impunity to the Saudis as they continue their destructive behavior in Yemen with no consequences from key allies like the United States… Now is not the time to be greenlighting new arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Now is the time to use existing U.S. leverage to end the Saudi blockade before more Yemenis are plunged into famine.

Biden Saudi weapons sales

Data compiled by MintPress shows a sharp decline in sales under the Biden administration

 

Calling the roll

The biggest profiteer from Yemen’s destruction has been aviation giant Boeing, which brought in $13.9 billion in sales over the period. Next comes Lockheed Martin, which has signed 62 separate contracts with the Kingdom since March 2015, worth in excess of $7.4 billion. Third on the list is missile expert Raytheon, which has cashed in on the violence to the tune of $3.3 billion.

Boeing’s spot at the top of the pile comes in large part thanks to a massive, $9.8 billion contract signed last year to maintain and modernize Saudi Arabia’s fleet of 269 McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle fighter jets, including changing out hardware components, updating software and improving weapons systems (McDonnell Douglas is a subsidiary of Boeing). 2020 was a great year for the company, as it also secured a $1.97 billion fee to provide 650 SLAM ER cruise missiles to the Saudi government.

Lockheed Martin has scored big with the Saudi Navy, making billions of dollars, including a nearly $2 billion contract to build four warships. In addition, it secured enormous sales of Patriot missiles and laser and infrared technology. Black Hawk helicopters made by its subsidiary Sikorsky (treated by the DoD as a separate entity) were also in high demand.

Meanwhile, many of Raytheon’s largest deals include air-to-ground missiles, guided bombs, and widespread logistical, planning and technical support.

 

Slices of the American pie

The top 10 war profiteers supplying the Saudis with arms are as follows (with the total value of contracts in parentheses):

  • Boeing ($13,879,225,733)
  • Lockheed Martin ($7,423,287,331)
  • Raytheon ($3,306,032,077)
  • Sikorsky ($650,701,270)
  • PKL Services ($557,629,505)
  • S&K Aerospace ($566,435,631)
  • DynCorp International ($232,878,635)
  • AITC-Five Domains JV ($183,584,909)
  • L-3 Communications Corp. ($178,569,672)
  • Kratos Technology and Training Solutions ($115,408,312)

For full information, including links to all grants, see the attached viewable spreadsheet.

Biden Saudi weapons sales

Boeing has been the largest beneficiary of Saudi military largesse

Reading the approved sales, what becomes clear is the depth of U.S. involvement in virtually every aspect of the Saudi military. Of course, there are direct arms shipments. But there are also contracts for helmets and a wide range of equipment, intelligence services, maintenance arrangements, and even for English lessons for Saudi pilots to help them better use their aircrafts’ features.

While the offensive is widely known as the Saudi-led attack on Yemen, in reality, U.S.-made aircraft — armed with American missiles and bullets, maintained by American crews and flown by pilots trained by American operatives — hit targets selected by U.S. intelligence. All of this is done under political and diplomatic protection by Washington, which blocks attempts by regional organizations to mitigate the destruction and shields Saudi Arabia from international consequences. This, in other words, is an American attack on Yemen.

“It is inconceivable that the Saudi-led Coalition could be carrying out its attacks without the support of these companies,” Kirsten Bayes of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told MintPress via email; “Western-made weapons have been central to a bombardment that has destroyed schools, hospitals and homes and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. It is long past time for arms shipments to the Saudi-led Coalition to be brought to an end.”

In total, 86 U.S. companies have profited from sales to Saudi Arabia since its intervention in Yemen, including household names like General Electric, Booz Allen Hamilton and Honeywell. The full list is also available in the accompanying spreadsheet.

 

Death for sale – $50,000 apiece!

Counting the value of the contracts is relatively straightforward. Counting the dead is not. One recent estimate, however, put the cumulative death toll from the conflict at over 560,000. If that is the case, American companies have made about $50,000 in sales per death. The Saudis have deliberately targeted Yemeni infrastructure, including hospitals, farms and sewage plants. Oxfam calculated that attacks on health and water facilities have taken place on average every 10 days since the conflict began.

It is beyond doubt that American arms are in part to blame for the carnage. In the first two years of fighting alone, pieces of Raytheon weapons were found at 12 different sites where civilians had been targeted. Meanwhile, fragments of Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs were identified in the wreckage of a marketplace that had been targeted, killing 107 civilians, including 25 children. Not to be left out, 500-pound MK-82 bombs built and supplied by Lockheed Martin were used in an infamous 2018 attack on a school bus, killing 40 children, and a 2016 strike on a funeral hall that left 240 dead. The company’s unexploded cluster munitions also litter the country, likely causing casualties for years or decades to come. The U.S. is the only major Western nation not to have signed the 2008 convention banning the production and use of cluster bombs.

For almost seven years, Saudi forces have maintained a naval and aerial blockade of Yemen, cutting it off from the outside world. “The closure of Sana’a Airport has been devastating for Yemen, driving up the prices of life-saving medicines and humanitarian aid, and preventing mercy flights for tens of thousands of critically ill Yemenis who need emergency treatment abroad,” El-Tayyeb told MintPress.

Fragments of one of the MK-82 bombs used in the attack on the vegetable market in Hodeida, Yemen, October 25, 2018. Ibrahim Tanomah | Mintpress News

Fragments of one of the MK-82 bombs used in an attack on a vegetable market in Hodeida, Yemen, October 25, 2018. Ibrahim Tanomah | MPN

 

Keeping the D.C. spigot stuck on open

Weapons manufacturers are well aware that their profits live and die on the decisions made by legislators. Lockheed Martin’s latest annual report makes that explicit. In a section entitled “other risks to our operations,” the Bethesda, Maryland-based outfit noted:

International sales also may be adversely affected by actions taken by the U.S. Government in the exercise of foreign policy, Congressional oversight or the financing of particular programs, including the prevention or imposition of conditions upon the sale and delivery of our products, the imposition of sanctions, or Congressional action to block sales of our products.”

“For example,” they state, “the U.S. Government has imposed certain sanctions on Turkish entities and persons as described in the risk factor below, and could act in the future to prevent or restrict sales to other customers, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Unsurprisingly, then, the military industrial complex has lobbied the government hard to continue supporting the violence. Ronald L. Perrilloux Jr., an executive with Lockheed Martin, denounced the wave of “patently false” “hostile media reports” about Saudi atrocities, described human rights laws as a “significant irritant,” and argued that the best thing to do is help the Saudis “finish the job” in Yemen by “provid[ing] them with the benefit of our experiences, with training of their forces, and probably replenishment of their forces.”

His counterpart at Boeing, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, agreed, arguing that weapons transfers were actually a force for stability. “When you sell somebody a big platform like an F-15, you build a 30-plus-year relationship with that air force,” he said.

 

BAEing for blood

If the public had their way, U.S. involvement would cease. A 2018 poll found that 82% of respondents wanted Congress to act to halt or decrease arms shipments to Saudi Arabia. American law already bans the sale of weapons to human rights abusing countries, but this legislation is constantly ignored (conservative estimates suggest Washington is supplying military aid to almost three-quarters of the world’s dictatorships).

According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, around three-quarters of all Saudi military purchases come from American companies. Much of the rest comes from Great Britain. Riyadh’s top ten suppliers since 2015 are as follows (with percentage of total sales in parentheses):

  • United States (74%)
  • United Kingdom (12%)
  • France (4%)
  • Canada (2%)
  • Spain (2%)
  • Germany (1%)
  • Italy (1%)
  • China (1%)
  • Switzerland (1%)
  • Turkey (<1%)

The British figure is dominated by BAE Systems, which has closed deals worth over $24 billion with Saudi Arabia since it began bombing Yemen, documents obtained by the CAAT show. CAAT’s Bayes told MintPress:

BAE Systems’ U.K.-made Typhoon and Tornado aircraft have been central to Saudi Arabia’s devastating attacks on Yemen. BAE Systems also has 6,300 employees in Saudi Arabia supporting the Saudi Air Force as part of the British-Saudi Defence Cooperation Programme, and we know [it] sends weekly shipments by air to the Saudi armed forces from its own private airport.

