Yemen

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With Hadi’s Ouster, Saudi Arabia’s True Ambitions in Yemen Come to the Fore

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 2:32am in

SANA’A, YEMEN – In perhaps the most significant political shake-up since 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Western allies have finally abandoned and ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On April 7, Hadi used his presidential authority to sign power over to an eight-man body known officially as the Presidential Command Council (PCC). The Saudi-led Coalition launched its brutal military campaign in Yemen in 2015 to restore Hadi to power following his ouster on the heels of Yemen’s Arab Spring popular protests.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of the Kingdom, has long been seen as the true power behind Hadi, who has been forced to rule Yemen in absentia from Riyadh for eight years. Bin Salman made a very public spectacle of Hadi’s ouster, as Hadi dismissed his vice president, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and then himself, handing over all his powers to the new presidential council. The choreography was similar to that presented by former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri when he was forced to resign in November 2017 in a statement broadcast by a Saudi-owned TV channel. “I irreversibly delegate to this presidential leadership council my full powers,” Hadi said as he read a written statement in a televised speech.

MintPress News asked Yemeni citizens and decision-makers to react to the news that “the top of Yemen’s internationally recognized government” was no longer in power and what it could mean for the future of the war-torn country.

Fadl Abass, a Yemeni researcher who lost his son in the war, said of the news:

Getting rid of Hadi proved to us that the president’s value as president was solely to provide cover as he destroyed his [own] country for Saudi-led Coalition interests. And when the Saudis had enough of Hadi, they simply replaced him, regardless of the legality.”

In fact, a majority of Yemenis throughout the country celebrated the removal of Hadi, who was widely mocked as a Saudi puppet and yes-man. In Sana’a and across the northern stretches of the country controlled by the Ansar Allah coalition, people celebrated the news as a victory for Yemen’s Ansar Allah-led resistance movement.

Ansar Allah’s backers not only see Hadi as a traitor who supported the invasion of his own country and caused its destruction, but also believe that his end was spurred by recent Ansar Allah-led attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Some believe that the timing of Hadi’s ouster could be a sign that the Kingdom is growing frustrated as it fails to show any real return on its massive investment in Yemeni proxy groups that have failed not only to secure ground in Yemen but even to prevent costly attacks on the Kingdom itself.

Even those who supported Hadi and voted for him in 2012, and still consider themselves allies to Saudi Arabia, applauded Hadi’s dismissal. They see the move as a step to rearrange and organize the ranks of anti-Ansar Allah forces and, as one put it, “the most serious attempt in years to resolve the internal and external sources of division that have crippled the government’s policies and performance.” In the early days of the war, Saudi Arabia was able to attribute its military and political failure to Hadi. They openly blamed him for the victories of the “Houthis” and the sharp divisions within the ranks of his hodgepodge of mercenary groups. Now, they hope that the new Presidential Council can change the balance of power on the ground in the Kingdom’s favor.

Still, others have condemned the Saudi government for forcing Hadi to give up his office, especially members of the UAE-backed Islah Party, the Yemen-based branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islah member Tawakkol Karman, a well-known Yemeni activist and Nobel Prize winner, said that the legitimacy of the Saudi war ended with Hadi’s dismissal. Islah was not only denied a seat on the Presidential Command Council but lost an important ally in Vice President al-Ahmer.

If there is one aspect of Hadi’s humiliating ouster that all of Yemen’s myriad political interests seem to agree on, it’s that Hadi, as a Yemeni citizen, should never have been subjected to the sort of public humiliation he faced at the hands of the Saudi monarchy.

In quintessential Saudi fashion, Hadi’s removal came with an influx of cash. Namely, $3 billion to support “Yemen’s war-ravaged” economy – $2 billion of which will come from Riyadh and $1 billion from the UAE. According to Saudi sources, the money is aimed at “unifying the army, modernizing the doctrine of combat, ending divisions within the forces, combating terrorism and ratifying agreements without the approval of the House of Representatives.” In plain terms, the cash represents an attempt to offset any loss of influence posed by Hadi’s removal by assuring that any opposition to Ansar Allah remains well-funded and viable, a last-ditch hedge against the unfettered growth of the Kingdom’s enemies in Yemen.

 

The latest puppet

Chosen to head the Presidential Command Council, Rashad al-Alimi, Hadi’s de facto replacement, is seen by most as yet another satellite of the Saudi regime. A former interior minister, al-Alimi has cultivated a close working relationship with both the Saudi and U.S. governments and has flirted with normalizing ties with Israel, a move vociferously opposed by the vast majority of Yemeni citizens. During 2014 UN-brokered peace talks, al-Alimi was the lone voice in Yemen’s delegation to agree to a proposal legalizing the U.S. military presence in Yemen.

The other seven members of the Council represent varied interests in Yemen’s anti-Ansar Allah alliance, including Saudi-allied militia leaders and provincial heads like Marib Governor Sultan al-Aradah and Giants Brigades Commander Abdelrahman Abou Zaraa.

Rashad al-Alimi

Rashad al-Alimi talks during a press conference in Sana’a, Yemen, Jan. 7, 2010. Nasser Nasser | AP

Ansar Allah has made it clear that they reject the legitimacy of the Council, saying that its formation in Riyadh is illegal and a violation of the Yemeni constitution. Mohammed Abdulsalam, Ansar Allah’s chief negotiator, told MintPress:

These measures taken by the coalition of aggression have nothing to do with Yemen, or the country’s reconciliation, and have nothing to do with peace. Rather, it pushes towards escalation through regrouping scattered conflicting militias into one framework that serves the interests of the outside and the countries of aggression.”

When pressed on the legality of Council’s formation, Abdulsalam added:

Its procedures have no legitimacy and are issued by an illegitimate party and do not have any authority, neither constitutional nor legal, not even popular. They were issued outside Yemen in form and content. The Yemeni people are not concerned with what the outside decides in their internal affairs.”

 

Shaking up Team Saudi

The major political shake-up comes amid a fragile and oft-violated two-month truce and is ostensibly geared towards rapprochement with Ansar Allah as the group gains ground, and on the heels of a campaign to inflict economic pain on the Kingdom through the strategic targeting of its oil reserves.

According to Hadi, “the council will be tasked with negotiating with the Houthi [Ansar Allah] rebels for a permanent ceasefire.” Many in Yemen see the statement as little more than an about-face, viewing the fact that the Presidential Council was formed in Saudi Arabia under the supervision of the United States as indicative of an ulterior motive and likely an effort to reorganize the myriad parties that form the opposition to Ansar Allah. Those parties have been in disarray as the war drags into its seventh year, with each pursuing its own often divergent goals.

Ansar Allah points to the designation of al-Alimi as head of the Council as evidence of its true aims. A former interior minister, al-Alimi is known as a security and military expert and has an intimate knowledge of the security and military sites that fell into Ansar Allah’s hands after Hadi’s 2015 ouster. Ansar Allah has accused al-Alimi of providing the Saudis with coordinates for these sites since the onset of the war.

Moreover, observers note that because the Council is composed of rival warlords holding often-opposing political objectives, it likely has little staying power. In fact, Aidarous al-Zubaydi, one of the eight members of the Council, is a staunch advocate of the secession of southern Yemen and labels himself as the president of an independent southern state.

Zubaydi

A fighter mans an anti-aircraft gun emblazoned with a portrait al-Zubaydi in Aden in 2019. Photo | AFP

Indications on the ground suggest that, far from brokering peace, the Council’s first act is likely to be an escalation of violence. On Wednesday, the Council announced it was mobilizing fighters in a number of military sites that are under the control of the Saudi-led Coalition in southern Yemen. The efforts coincide with the launching of U.S. Naval patrols in the nearby Red Sea.

