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Western Anger as China, Russia Elected to UN Human Rights Council and Saudi Arabia Rejected

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 3:32am in

In a secret ballot at the United Nations yesterday, Saudi Arabia was rejected for a position on the body’s 47-country Human Rights Council (HRC). The only country that did not receive the required number of votes from member states, the failure has been seen as a repudiation of the Kingdom’s abysmal human rights record and its decreasing international support.

15 positions were filled yesterday, although most of them were pre-selected. Only the Asia-Pacific region faced an open vote from UN member states. Pakistan received 169 “yes” votes out of a possible 193, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, and China 139. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, received just 90.

Saudi Arabia’s allies in the West had actually been campaigning to halt the election of states that draw Washington’s ire, including China, Russia, and Cuba, trying to organize opposition against those nations, but were ultimately unsuccessful. China received 41 fewer votes than it did in 2016, amid increased global concern over the alleged treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province, but ultimately comfortably surpassed the 50 percent threshold for admission.

U.N. Watch, a western NGO that has a history of attacking Washington’s enemies and has condemned the UN for its supposed antisemitic bias over its criticism of Israeli human rights abuses, claimed that “electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade.”

The reaction from the U.S. government, which left the HRC in 2018 over its perceived bias against Israel, was similarly angry. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement claiming that the election of countries like China, Russia, Cuba (and Venezuela in 2019) has shown that the institution is now broken beyond repair.

“The United States’ commitment to human rights consists of far more than just words,” Pompeo said, as he boasted of employing sanctions against all those nations. “Our commitments are spelled out clearly in the UN’s Declaration, and in our record of action. The United States is a force for good in the world, and always will be,” he added. Yet earlier this year Pompeo himself said that the U.S. should abandon most of the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration and focus only on property rights and religious freedoms.

 

The spin war

Much of the media today has been in a furor that the “world’s worst abusers” (The Times) like China, Russia, and Cuba are set to join or rejoin the council. The Guardian suggested that the institution’s credibility is at stake. Yet in the talk of human rights violators joining the council, the election of other states with questionable records was never discussed. Bolivia, whose murderous far-right government came to power in a U.S.-backed military coup in November, was also elected, but with no fanfare or condemnation. As was Cameroon, whose dictatorial head of state Paul Biya has been in charge of the country since Gerald Ford was president of the United States. Other states with contentious records included were Narendra Modi’s India, Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, and the Qatari dictatorship.

UN Media coverage

Both the Guardian, left, and the Times, right, failed to report on other human rights violators being elected to the council

Saudi Arabia was elected twice to the HRC between 2014-2016 and 2017-2019. Its new failure to secure more than 90 votes is a sign of increasing discontent with its policies in Yemen, declared the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by the United Nations, where 24 million people (80 percent of the country) need some form of humanitarian assistance. Yet under pressure from the U.S. government, aid has been cut to just 25 cents per person, per day. The kingdom has played a key role in stymying any international action to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe, using its position at the HRC to block UN inquiries into its own abuses in Yemen.

Internally, the country is often described as the most repressive regime on the planet, with millions of people suffering under slave-like conditions, according to Human Rights Watch. While on the council, it attempted to block a resolution that condemned the use of torture by law enforcement and reaffirms the human rights of LGBT people. Inside Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty.

Ultimately, while yesterday’s election is the sign of a slightly more multipolar world, the results are unlikely to seriously change the direction of the organization, with the United Nations constantly blocked from taking action unless all of the world’s superpowers allow it.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens to Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during their meeting at the State Department, Oct. 14, 2020, in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Western Anger as China, Russia Elected to UN Human Rights Council and Saudi Arabia Rejected appeared first on MintPress News.

Four Years Ago, US Bombs Killed Hundreds at a Yemeni Funeral. Those Bombs Are Still Used Today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/10/2020 - 2:35am in

Ten-year-old Ahmed Radwan al-Khazan holds his father’s photo in one hand and a wilted rose in the other. He sits on a chair surrounded by rubble and ash in what is left of Mourning Square. Dozens of children, along with their young widowed mothers, are perched on dozens of rows of chairs under a very long tent, its shadow cast across the wreckage of the Al Kubra Grand Hall building. There, family members of 240 people killed gathered yesterday to mark the fourth anniversary of the attack that saw Saudi warplanes drop an MK82 guided bomb on a funeral hall. There were at least 1,000 mourners inside Al Kubra, located in Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa, when the bombs struck on October 8, 2016.

 
Many of the children that survived the horrific event are still too young to fully grasp the gravity of the moment. Some carried red roses or white flowers, while the others carried posters emblazoned with images of their lost relatives. “American bombs killed my father. We will never forget that” Ahmed said angrily, his eyes brimming with tears. His mother pulled him away protectingly, tugging at his hand and saying, “your dad has gone to heaven.”

Images of the charred and mutilated remains of funeral-goers are still fresh in the minds of survivors and witnesses who spoke to MintPress. Sami Abdullah, who is now wearing newly fitted prosthesis to replace his missing left leg lost in the attack, said “We arrived early, at noon, and shook hands with the family members of al-Ruwayshan, after a while, we heard the loud screaming sound of a jet and then a bombing with big pressure… shrapnel… fire… and intense black smoke.  Everything turned upside down, then, I stood up and ran and realized I had lost my leg. When I was a few steps from the gate, a second bomb hit the tent.”

Al Kubra Yemen

Mourners hold photos of loved ones during an event commemorating the attack on Al Kubra. Photo | Ahmed AbdulKareem

A UN panel of experts would later find that the timing of the attack “coincided with a time when the funeral was expected to receive the highest number of mourners.”

 

US arms sales fuel the carnage

The bombing of the funeral was the deadliest single attack in Yemen’s six-year war, but was not the first Saudi attack on a civilian target, nor was it the last. But what made it different was its sheer scale, the fact it occurred in broad daylight, and that the Saudi military used by a double-tap airstrike to assure maximum carnage. Like the Saudi attack on a school bus that took place in August of 201  that killed more than 40 children and also used a U.S.-made MK82 guided bomb, justice for the victims of the Al Kubra attack has not been served. The United States still supplies weapons to Saudi Arabia and all attempts to put limits on those sales have been ignored.


