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A Manufactured Crisis: How Saudi Arabia Uses Oil to Bring Yemen to its Knees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 7:03am in

HODEIDA, YEMEN — Yemen’s oil is in thrall to a complex, intertwined network of elites that control the smuggling of fuel imports and new, thriving black markets. Starving Yemen of petroleum products has always been a conspicuous feature of Saudi Arabia’s nearly six-year-long war on the country, however, the most recent blockade is significantly more extensive than previous ones and comes at a time when a pandemic, diseases, and hunger are spreading rapidly across the country. The most recent byproducts of that blockade: the spread of schistosomiasis, a faltering economy in areas outside of Saudi control, and a dangerous new black market.

Known colloquially as snail fever, schistosomiasis is a rare disease caused by flatworms that thrive in untreated water, something now abundant in Yemen as the diesel fuel needed to power many of the country’s water treatment facilities, especially those in rural areas far removed from any electric grid, has dried up amid the blockade.

In a remote village in the Al-Marawa’ah district, Khalid Abdu looks at his thin daughter, 12-year-old Jamilah, with heartbreak as she lies still in the family’s hut. Jamilah is suffering from abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in her stool. Khalid said she has worms in her stomach, now distended and bloated in stark contrast to her otherwise meager frame. Jamilah was later diagnosed with schistosomiasis according to her family, leaving her with just three to ten more years of life if she doesn’t receive proper medical care, a luxury in her war-torn country.

Yemen Famine

Hammadi Issa | AP

Near the family’s hut, hobbled together from a hodgepodge of mud, bamboo sticks, thatch, and reed, sits an old Toyota Hilux, its low tires and thin coating of dust a testament to the fact that it hasn’t moved for weeks. Khalid blames the lack of fuel for the family’s endless problems. “I can’t drive my daughter to the hospital in Aden or bring water to my family, even the treatment plant that I used to go to is closed because there is no diesel,” he said. “Now, we drink, wash our clothes and cooking utensils, and do everything using that old well.” You see the result,” he said, pointing to Jamilah.

 

Another grim milestone

As the war in Yemen closes in on yet another grim milestone, the end of its sixth year in March, oil-rich U.S. ally Saudi Arabia continues to prevent oil tankers from delivering much-needed fuel to hospitals, water pumping stations, bakeries, cleaning trucks, and gas stations, plunging the entire nation into an unending fuel crisis.

The CEO of Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC), Ammar Al-Adrai, told MintPress that at least nine tankers have been trapped in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan Port, which sits on the Kingdom’s western seaboard painfully close to the Yemeni border. The tankers, Al-Adrai says, have been held despite being checked and issued permits by both the Saudi-led Coalition and the United Nations. He confirmed that the vessels are loaded with oil derivatives and that some of them have been detained for over nine months, leading to the suspension of more than 50% of the operational capabilities in the service, health, industrial and commercial sectors. 

That lack of fuel has caused an acute shortage of even the most basic goods. Khalid told MintPress that “the price of fruits, vegetables, and medicine is skyrocketing and my farm is defenseless against desertification.” Like many farmers, Khalid, who like his daughter Jamilah shows symptoms of malnutrition, is unable to power the pumps needed to irrigate his fields, leaving him unable to grow his own food with which to feed his family and the desert sands encroaching on his now derelict fields. At least 80% of Yemen’s 28 million-strong population is reliant on food aid to survive in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the decimation of the remaining agricultural sector is likely to increase that figure.

“The [Yemeni] government is indifferent and apathetic to the suffering of citizens, even in areas under their control,” Khalid said, accusing the Saudi-backed government of Aden of deliberately compounding the suffering through the proliferation of the black market. “Fuel shortages in the northern provinces are caused by the blockade, but in Aden, we don’t understand what’s going on.”

 

A manufactured oil crisis

By manufacturing an oil crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is able to foment political chaos in the country and stir up popular discontent against domestic oil companies, many of which are run by the Houthi-led resistance. As a sort of grim bonus, the manufactured oil shortages also to incapacitate the Houthi-run port of Hodeida, increasing poverty and unemployment rates and siphoning cash out of the market, according to the Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC). 

YPC released a statement placing the estimated economic damage caused by Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow tankers to unload their cargo at billions of U.S. dollars. The company also said that demurrage fees are now at an unprecedented level of nearly $107 million and that Saudi forces have illegally impounded 72 Yemen-bound oil tankers last year, resulting in an approximately 45% drop in the amount of desperately-needed fuel shipments arriving at Yemeni ports. 

The fuel blockade has not only forced thousands of Yemenis to wait for days in lines as far as the eye can see, but it has also left water pumps and treatment plants, and hospital generators without fuel. Most drinking water, particularly in rural areas, is extracted using diesel-powered pumps, while the country’s sizable refugee population survives on water brought in by diesel-powered trucks.

Yemen Fuel Feature photo

Hani Mohammed | AP

Food imports which generally arrive via one of the country’s ports are processed and packaged at diesel-fuel-powered facilities, factories in Hodeida or Aden before being transported across the country or sold locally.

Outside of the country’s coastal cities where more than 60% of the population resides, freight is transported by road leaving remote communities at the mercy of trucks that must traverse roads pockmarked and damaged by airstrikes. The few who are willing to undertake the dangerous journey must contend with the high price and scant availability of fuel, pushing the price and availability of even the most basic commodities – food, water, and medicines – through the roof.

 

A thriving black market is born

The oil crisis in Yemen certainly isn’t new, but it has been growing worse recently amid a black market boom which is adding to the already miserable quality of life for Yemenis. The Saudi government is flooding southern areas of Yemen under its control with cheap fuel, exacerbating regional tensions and creating an ideal environment for black market petroleum products to boom. The stark disparity between the availability of fuel in Saudi-controlled areas versus areas under Houthi control is also causing predictable economic damage to the ladder, which is unable to compete amid the Saudi-imposed blockade. 