For its part, Ansar Allah considers the mobilization evidence that the Council was never interested in peace. “The American move in the Red Sea, in light of a humanitarian and military truce in Yemen, contradicts Washington’s claim that it supports the truce. It seeks to perpetuate the state of aggression and siege on Yemen,” Mohammed AbdulSalam, the official spokesman for Ansar Allah and the head Yemeni negotiator, wrote on Twitter.

 

Wasn’t propping up Hadi the war’s justification?

The coup against Hadi – long described by Riyadh and Western leaders as the only “legitimate” president of Yemen – and the creation of a ruling council by a foreign country not only violate democratic ideals and Yemen’s national sovereignty and dignity, they are also direct violations of Yemen’s constitution.

Yemeni legal experts told MintPress that, constitutionally, Hadi was supposed to submit his resignation to the House of Representatives. After its acceptance, his resignation would be considered valid, and therefore a new president would be chosen by Parliament in the case that elections could not be held because of the war.

If championing democracy were the true aim, the United States and its allies should have responded to the millions of demonstrators that took to the streets to demand the dismissal and trial of Hadi before the country devolved into war and thousands of innocent lives were lost, just as they did in Ukraine in 2014 and in many other countries that saw popular uprisings during the Arab Spring.

Many Yemenis who spoke to MintPress expressed disdain towards Western leaders and governments for turning a blind eye to Saudi policies and called out what they see as U.S hypocrisy for backing the undemocratic formation of the unelected Presidential Command Council, which they point out does not represent large segments of Yemen’s population.

Others voiced disdain towards Western nations for prolonging the war by arming the Saudi-led Coalition and failing to diplomatically hold it to account for its numerous human rights violations. The millions of tons of munitions that have been dropped on Yemen under the pretext of restoring Hadi’s legitimacy have taken the country back a hundred years and caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.

The quiet end of Hadi’s reign after a decade of serving U.S and Saudi interests not only nullifies the legal justification of the war under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, but also reinforces the long-held belief among many in the Middle East that Western powers were never interested in democracy. Instead, they fuel war, use heads of state as casus belli, and then abandon them when they are no longer of use. Political analysts who spoke to MintPress, including Yemeni journalist Ahmed Al-Qantas, warned that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should pay heed to Hadi’s fate.

 

Perpetuating a troubled history

Hadi was brought to power on February 12, 2012, in a referendum in which he was the only candidate. The move, which came as part of the aptly-named “Gulf Initiative,” was not intended to bring Hadi to the fore as a legitimate candidate per se, but rather as a useful stand-in to quell the popular Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 that called for an end to foreign tutelage. During the 2011 protests, the Saudi kingdom not only found itself at a deadlock when searching for solutions and alternatives to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule but also found itself facing the rise of various grassroots resistance movements – particularly Ansar Allah.

Prior to his ascension, Hadi was well-known by Saudi Arabia as a yes-man and politically weak in his own right, tasked only with following protocol and far less charismatic than Saleh, with a rich history of working against his country’s interests. Moreover, close to the foreign ambassadors and intelligence agencies, he served as the deputy chief of staff of the armed forces in Southern Yemen during the outbreak of civil war in 1986. In the wake of defeat in the internecine fighting, South Yemen’s then-President Ali Nasser Mohammed escaped to Sana’a with thousands of loyalists, including Hadi.

Hadi Yemen

Hadi sites beneath a portrait of President Saleh during a 2011 meeting in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo | AP

In the civil war in May 1994, most of the region’s effective political and military leaders in the south were eliminated and power was secured by the Sana’a government. Saleh relied on numerous holdovers defeated in the 1986 civil war, including Hadi, to secure power over restive groups. In October 1994, Hadi was named vice president, seen as posing little threat to the absolute power of the president and a useful means to assure that the restive southern elites felt represented. He remained serving silently in the shadows for 18 years as Saleh’s vice president before being shoved into the limelight by the Saudi regime.

The Presidential Command Council is ostensibly playing the same role, unable or unwilling to learn from Hadi’s political faux pas. In their short time in power, they have not only empowered Saudi Arabia in its efforts to secure political control over Yemen, but are similarly opportunistic, without remorse or the desire to place their country’s interests first – falling headfirst, it seems, into the cursed history of Yemeni politics.

Feature photo | MintPress News | Associated Press

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

The post With Hadi’s Ouster, Saudi Arabia’s True Ambitions in Yemen Come to the Fore appeared first on MintPress News.

On Its Seventh Anniversary, Yemen Seeks to End a War the World Has Forgotten

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 2:50am in

SANA’A, YEMEN -– Seven years have passed since the brutal war against Yemen, a ship-shaped country located on the southern Arabian Peninsula, began in March 2015. The war has been acknowledged as one the bloodiest in modern history and called the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster” by human rights groups. Yet, rather than breaking Yemeni resolve, the Saudi-led war backed by the collective military might of the world’s most powerful nations has only strengthened the poorest country in the Middle East; and Ansar Allah, its underdog combatant, is now stronger and more united than it has ever been.

On the seventh anniversary of the war, MintPress News spoke with survivors, relatives of victims, and refugees of the conflict, who recount their stories and explore the current state of the conflict as evidence suggests that the Saudi-led Coalition’s grip on Yemen may be loosening.

”I remember when a huge explosion rocked my home, then I went up on the roof. There were fires like a volcano.” Mourad Yahya told MintPress, referring to Saudi airstrikes that killed an entire family in Bani Hawat shortly after Saudi Arabia announced operation “Decisive Storm.” Yahya, a father in his sixties who was displaced from his home, now lives in a makeshift refugee camp in the Dhahban Center for the Displaced in northern Sana’a. Despite the short supply and high prices of goods, which have been aggravated by the war in Ukraine, Yahya says he has become more determined to persevere. “Today, I see the same fires not here but in Saudi [Arabia]” he said, referring to the images of huge fires that were plastered across international media last week after Ansar Allah struck a Saudi state-run oil facility in Jeddah.

Dhahban Center for Displaced

Displaced children in the Dhahban Center for Displaced in Sana’a, March 27, 2022. Taha Shurgbi | MintPress News

 

Hitting Saudi oil, power and water

The attack, which came amid international concerns about the future of energy in light of the Russian-Ukrainian war, was intended to send a message to Riyadh and its allies alike, particularly to the Biden administration, that Yemenis are not only still steadfast and stronger than before, but are resolved to break the stifling blockade on their country that has been imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition since 2015.

It is part of a renewed effort by Ansar Allah’s air force to impose a costly penalty on Gulf nations and their backers for their war on Yemen, which has sparked massive fuel shortages, water shortages, and famine on a near-Biblical scale in the world’s poorest nation. Dubbed Operation Breaking the Siege III, the large-scale offensive against high-value facilities inside of Saudi Arabia will likely bear the hallmark of Ansar Allah: ballistic and winged missiles and drone attacks against sensitive targets across the Saudi Kingdom.

Attacks have already struck targets in the Saudi capital Riyadh, and the southern cities of Dhahran al-Janub, Abha, and Khamis Mushait were pounded by dozens of missiles and drones.  Energy facilities in the strategic regions of Jizan and Najran and in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah were also struck, along with the oil refineries in Ras Tanura and Rabigh, and a power station in Samtah, according to Ansar Allah officials.

Saudi Arabia Houthis

Smoke rises from an oil depot after an attack by Ansar Allah ahead of a Formula One race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 25, 2022. Hassan Ammar | AP

The offensive represents the fiercest operation by Ansar Allah against Saudi Arabia to date. It dwarfs the September 2019 attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, which led to a suspension of about 50% of the Arab kingdom’s crude and gas production.