MK82 bomb fragments found in the rubble of Al Kubra are seen at a crime lab in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 8, 2016. Hani Mohammed | AP

Since 2015, UN investigators have repeatedly warned of the heavy civilian death toll from the Saudi-led Coalition’s bombing campaigns, which almost exclusively use U.S.-made munitions. Yet the U.S. has continued selling arms to the Kingdom resulting in numerous massacres and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians like those lost in the Al Kubra Hall attack. The catastrophic impact that western weapons, particularly American weapons, have had on Yemen is clear not only in terms of loss of life but in the creation of refugees, mental turmoil, and the destruction of vital infrastructure, especially the country’s healthcare system.

The United States claims that it does not make targeting decisions for the Saudi Coalition. But it does support Coalition operations through training, arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft, and the sharing of intelligence. Those arms sales include precision-guided missiles as well as precision guidance parts used on the same warplanes responsible for civilian casualties in the Saudi-UAE’s military campaign in Yemen.

According to mourners gathered to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the funeral hall bombing, the carnage will continue until Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are still using U.S. and British weapons, are held accountable. Until that happens, they say, they will continue to gather and mourn bombing victims until justice is served.

The anniversary of the Al Kubra Massacre must serve as a reminder of the need for justice to be served, but also as a remember that death in Yemen’s war comes in many forms. Thousands are dying without shedding a drop of blood as a direct result of the war. Hunger, COVID-19, and a deadly cocktail of diseases have set upon the country. In a message to the United Nations on Thursday, the Presidium of Yemen’s Parliament warned that thousands of children in Yemeni hospitals now face death along with thousands of kidney failure patients as the country’s store of petroleum withers amid a U.S.-backed Saudi blockade.

Feature photo | A forensic expert displays glasses and other personal items of a victim as he inspects the destroyed funeral hall, two days after a Saudi-led airstrike targeted it, in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 10, 2016. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post Four Years Ago, US Bombs Killed Hundreds at a Yemeni Funeral. Those Bombs Are Still Used Today appeared first on MintPress News.

Yemen: Finding Ways to Fight Back Against Saudi Arabia’s War on Electricity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2020 - 4:09am in

Amid the scorching desert heat, Yemen’s southern provinces suffer frequent blackouts. An hour and a half of power followed by 12-hour outages are the norm, and can sometimes be fatal. Now, barely a week goes by without the citizens of the Southern District holding demonstrations until authorities relent and temporarily restore power until the next blackout, and, inevitably, the next protest.

Hundreds of angry Yemenis began taking to the streets nearly one month ago in the war-torn country’s largest governorate of al-Mukalla, gathering to protest the deterioration of public services and lengthy blackouts that regularly leave them without electricity. They set tires on fire and clashed with UAE-backed militants, who use live ammunition to disperse them. Shops closed as activists launched a campaign of civil disobedience against what they say is “systematic corruption and failure to provide basic public services, in particular the daily power outages.”

“The power cuts reach 8 hours in a day, sometimes reaching 24 hours.” Salah Ben Hamel, a member of the local council in al-Mukalla said. He accuses the UAE-backed authorities of ignoring the suffering of the residents. “We can not sleep because of the high heat” he added.

Just like in al-Mukalla, power outages have left many major cities in the dark since 2015, when the war began. Western weapons supplied to Saudi Arabia and coalition allies have destroyed transmission lines, power stations, and other facilities, and a near-total blockade forbids Yemenis from rebuilding, leaving critical services like health, water, and sanitation woefully underserved.

According to identical data from both Yemen’s Ministry of Electricity and non-governmental organizations, the Saudi-led Coalition has targeted more than 5,000 power stations and other pieces of critical energy infrastructure. Most of them far from any fighting or military site. Ninety percent of the total population now lives without electricity, especially those in remote and semi-urban areas.

On August 26, 2016, Amnesty International reported that U.S bombs dropped by Saudi warplanes destroyed two generating stations at Haradh and Midi in Hajjah province. Eight bombs also hit the main power station in Amran, destroying two transformers. On July 24, 2015, the Saudi Coalition bombed a compound housing employees of a power plant and their families, killing and injuring more than 300. On April 13, 2016, Saudi warplanes destroyed the main power station in Taiz province. According to Yemen’s Public Electricity Corporation, the financial damage from these deliberate attacks on infrastructure amounts to over four billion U.S. dollars.

 

Attacks on the grid run deep

The effects of those attacks run much deeper though. Socially, the collapse of the country’s electric grid has limited children’s ability to study in the evenings and has forced some families to pull their children out of school entirely to fetch water, as electric pumps are no longer operational. Water pumping stations have been closed, forcing people, particularly women and children, to carry water needed for daily use on their heads for long distances.

Economically, the lack of electricity has led to the deterioration of Yemen’s already faltering local economy. Small industrial facilities that survived the war have been shuttered due to the lack of electricity and manufacturing has all but halted.

Yemen Electricity

Workers inspect damage to a transmission tower on the Sanaa-Safer line. Ahmed Abdul Kareem | MintPress News

Hygienically, public health services have worsened significantly as long-lasting power outages have become all too regular in often partially functioning health facilities. The outages are also contributing to the spread of COVID-19 and other epidemics as electricity is required to pump clean water, forcing some to drink surface water contaminated with Cholera and other bacteria.

Throughout its war against Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s strategy has sought to break down and weaken the state to make a recovery impossible for at least the next twenty years. Systematic destruction makes the country more dependent on “helping hands” after the war.

The Saudi blockade, in particular, prevents the entry of fuel and has impacted electricity production as residents are forced to pay a monthly subscription fee of 1,200 YER to private sector producers, even when they are not consuming electricity. When fuel shortages become particularly acute, that price increases to 350-400 YER per kilowatt, before the war it was just seven YER per kilowatt.

 

Sabotaging the Electric Grid

“Electric stations, transmission lines, and towers have all been targeted by U.S bombs and cluster munitions,” the Minister of Electricity and Energy, Ateq Hussein Abbar, told MintPress as he stood in shock near a destroyed electricity tower in Baran. “Just as bad,” he said, “tons of improvised explosive devices, landmines, and countermines have been planted by the coalition forces and their mercenaries under the towers and lines.”