How Britain Aids Saudi Massacres in Yemen, with Phil Miller

Thus, while a figure between $28.3 billion and $63.0 billion is already monstrous, it tells only part of the story. The likes of Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were already supplying the Saudi government with weapons long before the conflict began — Boeing since 1945, Lockheed Martin since 1965, and Raytheon since 1966. American arms companies continue to supply other members of the Saudi-led Coalition with similar arms. That number will continue to rise, as deals negotiated with the Trump administration come to fruition.

Therefore, the true extent to which the military industrial complex is profiting off some of the most extreme suffering in the world is still not completely clear. All that is known is that the Saudis pay in petrodollars and the Yemenis pay in blood.

Feature photo | Then-Vice President Joe Biden, right, stands in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 2015. Evan Vucci | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Despite Pledge, Biden Leaves Tap Open, Approving Billions in Arms Deals to Saudi Arabia appeared first on MintPress News.

Saudi Coalition Withdrawal from Hodeidah Raises Hopes Yemen War May Be Coming to an End

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 3:53am in

HODEIDAH, YEMEN — In the latest strategic blow to the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen, forces from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have withdrawn from three strategic directorates in southern Hodeidah, Yemen’s main entry point. The withdrawal comes on the heels of Ansar Allah’s recent capture of the oil-rich Marib province, the Saudi-backed government’s last northern stronghold.

The withdrawal constitutes an important turning point for Ansar Allah-led forces, as the coastal areas (al-Durayhimi, al-Tahieta, Bait al-Faqieh) act as a gateway not only to recapture the strategic Mocha Port on the country’s southwestern coast but also to Bab al-Mandab, a vital strategic link in maritime trade routes between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.

In the wake of the withdrawal, the Joint Military Heterogeneous Forces — made up of rival local militant groups led by the UAE — issued a statement claiming that they “had redeployed troops away from Hodeidah because there was a ceasefire deal in place there since 2018,” adding, “the joint forces recognized the mistake of remaining in defensive barricades, unable to fight under an international pact, while various front lines require support.” That agreement did not stipulate withdrawal to the city of Mocha, which lies nearly 110 kilometers from Hodeidah.

The Saudi-backed government of President Abdul Mansour al-Hadi, who invited the coalition to intervene in Yemen, criticized the move and said it was given no advanced notice of the withdrawal. Commanders of Saudi-allied militant groups in southern Hodeidah — including the Giants Brigade, which is composed of Salafi militants who have been fighting on behalf of Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen since 2017 — said that the unilateral decision to withdraw was shocking and surprising and made without their consultation. The move was also met with anger by the Tareq Salih Forces, and the so-called Tuhami Resistance, as well as other Saudi coalition-allied militant groups. The United Arab Emirates has recruited thousands of Yemeni youth into various armed militant groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, in a bid to occupy Yemen’s strategic coastline.

The UN mission that was tasked with observing the 2018 ceasefire deal confirmed the recent withdrawal. Fighting erupted in Hodeidah in mid-2018 after the Saudi-led Coalition moved in to wrest control of Yemen`s strategic port from the Ansar Allah-backed Yemen Army. After months of deadly clashes, both sides agreed to a ceasefire. In fact, the agreement – once seen as an important first step in ending the conflict – was never fully implemented, with the Yemeni Army accusing the Saudi-led Coalition of repeatedly violating the 2018 deal.

 

Signs the war may finally be winding down

In another sign that the highly unpopular war may be nearing its conclusion, a large contingent of Saudi troops stationed in the Buraiqeh district along the northern coast of the Gulf of Aden has withdrawn from Aden, the self-declared capital of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. Troops were moved out of the city via sea and air amid tight security measures that included the closure of a number of roads, according to local sources. As it has done in the past, the Saudi Coalition insists that the move is not a withdrawal, but is instead a strategic redeployment. It is not yet clear where the large contingent of Saudi troops and armored vehicles were transferred to.

The collapse and mass retreat of Saudi-led forces on the Yemen coast has already precipitated the advance of Ansar Allah across the south of the province. The three strategic directorates were captured by Sana’a forces with little effort. In desperation, Saudi warplanes launched dozens of airstrikes on the areas, killing and injuring countless civilians who had gathered to celebrate the withdrawal of the Saudi-led Coalition and lined the streets to greet what they view as the liberating forces of Ansar Allah.

Warning | Graphic Content

Footage obtained by MintPress News shows charred bodies and burned-out vehicles in the aftermath of Saudi-led airstrikes in a populated area east of Heis in Hodeidah on Sunday.

 
That warm reception came as no surprise for many in Yemen. As in other areas, people in coastal cities were suffering from the militarization of their regions and villages and serious humanitarian crises alike, thanks in large part to both Saudi and UAE policies. In addition to massive destruction levied on their region by Saudi-led bombing campaigns, the area has suffered from currency issues, high prices of food and medicine thanks to the near-total air and sea blockade, the spread of epidemics, and frequent power outages that have made the coastal cities one of the hardest-hit areas of the war-torn country.

It is not clear whether the Saudi-led Coalition’s withdrawals from Hodeidah and Aden are linked to the battles resulting in their loss of the oil-rich Marib province. However, Yemeni military analysts who spoke to MintPress see the move as a tactic to reposition fighters to Marib in a last-ditch effort to take back the oil-rich province and free up fighters needed to militarize the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The Saudi-led Coalition has been working with Israel to secure the important waterway and the recent withdrawal took place in the wake of joint maneuvers in the Red Sea among the United States, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. The maneuvers, which began last Wednesday, are part of a naval exercise led by the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). They represent the first publicly acknowledged naval exercise between the United States, Israel, and the two Gulf countries and are aimed to “face Iran and its regional proxies” as well as to “help safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability,” according to Washington and Tel Aviv.

Feature photo | A war-disabled Houthi supporter offers prayers at the grave of his relative who was killed during recent fighting, at a cemetery in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 29, 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 Saudi Coalition Withdrawal from Hodeidah Raises Hopes Yemen War May Be Coming to an End appeared first on MintPress News.

How Saudi State Media Feeds Fake News to Israeli, Western Audiences

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 6:10am in

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Saudi state media outlets have been found to repeatedly report information, lacking sources or supporting evidence, in order to attack their political opposition in the Middle East. This can range from stories about deserters from Hamas to the utterly absurd fictions regarding alleged assassinations of high-ranking Iranian officials, which, taken together, constitute a pro-Israel, pro-Washington psyop.

This Wednesday, Saudi state broadcaster Al-Hadath claimed that an Iranian ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Commander named Seyyed Mustafa Javad Ghaffari had been kicked out of Syria by the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, sparking speculation over a possible breakdown in relations between Tehran and Damascus. For Israeli and U.S. media, which have now taken the report at face value, it is an intriguing story. And it would be an interesting development, except for one small detail: there is not a shred of evidence to support the claims.

According to the original report on Al-Hadath, Commander Ghaffari had set up a “black market” by bypassing customs and smuggling goods into Syria; additionally, Ghaffari had allegedly admitted to storing weapons in prohibited areas inside of Syria. Later reports in Israeli media, quoted Saudi media as claiming that Assad had accused Ghaffari of violating Syrian sovereignty and hence had expelled him. In addition to this, the unnamed Saudi media source seemed to work off of the assumption that the Iranian commander was behind an attack on U.S. forces and their allies on October 20 at their al-Tanf base in Syria. According to Al-Hadath, Syria was unhappy specifically with the IRGC commander’s conspiring against the Israelis and U.S. forces that occupy their territory, owing to fears of being dragged into a regional war.

Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s broadcaster used biased language, in what should have been a professional report, demonstrating instantly that the outlet, Al-Hadath, was coming at the report from the state’s propagandistic perspective. On its website, its report concludes:

The source viewed the exclusion of Mustafa Ghaffari, who is following in the footsteps of Qassem Soleimani by establishing the Syrian Hezbollah militia, as a blow to Soleimani’s vision and dream of establishing a land bridge between Iran and Lebanon.

So who is this source? We don’t have a name or even a title. All we know is that Al-Hadath calls them someone that is familiar with the Syrian senior leadership. Lacking any further information, it is reasonable to ask the following questions: How does an enemy state to both Syria and Iran manage to acquire such information first? If this source exists, they clearly chose an enemy state to leak this information to, so why not an American or Israeli media outlet with more credibility? And finally, is there really any such source?

I spoke to Seyyed Mohammed Marandi, Professor of English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran, who says that the claims are “utter nonsense.” “All Iranian commanders are rotated, Hajj Javad isn’t the first,” Marandi explained. He also went on to say that “actually, the Iranian change in command happened weeks ago; if they [Saudi media] know so much why didn’t they say anything when it happened?”

 

A history of similar claims

Interestingly, this is far from the first time that such reports have emerged — reports that carry the potential to sow confusion and distrust amongst supporters of parties and nations that are enemies of Saudi Arabia.

On July 19, 2020, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya published claims that high-ranking Hamas officials had been caught spying on the Gaza-based movement, including a Commander of the al-Qassam Brigade’s elite naval wing, said to be named Mohammed Abu Ajwa, who they claimed fled to Israel via boat after spying for Israel since 2009. The source for these claims was again unnamed and the allegations were denied strongly by Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, who said that “the Al-Arabiya channel is promoting rumors that serve the aims of the occupation in destabilizing the home front in Gaza.” It is now 2021 and Israel has yet to even comment on these claims officially, which is strange considering that such a propaganda win for Israel would normally be weaponized by their political establishment. In addition to this, no one in Gaza has ever heard of this alleged commander.

As with the claims made about Syria expelling an IRGC Commander, there was a minuscule grain of truth to what was claimed. In the case of Syria’s “expulsion” of Iran’s commander, Javad Ghaffari did leave Syria weeks ago; and in the case of Hamas collaborators, the movement did arrest 16 individuals on the basis of spying for Israel. In fact, the report for Al-Arabiya quoted the Ministry of Information for Hamas, to substantiate its claims of Hamas members being arrested.

The Times of Israel even claimed that it was a big deal that “Hamas admits” one of its own fled to the Israeli side, after Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk had stated as much, a fact already acknowledged to be true. This demonstrates the sensationalism of Israeli media at the time. During the interview quoted, conducted with Marzouk for Al-Mayadeen TV, the Hamas leader said:

They are isolated members. There is no connection between them. They are not commanders in the [Hamas military wing] Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, nor are they commanders in Hamas… What the occupation claims, that they are commando officers or senior naval officers, is absolutely false.”


The Times of Israel, along with other Israeli media, was quick to parrot unsubstantiated Saudi claims

It is important to know that Hamas regularly arrests collaborators and sentences many of them to death. This is not uncommon, nor is it out of the ordinary for members of the group to be blackmailed by Israel to work for them. To become a member of Hamas is not a difficult task and its membership is wide-ranging inside Gaza.

 

An Iranian commander assassinated, or not really

Another example of bogus claims made by Saudi State TV is that of an Iranian commander being assassinated in Syria’s Eastern Deir Ezzor province in November of 2020. In this case, Al-Arabiya added sketchy details to a story built on weak foundations. The alleged assassination of an Iranian Quds force commander would have had serious implications, especially as some sources claimed that it came as a result of a U.S. coalition force bombing campaign.

At the time I tracked the report to its origin, discovering that the allegations had emerged from a Syrian-opposition media group, called “Step News Agency,” which published a report on the alleged incident on November 29, 2020. The article claimed that the agency’s reporter, Abdul Rahman al-Ahmad, who was said to have been based in the Eastern Deir Ezzor province of Syria “obtained information” that indicated a vehicle belonging to Iran’s elite Quds forces was targeted and destroyed. The car was, according to this report, targeted near the Salbi area, in the Suwaiya Desert, after having crossed into Syria from a designated area for militias, near the Al-Qaim crossing. The initial report noted only that two were said to have died in the attack, also claiming that the week prior to this, unidentified aircraft – suspected to have belonged to the U.S. coalition – had launched 10 raids on pro-Iranian militia sites.

Israeli media outlets then ran with the claims despite having nothing but the word of a single Syrian opposition journalist to go on. Israel Hayom News, for instance, cited developed claims from Syrian-opposition media that instead of two Iranians having been killed, it was “a logistics officer in the IRGC’s elite Quds Force,” as well as two other Iranians, who had been assassinated.

Al-Arabiya News then claimed to have obtained the identity of the commander, naming him as “Muslim Shahdan.” This was then published by the likes of the Daily Mail, which also repeated the claim made by the Turkish-based Anadolu Agency that there were now three IRGC members killed inside the car allegedly targeted in Deir Ezzor, Syria.

There was never any photographic evidence, witness testimony, approximate timing, video evidence, or any official confirmation of exactly where in Deir Ezzor this attack took place. There was no continuity through the various contradictory claims made by all the different media outlets and no one could even determine how many people actually died in the reported attack.

The story originated with Syrian opposition media groups, who have a clear anti-Iran agenda and have continued to peddle false claims of Iranian forces being killed in virtually every single Israeli attack on Syria, figures that Israel never clarifies and for which we never see proof. These groups claim to have sources in Syrian government-controlled areas, even naming those individuals occasionally. The question also must be posed in this case that if the Syrian government knows these journalists, how is it that they are still able to obtain sensitive information on military operations and casualties of individuals known only to a few to be in the country, in top-secret locations? Are we to believe that these unnamed sources are never identified and that in Syria anyone can know sensitive information about the government at any time without any questions asked? Also, how is it that these opposition journalists are the first people to report casualties, often before there is time for local medical staff to declare deaths?

There was then the story that was looped in with the alleged assassination attack, claiming that U.S. coalition forces attacked 10 Iranian sites in Abu Kamal, but according to the initial reports from Syrian opposition media, that had happened a week prior to the assassination. Israel Hayom and the Daily Mail failed to specify when the two separate attacks took place, making it seem as if it all had occurred on the same night. Again there are no specifics given here, just the repeated claims from Syrian opposition media.

The allegations that were made about weapons having been transported, in the car of the commander that was allegedly attacked, also seemed very unlikely. Why would an Iranian Quds Force commander be traveling in a car packed full of weapons and why do a weapons transfer in a regular car carrying a high-ranking commander in it? Why not just transport the weapons in trucks? These small details made the story seem less believable, especially when no one had been able to officially identify the two, three, or four Iranians said to have been killed.

As spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, later told Iran’s Mehr News that these allegations were false, yet many Western media outlets failed to publish this information. Talking to a Syrian Arab Army military source at the time, I was also informed that they were “not aware of any such attack happening”.

 

Saudi media playing a pro-Israel, pro-Western agenda

The examples above demonstrate a clear pattern with the media of Saudi Arabia and the way in which their “unnamed sources” are taken at face value and repeated verbatim throughout Western and Israeli media. The claims clearly serve a political agenda, but not just any agenda.

Such claims are very specifically designed to inflame tensions and to make the supporters of Hamas, Iran and Syria doubt their leaders and what may be going on behind the scenes. They play on issues that are normally dealt with behind closed doors and it is well understood that the average consumer of news will not have the time or resources to dig into such stories with the intent of uncovering the truth.