Despite the suffocating siege on the country, petrol products are sold illegally on roadsides, streets, and isolated areas in the south and north of the country alike, often at double the official price with prices in some areas reach 11,000 riyals for 20 liters. These black market petrol products are mixed with water and other materials and enter from Saudi-controlled ports in Aden port and border crossings such as Al-Wadiah outlet, Al-Shahr, and the rich-oil Marib province.

Yemen’s oil is now in large part controlled by a complex network of corrupt officials that control smuggling routes, imports, and black market sales. Many members of these elite groups are also key allies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They not only plunder wealth and destroy the economy, but they put people’s lives and property in danger. People are now forced to seek their fuel from shady black market dealers and store fuel in their homes to get them through tough times. Smuggled petroleum products are sold in residential areas and unlicensed storefronts that do not meet security and safety standards and exacerbate the human cost of the crisis.

The crisis is set amid a backdrop of theft of Yemen’s own of crude oil by the Coalition and Saudi-backed militants, a daily occurrence in the Mari and Shabwa Blocks. Recently, Saudi Arabia brought in heavy drilling equipment made to deepen existing oil wells in Hadramout aimed at increasing the rate of oil extraction there.

The effect of the blockade on Yemen is acute, even when compared to countries that are reeling from U.S. sanctions such as Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, where fuel somehow manages to find its way to citizens. Yemen, though, is completely at the mercy of Saudi Arabia, forcing the  Houthi-backed Yemeni Army to step up their oil war against the Kingdom in the Red Sea and putting sensitive oil facilities deep inside Saudi territory at risk of being targeted as they have been in recent years according to the prominent field commander, Major General Yusef al-Madani, the Commander of the Fifth Military Region, the region responsible for Yemeni coasts and territorial waters.

Feature photo | Workers use a water hose to put down a fire at a vehicle oil store hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, July 2, 2020. 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 A Manufactured Crisis: How Saudi Arabia Uses Oil to Bring Yemen to its Knees appeared first on MintPress News.

“An Israeli Blitzkrieg” Signs Point to Imminent Israeli Military Action in Yemen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 4:43am in

ADEN, YEMEN —  Saudi Arabia has rung in the new year in a familiar way, with an airstrike targeting a large gathering of civilians at a wedding ceremony in Yemen. On new year’s night, at least five civilians were killed when Saudi-backed militants launched artillery rounds at a wedding ceremony in the populated al-Hawk area in the strategic port city of Hodeida.

Developments taking place across the Middle East are driving the reality home in Yemen that 2021 is unlikely to bring about an end to Saudi Arabia’s nearly six-year-long war on their country. Signs of escalation are beginning to surface gradually in the Yemeni interior and along the Red Sea in the wake of the wave of normalization between the Gulf states and Tel Aviv.

After nearly six years of war, Yemen remains home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Millions are hungry and destitute and at least 80% of the population requires humanitarian assistance or protection. Some 13.5 million people face severe food shortages and that number could rise to 16.2 million in 2021, according to International Relief Bodies. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) raised the alarm about millions of Yemenis risking falling into worsening levels of hunger by mid-2021. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also described the crisis in Yemen as “the world’s worst.”

The Saudi blockade on what was already one of the poorest countries on earth has entailed tight control over all aspects of life in Yemen since 2015, however, there are no indications that the Saudi blockade of Sana’a International Airport and Hodeida port will be lifted, the most important air and land ports in the country, and the cause of more Yemeni deaths than Saudi airstrikes, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

An Israeli blitzkrieg

On the ground, signs of escalation are expected to intensify during 2021 as an open military confrontation between Yemen and Israel seems closer than ever in the wake of recent Israel statements, including the statement of the spokesman for the Israeli military, Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, who revealed to a Saudi website on Saturday the intention of his forces to launch a blitzkrieg in Yemen, confirming that Israel has been monitoring the situation in Yemen and Iraq. The Yemeni people fear that they will pay the price for tensions between Iran and the United States, according to many Yemenis who spoke to MintPress.

Zilberman said in an interview with Saudi news website Elaph that the regime in Tel Aviv expects that an Iranian attack could come from Yemen and Iraq. He referred to Yemen as “Iran`s second circle after Lebanon and Syria.” The recent remarks came after a similar statement made in October by Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister claimed that Iran sought to strike Israel from Yemen using surgical missile strikes.

According to information obtained by MIntPress and confirmed by Yemeni government officials in Sana’a, arrangements, and coordination have been underway between Israel and the Gulf states to escalate the situation in Yemen and justify it as a reaction to an expected Iranian retaliation for the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who is revered as a heroic warrior across Yemen. Soleimani was assassinated on January 2020 in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport.

This information has been confirmed by Jalal Al-Ruwaishan, Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Affairs in the Sana’a government when he told local media that Israel began moving military equipment into the region after the recent normalization with Gulf states, including countries participating in the coalition,” referring to the UAE and Bahrain. He added, “what they failed to accomplish within six years, they will not be able to accomplish in a month, even in Biden era.”

Major General Abdullah Al-Hakim, the head of Military Intelligence in Sana’a, said in a statement that the Yemeni Army based in Sana’a is “monitoring the actions and provocations [of Israel] and its planned hostile actions.” Our eyes are not oblivious to the actions of the Zionist enemy in the region,” he said, “and they must understand the seriousness of our warning that any temerity or reckless actions will have dire consequences on Tel Aviv.”

 

The threat of all-out war

A high-ranking official in the Sana’a-based Yemeni Foreign Ministry told MintPress that any Israel attacks or war against Yemen would spark an all-out war in the Middle East and that Israel would be the first to suffer, adding that Israel interests and those of its allies in the Red Sea region would become a legitimate target within the framework of the right of self-defense guaranteed by all international conventions and agreements.

Any Israeli military action in Yemen would undoubtedly lead to an escalation in the region. In the wake of the announcement of Israeli intentions, statements issued by Yemen’s leaders warned of retaliatory attacks on Israel, in the Red Sea, and anywhere else in the region. Given the tone of officials in Sana’a when speaking to MintPress and the fact that the Houthis have not shied away from following through with retaliatory missile and drone attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in addition to the volume of field preparations being made for an open and painful confrontation with Israel, the prospect of Houthi missiles raining down on Israel is very real.