Man poses next to unexploded ordinance

MintPress Reporter Ahmed AbdulKareem inspects unexploded ordnance near the Sanaa-Safer line

The sheer scale of the Saudi campaign, which often sees hundreds of separate airstrikes carried out every day, coupled with its indiscriminate nature, has not only left Yemen one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world but turned the large areas through which power lines pass or where electric poles are located into fields full of mines and unexploded bombs.

“We have 490 electric towers in the Sanaa-Marib line that passes through Nehm, most of which are now destroyed or affected by the raids, shelling, and unexploded ordnance.” Abdul Qadir Mutahar, Director-General of Transportation at the Electricity Corporation said.

“The dense amount of mines and unexploded ordnance that are now spread near electric transmission lines is huge. It will take a long time before teams are able to reach them to start the rebuilding process,” the head of the UN-backed Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) said.

Even if the infrastructure was in place to begin repairs to the grid, removing unexploded remnants, IEDs and landmines would require an end to the U.S.-backed war and economic blockade as special equipment and machines, such as armored excavators, would need to be brought in, a slim prospect in a country unable to secure even the basic staples of life.

 

All eyes on Marib Power Station

Despite the danger, some electrical engineering teams have forged on. Two weeks ago, engineers in cooperation with mine clearance teams began to assess the extent of damage in the Nihm area, a move aimed at rehabilitating the Sanaa-Safer line. They hope the lines can be ready when the Marib power station is back up and running. In March 2015, the country’s largest power plant in Marib, responsible for powering most of the country, went offline and represented a turning point for the country’s electricity sector.

Man poses next to cluster bomb in Yemen

MintPress Reporter Ahmed AbdulKareem stands near the remanants of a US-made cluster bomb on the Sanaa-Safer line en route to Marib

Local tribes supported by Ansar Allah (Houthis) have been advancing in oil-rich Marib, which lies adjacent to the capital of Sana’a. Over sixty percent of the province has been captured by the Houthis in fierce fighting pitting the outgunned group against Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula and the so-called Islamic State.

The Houthi advance has attracted the attention of world powers, including the United States, the UK, and even the UN. Negotiations over prisoner exchanges have been activated, but all the renewed attention is focused on stopping the Houthi advance in Marib, the last stronghold of the coalition in the north of the country, and not on ending the war.

Taqi al-Din Al-Mutaa, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Electricity, said that “Simply liberating Marib means restoring electricity to all Yemeni regions, means ending the suffering of people, ending employee suffering.” He confirmed that the ministry plans to start the Marib power station as soon as possible.

There are real fears that Saudi Arabia could strike the Marib power station and regional oil facilities should the Houthis advance succeed. High-ranking officials in Sana’a told MintPress that any such attack would be met with retaliatory attacks on “the most important electrical and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia” “There will be not only thick smoke rising in the sky of Marib,” one military official promised, “there will be smoke rising in the skies of the Arabian Peninsula.”

 

Yemenis look to the sun

There are glimpses of light in the darkness, particularly in Yemen’s northern provinces. In Sana`a, rooftops are now dotted with solar panels. The private sector has stepped in as the most competitive source of electricity in the country, importing cheap solar photovoltaic systems.

Small electronic retailers now sell solar home systems, encouraged by surging demand and supported by the local Ansar Allah government, who recently announced that investment in alternative energy would be 100% tax-exempt.

The World Bank has praised the boom in the usage of solar energy in Yemen and urged countries suffering from wars and crises to emulate the Yemeni experience. Yemen is naturally endowed with huge solar potential. It has interior high mountains, upland desert, and long semi-desert coastal plain across the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Moreover, the country is characterized by hot and clear weather. Temperatures are generally very high, particularly in the coastal and desert areas. Geographically, Yemen is located in the world’s Sunbelt.

The important question for many Yemenis is whether Saudi Arabia will allow them to capitalize on this wealth.

Feature photo | A team of engineers and mine sweepers poses for a photo on the Sanaa-Safer line. Ahmed Abdul Kareem | MintPress News

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

The post Yemen: Finding Ways to Fight Back Against Saudi Arabia’s War on Electricity appeared first on MintPress News.

MoD Records Show Britain Training Repressive States

There was a very interesting piece by Cahal Milmo in yesterday’s edition of the I, for Saturday, 29th August 2020. The MoD has released a series of papers in response to a question in parliament, showing that the British armed forces are training those of 17 states guilty of human rights violations. The article, ‘Britain trains soldiers for repressive regimes’ runs

The British military has provided training to the armed forces of a succession of repressive regimes from Belarus to Bahrain, according to official records.

A list of countries receiving training from UK armed forces since 2018 includes 17 nations formally designated by the British government as “human rights priority countries”, where there is particular concern about repression or other abuses. 

The training ranges from instruction on piloting state-of-the-art fast jets for allies such as Saudi Arabia to officer training for China.

In Belarus, where the authorities have this month been condemned for a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and armed forces have been placed on a state of high alert, Britain provided an advanced command course for senior officers.

The training,k detailed in records released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following a parliamentary question, drew condemnation from campaigners who said it put Britain at risk of becoming “complicit” in gross breaches of human rights.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Many of these armies have appalling human rights records and have been linked to brutal oppression as well as international aggression.

“By training and collaborating with despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers, the UK risks making itself complicit in the abuses that are being inflicted.” The group said it wanted to see an investigation into precisely which military forces the UK had given training to and whether they had been subsequently linked to repressive actions or other breaches of basic liberties.

However, the defence ministry insisted that all of its training abroad emphasised the observation of human rights protections.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “Every defence relationship is taken on a case-by-case basis. Any defence engagement is designed to educate where necessary on best practice and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The figures suggest that more than half of the 30 countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights priority list have received training assistance from British forces. They include Uzbekistan, Sir Lanka, Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan.