Israeli officials have now twice traveled to Saudi Arabia in the past year, that we know of, not only raising suspicions of unofficial cooperation between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, but confirming that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is warming up to the idea of openly normalizing ties with Israel, while the closeness of the United States government to the Saudis has long been apparent. Hence for Saudi state media to run media operations, as a form of psychological warfare, against their political foe, is not much of a surprise. Yet, for outlets across the world to choose to regurgitate the claims made by Saudi media, verbatim and without any critical take, is a real indictment of them and demonstrates a lack of journalistic credibility on their part.

Feature photo | A man reads Saudi news on Twitter at a coffee shop, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 29, 2019. Amr Nabil | AP

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts Press TV’s show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47

The post How Saudi State Media Feeds Fake News to Israeli, Western Audiences appeared first on MintPress News.

Yemenis Remain Unbowed as Saudis Intensify Bombing in Wake of Renewed International Pressure

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 3:25am in

YEMEN-SAUDI BORDER — This week, dozens of people were killed and injured near the Yemen-Saudi border when U.S.-made warplanes and French-made howitzer cannons fired unabated on many populated border areas in Sadaa and Hajjah — including the Monabeh, Sahar, alSafra, al-Dhaher and Sheda areas. Samer Manea Ali Hussein, a 15-year-old Yemeni boy, was killed along with others on Monday when a French-made howitzer cannon hit a village in the Monabeh region, one of Yemen’s border areas that are subjected to daily bombardment. Shrapnel from an artillery shell penetrated Samer`s body when he was walking to a school, local witnesses told MintPress. Unrelenting Saudi airstrikes have also deepened the crisis and tragedy afflicting the poorest country in the Middle East since 2015.

The rural hospital in the Munabbih border area is poorly equipped and barely functioning as a result of the bombing, but compared to other hospitals in border areas it is the best hospital. The hospital has received more than 245 people, including children, during October, injured by the Saudi bombardment that targeted just two villages known as Al-Sheikh and Al-Raqwa, hospital administration told MintPress. However, dozens were not lucky and died on the bumpy, bomb-scarred road through the Qatabir region while they were being evacuated.

Hundreds of children die every day thanks to the Saudi blockade and airstrikes and bombardment, which have a devastating effect on the safety and psyche of thousands upon thousands of children in the border areas and across the region. According to a recent statement to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the war has killed or maimed at least 10,000 children since it began in March 2015, which is equivalent to four children every day. However, these are just the cases verified by the agency, while the actual toll could be much higher, according to James Elder, a spokesman for UNICEF.

The scenes of burnt and bloody bodies left in populated border areas by high-tech weapons supplied by the United States and other Western powers are no anomaly: On October 15, many people were killed and injured when Saudi warplanes dropped U.S.-made bombs on pharmaceutical warehouses in Sawan, east of Yemeni capital Sana’a. The airstrikes not only targeted the warehouses, which were the only hope to save the lives of many patients, but also targeted electrical supply stores and the public-works building, leaving mass casualties and destruction and badly damaged water facilities belonging to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population, based in Sana’a, said that the Saudi airstrikes resulted in severe damage to pharmaceutical warehouses, and complete destruction of all medicines and medical supplies inside them. Saudi military spokesman Turki al-Maliki confirmed the airstrikes, claiming that “the kingdom had exercised restraint in recent months in support of UN efforts and initiatives to find a comprehensive and lasting political solution to the Yemen crisis.”

As the war officially passes its 2,400th day, the Eye of Humanity Center for Rights and Development, a Yemeni advocacy group, said in a report issued last week, that  4,270 children have been killed by Saudi attacks since 2015, when the war began. According to the NGO, those attacks have also killed 2,850 women, mostly mothers . The attacks destroyed 1,128 schools, and thousands of children’s kindergartens and daycare facilities, along with other vital facilities such as factories, food-storage facilities, fishing boats, markets and fuel tankers. Thousands of pieces of critical infrastructure have also been damaged, including  airports,  seaports,  electrical stations, tanks and water pumps, and roads and bridges.

 

Green light for more Saudi bombing

The recent attacks against the war-torn country — where millions of forgotten people are struggling against a cold winter, starvation, COVID-19, and the worst blockade in the modern era — came in the wake of a statement of the UN Security Council that called for an end to the Yemeni Army’s advances toward the last stronghold of the Saudis in the oil-rich Ma’rib province and an immediate ceasefire across Yemen. The majority of Yemeni parties saw the Security Council’s move as a green light to Saudi Arabia to commit more crimes in their home.

For their part, Ansar Allah denounced the statement of the UN Security Council. Mohammed AbdulSam, the spokesman of Ansar Allah, said:

The bombardment of pharmaceutical warehouses and other civilian facilities in Sana’a comes in light of the recent statement by the UN Security Council, which is completely biased in favor of the coalition of aggression… Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is forging ahead with its aggression and siege instead of stopping them and calculating the upshot of its foolishness.”

Since 2015, when the war began, Saudi Arabia has continued bombardment but it generally escalates after any international pronouncement, which Saudi Arabia inevitably interprets as a green light for more bombing.

In a retaliatory move — according to Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces — Saudi  Duty Forces Camp in the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Jizan was bombed by five homegrown ballistic missiles, along with drones, killing more than 35 Saudi military personnel, including senior officers and pilots,. The military forces site houses command headquarters, arms depots, and hangars for Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

In a related development, a high-ranking military source told MintPress that an unprecedented military operation deep in Saudi territory dubbed the “Stage of the Greatest Pain,” will be launched in retaliation for an expected Saudi attack on the oil field in Marib. In this operation, the kingdom’s most vital facilities will be subject to attacks. The potential Yemeni retaliation operations will exceed even the famous attacks that took place in 2019 against Saudi crude, according to the Yemeni military.  On September 15, 2019, the Yemeni Army hit the largest oil processing plant in Khuris and Abqaiq, the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry, sparking fires and closing half the kingdom’s output of crude, 5 million barrels per day. In light of previous statements of the Yemeni Army published by MintPress and subsequently proved on the ground, these operations are likely to happen.

 

Saudis take on Lebanon

With the continued support of the United States and amid the absence of real efforts to reach a just settlement and peace and a shameful blackout by international media, Saudi Arabia will continue its bombardment of Yemen unabated. Moreover, the Saudi regime is extending its heavy hand to those who oppose its war, using starvation as a weapon not only against Yemenis but also against other countries whose people or media exercise freedom of expression.

In the wake of a video statement from a Lebanese popular television anchor-turned-politician criticizing the war against Yemen, Saudi Arabia has not only banned Lebanese imports but also expelled the ambassador of Lebanon and cut ties with Beirut. Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE have also expelled their Lebanese ambassadors at the request of Riyadh. The video featured George Kordahi inveighing against the Saudi-Emirati war in Yemen a few weeks before becoming Lebanon’s information minister. Kordahi, who had worked for Saudi and Emirati television networks for a long time, said that the war of Saudi Arabia in Yemen is absurd and the Ansar Allah movement is defending itself and its country. The Kordahi video is but one step in the right direction.

On the other hand, it is out of the question that Yemenis will either acquiesce to the scorched-earth policies pursued by Saudi Arabia and supported by the U.S. or surrender to the international pressures applied by the U.S., the U.K., and their allies. Not when they have worked this hard to liberate the whole country, despite the terrible bombing, the blockade, starvation, and epidemic. On Tuesday, the media bureau of Yemen’s army, loyal to the Houthis, released a video showing the moment of capture of Jabal Morad and al-Jwbah, which was seized by Sana’a forces supported by local tribes during the recent military operations dubbed Rabi’ al-Nasr’ (Spring of Victory) that began two weeks ago. Now, the Yemeni forces, supported by local tribes from Marib, have captured 12 of the 14 districts in oil-rich Marib.

Feature photo | People inspect the site of an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov, 11, 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 Yemenis Remain Unbowed as Saudis Intensify Bombing in Wake of Renewed International Pressure appeared first on MintPress News.