Even to those living in areas under the total control of the Saudi-led Coalition, 2021is not likely to ferry in an end to their suffering, as wealthy Gulf monarchies live up to their storied reputations, wreaking havoc and instability, according to residents of those areas who spoke to MintPress in the wake of the violent explosions that struck recently Aden International airport and Al-Maasheeq Presidential Palace.

Yemen Aden airport

A damaged portion of the airport in the southern city of Aden after an explosion on Dec. 30, 2020, Majid Saleh | AP

Last Wednesday, a large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, run by forces affiliated with the UAE-backed militant group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), shortly after a plane carrying “the Yemeni government,” which had been newly formed in Ryadh, landed there. At least 25 people, including officials, were killed and 110 were wounded in the blast. Moments after the attack on the Aden International Airport, blasts struck Aden’s Al-Ma’asheeq district, where just moments earlier the newly-formed government was transferred.

Although Saudi Arabia’s allies accused the Houthis of the attacks, and the Houthis categorically rejected the accusation. The attacks came after factions affiliated with the Southern Movement loyal to the UAE pledged to thwart the self-proclaimed cabinet after they returned to Aden from Ryadh where they were mostly working under enforced detention.

 

Under Biden, the bombs will keep coming

Most in Yemen are condemned to a gloomy future, not only due to the developments on the ground but also because of the flurry of approvals given by the United States to both the Saudi-led Coalitions and Israel. Approvals for arms sales have been given to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. countries with an appalling record of human rights abuses who are still launching a war against the poorest country in the Middle East.

These approvals, which will likely go ignored by Congress despite a growing revolt to the sales from the U.S. public, include $290 million worth of bombs, a final gift by President Donald Trump’s administration. On Tuesday, the State Department’s defense security cooperation agency approved the sale of GBU-39 small-diameter bombs to Saudi Arabia. The approvals also include the proposed $65.6 million sale of advanced drones and F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, a reward for that country’s normalization of ties with Israel.

Incoming president Joe Biden has expressed some opposition to Saudi Arabia’s malign actions in Yemen, but most Yemenis see little chance that 2021 will bring positive changes by Biden given the current geopolitical reality in the Middle East. That reality includes the sanctity of the U.S. relationship with Israel, Saudi funds, and fever of normalization between Arab countries and Israel sweeping across the Middle East and perhaps most importantly, the ongoing obsession from concurrent U.S. administrations and from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi with trying to contain so-called “Iranian influence” in the Middle East and linking the war in Yemen with that effort.

Regardless of who was behind actually the recent explosions in Aden, there are obvious signs of escalation, meaning that war in Yemen will likely continue to escalate in 2021 and that more Yemenis will lose their lives, more people will become internally displaced, the spread of epidemics will continue unabated, more cities, hospitals, and schools will be destroyed, and millions of helpless families will be left with no means of sustenance.

Though there are international calls to end the war on Yemen as well as indirect talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, few are holding out hope that they can bring an end to the bitter Yemeni war in 2021. Indeed, Saudi warplanes still regularly launch airstrikes across the northern regions of Yemen. On Thursday, at least 15 airstrikes hit populated areas in Sana’a, including the Sana`a International Airport, the Rima Hamid of Sanhan District, and Wadi Rajam in the Bani Hushaish District, east Sana’a. In retaliation for the ongoing war and blockade, the Houthi-allied Yemen Army, which possesses in its arsenal advanced military watercraft, threatened Saudi oil tankers on the Red Sea in the context of a military campaign that it launched two months ago in a bid to pressure the Kingdom to end its devastating war.

Feature photo | A worker stands on the wreckage of a tire store hit by Saudi air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, December 02, 2020. Photo | Reuters

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

The post “An Israeli Blitzkrieg” Signs Point to Imminent Israeli Military Action in Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

Mass Starvation Looms as Yemen’s Currency Nears Historic Freefall

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 6:33am in

TAIZ, YEMEN- – Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seem to be doing everything in their power to prevent an end to the suffering in Yemen. Even those living in areas under the total control of the wealthy Gulf monarchies are facing levels of devastation that harken back to the total destruction of European cities during World War II.

With no functioning government to provide residents with even basic assistance and facing a collapsed economy amid a famine that could soon beset all of Yemen according to the United Nations, the collapse of Yemen’s rial, particularly in Saudi-coalition-controlled areas, is proving to be the coup de grâce that will assure the country faces an apocalyptic level of destruction for years to come.

Her black eyes virtually absent and speaking in a muted voice that is difficult to pick up, Umm Abdu does her best to recount her story to MintPress. She was hiding a bony face and emaciated body in a voluminous black abaya robe and hijab. “I am starving myself to feed my children. It is very difficult to reach for this piece,” the Illiterate mother of six muttered as she held a piece of Roti bread. Umm Abdu lives in a poor neighborhood in Taiz, a city in western Yemen under the control of some of the richest countries in the world.

Yemen famine

Severely malnourished infant Zahra is bathed by her mother in a washtub. Hammadi Issa | AP

After nearly six years of war, Yemen remains home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Millions are hungry and destitute and at least 80% of the population requires humanitarian assistance or protection. Some 13.5 million people face severe food shortages and that number could rise to 16.2 million in 2021, according to International Relief Bodies.

The economy has already collapsed for virtually every Yemeni living in the south, except for the few who managed to profit by working with Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Savings accounts have long been exhausted and by end of November, the rial depreciated to an all-time low of 850 YR to a single U.S. dollar, leaving most of the population unable to afford even the most basic essentials. Like Umm Abdu, people are reducing portion sizes and skipping meals as a kind of “coping strategy index,” one of many tools used to measure food insecurity. Fruit, fish, and meat have become a rare commodity that most can only dream of.

“Even though there is food in the markets, I can’t afford it. Not because we don’t have money, but because of the crazy prices. So we decide to reduce food to keep our children alive,” one shopper told MintPress. However, that strategy may not be enough as food prices are near double where they were in the wake of the recent currency collapse.