I’m not surprised by any of this. We already sell armaments to vicious, repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. Britain has also used private mercenary companies as a method of unofficially sending military assistance to repressive regimes, such as Keenie Meenie Services, (KMS), founded by retired Brigadier Mike Wingate Gray, a friend of Maggie Thatcher, and whose son Arthur is a mate of princes William and Harry. Among other nasty regimes, KMS has provided troops for Sri Lanka, the Nicaraguan Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, as well as Sultan Qaboos of Oman. On the other hand, they don’t seem to have provided any assistance to the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. This was probably done by the SAS. See ‘Profiting from War’, John Newsinger’s review of Phil Miller’s Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes (London: Pluto Press 2020) in Lobster 79, Summer 2020 . See https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-keenie-meenie-review.pdf

I’ve no doubt that the training given by the official British armed forces does stress the observance of human rights. However, this still does not absolve us of training the troops of brutally oppressive regimes, which those providing the assistance must know will ignore anything they are taught about observing human rights.

The mercenaries, however, are rather different. They don’t just providing training, but have actually participated in atrocities. During the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the head of the CIA’s Afghan Task Force declared that Thatcher was to the right of Attila the Hun and remarked on the lack of any legal restraint on MI6. Miller’s book quotes him as saying that they had a willingness to do jobs he wouldn’t touch. This comes from a senior figure in the organisation that helped overthrow Salvador Allende in Chile and install the Fascist dictatorship of General Pinochet.

Britain has spent too long training and providing guns and troops to the world’s thugs and butchers. It’s long past time we stopped. But the last time anyone suggested we should have an ethical foreign policy was Robin Cook under Tony Blair. Which after the Iraq invasion sounds like a very sick joke.

Video Shows British Soldier Being Arrested for Opposing UK Arming of Saudi Arabia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 4:07am in

A British soldier has been arrested for opposing the United Kingdom’s role in the Saudi-led war against Yemen. Video shows Lance Corporal Ahmed Al-Babati of the Royal Signals being led away by military police from his protest outside Britain’s Ministry of Defense in London.

View this post on Instagram

Ahmed has been taken in by the military police after 9 hours and 30 mins and 57 whistles later. A true hero. He is been kept by the military police and will be released within the few hours. His refusal to stay silent to the truth gained the respect and love of the people on social media and the people of London. A brave young man standing for Justice, with his head held high.

A post shared by SFJ (@standforjustice_sfj) on Aug 24, 2020 at 10:44am PDT

Al-Babati earlier released a video explaining his decision to risk his freedom rather than participate in what he feels is a grossly immoral war. “Our government continues to arm and support Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We tried to make our voices heard by protesting in London, Manchester, Liverpool and many other cities. We’ve even tried to email our MPs, but clearly our words mean nothing to [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson.”

I joined the army in 2017 and took an oath to protect and serve this country, not to be part of a corrupt government that continues to arm and support terrorism. What made this decision so easy for me and why I choose to sacrifice a lot of things including possibly my freedom is for the simple fact that me, myself as somebody that was born in Yemen, I could have easily fell victim to one of those air strikes or died out of hunger. I’ve seen enough not to speak out and I’d rather sleep peacefully in a cell than stay silent for a paycheck.”

Yemen is suffering through what the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the organization estimating that 14 million people — over half the country’s population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. The situation is largely the result of the five year conflict, misleadingly labeled the Yemeni Civil War, which, in reality, is largely a Saudi-led struggle against the Houthi rebels, situated in the west of the country. Between 2014 and 2015, the Houthis overthrew the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with the Saudi government spending five years attempting to reinstall him as the leader of a united Yemen.

Eschewing diplomatic solutions or boots on the ground, however, the Saudis have largely resorted to sustained bombing campaigns, which have destroyed the country’s already limited infrastructure. A recent report from Oxfam calculated that there had been almost 200 air raids on hospitals, clinics, wells or water tanks since the conflict began in 2015, around one every ten days. As a result, Yemen is beset with twin epidemics of COVID-19 and cholera, their stretched medical system unable to cope with either. The war is estimated to have killed almost a quarter of a million people to date.

“It is clear this government has blood on their hands, so with that being said I refuse to continue my military service until the arms trade with Saudi Arabia has been put to an end. It is reported that a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen, so I’ll be standing outside 10 Downing Street blowing a whistle every 10 minutes so that they can hear every time a child dies due to a war they continue to arm and support,” Al-Babati said. He was reportedly arrested after protesting for 9 hours and 30 minutes, blowing his whistle 57 times during that period.

The British role in Yemen’s anguish is well documented. The United Kingdom is a key ally of the Kingdom, supplying it with billions of dollars worth of military equipment. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia is by far Britain’s most important arms customer, responsible for 49 percent of total weapons purchases, buoying the booming industry. In addition, Britain has around 200 military personnel in the country, responsible for training, repairing and maintaining the Saudis’ costly warplanes, keeping the conflict going. Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had promised to put an immediate end to U.K. sales to Saudi Arabia if elected. However, the Conservative victory in the December elections effectively put an end to the debate, sending the stocks of British weapons manufacturers soaring.

Al-Babati has now not been seen for two days, with the Army refusing to discuss the matter with the media. His fate remains unknown. However, Al-Babati clearly did not make the decision lightly and knew what his fate could be. In 2010, British soldier Joe Glenton was sentenced to 9 months in prison after he refused to return to Afghanistan on conscientious grounds. Whether Al-Babati is given the same treatment remains to be seen.

Feature photo | Screenshot from video posted to Instagram shows the arrest of Ahmed Al-Babati by Britsih military police outside of Britain’s Ministry of Defense in London.

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Video Shows British Soldier Being Arrested for Opposing UK Arming of Saudi Arabia appeared first on MintPress News.

Oxfam: Saudis Carry Out Equivalent of One Attack Every Ten Days on Yemen’s Medical and Water Facilities

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 2:17am in

Yemen is already living through what the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Yet despite twin epidemics of cholera and COVID-19 raging through the embattled nation, the Saudi-led coalition continues to target medical and water infrastructure, having done so over 200 times since the conflict began, a new report from Oxfam claims. That is equivalent to one air raid every ten days during the conflict, as hospitals, health clinics, water drills, trucks and sewage systems have been attacked and destroyed. There have been over 21,000 coalition air raids on the country since 2015, according to the Yemen Data Project. However, these are highly concentrated in western areas controlled by the Houthi rebels, with only ten recorded in the eastern half of the country.