COP26 Host Urges UK Businesses to Reap Oil Profits in Saudi Arabia and Beyond

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/11/2021 - 9:02pm in

COP26 Host Urges UK Businesses To Reap Oil Profits in Saudi Arabia and Beyond

Nafeez Ahmed reveals that, while hosting the climate change summit on one hand, the UK Government is encouraging expansion of fossil fuel extraction with the other

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Despite holding the presidency of this year’s COP26 UN climate summit, the Government is actively seeking to increase oil and gas production in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-largest oil producer. 

The revelations are detailed in my new report for the British investigative journalism outlet Declassified UK

While Saudi Arabia has pledged to reach net zero by 2060, it has also pushed back against a fossil fuel phase-out, planning to continue aggressively exporting oil and gas to Asia and other regions. The Kingdom is among a range of UK allies including Norway, Brazil, Argentina, India, Japan and Australia which have attempted to water down a forthcoming UN climate science assessment report.

Yet documents published by the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) examined by Declassified UK reveal the British Government’s role in actively encouraging UK businesses to profit from expanding oil and gas production in these countries. 

In perhaps the most shocking case, the DIT’s Exporting guide for Saudi Arabia shows how the Government intends to collude with the Kingdom’s plans to continue expanding its oil and gas production, described as a “dangerous and delusional” approach to climate change by scientists critical of the Saudi plans. 


COP26 President’s Decade of Defending Fossil Fuel Industry and Torpedoing Climate Action
Nafeez Ahmed

“There are significant opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s energy market for UK businesses, especially in oil and natural gas,” explains the DIT’s guide. Increasing the Kingdom’s natural gas production is a particularly lucrative area for UK industry: 

“Saudi Aramco is exploiting natural gas reserves off the Red Sea coast to support increased domestic demand. This will involve using deepwater technologies for drilling below 1,000 metres. This offers opportunities for UK engineering and service companies with experience in deepwater regions, such as the North Sea.”

In July, Conservative MP and COP26 President Alok Sharma travelled to Saudi Arabia to discuss the kingdom’s climate commitments. Later, on the eve of the UN summit, Riyadh received a visit from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to explore a potential Gulf trade deal. 

Byline Times has previously revealed that Sharma was in receipt of political donations from a billionaire fossil fuel investor with major interests in increasing Indian gas production and crude oil imports. Saudi Arabia is currently India’s biggest oil supplier.

Saudi Arabia’s net zero plan is to aggressively expand fossil fuel production while reducing carbon emissions by using technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and direct air capture (DAC) to capture the carbon and store it in the ground. However, there is little scientific evidence that these technologies are feasible. 

Environmental scientist Dr Matthew Archer of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva described Saudi Arabia’s proposals as “dangerous and delusional” because they are based “on technologies that don’t exist yet.”

Earlier this year, scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research concluded that CCUS could not be relied on to deliver carbon emission reduction targets and that the majority of existing CCUS facilities result in more oil extraction leading to continued emissions.

While much criticism has been levelled at Saudi Arabia, less attention has been paid to the Saudi-like net zero strategy of the current COP26 host. 


COP26 President’sFunds from BillionaireFossil Fuel InvestorTied to ExxonMobil
Nafeez Ahmed

The UK industry body, Oil and Gas UK, predicts that oil and gas will continue to provide two-thirds of Britain’s primary energy by 2035. In the British Government’s new net zero strategy, CCUS plays a prominent role in purportedly reducing carbon emissions while ramping up fossil fuel production in that time frame.

As my Declassified UK investigation also reveals, other DIT Exporting guides to Norway, Brazil and Argentina reveal how the British Government wants UK businesses to get involved in a range of major fossil fuel expansion efforts. The DIT’s Exporting guide to Norway describes how the country’s “offshore oil and gas sector provides opportunities for UK companies.” 

Its Exporting guide to Brazil points out the country’s “demand for UK expertise” in “offshore equipment and services” as Brazilian oil production is predicted to “increase significantly by 2030.” In Argentina, the DIT refers to big British business “opportunities to partner, build infrastructure and offer goods and services” in support of the country’s fossil fuel industry which holds “some of the largest gas and shale oil reserves in the world.”

My Declassified UK story raises urgent questions about how Britain is exploiting its presidency of COP26. Instead of keeping fossil fuels in the ground and rapidly shifting to renewable energy technologies, Britain appears to be colluding with countries like Saudi Arabia to legitimise a “dangerous and delusional” strategy designed to profit from the fossil fuel system as long as possible. The biggest danger is that this delusion infects the thinking of world governments under UK influence at this pivotal summit.

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The post COP26 Host Urges UK Businesses to Reap Oil Profits in Saudi Arabia and Beyond appeared first on Byline Times.

Huge Crowds in Yemen Celebrate Prophet’s Birth and Recent Military Successes — Pledge Full Liberation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/10/2021 - 6:04am in

SANA`A, YEMEN — Carrying a green flag in his hand and with ribbons tied on his wrist, Walid Ahmed al-Thueli, accompanied by a big family, arrived at the Square of the Seventy in the capital Sana’a early morning of Monday. He came to celebrate the birthday of Islam’s Holy Prophet Muhammad and recent victories that have been achieved by Yemeni forces against Saudi-led Coalition. The Yemeni’s family, which abides in the Rawdah neighborhood north of Sana`a, left their house at 6 a.m. to ensure finding a good place in the arena but were unable to reach the center of the square. Inside the square filled with celebrators, thousands of protesters were singing traditional songs collectively and dancing to the tune of “al-Baraa,” a dance of the Yemeni heritage.

Despite an ever-present hovering of Saudi warplanes above, a fuel crisis, high prices and destroyed roads, massive demonstrations took place across 14 Yemeni provinces on Monday — including Sana`a, Sadaa, al-Houdeida, Hajjah, al-Jawf, al-Beyda, Taize, Amran, Ibb, Dhamar, al-Mahwit, Raymah, Shabwa, and the oil-rich Marib. The protests, organized by Ansar Allah (Houthis), were not only to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad, but also to send local, regional and international political messages, including pledging to expel Saudi-led Coalition forces from the whole country, rejecting the policy of normalization with Israel, and opposing the actions of industrialized countries that threaten the climate.

In Sana`a, where the largest demonstrations took place, hundreds of thousands of residents from the suburbs of Sana`a and its neighboring provinces gathered near the rubble left by Saudi air raids on the parade platform in the Square of the Seventy in the center of the capital. Since early Saturday evening, human torrents had been pouring into the square from four entrances, facing potential ​bombardment that might be renewed at any moment by fighters flying in Yemeni airspace. Other Arab and Islamic communities also joined with protestors in the Seventy Square, including Palestinian, Syrian, and Egyptian communities and a delegation from southern Saudi Arabia, specifically from Najran.

Welcome banners were hung over the square, which was decorated with green flags and colored lights. Loudspeakers blasted out hymns and the big flat-screens around the square displayed inspirational programs. All were celebrating and dancing on the ruins of Saudi destruction in a demonstration that is also a challenge to the machine of death. “We came to this place to make it clear to the world that our lives are continuing and that, despite the destruction, the bombing, we are winning and the joy is still here between us,” Walid said.

There was a similar mass demonstration for women, who gathered in Althawrah Sports City Stadium north of Sana`a. In oil-rich Marib, where the Yemeni Army has advanced steadily towards the last strongholds of the Saudi’s allies in the province, the demonstrations were held in Harib for the first time despite a constant hovering of Saudi warplanes above. In al-Jawf — an oasis region in western Yemen that was the core area of one of the most ancient of the Arabian kingdoms, “the Minaean state of Ma’in” — thousands also took to the streets in al-Hazm.

In Shabwa, the third-largest governorate by area in Yemen and home to the port of Balha’s natural gas refinery, thousands of southerners took the streets in Bihan, a newly liberated area  to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday and the expulsion of Saudi forces. The number of people who took part in the demonstrations dwarfed similar rallies that took place in previous years, indicating a growing support to Sana`a authority.