According to International organizations, Yemen, particularly areas under the control of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, will return to alarming levels of food insecurity by mid-2020, and a catastrophic food security crisis is looming. They reported that by December 2020, the population facing high levels of acute food insecurity (what they termed IPC Phase 3 and above) would increase from 2 million to 3.2 million people.

An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report from October 2020 covering southern Yemen highlighted how acute malnutrition rates among children under five are now the highest ever recorded in some districts. The analysis reveals a near 10 percent increase in cases of acute malnutrition this year. The greatest increase is in cases of young children suffering from severe acute malnutrition which has increased by 15.5 percent, leaving at least 98,000 children under age five at high risk of dying without urgent treatment.

Situation Report Yemen 11 Nov 2020 pdf editedSource: IPC Acute malnutrition analysis (Oct 2020)

A stream of statements from leading aid organization officials reflects how dire the situation has become, including a warning from UN Secretary-General António Guterres that “Yemen is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades. ”We’ve been warning since July that Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food security crisis. If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” said Lisa Grande last month,” the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “The data we are releasing today confirms that acute malnutrition among children is hitting the highest levels we have seen since the war started,” she added.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) raised the alarm about millions of Yemenis risking falling into worsening levels of hunger by mid-2021. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also described the crisis in Yemen as “the world’s worst.” The WFP said in a tweet that millions are trapped in a cycle of conflict and hunger. “Everyday life in Yemen gets harder for millions as the window to prevent famine narrows. We must act now.”

Although a mass famine event may be unlikely in the immediate future, officials in Taiz warned that many areas could soon start to see deaths from famine. Many children already have signs of severe acute malnutrition, the most dire stage of hunger where legs and feet begin to swell. “We all sleep hungry, there is not enough food even for our children,“ Umm Abdu told us.

For Umm Abdu and her husband, 37-year-old Saeed, the rial’s collapse has meant skipping meals. Saeed was educated as an English teacher and had a job as a tour guide at a local travel agency before the war. Since he lost his job after the war began, he’s been making money selling qat – a mild stimulant that many Yemenis chew in the afternoon. However, that money is not nearly enough to cover rent, let alone basic needs. Now, their situation is getting worse as the availability of Qat has decreased dramatically after the weather turned cold three months ago when winter began. After the recent collapse of the rial, the ability to bring home food has become nearly impossible.

Umm Abdu and Saeed are now considering extreme options. Over the past six years, they have seen Yemen’s steady dissolution from a nation hoping to transition to democracy post-Arab Spring, to a nation fragmented and a land of warring statelets, mass suffering, and despair.  Many of their neighbors have resorted to stealing, human trafficking, and selling their organs to make ends meet, or even marrying off their daughters because they are unable to feed them.

 

A tale of two cities

Officials in Aden, the de facto center of Saudi-Coalition power in Yemen, blame the collapse of currency on the fact that foreign reserves have dried up. According to them, remittances from Yemenis abroad, the largest source of foreign exchange, dropped by up to 70% as a result of the Covid-induced global downturn. But to Omer, a former fighter in “al-Muqawamah” in Aden who was wounded while fighting with Coalition Forces against the Houthis in 2016, these arguments are grossly inaccurate.

Omer believes that Saudi Arabia has a plan to destroy the national currency in order to intentionally accelerate famine.  “Why is there no collapse of the currency in Houthi areas even though they live in conditions worse than us?” The exchange rate divergence between Houthi-controlled Sana’a and coalition-controlled Aden is indeed stark, with the Yemeni rial worth 35% less in Aden than it is in Sana’a.

Omer was one of the thousands of Yemenis that took the streets in Taiz and other areas this week in a mass protest against the continuing deterioration of the economic situation, denouncing the Saudi-led coalition states and demanding they leave the country. The demonstrators accused coalition countries and ousted Yemeni president Abdul Mansour al-Hadi of practicing a policy of starvation to achieve their personal objectives. They chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia and UAE with phrases like “our revolution is a hungry revolution,” “take your aid, and leave us our oil,” “take your donations, and leave us our ports,” and “take your trust fund and leave us our wealth.”

 

A gloomy future

According to local economists who spoke to MintPress, the reasons behind the collapse of Yemen’s economy and its currency are many and varied but the expansionary monetary policy that has been taken by Saudi Arabia is one of the key drivers of the Yemeni rial’s devaluation.

Local authorities supported by Saudi Arabia have regularly printed new banknotes in order to meet expenses compounded by the purchase of foreign currencies flowing into markets by foreign organizations.

By the end of 2019, the total rial liquidity in circulation in the country was more than three trillion, according to a source in the Aden-based central bank. As of the beginning of 2020, the bank has printed around 300 billion rials in order to address the budget deficit. The government of ousted president Hadi has largely relied on the central bank’s overdraft financing instrument to cover his spending abroad, including rent, travel, and entertainment.

Recently, Saudi’s proxies in southern Yemen have been selling large quantities of newly-printed banknotes in order to purchase foreign currency from the market and replenish their own foreign currency holdings. This has increased downward pressure on the rial’s value and helped drive inflation.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries to provide financial assistance to resolve the severe economic crisis in Yemen, saying in a statement issued via his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on the second anniversary of the Stockholm Agreement, “I call on all member states to help address the severe economic crisis in the country.”

Umm Abdu has a gloomy future. She has no faith in the UN or the Saudi proxies in the south, who she described as “drenched in treason.” Nonetheless, she places hope in God and in her fellow Yemenis that her country will be freed. “Where else on Earth can you find a nation that has gone through what has happened in Yemen, occupied by foreigners, destroyed, with famine and epidemics, and yet somehow, we still managed to survive.”

Feature photo | Yemeni women display paper currency after receiving cash support from UNICEF. 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 Mass Starvation Looms as Yemen’s Currency Nears Historic Freefall appeared first on MintPress News.