The effect of the continuous onslaught has been devastating, sparking a crisis of epic proportions. The United Nations estimates that 14 million people — over half the country’s population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. “Vital infrastructure like hospitals, clinics, water tanks, and wells have consistently been in the crosshairs throughout this conflict. Their damage and destruction make Yemen even more vulnerable to diseases like COVID and cholera,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director. “Lives aren’t just lost when the bombs fall but also during the weeks, months or years it takes for hospitals and wells to be rebuilt.”

The country is experiencing acute and protracted health crises, even if official numbers do not show it. Although statistics suggest that only 537 Yemenis have died from coronavirus and cholera cases are down from last year, aid agencies have warned this is actually a bad sign. “Rather than show that Yemen has cholera and COVID under control, the low official numbers demonstrate the exact opposite. A lack of working health facilities and people too scared to get treatment mean that the numbers suffering from these diseases are being vastly under recorded,” Siddiquey said last month. The ongoing monsoon season, which has brought floods with it, has made matters worse. The World Food Program has warned of a potential “famine of biblical proportions” as a consequence.

The United States government has been a key supporter of Saudi actions in Yemen, arming, helping and training its military, while defending it from censure internationally. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s figures, Saudi Arabia is by far Washington’s best customer in terms of arms sales, spending over three times as much on American weaponry as any other country. Other junior members of the Saudi coalition, such as Qatar and Kuwait, also feature prominently on the list of top buyers. Throughout the Saudi campaign, which has been condemned by the United Nations, arms sales have increased. Last year President Trump personally vetoed a bill to end U.S. support for the war. The United Kingdom is also a major partner of the Saudi military, it accounting for half of all British foreign arms sales.

Without mentioning them explicitly, Oxfam pointed the finger at the U.S. and U.K., the countries that have sold by far the most weapons to the absolute monarchy. “Arms exporting countries have profited from the sale of billions of dollars-worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners throughout the course of more than five years of war in Yemen, despite knowing that some of these arms could be used in violation of international humanitarian law,” it wrote, Siddiquey noting that Yemen’s suffering is “being fuelled by arms sales.”

Despite the obvious human consequences of the sales, last week, a State Department report cleared Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of all wrongdoing in executing a multi-billion dollar arms sale between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. “We did everything by the book,” Pompeo told reporters, also claiming that his weapons deal had somehow “prevented the loss of lives.”

The reality of the situation is that close to a quarter of a million people have died during the “civil war,” which began in 2015 after Houthi militias rebelled against the rule of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. With a ruined medical and sanitation infrastructure, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Feature photo | The al-Thawra Hospital in Taiz, Yemen is shown after it was damaged by shelling in 2015. Photo | International Committee of the Red Cross

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Yemen: State Department Clears Bomb Peddler Pompeo of Wrongdoing in Civilian Deaths Investigation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 4:21am in

It looks like the United States government is ready to move on from the internal squabble that erupted over an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and other client Arab states embroiled in the war on Yemen and continue the policy of arming and funding the Saudi-led coalition of anti-Houthi forces propping up the “internationally-recognized” government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

In a final report issued by the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General on the investigation into the arms deal that Congress requested in May of last year, Secretary of State Miko Pompeo was cleared of any wrongdoing for executing the multi-billion-dollar transaction, which according to the same unreleased report, “heightened the risk of civilian casualties” in a war that has claimed the lives of close to a quarter-million people, nearly half of them civilians.

Pompeo, who yesterday kicked off a five-day tour of Central Europe in the Czech Republic, washed his hands of the whole matter during a press conference in Prague. “We did everything by the book,” Pompeo told reporters and boasted about the “really good outcome” he claims resulted from flooding the war-torn country with more bombs before directly contradicting the Inspector General’s findings by asserting that the weapons deal had, in fact, “prevented the loss of lives.”

The arms deal, which Trump forced via executive privilege, has been at the center of the speculation over the recent firing of Inspector General Steve Linick, who had been conducting the inquiry into the arms sale in addition to other, direct allegations of abuse of power and corruption against Pompeo and his wife. With Linick gone and the IG’s final report admitting the obvious, yet failing to hold officials accountable, the State Department resumes destabilization efforts in the region by selling more war materiel to fuel the conflict in Yemen despite evidence that the guns and ammo aren’t going to the parties stipulated in the contract.

 

Lip service to peace

The war in Yemen began in the middle of Barack Obama’s second term in office as the administration was in the midst of negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. The price of getting the Saudis to “begrudgingly” go along with the Iran deal was to have the gulf state coalition’s back against the Yemeni insurgents, who had toppled the puppet regime of their country.

Since then, Obama-era aides and appointees like Middle East “point man,” Robert Malley, have lobbed some after-the-fact mea culpas and generally decried the escalating tensions in Yemen. But, like the Inspector General’s report, they are rhetorical tools designed for the extension of political careers and of little use to the suffering hordes of Yemenis who continue to be the victims of war crimes and are undergoing one of the worst refugee crises in history, with 3.6 million internally displaced and hundreds of thousands abroad.

The plight of the regular Yemeni citizen is captured in the sentiments of Labib Nasher, who was granted political asylum in the U.S. back in February. “It’s a horrible thing,” Nasher said of his situation. “You’re not a human being anymore,” he reflected, “Nobody wants you.” He, of course, is one of the lucky ones who had the means to escape. But for a large majority of people in Yemen, the U.S.-backed war has led to the verge of starvation.

 

Projected profits

The impasse between the Saudi-led coalition and their uncomfortable allies in Yemen – the Southern Transitional Council (STC) – appears to have been smoothed out as well. The pivotal separatist group “rescinded” a declaration of self-rule and allowed for some of the terms of the stalled “Riyadh agreement” to be implemented, such as the appointment of a new governor and police chief in the disputed territory of Aden.

Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman was pleased by the development, tweeting out that the move by the STC “reflects the serious desire for dialogue”; while the UAE also called for a renewed purpose among coalition members. On Monday, the internationally-recognized government of Yemen practically channeled Pompeo by demanding that the UN extend the arms embargo against Iran.