 

Celebrations and positions

The massive crowds were unprecedented, exceeding all expectations. Following the completion of preparations in various governorates, organizing committees opened the celebration squares in Monday’s early hours and more squares were opened to accommodate the large influx of protestors. Security was tight across Yemeni cities where the protests were held, as reports circulated that al-Qaeda and IS were planning attacks on demonstrators in retaliation for their recent crushing defeat in Al-Bayda. Police carried out special measures to ensure security, including establishment of additional checkpoints in the Yemeni capital and throughout Yemen’s provinces. Despite the huge crowds, no incidents or attacks were reported.

The leader of Ansar Allah, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, was the keynote speaker at the celebrations via video conference and giant screens. In the annual speech, in which the principles of the political program of Ansar Allah for the  year are laid out by the leader of the movement, al-Houthi outlined Ansar Allah’s strategy and position on a number of local, regional and international issues. He renewed Ansar Allah’s position on efforts to end the war in Yemen, saying that the Yemeni people’s efforts to achieve freedom and independence are uncompromisable, confirming that the Yemenis will continue struggle until the end of the war, expelling the occupiers, lifting the siege, paying compensation and reconstruction.

Al-Houthi renewed Yemenis’ support for the Palestinians. At this point, he also confirmed that the Yemeni Army will definitely be a part of determining the al-Quds Formula. “We confirm what we previously proclaimed, that we are part of the historical equation announced by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that the threat to al-Quds means a regional war,” al-Houthi said. He also condemned the so-called Abraham Accords and recent normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab regimes, describing them as “demonic alliances.” Prior to that, Ansar Allah had announced their joining in an initiative, the so-called Jerusalem (Al-Quds) Formula, that ​was spearheaded by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and has already been embraced by Palestine’s armed resistance

 

Joyful chaos

The birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad, which is also known as Eid Milad-un-Nabi or Mwaled, is observed on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. The Holy Prophet was born in Mecca on that day in the year 571. The revival of the Prophet’s birthday was prohibited under the Saudi influence during the previous regimes. Now — as in other Islamic countries, except Saudi Arabia where the prophet was born — this day is a time of rejoicing for all Yemenis. This year, the scenes inside the besieged, hungry and pandemic-ravaged country were abounding with joyful chaos, a rare sight in the war-torn country.

The cars, homes, public places, government buildings and squares are decorated with green lights despite the lack of power; and green flags fly, representing peace, spiritualism and patience. Yemen’s impoverished families were keen to distribute sweets and gifts, hold parties, and create paintings, sculptures, poetry and essays that are appropriate for al-Mwaled. The sky of Yemen was also decorated with fireworks

The massive and unprecedented celebrations, however, came also in the wake of the recent developments in Yemen`s Shabwa and Marib provinces, and southern areas. The spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, confirmed at a press conference held in Sana`a on Sunday that Sana`a forces supported by local tribes have managed to liberate 3,200 square kilometers in Shabwa and Marib during new military operations dubbed Rabi’ al-Nasr’ (Spring of Victory). In Shabwa province, which contains Yemen’s largest natural-gas reserves and produces over 100,000 barrels of oil per day, General Saree confirmed that Baihan, Usailan and Markha Olaya had been liberated in the operation of Rabi’ al-Nasr.

In Shabwa, Yemen, Saudis Give Ground but Kill from the Air as War Rages On

 

US, facing defeat, cries foul, talks peace

In Marib, which lies about 120 km (75 miles) east of Sana`a,  Abdiyah, Harib, and parts of Al-Jubah and Jebel Murad are freed despite the fact that the United States has tried to stop Ansar Allah’s advance in the oil-rich province. In the statement of the U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, which was met with dismissal by Ansar Allah, was a call to “Houthis” to stop and ensure the opening of a safe passage for “life-saving aid and the wounded.” Mohammed Abdulsalam, Ansar Allah spokesman, said on Saturday night that “the U.S. demand is roundly condemned. It shows Americans are in close connection with al-Qaeda and Daesh militants, who suffered heavy defeat in the al-Abdiyah district of Marib province.” He added:

As Yemeni forces are closing in on the last bastions of Saudi-led militia forces as well as Daesh and al-Qaeda operatives, Americans are crying foul and claiming they seek peace. This is while they are the enemy of peace and tranquility in Yemen and worldwide. 

In the other southern areas, people are suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis because of Saudi policies that have led to high prices of food and medicine and frequent power outages. Yemeni currency has been in freefall, with the value now at a mere 1,180 Yemeni Rials to a single U.S. dollar, making food prohibitively expensive in a nation where 80% of the population is reliant on aid.

Featured photo | Fireworks are launched and buildings illuminated with green lights during celebrations for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, in Sana’a, Yemen, Oct. 17, 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 Huge Crowds in Yemen Celebrate Prophet’s Birth and Recent Military Successes — Pledge Full Liberation appeared first on MintPress News.

How the UN is Held Hostage by Power and Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/10/2021 - 11:24pm in

How the UN is Held Hostageby Power & Money

Jonathan Fenton-Harvey explores the forces manipulating and undermining the objectives of the United Nations

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Observers in the humanitarian community have been left stunned after United Nations Human Rights Council members voted unanimously to end the only impartial investigative body for human rights violations in Yemen’s war. It delivered a painful reminder of the United Nation’s (UN) inability to deliver justice for the very people it was founded to protect.

“This vote is an abandonment of the people of Yemen who are today suffering under one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director. 

The vote was “in essence a green light to all sides to the conflict to carry on with their egregious violations which have upended the lives of millions of Yemenis over the past years,” Morayef added.

The dissolution of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, founded in 2017 to monitor violations in Yemen’s war from all parties, came after substantial pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two of the leading powers involved in the conflict. Not only does it look like the two Arab Gulf countries have much to hide, but they also clearly hope to remove the bloody legacy of their intervention in the impoverished country. 

Saudi Arabia has targeted Yemen’s infrastructure throughout the war, aiming to force its Houthi rebel opponents into submission. As a result, Yemenis languish in poverty after more than five years of conflict, which has created “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” as the UN has itself stated. Yet the UN has now repressed one of the key, independent bodies seeking to record culpability for this human disaster.

Abuses in Libya

Yet the UN’s actions over Yemen are not the only examples of its timidity and impotence. The shock move over Yemen followed the UN’s Human Rights Council issuing a report on 4 October, saying that actors in Libya’s war may have been involved in war crimes. 

However, while the probe revealed that grave violations have occurred in the north African country, including the use of child soldiers, torture, and the mass targeting of civilian areas, it failed to call out the leading culprits. 

This includes Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), a powerful eastern Libyan warlord, who commenced a war on the capital Tripoli in April 2019 with substantial international backing from Russia, the UAE, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, among others. 

The report mentioned that mass graves were found in Tarhuna, a previous stronghold of Haftar’s forces and a conflict zone in the country’s latest war. However, it failed to name Haftar, even though human rights organisations found that Haftar-aligned forces were responsible.

Since its 2011 revolution, prompting a civil war, Libya has been held hostage by the avaricious ambitions of international powers. And with elections looming, part of a fragile political transition, Haftar is now standing as a presidential candidate, which shows that justice may allude those who have faced war crimes at his hands. 


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A Limited Mandate

Established in 1945, 23 October marks the UN’s 76th birthday. The organisation was established after the Second World War with noble objectives: preventing war through diplomacy, maintaining peace in conflict zones, exposing genocide and human rights violations, delivering humanitarian aid, and promoting the rule of law in international relations.

Yet, under the UN’s auspices, various humanitarian violations have still occurred with impunity. The UN operates with a limited mandate, while the ill intentions of some global powers prevent it from acting effectively.

The Rwandan Genocide of 1991 is a prime example. UN peacekeeping troops were focused on evacuating foreigners from the country, which left 800,000 to 1 million Tustis at the mercy of Government forces, leading to a massacre. In that catastrophic event, UN peacekeepers saw civilians being massacred but did not have a large enough mandate to protect them. 