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

A Trlingual Dictionary of an Ancient Arabic Language

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 11:35pm in

A.F.L. Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (English-French-Arabic)/ Dictionnaire Sabeen (anglais-francaise-arabe) (Beyrouth: Lbrairie du Liban; Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions Peeters; University of Sanaa, Yemen, 1982).

Sabaic is the ancient Arabic language of Sheba, whose present, Arabic name is, I believe, Marib. It’s located in what is now Yemen, and its Queen famously visited King Solomon. Fabulously wealthy, it flourished in the 10th century BC on the profits of the spice and perfume trades, and conquered Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. The Ethiopian languages Amharic, Tigray and Tigrina are Semitic languages descended from the South Arabic language spoken by these ancient settlers.

The book’s the product of a Colloquium on Yemeni Civilisation, which requested the four authors to compile this dictionary. It appears to be of the terms found on inscriptions in the Yemen, and possibly one or two other places. It is just a dictionary, and doesn’t include any texts or inscriptions although it does give the alphabet in which they were written. I picked it up really as a curiosity in one of the secondhand bookstalls in Bristol through my interest in archaeology and the Ancient Near East. The book’s really of use only to archaeologists, linguists and historians working in Yemen, and it’s another language that I haven’t learned. Nevertheless it’s a reminder of just how ancient and advanced civilisation has been in the Middle East. I don’t know if there are any books specifically on the archaeology of Yemen, but I found a book a few years ago on the archaeology of Arabia, which I think contained a chapter or two on Yemen.

And these nations’ antiquities are seriously threatened by the region’s wars. When I was doing the doctorate at Bristol Uni, one of the speakers at an archaeological seminar said that much of the archaeological heritage of Syria had been trashed by the fighting. We’ve seen ISIS destroy precious mosques, churches and other shrines, as well as an ancient sculptures from the ancient Mesopotamian civilisations like Babylon and Akkad. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Yemen’s archaeological heritage, including that of an Sheba, isn’t also seriously endangered and damaged by the current war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. And I am afraid that Iran’s similarly ancient and precious archaeological heritage won’t also suffer catastrophic losses if Trump and the Neocons have their way and launch an invasion of that country.

We need to stop these wars, because the cost in human lives and to the nations’ cultural heritage has been immense. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions forced to flee and priceless objects and monuments destroyed. And so our knowledge of the past is diminished.

But books like this help preserve and stimulate an interest in the preservation and exploration of these ancient treasures, if only among those few scholars able to read the ancient languages.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

Yemen: Trump is Showering Saudi Arabia with Last-Minute Gifts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 3:57am in

SANA’A -YEMEN — While the administration of Donald Trump readies its exit from the White House and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s use of American diplomatic cover and weapons alike has taken on a fevered pace as the Kingdom deepens the tragedy it has afflicted upon Yemen, where millions of forgotten people are struggling against a cold winter, starvation, epidemics, and the worst blockade in the modern era.

Since November 3, 2020, when the fifty-ninth quadrennial presidential election began followed by the widespread controversy, lawsuits, and recounts across several states, the oil-riched Kingdom has waged a scorched-earth campaign against the Yemeni districts of Marib and Al-Jawf, as well as border areas in Sana’a, Sadaa, Hajjah, Amran, and Hodeida.

On Friday, Saudi warplanes struck populated neighborhoods in Sana’a with at least 20 airstrikes One person was killed and dozens were injured and a number of purebred Arabian horses were killed in strikes that hit a military college near Suq Al-Rwada. Seven airstrikes hit government buildings located near water pumps.

Thousands of tons of western weapons, particularly from the United States, were also dropped on multiple directorates across the provinces of Sadaa, Marib, and al-Jawf as well as districts and provinces across the country.

The unjustified escalation, which came on the back of a brief period of hope that briefly preceded the U.S. pre-election, was not only a last-minute gift to Saudi Arabia from the Trump administration before he leaves the White House in January, but also served to prevent the advance of the Yemeni army supported by Ansar Allah (Houthis) and tribal fighters in the oil-rich province of Marib.

On the Yemen-Saudi border, an intense Saudi bombing campaign aims to force the remaining residents in the area to flee. Saudi Arabia seeks to establish buffer zones on the border inside Yemeni territory in anticipation of any developments made by the incoming U.S. administration after Riyadh failed to achieve that goal through indirect negotiations with Sana’a, sources told MintPress.

 

Yemen strikes back

In retaliation for Saudi escalation, the Yemeni army, and Ansar Allah targeted Saudi Arabia’s vital oil sector, striking an oil facility in the Kingdom’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. The facility was targeted by the high precision Quds-2 winged missile, a new generation of locally-made winged missiles that recently entered service after successful tests. In the wake attack, videos circulated on social media show a column of smoke rising from burning flames at the facility as sirens of emergency vehicles can be heard in the background.

The move just days before news was leaked that the British government secretly sent British soldiers to protect Saudi oil facilities in the wake of a similar attack in 2009 and occurred the day after the kingdom hosted a virtual summit of G20 nations.

The spokesman for Yemen’s Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said in a statement in the wake of the attack that the Saudi oil facility was targeted in response to ongoing Saudi military operations and blockade. He warned foreign companies operating in Saudi Arabia “to avoid vital installations” which could be involved in ongoing operations.

The strike was meant to send a signal to both Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to officials in Sana’a. The strike against the Aramco facility, located more than 390 miles from Yemen’s border, underscores Yemen’s increasing ability to hit targets deeper inside Saudi Arabia with cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as drones. A high-ranking source in Sana’a told MintPress that “the consequences of any insane recklessness by Saudi Arabia, Israel, or the current U.S. administration in the lost time of Trump’s term will be dire to Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and the interests of their allies in the region.” When pressed, he gave no additional details.

“An explosion took place as a result of a terrorist attack by a projectile, causing a fire in a fuel tank at the petroleum products distribution terminal in the north of Jeddah,” the Saudi energy ministry said in a statement. On Tuesday, Abdullah al-Ghamdi, the manager of the North Jeddah Bulk Plant, told reporters during a tour of the facility that one of the 13 tanks used for diesel oil, gasoline, and jet fuel at the facility had been damaged and was out of service, adding “ the attack had been “similar to what happened at Khurais and Abqaiq.”