The news, no doubt, will also buoy the mood in the boardrooms of General Dynamics, Boeing, and Raytheon who all have profited to the tune of hundreds of millions from the war and have seen their stock soar since the start of the conflict. “Most of the weapons that we have found and been able to identify in strikes that appear unlawful have been U.S. weapons,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, Priyanka Motaparthy. “Factories have been hit. Farmlands have been hit with cluster bombs. Not only have they killed civilians, but they have also destroyed livelihoods and contributed to a dire humanitarian situation.”

Despite the ‘positive’ signals for the interests of America and its partners in the region, signs are emerging that the dire humanitarian situation is beginning to trickle up. Just this morning, the Middle East Monitor reported that Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi will be traveling to the U.S. for a week-long medical treatment. Yesterday, the director of Yemeni PM Maeen Abdul Malik’s office, was arrested in Egypt, the country that brokered the rapprochement between the STC and the coalition. The high-ranking Yemeni official was trying to smuggle $1 million dollars through the diplomatic cover.

Feature photo | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to board a plane at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh, before his departure on Feb. 21, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Pool via AP

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

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‘Financial Times’ Review of Book on Real, Modern Slavery

This is another old clipping I’ve kept in my scrapbooks from the Financial Times, from May 29/30th 1999. It’s a review by their columnist, Ben Rogers, ‘Forced into human bondage’, of Kevin Bales’ Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global  Economy. This is another book that the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol had in its library. It’s an excellent book, but obviously very, very grim reading in its truly harrowing accounts of the brutality meted out to real, enslaved people across the world. I’m posting the review here because, while Britain and America are re-evaluating the legacy of slavery following the Black Lives Matter protests, real slavery and its horrors still exist around the world and I am afraid that this is being overshadowed by the debates over historic European slavery.

Rogers begins his review with the subtitled ‘Slavery today may be illegal, but it is still rife’. The review then goes on

It is tempting to think of slavery as a thing of the past. Its legacy lives on, disfiguring relations between Black and Whites everywhere, but surely the practice itself has gone?

This sober, well-researched, pioneering study shows that this, alas, is far from the case. Bales, an American social scientist who teaches in London at the Roehampton Institute, is careful to distinguish slavery from other forms of exploitation: the Pakistani child labourer, the Burmese agricultural worker, although paid a subsistence wage, are not necessarily slaves. Nevertheless, he argues that there are still, on a conservative estimate, perhaps 27m slaves in the world today – a population greater than that of Canada.

Most are located in the Indian subcontinent where they work as bonded labourers, but they exist in almost every country in the world. Paris harbours as many as 3,000 household slaves, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab states many more. In the Dominican Republic, enslaved Haitians harvest the sugar that we eat. In Brazil, child prostitutes are forced to service the miners of the metals we use.

Of course, modern slavery is different from the old variety practised in ancient Athens or the American South. But in certain respects, Bales persuasively argues, the new variety is worse. In the traditional version, slave holders owned their slaves, who were almost always of a different race or religion from their masters; slaves were relatively expensive “capital” goods and usually kept up for life. Nowadays legal ownership is outlawed in every country of the world (Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, after all, states that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude”), so modern slavery is disguised and “ownership” is replaced by manipulative debt bondage or fictive long-term “contracts”. Modern slaves tend to be taken from the same ethnic group as their holders and, because they are cheap, they are often used for only months or a few years before being discarded. Another difference is the size of the profit slaves produce. Agricultural bonded labourers in India generate not 5 per cent, as did slaves in the American South, but over 50 per cent profit per year for the slave holder; a Thai brothel owner can make 800 per cent on a new teenage girl.

To illustrate the nature of the new slavery, Bales has travelled around the world to investigate five cases in detail (often at some risk to himself): that of an enslaved prostitute in Ubon Ratchitani, Thailand; a water carrier in Mauritania; charcoal burners in the camps in Matto Grosso do Sul, Brazil; brickmakers in the Punjab, Pakistan; and bonded agricultural labourers in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The cases varied in significant ways. Ironically the one that most resembles old-style slavery – that of the water carrier from Mauritania – proves perhaps to be the least vicious. Slavery in Mauritania represents a lightly disguised continuation of a centuries-old practice; there slaves are kept for life and many slave families have been working for the same masters for generations. The cruellest example, by contrast, is provided by “Siri” the Thai prostitute, who was sold into slavery by her parents aged 14. Her debts to her owners are manipulate to ensure that she will continue to work until she is too tired or ill to be profitable.

Despite the differences, however, two continuities run through all the cases Bales so  graphically describes. In every case the worker is tricked or forced into bondage; in every case he or she is provided with the barest means of subsistence and sometimes not even that. In the charcoal camps of Brazil the men are often denied medication and left to die – on the principle that it is cheaper to acquire a new worker than repair an old one.

The western world has been slow to recognise the problem of the new slavery – in part because it is carefully disguised. The slave holders hide it from their government, governments hide it from the international community. The result is that, unlike, say, torture or censorship, slavery has yet to become a major human rights issue. The main international organisation dedicated to the abolition of slavery, Anti-Slavery International, has only 6,000 members. And without grass roots pressure, the World Bank, IMF and national governments are not inclined to show much concern.

“What country,” as Bales asks, “has been sanctioned by the UN for slavery? Where are the UN inspection teams charged with searching out slave labour? Who speaks for the slaves in the International Court of Justice? Governments and business are more likely to suffer international penalties today for counterfeiting a Michael Jackson CD than for using slaves.”

Modern slaves face the same conditions as the poor of the third world – they are the victims of industrialisation, population explosion and government corruption. Where labour is abundant, wages low, bribery rife, workers often face a stark choice between enslavement and starvation. Slavery, however, calls for its own particular solutions. Bales shows how strict enforcement of existing laws combined with programmes aimed at enabling slaves to set up on their own, have had some effect in diminishing debt bondage in northern India – although, as he reminds us, unless steps are taken slavery is set to grow.