It took over 50 firefighting teams more than 24 hours to extinguish the massive blaze from last week’s attack on the Saudi oil facilities in Jeddah. Even then, massive plumes of smoke covered the coastal city, causing an unprecedented state of panic. Saudi state-owned media broadcasted every aspect of the attack live in an attempt to either gain international sympathy or alarm the international community. In the wake of the attacks, crude oil prices surged and broke $120 per barrel.

In a first, Ansar Allah Yemen also targeted a Saudi water desalination plant in Jizan and a power station in Samdah in an effort to force Riyadh and its allies, particularly Washington, to lift their deadly blockade on more than 25 million Yemenis – a siege that has made life in the war-torn country deadly for millions of civilians unable to secure electricity, clean water or basic services.

While attacks on Saudi state-run oil refineries or gas plants affect the financial returns of the Kingdom’s royal family, Ansar Allah hopes that targeting critical infrastructure like the desalination plant — the main source of water for more than 25 million Saudis – will bring the war to every home in the Kingdom and pose a real threat to the legitimacy of the Saudi regime, forcing it to end the war and lift the siege.

 

A dubious “truce”

MintPress spoke to Yemenis who lost loved ones and were forced to flee their homes, now living in makeshift refugee camps in Sana’a. They see the burning fields of neighboring Saudi Arabia as their last hope to deter the oil-rich Kingdom from igniting its own fires on their war-torn homeland.

There may be some merit to their assertion. In the wake of recent attacks, a two-month truce has been announced by the United Nations. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, announced the truce as a move aimed at providing an environment conducive to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The deal stipulates a halting of offensive military operations, including cross-border attacks, and allowing fuel ships to enter Yemen’s Hodeidah port as well as the resumption of commercial flights in and out of the Sana’a International Airport “to predetermined destinations in the region.”

The truce, which went into effect on Saturday at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) and was ostensibly welcomed by both Saudi Arabia and Yemen, has raised the hope of many around the world that an end to this war is possible, but few Yemenis are sold.

”We don’t buy it,” Ibrahim Abdulkareem told MintPress. “In 2015, an American bomb was dropped on my home in Sana’a by a Saudi warplane, killing my brother’s daughter.” A photo of Ibrahim hugging the body of his deceased daughter went viral and became a symbol of the brutal war. Ibrahim still suffers and his disabled wife is unable to travel abroad for treatment because of the Saudi blockade.

Yemen

Yemeni police inspect a site of Saudi airstrikes homes in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, March 26, 2022. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ibrahim’s fears are not unfounded. At least three people were killed when Saudi border forces launched a barrage of rockets and artillery rounds at a residential area in the Sheda region in the northwestern province of Saada just hours after Saudi Arabia agreed to the recent truce. Moreover, Saudi forces have breached the truce in Hodeida 81 times in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this article.

According to Ansar Allah’s Liaison and Coordination Officers Operations Room, other recent violations of the truce include multiple Saudi spy flights, 25 episodes of artillery shelling, and 66 shooting incidents.

The UN-brokered deal came in the wake of a three-day truce announced by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council on March 26. The voluntary three-day pause in attacks against Saudi Arabia was intended to allow the Kingdom to quietly exit Yemen amid the world’s preoccupation with the Ukrainian war, according to sources close to the president. The truce also encompassed all the internal battlefields, including the prized oil-rich Marib front, as well as the release of all Saudi prisoners of war in exchange for Yemeni prisoners. Yet, as with previous ceasefires, Saudi warplanes simply continued their years-long blitzkrieg in Yemen, killing dozens of civilians in Sana’a, Hodeidah, and other cities.

A high-ranking Ansar Allah military official, who spoke to MintPress on the condition of anonymity, warned that Yemen would not hesitate to “launch a period of great pain if the UN’s truce is ignored.” He went on to say that preparations have already been made to destroy Saudi oil refineries in Ras Tanura and Abqaiq, as well as water and electric stations.

 

Going all-in to end a war the world forgot

Efforts to lift the siege at any cost have been gaining widespread political and social support in Yemen. This was the sentiment expressed at recent demonstrations and rallies commemorating the seventh anniversary of the war on March 26, now marked as the National Day of Steadfastness.

In Sana’a, where the largest demonstrations took place, Ali Gueish donned traditional Yemeni attire and carried a striped red-white-black national flag as he shouted chants of support for Ansar Allah’s drone and missile forces. Despite being in his eighties, Gueish has not missed a National Day of Steadfastness protest since he lost two of his sons in a Saudi attack.

 
A resident of Rawdah, Gueish joined the huge gathering in Bab al-Yemen district along with hundreds of thousands of residents from the suburbs of Sana’a and its neighboring provinces. In Hodeidah, thousands took to the streets to denounce the war and blockade. There were similar mass demonstrations in 30 provinces and cities, including Saada, Hajjah, al-Jawf, al-Beyda, Taize, Amran, Ibb, Dhamar, al-Mahwit, Raymah, al Dhale’, and the Marib.

Protesters carried Yemeni flags, Kalashnikov rifles, posters of Ansar Allah leaders, and banners lauding recent attacks against Saudi Arabia. The protests, organized by Ansar Allah, were not only to commemorate the day the war on Yemen first began in 2015, but also to pledge full liberation from the blockade. “Mohammed Bin Salman must end the blockade, not bring in a deceptive truce, if he wishes to escape from his difficult situation,” Gueish told MintPress. “If the world only cares about Ukraine and ignores our suffering, [at least] it will care about the oil when it is bombed.”

Many Yemenis feel that the war on their country has been forgotten despite its significantly higher death toll and the fact that it is marked by much more blatant violations of human rights. In fact, the violence, starvation and disease that have been meted out to Yemen unhindered for the past seven years are being made acutely worse by the war in Ukraine, which has caused the price of food and fuel in Yemen to skyrocket.

About 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people need humanitarian assistance. Moreover, 360 000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished. By the end of 2022, the number of people experiencing catastrophic hunger is expected to rise fivefold from 31,000 to 161,000, bringing the total number of people in need to 7.3 million.

It is undeniable that the crisis in Ukraine is appalling. Yet the terror and misery in Yemen cannot be paralleled. Since 2015, when the Saudi-led Coalition began its bombing campaign in Yemen, thousands of homes have burned to the ground, often with whole families inside; and schools, factories, hospitals, mosques, and markets are rendered piles of soot and ash following massive infernos sparked by near-constant Saudi airstrikes. Yet, unlike the attacks on Ukraine, rarely do attacks on Yemen’s civilians garner media coverage or condemnation, and never have they triggered the punitive measures, sanctions, and rightful condemnation of the aggressor. Desperate Yemenis see the attacks against Saudi oil installations as a chance to leverage the attention on Ukraine to end their own suffering.

Feature photo | A doll is seen at a site of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting two homesin Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, March 26, 2022. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post On Its Seventh Anniversary, Yemen Seeks to End a War the World Has Forgotten appeared first on MintPress News.

Fresh audio product: Yemen and gendering

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 4:38am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

March 31, 2022 Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute, author of this policy brief on the Yemen war, on the reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on that country •  Natalia Petrzela, author of this column, on how we went from Muscle Beach to gender neutral cosmetics products

Human Rights Problem Countries Receive Two-Thirds of UK Military Export Licenses Since 2010

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 9:49pm in

Sam Bright digs into the data to reveal the billions of pounds of lethal equipment sold by the UK to questionable regimes

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Some £33 billion in export licenses for military goods have been approved to countries on the Government’s human rights watchlist since 2010, Byline Times can reveal.

This constitutes two-thirds of the £50 billion in military export licenses granted to countries around the world during this period.

Notably, a staggering £11 billion in export licenses for military goods has been approved to Saudi Arabia since 2010 – comfortably the largest total of any country in the world, with the second-placed USA standing at £6.3 billion, ahead of France at £4.6 billion.