And while this example and others show the UN’s impotence, international powers have also been able to manipulate the organisation in recent years.

Saudi Arabia, though striving to maintain a positive global image under its ‘reformist’ Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has attracted criticism from human rights groups and Western diplomats for lobbying the UN, in part to clear its name from the actors responsible for atrocities in Yemen. 

Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, says that Saudi Arabia was engaged in a “tireless lobbying campaign” at the UN, prior to the dissolution of the Eminent Group of Experts.

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As for Yemen, the permanent powers on the UN Security Council – the United States, the UK, China, Russia and France – could have applied more pressure to the Saudi-led coalition. However, even the UK has decided to turn a blind eye – prioritising weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

The UN has often highlighted Israel’s violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Yet, while governments may want to appear to be on the side of morality, none have acted to protect Palestine, particularly since the US – a leading funder of the UN – has always remained on Israel’s side. Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to defend Israel from criticism at the UN, and it has delivered nothing but silence over Israel’s upcoming plans to build settlements in East Jerusalem for the first time in 25 years.

In Libya, France and Russia would likely veto any efforts to hold Haftar accountable, even if he poses obstacles to the democratic transition. Russia even reportedly blocked the extension of the UN Mission in Libya in September, which not only threatens Libya’s stability, but could prolong international disunity over the country.

Of course, the UN has certainly had the framework to act more effectively and has often named and shamed human rights violators. However, this alone is not enough to uphold its virtues.

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The post How the UN is Held Hostage by Power and Money appeared first on Byline Times.

Money Over Morality: Saudi Arabia Feeds the Premier League’s Financial Addiction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/10/2021 - 10:16pm in

Money Over MoralitySaudi Arabia Feeds the Premier League’sFinancial Addiction

As the Government turns its gaze to the regulation of football, the takeover of Newcastle United shows the urgent need for reform, says Adrian Goldberg

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The takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is sweetly timed – almost akin to an Alan Shearer volley. It has arrived as Sports Minister Tracey Crouch puts the finishing touches to her ‘fan-led’ review of football, which is expected to recommend the appointment of an independent, government-backed regulator to oversee the game.

Whether or not such a radical proposal will win the support of ministers and MPs remains to be seen, but installing the Saudis now at least guarantees that the Premier League, a competition addicted to cash from questionable sources, can get its latest financial fix.

The Premier League has allowed Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to lavish millions on Chelsea, and the oil state of Abu Dhabi to ‘sport-wash’ their reputation at Manchester City. So why not the Saudis?

When the Newcastle sale was first mooted in April 2020, Amnesty International’s Head of Campaigns Felix Jakens detailed a long list of reasons to oppose the buyout. He described Saudi Arabia as “one of the most prolific users of the death penalty,” and pointed out that “those executions can be carried out by beheading”. Other Saudi human rights abuses include the imprisonment of political dissenters, suppression of women’s rights and the criminalisation of the LGBT community.

The country’s military stands accused of targeting civilians during the conflict in Yemen, while its ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) was implicated in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul in 2018. Although MbS denied any involvement, US Intelligence reports and the United Nations suggested the murder was linked to those at the top of the Saudi Government.

Jakens said the Newcastle buyout, “gives the opportunity to create a different narrative about Saudi Arabia, which isn’t about the human rights violations, their bombing in Yemen, the killing of journalists – but about them being a progressive, internationally focussed country that’s investing heavily in sport.”


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Regardless, the Premier League’s primary concern with the deal wasn’t the Gulf state’s appalling human rights record. Typically for an organisation founded on the desire to make money for the biggest clubs from TV deals, the real stumbling block was a row over broadcasting rights.

Following a diplomatic spat in 2017, Saudi Arabia banned subscriptions to BeIn Sports, which screens Premier League matches in the Middle East, because it’s based in the neighbouring (and rival) state of Qatar.

Viewers in Saudi were instead encouraged to watch matches on the state sanctioned beoutQ channel, which was effectively accused by the Premier League of piracy, until a reconciliation between the nations earlier this year saw the BeIn blockade lifted.

Once that conflict was resolved, all that was left was for the Premier League to persuade itself that the Saudi state would not control Newcastle. Having received “legally binding assurances” to this effect, it blithely declared that the Public Investment Fund (which is bankrolling 80% of the £300 million sale price) had passed its ‘owners and directors’ test.

The case demonstrates precisely why football can’t be trusted to govern its own affairs. 

Association and Implication

Whatever the role of the Saudi Government in the day-to-day running of Newcastle (and let’s face it, you’re unlikely to find a Crown Prince standing on the touchline discussing the finer points of a 4-4-2 formation), the fact remains that MbS is the chairman of the Public Investment Fund, which aims to secure the country’s future beyond oil.

The Fund, it’s worth noting, is reportedly implicated in Khashoggi’s murder, amid claims that it chartered the plane that flew his killers to Turkey.

Is it credible to believe that if MbS saw hundreds of millions of pounds being squandered on poor signings at St James’s Park, he would simply sit on his hands? And what sanctions could the Premier League realistically impose if he does become actively involved?

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll offers some salient counterpoints – not least the fact that since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, the UK Government has sanctioned arms sales worth £20 billion to Saudi Arabia. He has also questions the “colonial” lens through which we see human rights, and argues that “it was a British Prime Minister who lied to parliament and took us into an illegal war that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British service men and women.”

The key difference is that Tony Blair has since been ousted from office by his colleagues and his party replaced at a general election. Anyone caught attempting to topple MbS would face jail, torture and death.

Mike Baker, a spokesman for the pressure group Fair Game, which is campaigning for an independent regulator of the football industry, said:

“Our line is simple. If you have conducted any activity in the last 10 years that would have broken the law in the UK then you are not fit and proper to be an owner of a football club.

“Newcastle United has a long, proud history. That history has been hijacked by a country with a serious international image problem; a nation that executes journalists and treats women horrendously.

“If the Premier League believes that the Saudi Government is fit and proper, then frankly they have just made the case for an independent regulator even stronger.”

Newcastle supporters, weary of previous owner Mike Ashley, seem to have uncritically embraced their new owners. But, beyond Tyneside, this has all the makings of another public relations disaster for English football.

Only a few months ago, the self-proclaimed ‘big six’ clubs sought to take their place in a new European Super League, which would have guaranteed a permanent place at the top table for its wealthy founding members, no matter how poorly they performed on the pitch. Only a fierce backlash by fans and the Government persuaded them to stand down.

This fiasco prompted Boris Johnson to commission Tracey Crouch’s review. The Conservative MP now has an opportunity – perhaps the final one – to tame the greed of a sport which has once again shown that it places money above morality.

Adrian Goldberg is an Ambassador for Fair Game. His film ‘Keepy Uppy – How The Premier League Killed Football’ is available now on YouTube

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In Shabwa, Yemen, Saudis Give Ground but Kill from the Air as War Rages On

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/09/2021 - 7:26am in

SHABWA, YEMEN —  “A warplane killed them,” a shocked man in his seventies, draped in Shabwian traditional folk costume, said as he stood over the remains of the burning bodies of a family in Markhah district in Shabwa province, the third-largest governorate by area in Yemen. On Sunday, Saudi warplanes dropped Western-made bombs on the family of Muhammad Hussain Ahmad Lsudi in Nagil Maqwaa, killing him along with his wife and two children. Muhammad, when his vehicle was targeted, was driving home loaded with flour and canned goods, an occasion that the family — who live in a country where most struggle against starvation — planned to celebrate. “Nothing will appease us except that Saudi Arabia and the UAE leave our home,” a grandfather toting an old Kalashnikov on his shoulder told local Yemeni media.