Incredibly, Bales’ study is about the first to explore slavery in its modern international guise. The picture it offers remains patchy, given the limited resources at Bales’ disposal. He makes much of the west’s role in aiding and abetting slavery, yet most of the cases he studies belongs to local economies. This remains, however, a convincing and moving book. One can only hope that it will draw some attention to the terrible phenomenon it describes.

Although this was written 21 years ago, I’ve no doubt that it’s still acutely relevant and the situation has got worse. Since then there have been a series of scandals involving the enslavement of migrant workers in Britain and eastern European women trafficked into sex slavery. And, as the book Falling Off the Edge, shows very clearly, poverty around the world and the consequent exploitation of the poor has got much worse due to neoliberalism and globalisation. One of the programmes due to be shown on the Beeb – but I can’t remember whether it’s on TV or radio – is an examination of global terrorism. One of the groups looked at are Maoist terrorists in India. They’re a horrifically violent outfit, but they’re the result, according to Falling Off the Edge, of the horrific poverty and exploitation foisted upon the agricultural workers of central India.

And then there’s the increasing poverty and mounting debts of the British poor, thanks to Thatcherite welfare cuts, wage freezes and the replacement of loans for welfare payments and services. I wonder how long before this morphs into something very much like debt bondage over here.

Saudi Coalition Attack on Yemen Wedding Party Leaves Over 30 Civilians Dead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/07/2020 - 4:16am in

AL-JAWF, YEMEN — A wedding anywhere in the world is a happy occasion for couples and their families celebrating a new shared life, Yemen is no exception. Weddings traditionally include thousands of guests gathered in large halls or houses, but not since 2015, when the war began and the Saudi-led coalition began turning Yemen’s weddings into veritable slaughterhouses.

On Wednesday, a wedding party that was supposed to bring happiness to Mabakhuwt Marzuq Marei, his bride, and his guests, instead became the scene of a deadly attack. Gathered at his home to celebrate, dozens of women and children were packed under one roof when Saudi warplanes turned the celebration into a scene of carnage.

At least 31 women and children were killed and dozens were injured when at least one Saudi warplane dropped a bomb on the Marei family home in the Almasaeifeh District, situated in the Al-Hazm Directorate of the rich-oil province of Al-Jawf. Marzuq Marei told reporters that the wedding was publicly announced and they specifically informed the Saudi Coalition of the time and place of the ceremony in order to avoid an attack.

The scene of the attack described to MintPress by witnesses was tragic; violent explosions were heard in the village, red fires mixed with dust and smoke illuminated flying rubble. The bodies of wedding-goers fueled fires and ornamental furniture was strewn about as screaming and crying could be heard from those who survived the initial onslaught. In one of the homes near the wedding ceremony, a woman watched and provided a morbid chorus to nearby rescue workers with her shouted curses at the Saudi regime.

 
Despite the fear of additional strikes, rescuers pulled the bodies of dozens of women and children from the rubble, most still wrapped in their traditional wedding clothes. They were transferred to the Al-Thawra Hospital in Sana’a, the Ma’rib Hospital and the Al- Hazm hospital. The death toll is expected to rise, as many of the wedding attendees who were rescued from the rubble are still in critical condition.

“We are celebrating, not fighting, and the Saudis know that,” Marzuq Marei told reporters gathered at the scene. “I lost my loved-ones in a Saudi airstrike, not from COVID-19,” he said, calling the attack an “American gift in the time of Corona,” referring to the weapons allegedly used in the attack.

 

Shocking, even by Yemeni standards

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called for a transparent investigation into the attack and wrote in a post on his official Twitter page, “We deplore yesterday’s airstrikes in al-Jawf… A thorough & transparent investigation is required.” The attack came just weeks after the UN, in a highly contentious move, took the Saudi regime off its list of child killers.

According to counts from Yemen’s Ministry of Health based in Sana’a as well as from local hospitals, some 21,000 civilians, including 4,270 children and 2,370 women, have been killed and around 26,100 injured since the beginning of the Saudi-led war in 2015.

Yemen’s governmental and non-governmental bodies and institutions condemned the attack and called for an end to U.S. arms sales to Riyadh. For their part, Yemen’s tribal leaders called a consultative meeting in Sanaa on Thursday and Ansar Allah promised to intensify strikes on Saudi-led coalition countries in response to the airstrike.

The attack on the wedding ceremony came just three days after another attack that killed at least ten civilians and injured others when a Saudi warplane dropped a U.S.-made bomb on the home of Naif Mejeli in the Woshahah District, located in the country’s northwestern Hajjah Province. The bomb used in that attack, which completely destroyed the home, was a Raytheon Mark-82 jointly manufactured by U.S. weapons companies Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

As with other weapons provided to Saudi-led coalition, the MK-82 has been dropped on a funeral hall, schools and hospitals, factories, heritage buildings, and other facilities, and has a gained a reputation among Yemenis who know it as the “stupid bomb” due to its ability to cause collateral damage. The MK-82 was used in the school bus attack in Dahyan on August 9, 2019, that left 40 schoolchildren dead and was also used on a funeral in 2016 which left over 140 dead and 525 wounded.

Even by Yemeni standards, where dozens are killed every day by Saudi Airstrikes, this week’s attacks came as a shock. And not only because of the killing of women and children but because of the timing of attacks, when people are struggling against COVID-19, hunger, and a spat of diseases that are spreading throughout the country.

Like Marzuq Marei, Al-Jawf’s residents have long known that the natural resources and strategic location of their province were more of a curse than a blessing, today the sincerity of their predictions is manifesting as they watch plumes of smoke flow not from gas flares emanating from the stacks of lucrative oil wells and refineries, but from burning farms, cars, and family homes set ablaeze by near-constant Saudi airstrikes.

For three months, the Saudi-led coalition, local mercenaries, and allied Salafi extremist groups, and have been fighting a fierce campaign to reoccupy the Al-Jawf, which holds most of the country’s reserves and enjoys a unique status as a neighbor to two oil-rich regions of Marib and Saudi Arabia. However, the Saudi-led coalition, equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weapons, has been unable to advance as local residents fight to free their homeland, whatever the sacrifice.

Feature photo | A screenshot from video obtained by MintPress from the Ansarallah Media Center shows drone footage of the site of a Saudi airstrike on a wedding party in Al-Jawf, Yemen.