In other words, Saudi Arabia represents more than a-fifth of the military export licenses granted by the UK since 2010, in terms of overall value, and a-third of the military export licenses granted to countries on the UK’s human rights watchlist.

All the cited data is provided by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). The figures demonstrate the value of goods that licence holders – typically private companies – are allowed to export; the UK Government does not publish the value of actual exports.

There are 31 countries included on the Government’s list of ‘human rights priority’ states – “where we are particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where we consider that the UK can make a real difference”.

In relation to Saudi Arabia, the Government’s report says that, “Reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment in detention and lack of access to adequate legal representation [remain]. Freedom of expression and media freedom were very restricted.”

The Government also cites state executions carried out by Saudi Arabia – a country governed by an absolute monarchy. This practice has been in the news in recent days, presenting a backdrop for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to the country, in an effort to increase energy exports to the West. The country carried out its biggest mass execution in decades last weekend, executing 81 men for “terrorism” and other offences including holding “deviant beliefs”. A further three people were executed on Wednesday – the day of Johnson’s visit.

Amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last week that the UK and the Western world must reduce its “strategic economic reliance on authoritarian regimes”. When asked why Saudi Arabia is an ally whereas Russia is a foe, she said that: “the reality is we are facing an aggressor in Vladimir Putin, who is wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation and we do need to work with countries across the world to find alternative sources of oil and gas”.

War and Profit

The CAAT data shows that, of the licenses granted for military exports to Saudi Arabia, £6.2 billion was for ‘aircraft, helicopters, drones’ and £4.3 billion was for ‘grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures’.

£7.1 billion of the £11 billion total has been approved since 2015, when the Saudi-backed coalition began its war in neighbouring Yemen – a conflict which continues to this day. The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

Other estimates suggest that the brutal conflict has pushed 5 million people to the brink of famine and 16 million towards starvation.

As reported by the Byline Intelligence Team, new data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) shows that almost 11,000 civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s use of explosive weapons in Yemen since 2015, with 9,881 civilian deaths and injuries caused by airstrikes. This compares to the more than 1,200 civilians reported to have been harmed by Russian-backed operations in Ukraine over the same period.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

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The CAAT data shows that, second to Saudi Arabia, the country on the UK’s human rights watchlist that has been approved the next highest value of military exports since 2010 has been Israel, at £473 million. As noted by the Government, Israel has been in military conflict with Palestinian groups for a number of years – with Israel carrying out “a campaign of airstrikes, naval and land bombardment in Gaza”. Between 10 and 21 May 2021, 4,360 rockets were launched into Israel, resulting in the death of 12 civilians, injuring 330 others. Israel’s military response killed 256 civilian Palestinians, including 66 children.

As Byline Times has previously reported, the UK has approved the export of £56 million worth of military goods to Russia since 2010 – £54.9 million in the immediate run-up to its annexation of Crimea in 2014 – considerably more than the value of licenses approved to Ukraine.

“The UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world,” a Department for International Trade spokesperson told Byline Times.

“We rigorously assess each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, and will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria, including where there is a risk that the items will be diverted to an undesirable end-user or for an undesirable end-use”.

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Yemen Retaliates Against Deadly Fuel Blockade by Targeting Saudi Oil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 2:37am in

YEMEN-SAUDI BORDER – Under the scorching midday sun, Hakem Matari Yahya al-Buttaini’s brother was on the cusp of finally being able to purchase the 40 liters of diesel fuel for which he had been waiting in line for seven days, when he got the call. Hakem had been executed by Saudi Arabia and the news had just spread through local media. Hakem was among seven Yemenis executed by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

As much of the world’s attention remained focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Saudi regime carried out a mass execution, killing 81 people in a single day, including the seven Yemenis and civilians from the Kingdom’s eastern provinces. According to Saudi state media, the condemned were accused of various crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, rape, and traveling to a regional conflict zone. According to the families of Hakem and Haider Ali Haider al-Shawhan, another man executed in Saturday’s mass execution, both Hakem and Haider were prisoners of war captured at the Yemen-Saudi border in 2018 while fighting to thwart the advance of Saudi fighters towards Yemen. Members of the al-Shawhan and al-Buttaini families agreed to speak to MintPress News on the condition of anonymity.

Yemen’s National Committee for Prisoners Affairs said that two of the executed Yemeni prisoners were on a list of people slated to be released in an UN-brokered prisoner exchange, adding “the Saudi crime is a dangerous precedent that threatens serious consequences which cannot be tolerated.”

Despite the shocking news, Hakem’s brother did not leave the fuel line. “We’re in desperate need of diesel to run our water pump. If I leave my place, we won’t only stay in darkness, but our women and children won’t be able to drink,” he said. In many of Yemen’s northern cities, obtaining fuel can be the difference between life and death. Unlike in Ukraine, where power has not yet been cut, power outages in northern Yemen have been fatal. Even in the Saudi-controlled southern provinces, an hour and a half of power followed by eight-hour blackouts are the norm.

This reality, which has been largely ignored by the same Western organizations spurred into action by Russia’s wanton violence in Ukraine, has been a conspicuous feature of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In the past two weeks alone, hundreds of Yemenis, many of them hospital patients relying on life-saving medical devices, have died as a direct result of the lack of fuel needed to power generators, according to the government in Sana’a. Starving Yemen of petroleum products has been a tactic employed by the Saudi government since the onset of its now seven-year-long war on the country. However, its most recent blockade is significantly more extensive than previous ones, largely thanks to U.S. policies.

Since November 2020, U.S. Navy ships in the Red and Arabian seas have not allowed oil tankers to enter Yemen unless approved by the U.S. Treasury, even if those oil tankers are checked and issued permits by both the Saudi-led Coalition and the United Nations, a representative of the Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) told MintPress. The blockade has been carried out under the pretext of “preventing Iranian oil from reaching Houthis,” with oil imports limited to the Saudi-controlled Port of Aden. Since February 24, when Russian forces began their wide-ranging assault on Ukraine, Saudi Arabia has been preventing fuel trucks from entering northern Yemen under the same pretext. In the rare case when a tanker is allowed to enter, the price per liter of petrol is nearly double.

Dozens of hospitals, water pumping stations, bakeries, power stations, gas stations, even cleaning trucks, have already stopped operating owing to fuel shortages. In the north, the lack of fuel has reached a critical point. Panic has spread and essential services responsible for the care of over 15 million Yemenis – such as the Water and Sanitation Corporation, Ministry of Transportation, and the General Electricity Corporation – are barely functioning.

On Monday, the UN said that Yemen’s already dire hunger crisis is “teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe,” adding:

Today, more than 17.4 million Yemenis are food insecure; an additional 1.6 million are expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in coming months, taking the total of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of the year.

Yemen’s fuel crisis has no doubt contributed greatly to the famine.

 

“Break The Siege”

Yemen’s army, loyal to Ansar Allah, has responded to the dire humanitarian situation by announcing a new operation dubbed “Break The Siege,” against Saudi oil facilities. On Saturday, nine drones targeted a Saudi Aramco refinery in the Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh. Another six drones targeted Saudi state-run Aramco facilities in southwestern Saudi Arabia, as well as other related targets in the oil-rich Kingdom, which acknowledged the attacks and promised reprisal.

The attack on Aramco facilities, the backbone of the Saudi oil economy, comes as oil prices are rising at record rates and are predicted to break the $200 per barrel barrier as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heats up – a fact that Ansar Allah is likely hoping to exploit by targeting Saudi oil infrastructure and driving up the price of crude oil in a bid to punish the United States for its support of the Saudi-led war.

Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the leader of Ansar Allah, said during a meeting with tribesmen on Monday that “the [Saudi] aggression has caused great suffering to our people in obtaining oil derivatives [and] we will not stand idly by.” According to high-ranking Anar Allah military sources that spoke to MintPress on the condition of anonymity, Ansar Allah hopes to capitalize on rising oil prices by continuing to target Saudi oil infrastructure until the United States halts its support for the Saudi blockade.

Saudi officials reached out to Ansar Allah on Tuesday to negotiate a halt on attacks on Saudi oil facilities. The offer came despite Riyadh, the UAE, and the U.S.’s designation of Ansar Allah as a terrorist organization. A source inside Ansar Allah told MintPress that the offer will likely be rejected, as the group does not trust the Saudi regime to act in good faith.

Referring to the Biden administration’s support for the Saudi-led war, a military official stated:

At a time when the Biden administration banned the import of oil from Russia, they [the Saudi-led Coalition] are preventing the entry of fuel into [Yemen] despite the [humanitarian] disaster. We will respond by bombing Saudi oil fields and refineries and share our hard times with the world – particularly the Americans and Europeans, thanks to Biden`s policy.

 

Fear that US will trade more support for Saudi oil

Some Yemenis who spoke to MintPress fear that President Joe Biden will increase support to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in exchange for an increase in their oil output to counterbalance disruptions in the global market sparked by sanctions on Russia. Some even went as far to say that if the United States continues to support the blockade on Yemen and provide support to the two oil-rich countries, they will not only support the targeting of Gulf oil facilities but will volunteer to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, especially if Yemen receives fuel aid from Russia.

This comes as unconfirmed reports are surfacing in Yemen that militants are being recruited to fight alongside Ukrainian forces, including from groups with ties to extremist organizations, such as the controversial Islah Party. Hussein al-Izi, a high-ranking Ansar Allah official and deputy minister of foreign affairs, recently accused Islah of using oil to pay recruits to fight in Ukraine in exchange for the removal of Islah from Western lists of terrorist organizations. MintPress was not able to independently confirm these reports.

Feature photo | Cars line up at a petrol station amid fuel shortages in Sanaa, Yemen, Jun. 15, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post Yemen Retaliates Against Deadly Fuel Blockade by Targeting Saudi Oil appeared first on MintPress News.

Conflict and Complicity: 11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 2:00am in

CONFLICT AND COMPLICITY11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

New data shows the extent of the death toll that can be placed at Saudi Arabia’s door – as Boris Johnson seeks closer energy ties with the Gulf state

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Almost 11,000 civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s use of explosive weapons in Yemen since its military interventions began in 2015, data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals.

AOAV has recorded 15,905 civilian deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen since 2015, accounting for 70% of the total recorded casualties in the country from explosive weapons (22,843). Of the civilian casualties, 68% (10,854) have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s and Saudi Arabia’s use of explosive weapons.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have been the primary weapon of harm to civilians, accounting for 9,881 civilian deaths and injuries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting Saudi Arabia today in an effort to ramp up energy exports to the West – following the decision to divest from Russian oil and gas due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

AOAV data reveals that Saudi Arabia has killed or injured almost 800% more civilians in Yemen over the past decade from explosive violence than Russian forces (and Russian-backed separatists) have harmed in Ukraine.

Taking data from English-language media sources, AOAV has evidence that, over the past decade, the Saudi led air-campaign over Yemen has killed or injured almost 11,000 civilians – compared to the more than 1,200 civilians reported to have been harmed by Russian-backed operations in Ukraine.

This is not to diminish the casualties suffered in Ukraine, which are likely to markedly increase in the coming weeks. Rather, the comparison shows the double-standards of Johnson’s Government, in pursuing closer energy ties with Saudi Arabia.

Both figures are likely to be conservative estimates owing to the limitations of reliable reporting in conflict zones. Russia has also been responsible for countless deaths in Syria.


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The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

This morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that although she does not agree with all the policies of the Saudi Government – questioned in particular about its public execution of 81 people in recent days – “the reality is we are facing an aggressor in Vladimir Putin, who is wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation and we do need to work with countries across the world to find alternative sources of oil and gas”.

But is Saudi Arabia not also – as Truss described Russia – a country that is “wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation”? 

‘Dictator to Dictator’

Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen are only outranked in harm caused to civilians from explosive violence since 2011 by Syrian regime forces (25,074 civilian casualties), and ‘unknown’ state users of explosive weapons (17,317).

Though the leading perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons use so far in 2022, Russia ranks sixth as a perpetrator since 2011 (4,685) – though Russia may well be part of the ‘unknown’ belligerents in Syria.

Russia’s status as the leading state perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons this year is down to Putin’s indiscriminate bombing of populated areas in Ukraine.

According to AOAV data, the Russian state has caused at least 582 civilian casualties from explosive weapons use in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia is the second-worst perpetrator, causing 390 civilian casualties to date this year.

However, as Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen enters its seventh year, the average number of civilian casualties per incident of explosive weapons use is nearly double that of Russia’s average in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, there is an average of seven civilian casualties per explosive weapon strike by Russian armed forces. In Yemen, the average number of civilian casualties killed and injured per strike by the Saudi-led coalition is 15.


UK Trade With ProblematicHuman Rights CountriesIncreased by 36%After Brexit
Sam Bright

The UK has approved arms export licenses worth £8.2 billion to the Saudi-led coalition since 2015. In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

Byline Times has previously revealed that £56 million worth of export licenses for military goods have been approved to Russia since 2010 (not including the current crisis) – £18 million more than the value of military export licenses approved to Ukraine.

The Government’s attempt to expand ties with Saudi Arabia also fits an economic pattern, with trade increasing markedly since the 2016 EU Referendum with countries listed on the UK’s human rights watchlist.

“Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy,” Labour Leader Keir Starmer has said of Johnson’s Saudi Arabia trip. “Saying we are not going to rely on Russia and then going to Saudi Arabia is not an energy strategy.”

Additional reporting by Emily Griffith

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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UK Trade With Human Rights Problem Countries Increased by 36% After Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/03/2022 - 2:32am in

UK Trade With Human Rights Problem CountriesIncreased by 36%After Brexit

As Boris Johnson prepares to schmooze Saudi Arabia, Sam Bright reports on the UK’s growing trade relationships with despotic regimes

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Overall UK trade with countries on the Government’s human rights concern list increased markedly, by 36%, in the years after the vote to leave the European Union, Byline Times can reveal.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss visited the United States last week, arguing that the UK and the Western world must reduce its “strategic economic reliance on authoritarian regimes”.

This comes as the world continues to sanction Vladimir Putin and his proxies for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – attempting to exert pressure on Putin by limiting the economic links between Russia and the West.

However, in reality, it appears as though the economic links between the UK and regimes with questionable human rights records have been growing, in recent years.

There are 31 countries included on the Government’s list of ‘human rights priority’ states – “where we are particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where we consider that the UK can make a real difference”.

In 2015, total UK trade with these countries stood at £100.7 billion – increasing to £136.9 billion by 2019. This figure dropped modestly in 2020 – due to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic – to £125.8 billion, yet still comfortably exceeded the 2015 total.

Notably, total UK trade with Russia increased from £10.1 billion to £14.1 billion from 2015 to 2019, while trade with China increased from £58 billion to £86.8 billion – an increase of almost 50%.

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China has been accused of forcibly detaining more than a million Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps in the northwest territory of Xinjiang, along with their mass surveillance and forced sterilisation. Groups in the UK and the US have suggested that China has committed genocide against the Uyghur population.

Trade with Myanmar also doubled over this period – a nation accused of persecuting its Rohingya Muslim population – while trade with Belarus increased from £119 million to £298 million, despite the growing ties between President Alexander Lukashenko and Putin’s regime.