As the kingdom’s policy since 2015, when its war began, Saudi Arabia sold the attack to the world as targeting international interests. The Kingdom went further and accused Ansar Allah of attacking an oil tanker in the Red Sea. A Maltese-flagged oil tanker managed by Greece was damaged due to an explosion near Shuqaiq in southwestern Saudi Arabia but Ansar Allah has not yet claimed responsibility for the incident. Prior to that, the Saudi-led coalition claimed on Tuesday that it had removed and destroyed five naval mines in the southern Red Sea.

On Sunday, 15 Saudi troops, including officers, were killed or injured in another retaliatory attack, this one marketing the Saudi-led coalition’s Tadawain Camp in Ma’rib, 20 kilometers east Sana’a, according to Brigadier Yahya Saree, the spokesman of the Yemeni Army. Saree said in a statement on Sunday that missile forces hit the Joint Operations Room of a coalition camp in Marib, killing eight Saudi troops and injuring seven. He added that Yemeni forces are observing enemy movements, and will target them wherever they are. In the wake of Saree’s announcement, Saudi state media announced that Saudi troops were killed in battle with no mention of where or when they were killed.

For his part, Muhammad Abd al-Salam, a spokesman for Ansar Allah, said that Saudi wailing following every painful retaliation is what is required. He added, “the international community has to pressure Saudi Arabia to stop the aggression and [the] blockade because the Yemeni people deserve to voice their suffering too.”

Yemen suffers from the world’s worst humanitarian sparked by five years of Saudi bombing and blockade. The humanitarian crisis has worsened this year as international donations have dried up and the Trump administration has suspended aid to the north of Yemen where most of the country’s population lives. The U.N. The Secretary-General warned last week that Yemen faces the worst famine in decades, saying that the country is in imminent danger and that without immediate action, millions of lives may be lost.

 

Trump’s parting gift

As the Trump administration gets ready to depart the White House, the Saudi-led Coalition is scrambling to get the last-moment boon by pushing the U.S. to designate Yemen’s most powerful resistance force, Ansar Allah, as a terrorist organization in a move that would not harm the “Houthis,” but would punish millions of innocent Yemenis already suffering from widespread malnutrition, starvation, and disease. ِ

According to media reports, the Trump administration is preparing to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization before leaving office in January. U.S. policy in Yemen has been a disgrace for the past five years, drawing ire on U.S. soil and from abroad, and few Yemenis were surprised that the Trump administration would enact such a policy on its way out the door after having already suspended aid to 80% of the population residing in the north of the country.

Designating Ansar Allah as a terrorist organization will make an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis even worse and impede the work of the many NGOs providing lifesaving assistance in the country. Almost certainly, the unexpected designation would prevent the critical delivery of food, medical supplies, and other items necessary to combat both COVID-19 and famine, according to international organizations.

“The lives of millions of vulnerable children in Yemen are already at risk—this policy will only deepen their suffering by further restricting humanitarian access to vulnerable communities. Recent evidence continues to point to a worsening malnutrition crisis for children,” said Janti Soeripto, the president and CEO of Save the Children. “Even if a humanitarian exemption is permitted, this designation will likely make reaching children and families more difficult and could also heighten security risks for our staff and hinder the fragile peace process.”

The designation will not only make it more difficult to reach a negotiated settlement to end the war but will put the whole region, particularly in the Red Sea, on the edge. For their part, Ansar Allah will not remain idle by while, as a number of Ansar Allah decision-makers told MintPress, “they see their relatives dying of starvation at a time when others, those who made the country to the worst place on the earth, are blessed with oil and freedom of navigation at sea.” That message, it seems, was delivered to Jeddah on the back of Ansar Allah’s newly minted Quds-2.

Feature photo | A Saudi man holds the daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper fronted by a picture of President Donald Trump, at a coffee shop in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 29, 2020. Amr Nabil | AP

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

The post Yemen: Trump is Showering Saudi Arabia with Last-Minute Gifts appeared first on MintPress News.

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Assassinated – But Do They Really Have a Nuclear Weapons Programme?

I’ve just seen this report on YouTube from the Beeb reporting the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Reports were confused at first, with the Iranian nuclear authority claiming that Fakhrizadeh had survived, but the country’s defence minister then confirmed that he had died. The Beeb’s Middle East editor for the World Service, Sebastian Usher, states that he was the head of Iran’s cover nuclear weapons programme. This has been extremely controversial for years, and is at the heart of the way Israel and America look at Iran. They see Iran as close to becoming a massive risk all across the region because of its nuclear programme. Fakhrizadeh was the ‘father’ of the nuclear weapons programme, and so the prime target, particularly for anyone trying to send a message by whoever was responsible that action would be taken against their weapons programme.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards said that these attacks had happened in the past and have been revenged in the past, and would be revenged this time. Usher states that was quite true. Between 2010 and 2012 there was a spate of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, four of whom were killed in relatively mysterious circumstances, but Iran blamed the Israelis. Netanyahu hasn’t made any comment on what has just happened. Usher states that we should look at the context of this assassination. Trump was in power with a very overt foreign policy from Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had a very strong attitude and ‘strategy of maximum pressure’ against Iran. Usher says that in the last few weeks there has been speculation what Trump’s administration would do to get its message across and make it more difficult for the president elect, Joe Biden, if he were to try to go back to the Iranian nuclear deal which Trump walked away from in 2018.

Top Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated – BBC News – YouTube

I’m calling bullshit on some of this. I’m not at all sure that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme – not after the lies Netanyahu and the Americans have told in the past, and definitely not after the total hogwash we were also fed about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.