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

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We Should Not Sell Arms to Saudia Arabia, Let Alone Apologise to Them

On Friday, Mike published a very enlightening article showing just how concerned the Tories are about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia: they aren’t. They actually apologized to them about it. It seems that after BoJob announced sanctions against particular Saudi individuals for their crimes against humanity, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace phoned up the Saudi prince serving as their defence minister and apologized. This wasn’t publicized over here, but it was loudly trumpeted in the Saudi state press, and only reported in Blighty by the Independent.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/07/10/defence-secretary-phoned-saudi-arabia-to-apologise-for-human-rights-sanctions-claim/

What! Outrageous!

We’ve got absolutely no business selling arms to Saudi Arabia in the first place. A few years ago a Nigerian academic appeared on Radio 4 recommending a change of allies in the Middle East. Instead of supporting Israel and Saudi Arabia, we should support and ally ourselves instead with Turkey and Iran. It’s a radical plan that has absolutely no hope of success, but it would be better than those two highly draconian and intolerant regimes. Turkey, until the accession of President Ergoyan, aspired to be a modern, western-looking, secular state. That was the programme of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Attaturk. Turkey has also has its problems with human rights abuses, such as its ethnic cleansing of the Kurds and official denial of the Armenian massacres. Iran is also a theocracy, but despite the Shah’s regime, which turned it into an absolute monarchy, and then the Islamic Revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini, it does have a democratic component. They have a parliament – the majlis – whose members are elected, as is its president, although progress to a genuine, western-style democracy is blocked through an elected Supreme Leader, another ayatollah, and the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guards. But even with these anti-democratic institutions, both countries are more tolerant and democratic than Saudi Arabia.

Iran officially recognizes in its constitution the country’s religious minorities – the Zoroastrians, descendants of the original monotheist faith of the Persian Empire, Armenian Christians and Jews. Four seats are reserved for them in the majlis. And despite American and Israeli propaganda to the contrary, Iranian Jews are tolerated and treated quite well. Possibly this is because some of the country’s great patriots of the 20th century, who were determined to resist its annexation by the imperial powers, were Jews.

This is in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute, theocratic monarchy. The only tolerated religion is Wahhabi Islam. All other faiths, even they are varieties of Islam, are strictly proscribed. The Shi’a minority live in villages without electricity or running water. Their religious books may be seized and destroyed. And as the west has made grief-stricken overtures of sorrow and contrition for its racial intolerance and slavery, the Saudis have made no such gestures on their part. A few years ago one of the country’s leading clerics – I think it was the Grand Mufti, rather than the Sherif of Mecca, declared that the Shi’a were ‘heretics’ and ‘worthy of death’. It’s a declaration of genocide, an exact counterpart of the slogan ‘Baptism or extermination’ of the German crusading orders in their campaigns against the pagan Slavs in eastern Europe. Saudi Arabia only outlawed slavery in 1964, but it still occurs today in the appalling exploitation of migrant labourers under the countries’ sponsorship system. Domestic servants are also kept in conditions no different from real slavery, including those taken to Britain and Europe by their masters.

And it explains precisely why the Saudis are indiscriminately bombing and killing civilians, women and children, and mosques, hospitals and schools in Yemen.

We went to war in 1939 against a regime that was determined to the same to the Jews, as well as the Gypsies, Poles and the other Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe. If you want to hear some real horror stories, talk to Poles, Ukrainian and Russians about what happened when the Nazis and the SS moved in and occupied their countries, as well as the horrors Jews, Gypsies and the disabled went through.

Why should we be arming a similar regime?

And the Saudis are spreading this intolerance. Many Muslim countries were traditionally much more tolerant and pluralistic. One of Mike’s photos he brought back from his time in Bosnia showed a church and a mosque that were right next to each other. It’s a very clear demonstration that in that part of the country, Christians and Muslims had been friends and definitely not at each others throats. But I’ve read comments again and over again in books and articles from more moderate Muslims from different nations lamenting the increasing fanaticism in their countries. And they state that those responsible for it went to study in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Bosnian Islam, thanks to these influences, has become more rigid and austere. In the Balkans Islam was spread by the Sufi mystical orders that served that Turkish troops as chaplains. These forms of Islamic piety also absorbed elements from Christianity. But these are being purged as Wahhabism is exported to Bosnia. A few years ago the government was sending in bulldozers to destroy the traditional Muslim gravestones in its cemeteries.

And we shouldn’t sell the arms for simply self-preservation.

The Saudis have also exported their religious intolerance by funding and arming terrorist groups. Forget the stuff about Iran being responsible for most of the world’s terrorist groups. Muslim terrorism only ever counted for a fraction of global terrorism. Most of the terrorist groups around the world are either nationalists or Marxists. But it seems to me very strongly that the Saudis surpassed Iran long ago as the suppliers of Muslim terror. They matched the Americans in funding and supplying the Islamist guerrillas against the Russians in Afghanistan. The suppressed passages in the official report about 9/11 made it clear that atrocity was funded and led by the Saudis. It was impossible to follow the trail all the way, but the evidence pointed all the way to the top. And the reports on al-Qaeda’s campaigns in Iraq and Syria published in the volume Unmasking Terror: A Global Review of Terrorist Activities, edited by Christopher Heffelfinger and published by the Jamestown Foundation in 2005 state very clearly that al-Qaeda in those nations was being funded and supplied by the current head of Saudi intelligence. The Saudis were favourably disposed to Daesh, and only turned against them when ISIS declared the jihad against them.

If we sell them armaments, there is a very real chance that they will make their way to terrorists who will use them against our brave boys and girls and our allies.

The argument for selling what David Cameron called ‘this wonderful kit’ to Saudi Arabia and other nations is that this supposedly opens these countries up to other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t purchase more ordinary, peaceful British goods. They just concentrate on weapons. Weapons that they don’t actually need. We sold them, or one of the other Arab states, a whole batch of jet fighters a few years ago, despite the fact that the Saudis had no need for them, nowhere to put them, and no maintenance infrastructure.

But it all makes the arms companies richer. And they, no doubt, are also donating very handsomely to Tory party coffers.

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