The UK’s departure from the EU has increased trade friction with the continent – creating the necessity to forge economic links with countries outside the West. In fact, this was the economic premise of Brexit – with Boris Johnson saying in December 2016, after the vote, that the UK must seize the moment “to campaign for openness and open markets across the globe”.

As a result, while the UK’s trade with the EU has been damaged, we have been forced into a closer economic union with despotic regimes.

Boris Johnson will this evening fly to one of the countries on the UK’s human rights concern list – Saudi Arabia – in an effort to drum up energy exports in the wake of the West’s decision to reduce its reliance on Russian imports.

“We are now going to do the dramatic steps that we need to take to have an independent energy supply, so that we’re no longer capable of being blackmailed by Putin,” Johnson said, ahead of his trip.


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However, especially given the remarks of Liz Truss last week, there have been questions about whether it’s sensible for the UK to simply switch its energy dependency from Russia to Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, the country’s poor human rights record has been well publicised in recent years and even the past few days – with the country recently carrying out the biggest mass execution in decades, executing 81 men for “terrorism” and other offences including holding “deviant beliefs”.

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly has responded by saying that, “the UK has a longstanding and principled opposition to the use of the death penalty. We will have communicated back to Saudi Arabia. I have no doubt we will do so in response to the executions that have been recently announced.”

However, actions speak louder than words, and the UK’s rhetorical condemnation of Saudi executions is heavily outweighed by Johnson’s desperate attempts to boost trade with the country – that is still ruled under an absolute monarchy.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s persecution of dissidents has been a longstanding concern – culminating in the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi Government at its consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A report by US intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman approved of Khashoggi’s murder, and the US has implemented a series of sanctions against those deemed responsible.

Since 2014/15, Saudi Arabia has also been engaged in a brutal war in Yemen – a conflict that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, pushing 5 million people to the brink of famine and 16 million towards starvation.

Infamously, the UK has approved arms export licenses worth £8.2 billion to the Saudi-led coalition since 2015. In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

Byline Times has previously revealed that £56 million worth of export licenses for military goods have been approved to Russia since 2010 (not including the current crisis) – £18 million more than the value of military export licenses approved to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, from 2010 to 2020, 2,823 investors were granted permanent settlement status by the UK – people who had previously been awarded ‘golden’ visas in exchange for millions in investment – with 2,117 of these individuals coming from the 31 countries on the Government’s human rights concern list, including 1,067 individuals from China and 757 from Russia.

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Tears for Ukraine, Sanctions for Russia, Yawns for Yemen, Arms for Saudis: The West’s Grotesque Double Standard

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 2:45am in

HAJJAH, YEMEN – “We’re brutally bombed every day. So why doesn’t the Western world care like it does about Ukraine?!!… Is it because we don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes like Ukrainians?”  Ahmed Tamri, a Yemeni father of four, asked with furrowed brows about the outpouring of international support and media coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the lack of such a reaction to the war in Yemen.

Over the weekend, a member of Tamri’s family was killed and nine relatives injured when their family home was targeted in a Saudi-led Coalition airstrike in the remote al-Saqf area in Hajjah Governorate. Tamri claims that al-Saqf has been subjected to a brutal Saudi bombing campaign for the past seven years – more so, he says, than all of Ukraine has endured since it was invaded by Russia.

Despite the horrific bombing campaign against Yemeni civilians, Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations and war crimes have garnered nowhere near the level of coverage and sympathy that the mainstream Western media has rightfully given to Ukraine. “They shed tears for the Ukrainians, and ignore our tragedies… What hypocrisy and racism!” Tamri told MintPress News.

 

Yemenis ask the obvious

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues into the sixth day, an outpouring of support for Ukrainians continues to be seen across the Western world. Severe sanctions against Russia have been imposed by the United States, Europe, Australia, and the West in general, amid a flurry of emergency talks at the UN Security Council. The speed of Western retaliation – which includes banning Russia from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international banking network and calls to treat Russians as international pariahs in sports, culture, and even science – has raised eyebrows among Yemenis who have endured a relentless bombing campaign and deadly air, land, and sea blockade for 2,520 consecutive days.

Since Thursday, when Russian forces began their wide-ranging assault on Ukraine, the Saudi-led Coalition, supported by the United States, has launched more airstrikes in Yemen than Russia has in Ukraine. In Hajjah, a province surrounded by heavy Saudi artillery, Saudi-led coalition warplanes launched more than 150 airstrikes on the cities of Haradh, Heiraan, Abbs, and Mustab, killing scores of civilians, including a father of six killed over the weekend by a Saudi drone that targeted his car as it traveled between Shafar and the Khamis Al-Wahat market.

Since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine began, dozens of civilians, including a number of African migrants, have been killed and hundreds wounded by Saudi artillery and airstrikes in Yemen’s heavily populated Saada province, declared a military area by Saudi Arabia at the start of its military campaign in March 2015.

Yemen

The bodies of civilians from a Saudi airstrike that killed at least 87 people on the Yemen-Saudi border, Jan. 22, 2022. Hani Mohammed | AP

As news cameras and solidarity protests gave much-needed sympathy to Ukrainian civilians, in Sana’a, Yemen – which has effectively been turned into a large prison for the city’s more than four million residents and refugees, thanks to a crippling Saudi blockade – warplanes bombed a number of densely populated areas, including the airport. An additional 160 airstrikes were launched on the provinces of Marib, al-Jawf, al-Baydha, Taiz, Najran, and Hodeida, the main entry point for commercial goods and aid into a country facing the worst man-made famine in the 21st century.

In fact, it seems as though the Saudi regime is taking advantage of a distracted media in order to escalate attacks on a number of sensitive targets along the Yemen-Saudi border and strengthen its hold over the Al-Mahra Governorate. The UAE, the other major Western-backed oil monarchy occupying Yemen, is likewise making hay, accelerating its project to change the demographics on the prized Socotra Island by displacing locals in favor of settlers more aligned with UAE policies. And while the U.S. readies massive shipments of arms and military aid to Ukrainian “freedom fighters” defending against a Russian invasion, Yemeni “rebels” downed an American-made MQ9-1 drone flown by the UAE in al-Jawf and two American-made Boeing Insitu ScanEagles in Marib and Hajjah.

As countries that have spent the past decades building literal and figurative walls to keep out desperate brown and black refugees fleeing violence and foreign invasion in their own lands open their arms, homes, and hearts to fleeing Ukrainian refugees, Saudi Arabia unleashed a force of Yemeni mercenaries upon their homeland with a promise of a Saudi green card and safety for their families if they turn on their fellow countrymen. Ironically named the “Happy Yemen Forces,” the unit was finalized in late 2021, according to leaked military documents, with a mandate to secure Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen and ensure Saudi security in exchange for a green card and access to the Saudi social services that come with it.

 

If we are to compare

In terms of the sheer cost of human life, the tragedy in Yemen has been much more deadly than that in Ukraine, where 325 Ukrainians, including 14 children have tragically lost their lives according to Ukrainian officials. Granted the war in Yemen has raged on unabated for more than six years, but comparatively the numbers are astonishing. Since 2015 the death toll has reached an estimated 400,000 people, including 3,900 children.

Those deaths have included attacks on civilians so egregious that they did garner fleeting media attention but, inevitably, no sanctions, little international condemnation, not even a cessation in the military aid and support to the perpetrators. Bombed-out schools, funerals, wedding halls, refugee camps, even a school bus full of children targeted by the most advanced U.S. weaponry on offer have not been sufficient to elicit the reaction that Ukraine has garnered in less than one week.

Since 2015, Saudi-led Coalition warplanes have pounded Yemen with over 266,000 airstrikes, according to the Yemeni Army Operations Room, which records airstrikes against civilian and military targets. Seventy percent of those strikes have hit civilian targets. The rising smoke, rubble and flames now seen in Ukraine have been the status quo in Yemen for years, with Western media often deeming the images that appear on local Yemeni television stations, of parents pulling pieces of their children out from the rubble of their homes or schools, too graphic to display.