Despite the fact that the United Nations confirmed that the incident took place, the Saudi-led Coalition has evaded responsibility, saying they have no information about airstrikes targeting civilians in Shabwa. Despite this, the killings sparked anger towards the Coalition among residents of the province, which is one of Yemen’s main oil-producing governorates, alongside Hadhramout to its east and Marib to the northwest. Residents in the northwest of the province where the incident took place recently pledged allegiance to Ansar Allah and took up arms to expel Coalition forces and their allies from the district. “The brutal attacks can not scare us or deter us from liberating our land and standing side by side with the honorable,” a Shabwa tribesman declared in the wake of a massive meeting held on Sunday in Baihan, Shabwa. 


Tribesmen in Shawba gather at an event to show solidarity with Ansar Allah and demonstrate their commitment to fighting the Saudi-led Coalition. Twitter | Abdullah Al-Saqqaf

In the wake of the advance of Ansar Allah in Shabwa — which contains Yemen’s largest natural gas reserves, produces over 100,000 barrels of oil per day, and is home to the port of Balha natural gas refinery — the Saudi Coalition resorted to launching a slew of airstrikes targeting heavily populated areas in Shabwa.

 

Ansar Allah advances

In the past two weeks alone, forces from Sana’a, supported by local Shawba tribes, have seized strategic districts across the province, including Baihan, Usailan, Markha Olaya, and Masourah — districts that were seen as vital to stopping the advancement of Ansar Allah into eastern Yemen. The stunning advance has left the Saudi-led Coalition pointing fingers at each other, with the Saudi military, the Saudi-backed Hadi government in Yemen, and the Southern Transitional Council all laying blame on one another for allowing Shabwa to be taken. Most of the accusations, though, have been laid at the feet of the Islah Party, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. Despite the finger-pointing, Shabwa’s governor (appointed by the Saudi-led Coalition) acknowledged Ansar Allah’s advance, referring to the group with the often-used pejorative descriptor “the Houthis,” after the group’s late founder, Hussein al-Houthi.

The advance of Ansar Allah in Shabwa came despite massive spending by both the UAE and Saudi Arabia to gain the loyalty of residents and provincial officials by injecting millions into local municipal coffers, a strategy used to some success in other provinces in Yemen to change political loyalties. It also coincided with developments in the nearby al-Bayda and Marib provinces. In al-Bayda, which lies in central Yemen, Ansar Allah partnered with local partisans to retake the province and announced it was fully under their control on September 23. In a wide-sweeping military operation it dubbed “Dawn of Freedom,” Ansar Allah also successfully recaptured the districts of Sawma’ah and Maswarah, as well as large parts of Mukayras, with an area of ​​2,700 square kilometers. According to Ansar Allah military spokesman General Yahya Saree, the provinces are now free from the ISIS and al-Qaeda elements that once plagued them.

In the strategic oil-rich Marib province, which lies about 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital Sana’a, Ansar Allah stands on the verge of recapturing the capital city, where battles are still raging with the Saudi-backed militants. In recent months, Ansar Allah also took control of the directorates of Hareeb, Majzar and Madghl, despite an estimated 100,000-plus Saudi airstrikes, with 30,000 recorded in Hareeb alone, according to the Ansar Allah-led Yemeni Army. 

 

Ansar Allah peace plan gains adherents

Despite its sweeping victories on the battlefield, the group launched a peace initiative in June, in what they say is an effort to avoid civilian casualties in Marib. The initiative has done little to stem the battles raging on in the province but has engendered great support from local tribes, including local Saudi allies.

The initiative, submitted to mediators from neighboring Oman during a visit to Sana’a, proposes to expel all foreign forces and form a joint command for Marib, joint security forces, and joint technical committees composed of local residents, to run the province. It would also see oil revenues deposited into an independently monitored account to pay the salaries of government employees and fund post-war reconstruction efforts. The deal would further re-open a now-shuttered oil pipeline that extends from Marib to the Sana’a-held Ras Issa port on the Red Sea, release all prisoners of war from both sides, and ensure freedom of movement to and from Marib. While Saudi Arabia has shown strong opposition to the proposal, dozens of agreements have already been inked, based on its tenets, between local tribes, officials, and the Ansar Allah-led government in Sana’a.

While the initiative is picking up steam, the Ansar Allah-led Yemeni Army is still working to oust Saudi forces from Marib through sheer military force. In one of its largest military operations since the war began, operation “al-Ba’ss al-Shadid,” first reported by MintPress News last March, has succeeded in capturing large swaths of Marib from Saudi forces, who mobilized fighters from across the Middle East in a bid to hold the territory.

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

Last week, Al-Alim al Harbi, a Yemeni media outlet that has published battlefield footage from the war in Yemen since it began in 2015, published nearly an hour of raw footage of some of the fiercest battles since the war began. The footage shows violent clashes, deep inside Marib’s most strategic regions, between Ansar Allah and Saudi-backed Salafist militants allied with the Yemeni Fifth Military District, a highly experienced unit of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in Aden. The video shows Ansar Allah forces capturing what amounts to a ​​​1,600 square kilometer area containing dozens of military bases — including the infamous Mas Camp, the largest and arguably most important Saudi military base in Marib — and capturing or destroying at least 1,500 mostly American-made armored vehicles, according to Ansar Allah.

 

Anger at Saudis boils over

The fact that local residents in Shabwa so quickly turned on the Saudi-led Coalition and allied with Ansar Allah, despite the former’s injection of cash into the province, is no surprise for many in Yemen. Like other southern provinces, the people in Shabwa are suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis, thanks in large part to policies enacted by Saudi-backed forces. The collapse of local currency, high prices of food and medicine, and frequent power outages easily outweigh whatever infusion of cash makes its way into local government coffers but seldom into the hands of residents. Yemeni currency, especially in southern provinces, has been in freefall, with the value holding at a mere 1,120 Yemeni Rials to a single U.S. dollar, making food prohibitively expensive in a nation where 80% of the population is reliant on aid.

Anger is also mounting over what many see as blatant Saudi looting of the province’s oil and gas reserves. On September 20, the massive PAROS oil tanker arrived at al-Nashima port in Shabwa from Turkey to transport 107 tons of crude, with an estimated value of $65 million, out of the country without a cent of compensation to locals. On April 11, the SAGA oil tanker arrived at the port of Bir Ali in Shabwa’s Radhum district from the Emirati port of Fujairah to transport a large volume of petroleum products, according to sources working in the oil sector in the southern governorates, and again the people of Shabwa were left without a cent of compensation.

This pillage comes as the agricultural and residential lands located along the oil pipelines that stretch to the port of al-Nashima and the Shabwa coast still suffer from environmental pollution owing to large oil leaks from the poorly maintained pipelines, especially the Sector 4 West pipeline, which began to leak last year and has yet to be repaired.

Anger against the Saudi government has now reached a boiling point, with protests taking place throughout the southern provinces, some of which have turned deadly. In Zinjibar city — a coastal town in south-central Yemen and hometown of the Saudi-backed president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi — hundreds of residents took the street on Sunday, condemning deteriorating living conditions. Shops were closed and the protesters roamed the main street, setting fires and closing off neighborhoods. In Tai`ze, thousands of people took to the streets on Monday to denounce the collapse of the currency, corruption and high prices. A protester was killed when Saudi-backed forces fired live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators, who blocked streets and chanted anti-Saudi slogans. 

In other southern provinces, major cities including the Saudi strongholds of Aden and Hadhramout have witnessed days of chaos, uproar, killings and arrests. Attempts to subdue the widespread protests that erupted one week ago have largely failed and local authorities loyal to the United Arab Emirates declared a state of emergency, accusing protesters of being “Houthis.” In Hadhramout, where demonstrations take place mostly at night owing to the intense heat, protesters have been killed and others injured by security forces, most recently on Thursday night.

Featured photo | This image released by the Ansarallah Media Center shows a fighter from Yemen’s armed forces outside of a Saudi military site in the Southwest Saudi province of Jizan. Photo | AMC

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 In Shabwa, Yemen, Saudis Give Ground but Kill from the Air as War Rages On appeared first on MintPress News.

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