Readers of this blog will know that I despise the Iranian regime. They are a bunch of corrupt mass-murderers and torturers, who oppress and rob their people. But it’s a very good question whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. As the Beeb report says, concerns about this have been around for years. The Iranians do have a nuclear programme, but denied it was military. They said it was all about supplying domestic power. Some western commenters I’ve read have said that’s probably true. Iran’s economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. They want to increase these, and so it would make sense for them to develop nuclear power to generate electricity for their people, so they can export more to the rest of the world.

I also remember how Netanyahu nearly a decade ago now was screaming that the Iranians were close to developing a nuclear bomb, and that action had to be taken against them soon. It was a lie from a man all to practised in lying. It was contradicted by that mamzer’s own security service and his generals. Unsurprisingly, William Blum has a chapter on Iran and the US’ hostility and lies about it in his book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He talks about the scare in 2007 when the Israeli state was telling the world that Iran was on the point of developing nuclear weapons and a threat to Israel. But three months before that, Tzipi Livni, the same foreign minister making the claim, had said instead that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme was not a threat to Israel. Blum also quotes Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, on how cooperative the Iranians were when the Americans negotiated with them in the 1990s.

The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan [early 199s], in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that ‘the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance [Afghan foes of the Taliban] to make the final concessions that we asked for.’ Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, ‘looked down and rustled his papers.’ No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They’re mad. (p. 104-5).

Dobbins himself states that it was the Iranians who included the references to democracy and the War on Terror in the Bonn Agreement and insisted that the new Afghan government should be committed to them.

Blum goes on

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax.’ Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’ (p. 105).

Blum concludes

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

Blum also has a chapter on Iraq, and how Hussein tried again and again to make a peace deal with the Americans and show them he didn’t have WMDs. And each time he was rebuffed. A little while ago Trump had an Iranian general assassinated in a drone strike, and there are reports that he would have liked to have had others assassinated in the final days of his presidency. He’s frustrated that he couldn’t. We don’t know who was behind this assassination. It could be the Israeli state, or the Saudis, but it may very well be Trump.

And I’m afraid that over the next few days or weeks, we shall hear more about an Iranian nuclear weapons programme and how they’re a threat to America and its allies. And I fear that the hawks are also preparing to demand war with Iran. If they are, then we’ll hear all the same lies we were told about Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan – that the Iranian government is a tyranny oppressing its people, and that we shall go in there to give them democracy and freedom while eliminating them as a threat to the region’s peace.

But any invasion very definitely won’t be for the benefit of the Iranian people, or to give them freedom and democracy. It will be for the same reasons Iraq and Afghanistan were really invaded – for the oil and the maintenance of American geopolitical power. Plus in the case of Iraq, American and western multinationals also wanted to buy up the country’s state industries.

And the results of any invasion of Iran will be the same as Iraq: bloody carnage. There will be ethnic and sectarian violence, the country’s economy will collapse and unemployment skyrocket. Whatever the country has of a welfare state will disappear and the position of women will get worse. Iran is an Islamic theocracy, but it was also one of the most westernised and industrially advanced societies in the Middle East. I think it still is. The Iranian middle class go skiing in the mountains during which they sport the same fashions as the west. Yes, it part of the developing world, but I got the impression that it was also a comparatively rich and sophisticated country.

We’ve got no business whatsoever invading Iran and the other Middle Eastern nations, and so much of what we’ve been told about them, about the threat they pose, is just one lie after another. And it’s utterly disgraceful that our leaders sent our brave young men and women to fight, die or come back maimed and scarred in body and mind, not to defend this country, but simply so the multinationals can see their stocks and their managers’ salaries rise.

We were lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. And I’m afraid our leaders will lie to us about Iran, and the Beeb will repeat these lies.

For the sake of millions of people, No War!

Jama’at-i Islami – The Pakistani Islamic Party Pushing for Theocracy

Pakistan was founded as an explicitly Muslim country. It’s a democracy, but there is a section of its parliament, if I remember correctly, that’s made up of Muslim clergy, who scrutinise legislation passed by the lower house to make sure it accords with Islamic law. Since the 1970s and the regime of the dictator, Zia al-Haqq, Islam has become increasingly powerful in Pakistani politics. I believe the current president, Imran Khan, is the leader of an Islamic party. Pakistan was one of the nations that experienced protests against France over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and there have been official denunciations of the cartoons and President Macron’s attempts to combat Muslim radicalism.

The force behind the growth of political Islam in Pakistan appears to be the Jama’at-i Islami, whose name translates as ‘The Islamic Society.’ The article about them in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions runs as follows

A highly disciplined and well-organised Muslim political party, founded in 1941 by Abul al-A’la Mawdudi. it aims at establishing an observant Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jam’at’s political platform offers an alternative to teh secularists and modernists, and in this lies its appeal (especially since 1977). The Ja’amat advocates that Pakistan should be a theocratic state, ruled by a single man whose tenure of office and power are limited only by his faithfulness to Islam. The ruler should be assisted by a shura (advisory council), with no political parties and no provision for an opposition. General Zia al-Haqq, the military leader after the overthrow of Z. Bhutto (1977)., used the Jama’at as a political prop for his ‘back to Islam’ campaign. The Jama’at has influence among the military, the middle classes, and the college and university students. It publishes a monthly magazine, Tarjuman al-Quran, in Lahore that has a high circulation. On the international level, the Jama’at was on good terms with Imam Khumayni and the oil rich Arab states; the Saudis have supported the movement since the early 1970s. (p. 489).

This looks like an attempt to create a kind of caliphate, and the Dictionary notes that there is considerable support for its return in Pakistan. I also wonder about the movement’s influence in British Islam, as there has been a problem with fire-breathing radicals immigrating to Britain to supply the shortage of imams for British mosques. Which is why moderate Muslims in this country have demanded government assistance in training Muslim Brits, who have grown up in our ostensibly democratic culture, as imams and community leaders.

I’m not a secularist, and believe that people of faith have a right to have their voices heard in politics and parliament, but this is just a movement for religious tyranny. In Pakistan as it is there’s persecution, including violence and pogroms against religious minorities. We’ve seen Christians murdered and imprisoned following accusations of blasphemy. There have also been riots and murders of the Ahmadiyya. Apparently even pious Muslims have been murdered because of comments they have made, which have been interpreted by others as blasphemous. There are 200 people on Pakistan’s Death Row accused of blasphemy. Many of these accusations are spurious, cynically levelled because of other disputes between the parties concerned. If a theocracy was established in Pakistan, it would only cause more oppression and violence.