Yemen Biden Feature photo

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

Thousands of Yemen’s economically vital facilities like factories, food storage facilities, fishing boats, food markets and fuel tankers have been bombed by the Western-backed Saudi Coalition. Critical infrastructure – including airports, seaports, electrical stations, water tanks, roads and bridges and countless more schools, agricultural fields, and places of worship – have been destroyed or damaged. A Saudi blockade and airstrikes on hospitals have crippled Yemen’s health system, leaving it unable to deal with even the most basic public health needs and leaving the 300 facilities that remain in the entire country barely functioning as COVID-19 spreads like wildfire.

As the outpourings of condemnation of Russia’s invasion continue, Western governments have sent massive aid packages to Ukraine and social media campaigns fill in the gaps – while in Yemen the United Nations announced that by March it would likely cut aid to 8 million people in a country that it calls home to the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. Household food insecurity in Yemen hovers at over 80%. Almost one-third of the population does not have enough food to satisfy even basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become a regular sight and the worst is yet to come, as the Russian invasion has led to increased fuel and food prices and as humanitarian funding dries up, according to the UN World Food Programme.

 

Picking and choosing which invasion to condemn

In March 2015, more than 17 countries led by the oil-rich monarchy of Saudi Arabia launched a military invasion of Yemen, a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations. Ostensibly, the war was launched to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power after he was ousted following popular protests amid the Arab Spring.

By March 26 of that year, the Saudi-led Coalition, backed militarily and diplomatically by the United States, would begin a bombing campaign that has indiscriminately killed, maimed, and destroyed for seven years. Not only has Saudi Arabia, arguably the most repressive dictatorship on earth, forced Hadi back into power under the guise of protecting democracy, but it has also occupied huge swaths of southern Yemen from al-Mahara to the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Yemeni journalists, activists and politicians have been left to ponder why Western governments – in particular, the Biden administration – condemn Russia for invading Ukraine under the pretext of national security while defending the Saudi regime’s “legitimate right” to invade Yemen under the very same pretext.

Despite the horrific human rights violations carried out by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Western nations, and the United States in particular, have not only provided lethal weapons, training, maintenance, intelligence, and political and diplomatic cover to the monarchy but have imposed media restrictions on coverage of the Saudi regime’s human rights abuses in Yemen, pressuring tech and social media companies to deplatform and outright ban Yemeni activists and media critical of the war.

Yemen Sanctions Feature photo

Yemenis attend a demonstration against the US over its decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization in Sanaa, Jan. 25, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

As mainstream Western media gives glowing coverage to Ukrainians resisting their foreign invaders and occupiers – with Western leaders applauding the steadfastness and resistance of Ukrainians and sending aid, weapons and moral support to them – they label Yemenis taking up arms as terrorists and target them with American-made smart bombs and drone attacks. Yemenis who take up arms against invading Saudi and Emirati forces are sanctioned and dismissed as proxies of Iran by liberal media institutions that claim to stand against war.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council extended an arms embargo and travel ban on Yemeni forces. The resolution strongly condemned what it called cross-border attacks by the “Houthis,” a derogatory term used to refer to Ansar Allalh, the single largest force challenging the Saudi invasion and occupation. It went on to condemn “attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates” referring to Ansar Allah’s missile and drone attacks on Saudi-led Coalition airports and oil storage facilities.

Commenting on the resolution – which came as the UAE refused to publicly condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, hoping to gain Russian backing for its own invasion of Yemen – Ansar Allah leader Mohammed al-Houthi made one simple request: that Saudi Arabia’s deliberate targeting of civilians in Yemen lead to a Saudi weapons ban. Essentially, al-Houthi asked for a lifting of double standards, apparently an impossible request in today’s political climate.

Feature photo | Boys stand on the rubble of a home destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 25, 2017. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post Tears for Ukraine, Sanctions for Russia, Yawns for Yemen, Arms for Saudis: The West’s Grotesque Double Standard appeared first on MintPress News.

As US Renews Support for Saudi War in Yemen, Civilian Death Toll Nearly Doubles

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/02/2022 - 4:51am in

HAJJAH, YEMEN – Two parallel but very different meetings took place recently — one in search of peace, the other to plan more war. In Oman’s capital, Muscat, an official delegation headed by Ansar Allah, met with Omani and European officials to negotiate de-escalation and humanitarian assistance in Yemen. Meanwhile, the United States and the Saudi-led Coalition held meetings to plan a ground escalation in Sana’a and Hajjah province in Yemen’s southeast to coincide with airstrikes against residential neighborhoods in other cities throughout the north, which have killed and injured dozens of people and caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure.

 

Haradh among new, and old, Coalition targets

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s pledge of support to the Saudi king during a call and a corroborating statement by CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the Saudis wasted little time translating this support into ground action. The oil-rich country – supported by American and British military planners and experts and a large number of mercenaries, including Sudanese fighters – has imposed an oppressive siege on Haradh, a strategic Yemeni city in Hajjah province. Situated near the Yemen-Saudi border, Haradh lies emptied of people and largely destroyed by Saudi airstrikes and artillery bombardment.

The crippling siege is designed to pave the way for a ground invasion of the city, which oversees the Red Sea port of Midi in Yemen’s far northwestern reaches. The city was once relatively prosperous, benefiting from smuggling and cross-border trade. Since Tuesday, when the Saudis announced their military operation, dozens of people have been killed, and hundreds of families have fled their homes as Saudi bombs devastate the city and the roads leading into and out of it.

Haradh was not the only target of Saudi violence. U.S.-backed Coalition forces dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on densely populated cities, including Sana’a, al-Hodeida, Hajjah, Saada, Marib, and al-Jwaf. In Sana’a, where Saudi forces uncharacteristically gave a 72-hour evacuation notice to government facilities, warplanes razed the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, destroying communications systems and triggering an internet blackout. U.S.-backed Coalition forces also bombed several areas of the capital around the ministry. The Yemeni Parliament said that the bombing of the telecommunications sector was intended to isolate Yemen from the rest of the world, adding that Saudi Arabia and UAE aim to carry out more massacres and war crimes in defiance of the international community.

Since May 2019 – when the Ansar Allah government unveiled “National Vision” to heal, rebuild, and modernize their war-torn nation – Yemeni government facilities and ministries have succeeded in establishing relative stability, managing a population of more than 15 million people, and keeping the exchange rate at 600 riyals per U.S. dollar. Now, Saudi Arabia claims that government facilities are being used for military purposes. Ansar Allah has denied the claims and invited foreign media to visit all government facilities, adding that the bombings will not break the people’s will.

UAE US Troops

US Air Force personnel operate a missile battery at a UAE Ari Force base in Abu Dhabi. Jao’Torey Johnson | US Air Force

Even during the 72-hour evacuation period, Saudi airstrikes pounded streets leading to the airport and the most important entrances to the capital.

Oil-rich Marib and al-Jawf also came under Saudi attack, while a citizen was killed and three wounded in the al-Muslab area in al-Tuhayta district in al-Hodeida. In the past week alone, Saudi Arabia has violated the al-Hodeida ceasefire agreement 1,426 times. Saudi airstrikes also targeted Saada province, where witnesses told MintPress News that many people, including African immigrants in the al-Raqw area in the Munabbih border district, were killed by Saudi shelling. In addition, the districts of Razeh, Shada, and Kitaf were subjected to all-out air raids, the most violent since a January 22 Saudi Coalition attack on a Yemeni civilian prison.

 

US weapons and diplomacy bring more death and destruction

Amid the escalation, President Biden held a call with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz last Wednesday, where he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to back the Saudi-led Coalition. On February 8, CENTCOM Commander McKenzie told UAE’s state-owned WAM news agency that “the U.S. is working with the UAE and other regional and global partners to develop more effective solutions to stop [Yemeni] drone attacks, even before they are launched,” sparking concerns that the U.S.-backed Saudi Coalition could launch even more preemptive attacks against Yemen under the pretext of stopping Houthi drone attacks on Saudi and UAE targets. On Saturday, a shipment of F-22 fighter jets arrived in the UAE from the United States.

Save the Children has described January as the bloodiest month since 2018 for Yemen, stating that one Yemeni civilian was either killed or wounded every hour during the last month. “Between January 6 and February 2, more than 220 adults and 15 children were killed and over 354 adults and 30 children were injured as well,” Save the Children said in a recent report.

In the January 22 Saudi Coalition attack on the Saada City Remand Prison, UAE warplanes dropped precision-guided bombs made by U.S. weapons manufacturer Raytheon – the latest piece in the broader web of evidence of the use of U.S.-manufactured weapons in incidents that could amount to war crimes, according to Amnesty International. In its report published on January 26, the international body stated:

Amnesty International’s arms experts analyzed photos of the remnants of the weapon used in the attack on the detention center and identified the bomb as a GBU-12, a 500 lb laser-guided bomb manufactured by Raytheon… Since March 2015, Amnesty International’s researchers have investigated dozens of airstrikes and repeatedly found and identified remnants of U.S.-manufactured munitions.

Since November 2021, the Biden administration has approved multiple arms deals with Saudi Arabia, including a $650 million agreement to sell Raytheon missiles to the kingdom and a $28 million contract for U.S. maintenance of the kingdom’s aircraft. In December, the administration stated it “remains committed” to the proposed sale of $23 billion in F-35 aircraft, MQ-9B drones, and munitions to the UAE. These weapons bring death and destruction to civilians in Yemen but are less effective against Yemen’s army and Ansar Allah, which have gradually grown stronger, leaving Riyadh and Abu Dhabi bogged down in the country and looking for more support.

U.S.-made weapons are not the only cause of extensive destruction and the piling up of civilian victims in the war-torn country; the U.S.’s aggressive diplomatic stance has also taken a significant toll. Washington’s diplomatic efforts, paired with a seemingly endless supply of Gulf oil money, have brought about the dissolution of the UN’s monitoring mechanism in Yemen and have effectively given Saudi Arabia and the UAE carte blanche to commit rampant, horrific human rights violations in the country.


US troops work near a Patriot missile battery at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the the UAE, May 5, 2021. Photo | U.S. Air Force

In October, the UN Human Rights Council voted to disband its Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen Group. It was the first time that the United Nations’ top rights body had rejected a draft resolution since it was founded in 2006. The resolution, brought forward by European nations and Canada, was defeated by 21 votes to 18. “The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations,” the  Norwegian Refugee Council`s country director, Erin Hutchinson, lamented in a statement.

According to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council:

The civilian death toll in Yemen has almost doubled since the United Nations rights body dissolved its monitoring mechanism in the war-torn country… In the four months before the end of the human rights monitoring, 823 civilians were injured or killed in the war. In the four months that followed, there were 1,535 civilians, according to data from the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project. During the same period, 39 times more of the civilian casualties were caused by airstrikes.

 

Advice to Biden

By supporting the Saudis and UAE, President Biden not only has abandoned promises he made after first taking office in January 2021, but is also fueling the war and aggravating Yemen`s retaliation against its aggressors. According to Yemeni officials who spoke to MintPress, Biden did not need to supply his allies with weapons, intelligence, and training if he cared about the Saudis and Emirates. “To end the brutal war and keep his allies safe, Biden should dictate to his friends to stop the war and lift the blockade; in return, the Yemeni attacks will stop immediately,” they said.

For its part, the Yemeni Army loyal to Ansar Allah has pledged that retaliatory ballistic missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE will not stop or be deterred by renewed U.S. support. On Thursday, a Yemeni drone achieved a direct hit on a military site in Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia, as announced by Brigadier General Yahya Saree and confirmed by the Saudi-led Coalition.

To most Yemenis – who are highly frustrated by the renewal of the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia – ballistic missile and drone strikes have proven the most effective means of deterring their oil-rich neighbors from their unrelenting attacks.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

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

The post As US Renews Support for Saudi War in Yemen, Civilian Death Toll Nearly Doubles appeared first on MintPress News.

UK Approved Military Exports to Russia Exceed Ukraine by £18 Million Since 2010

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/02/2022 - 10:15pm in

UK Approved Military Exports to RussiaExceed Ukraine by£18 Million Since 2010

The UK gave the green light to more than £50 million of military exports to Russia prior to the annexation of Crimea, reports Sam Bright

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The value of military exports approved by the UK Government to Russia comfortably exceeds the value approved to Ukraine since 2010, data shows.

UK export license data shows that £56 million worth of export licenses for military goods have been approved to Russia during this time period, compared to £38 million in the case of Ukraine.

It’s worth noting that the number of export licenses approved to Russia has stalled in recent years. The overwhelming majority (£54.9 million) of the export licenses were approved between 2010 and 2014. By contrast, the value of military export licenses approved to Ukraine since 2014 is £21 million.

These figures demonstrate the value of goods that licence holders are allowed to export; the UK Government does not publish the value of actual exports.

However, this data does call into question the long-term strategic planning of the UK Government. The UK and much of the western world is currently attempting to dissuade Russia from invading Ukraine, as 130,000 Russian troops amass on the border between the two countries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the current standoff between Russia and Ukraine “the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin purportedly seeks to extend Russia’s sphere of influence in eastern Europe – attempting to unify, economically and in some cases politically, the former Soviet bloc – while resisting the perceived expansion of NATO and the European Union towards Russian territory.

This was seen in 2014, a year after the UK approved £14 million in military export licenses to Russia, when Putin ordered his forces to invade and annex Crimea – an autonomous region of Ukraine populated mainly by ethnic Russians.

“It’s not because Crimea has a strategic importance in the Black Sea region. It’s because this has elements of historical justice”, Putin is quoted as saying, in relation to the 2014 annexation.

However, it seems as though the UK was slow to realise this threat – approving more than £50 million in military export licenses to Russia in the four years preceding the invasion.


‘If it Happens, Then it Happens’Civilians in theKremlin’s Firing Line
Chris York

As reported by Byline Times, 2014 was also the year in which the most ‘golden’ visas were issued by the UK Government to Russian investors. These visas were – and still are – offered in exchange for £2 million in UK investment, with 618 Russian issued with entry clearance visas in 2014 alone.

Prior to 2015, this scheme was particularly vulnerable to abuse as minimal checks on the investors increased the risk of money laundering. The Government has subsequently launched a review into the investors awarded visas between 2008 and 2015, when due diligence checks were at their weakest.

The UK Government’s approach to arms exports has also been the subject of ongoing criticism, accused of aiding human rights abuses abroad. Infamously, the UK has approved arms export licenses worth £8.2 billion to the Saudi-led coalition since 2015, when it began a military campaign against neighbouring Yemen. The war has created mass starvation and poverty in Yemen with five million people on the brink of famine and a further 16 million “marching toward starvation”, according to the World Food Programme.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

The case of Russia will further bolster the notion that successive Conservative-led governments have allowed economic and commercial considerations to override legitimate human rights and geopolitical concerns – putting vulnerable individuals, and the world, more at risk.

“The UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world,” a Department for International Trade spokesperson said.

“We rigorously assess each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, and will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria, including where there is a risk that the items will be diverted to an undesirable end-user or for an undesirable end-use”.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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