I also believe that it wouldn’t be good for Islam either. Atheist sites on the web have reported that there has been a massive increase in atheism in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Six years or so ago Saudi news reported that a large number of Qurans had been found thrown into a sewer. A few days ago Iranian media reported that this had also happened in their country. A poll conducted of 50,000 Iranians found that 38 per cent of the population is either atheist or has no religion. If this is true, then it’s probably the result of people becoming fed up of the repression they are experiencing from their theocratic governments. The religious violence of the Islamist extremists, al-Qaeda and Daesh, are undoubtedly another factor. A few years ago I read a book by a French anthropologist, who came to the conclusion that the Islamist movements were the response of Muslim societies as the experienced the transition to modernity. This was comparable to the way radical, militant Christian movements had appeared in Europe in the 17th century, such as those in the British Civil War. Now Islam was experiencing the same.

My guess is that if the Jama’at ever succeeded in creating a theocracy in Pakistan, it would be massively unstable as the various sects excluded from the regime’s view of what was properly Islamic were oppressed and rebelled. I don’t believe that the Jama’at and other extreme, theocratic movements have anything to offer Muslims or anyone else anything except more oppression and violence.

Why the World Hates America and the West: We Bomb, Kill and Wreck their Countries

One of the issues William Blum repeatedly tackled in his books about the crimes of American imperialism was the complete failure of the American political establishment and the general public to understand why their country is so hated by the rest of the world. He produces quote after quote from American politicians, civil servants and senior military officers declaring that America has America’s actions have always been for the good of those nations they’ve attacked, whose politicians they’ve overthrown or assassinated and whose economies they’ve destroyed and plundered. In their opinion, it has always been done by a disinterested America for the benefit of other nations. America has been defending freedom from tyranny and trying to rebuild their economies through free trade capitalism. And American forces have never been responsible for the deliberate targeting of civilians and have been concerned to rebuild the countries afterwards.

Again and again Blum shows that this is all lies. America has overthrown and interfered with democratically elected regimes as well as dictatorships. It has installed vicious fascist dictators, mass murderers and torturers in their place. It has stolen countries’ industries so that they could be acquired by American multinationals. It has hypocritically deliberately targeted civilians, even while denouncing its enemies for doing so. And while it has signed contracts obliging it to pay compensation to the nations it has attacked, like Vietnam and Serbia, these treaties have never been honoured.

But the American state and public have absolutely no idea why America is so hated and resented, particularly in the Muslim world. They’ve set up think tanks to try to work out why this is, and hired public relations companies to find ways of persuading the rest of the world why America is a force for good. In their view, this hatred is due not to America’s vicious imperialism per se, but simply to their mistaken views of it. In 2005 the Smirking Chimp, George W. Bush, sent his Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy on a tour of the Middle East to correct these mistaken impressions. She did not have an easy time of it, particularly in Turkey, where they told her where the people of that country made their views very clear. She told the crowd that sometimes to preserve the peace, America believed war was necessary, and repeated the lie that after the fall of Saddam Hussein, women were being better treated in Iraq. She got angry replies from the women present, to which she responded that this was just a PR problem, just like America had in other places around the world. The Arab News, the leading English-language newspaper of the Arab world, described her performance as ‘Painfully clueless’.

See: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, p. 29.

But some sections of the American political and military establishment have a far better idea of the cause of this hatred. In 1997 a study by the Department of Defense concluded that ‘Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States’.

And former President Jimmy Carter also realised that American military action in Lebanon and the consequent killing of Lebanese civilians had cause the people to hate America. He told the New York Times in an interview in 1989 that

We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the immense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers – women and children and farmers and housewives – in those villages around Beirut…. As a result of that… we became kind of Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks.

See Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 34-5.

General Colin Powell in his memoir discusses the American military actions in Lebanon in 1983. Instead of blaming the terrorist attacks subsequently launched against America on Muslim hatred of western democracy and liberty, he recognised that they were only acting as America would if it were attacked.

‘The U.S.S. New Jersey started hurling 16-nch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would.’ (p. 35).

A 2004 poll by Zogby International of public opinion in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates came to the following conclusion, as reported in the New York Times:

Those polled said their opinions were shaped by U.S. policies, rather than by values or culture. When asked: ‘What is the first thought when you hard “America?” respondents overwhelmingly said: ‘Unfair foreign policy’. And when asked what the United states could do to improve its image in the Arab world, the most frequently provided answers were ‘stop supporting Israel’ and ‘Change your Middle East policy’…. Most Arabs polled said they believe that the Iraq war has caused more terrorism and brought about less democracy, and that the Iraqi people are far worse off today than they were while living under Hussein’s rule. The majority also said that they believe the United States invaded Iraq for oil, to protect Israel and to weaken the Muslim world. (pp. 37-8).

Which is more or less true, as Greg Palast has also shown in his book, Armed Madhouse.

The Defense Sciences Board, which advises the Pentagon, partly confirmed these findings in a report published in November 2004:

“Today we reflexively compare Muslim ‘masses’ to those oppressed under Soviet Rule. This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies-except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends…. Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies…when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy…. [Muslims believe] American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering.” (p. 38).

Unfortunately, our government and public opinion shares the same attitude as the American imperialists. This was shown by the full backing of the Iraq invasion and, indeed, the whole neo-Conservative foreign policy by the unindicted war criminal, Tony Blair and the propaganda of the lamestream British media. If you believe Daily Mail hack, Melanie ‘Mad Mel’ Philips, the cause of these attacks is simply Islam. It isn’t. It’s western foreign policy in the Middle East.

If we really want to do something to stop the terrorist attacks on our countries, we could start by stopping bombing, invading and looting other countries around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, even with the accession of Biden to the presidency, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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