Noam Chomsky about United States wars


This video says about itself:

Chomsky: ‘US invades, destroys country – that’s stabilization. Someone resists – destabilization’

9 apr. 2015

While the International Criminal Court investigates and sentences African dictators, any of the crimes the US commits like the invasion of Iraq, which has destabilized an entire region, go unpunished, philosopher Noam Chomsky tells.

United States drone war kills Yemeni civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

Turning a Wedding Into a Funeral: U.S. Drone Strike in Yemen Killed as Many as 12 Civilians

21 February 2014

Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed.

The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: U.S. Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.

By Niles Williamson in the USA:

Report documents carnage of US drone war in Yemen

17 June 2015

A report released this week by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), titled “Death by Drone: Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen,” documents the deadly carnage inflicted by Hellfire missile strikes in US President Barack Obama’s criminal drone war in Yemen.

Drone and other airstrikes have been launched under the authority of either the CIA or the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command against suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) throughout the country since 2002.

These strikes were permitted by former dictator Ali Abduallah Saleh and the recently ousted Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was installed as president by the US and Saudi Arabia.

Hadi used to be dictator Saleh’s vice president, and a senior officer in Saleh’s army. He was ‘elected’ in an election in which he was the only candidate.

The Yemeni government often claimed responsibility for attacks as a cover for the American government’s actions.

While the US supports Saudi Arabia in its campaign of daily airstrikes against Houthi rebels, who oppose AQAP, it has continued its own air campaign in Yemen. The latest American drone strike hit the city of Mukalla on Sunday, killing as many as seven people.

The first known airstrikes carried out by the Obama administration came on December 17, 2009, when a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs slammed into the village of Al Majala in Abyan province. While purportedly targeted at an AQAP training camp, it killed at least 44 civilians, including five pregnant women and 21 children. A separate strike the same day killed four people in Arhab.

Since then, there have been at least 121 drone and other airstrikes that have taken the lives of as many as 1,100 people, most of them officially classified as combatants. As a means of limiting the official civilian casualty count in any particular attack, President Obama approved the redefinition of a “combatant” as any male of military service age killed or injured by a drone strike.

In addition to strikes targeted at specific individuals, in 2012 Obama authorized the CIA to use “signature” strikes against targets in Yemen. The decision to launch a signature strike is based purely on patterns of behaviors that the CIA has determined mark a terrorist, meaning many attacks have launched against unknown persons based purely on movements observed from afar by surveillance drones, including their carrying of firearms, which is common in Yemeni tribal society.

Anwar Al Awlaki became the first US citizen to be deliberately targeted and killed by a drone strike on September 30, 2011. Last year, the Obama administration released a legal memo authored by the Justice Department to justify the killing. It asserts that the US President has the power to kill a US citizen, without charges or trial.

President Obama gave a speech at the National Defense University in 2013 in which he outlined supposed guidelines and limits on drone killings. He stated that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

The OSJI review of nine separate drone strikes carried our between 2012 and 2014 reveals this statement to be a blatant lie. The report found that 26 civilians had been killed and 13 injured in this handful of attacks. Investigators traveled to the areas where the strikes occurred and interviewed survivors and the families of those killed.

A drone strike on April 19, 2014 in the Al Sawmaah district of Al Bayda province killed four workers and wounded five others. The men were traveling together in a car when a missile fired from a CIA drone hit a vehicle allegedly carrying AQAP militants approximately thirty meters behind them, blowing up their car as well.

Hussein Nasser Abu Bakr al-Khushm, a father of one of the victims, told investigators that he was devastated by the death of his son, Sanad Hussein, who had just gotten a visa to work in Saudi Arabia.

“The news fell on our ears like thunderbolt,” he said. “I got motionless. Even when his body was brought to the village for burial I could not go to have a last look at him. Until this moment, I’m still unable to figure out what happened to my son. They were killed by an American drone.”

Investigators spoke to Musa Ahmed Ali Al Jarraah a 15-year-old boy who survived a strike by two Hellfire missiles on a home in the village of Silat Al Jaarrah on the night of January 23, 2013.

“It was a US drone,” Al Jaraah said. “I saw it while I was on my way home. It flew so low I could view it easily. It had long wings in the rear, its size was not large and it had a head that looked like a camel’s head.”

A crowd of approximately 30 people had gathered outside the home to watch the village’s only television when the missiles struck. The strike injured five civilians including Al Jaraah, who suffered shrapnel wound to his abdomen. A ten-year-old girl, Iftikar Abdoh Mohammed, sustained minor injuries when she was hit in the head with shrapnel.

On September 2, 2012, a Hellfire missile launched by an American drone blew up a truck carrying a group of qat merchants and several others who were returning home from a day at the market in the city of Radaa. The strike killed 12 out of the 14 passengers in the truck, including Rasilah Ali Al Faqih, who was pregnant, and her 10-year-old daughter Dawlah Nasser Salah.

The truck’s driver, Nasser Mabkhout, who survived despite being severely burned, described the attack and its aftermath to the investigators:

“Before we arrived at the junction that leads to the unpaved road of the village, two aircraft approached the front of the car, one white and the other black, as far as I can remember. They approached us more closely, and we started to exchange humor that they would attack us, and we laughed. Our laughter was cut off by two shells…I saw the dead bodies scattered in and around the car, some of them beheaded. I couldn’t differentiate between the bodies of the dead.”

The Yemeni government paid $4,654 for burial expenses to each victim’s family, and eventually paid out a paltry restitution to the families: $32,578 for each individual killed and $13,962 for each person wounded.

As with other drone strikes, the attack on the merchants continues to terrorize civilians long after the victims’ bodies have been buried and restitution paid out to the families. “Since the incident, my family and I as well as the villagers live in constant fear,” one of the victims’ uncles told investigators. “The horror increases with the constant over-flights of the US aircrafts. We go to our farms in fear, our children are afraid to go to school, and at bedtime, women remain in constant fear.”

The White House disclosed yesterday that a counterterrorism drone operation earlier this year killed two hostages, one of whom was American. Meet the American aid worker with a passion for Pakistan, as well as his Italian counterpart. President Obama took to the briefing room to apologize to the hostages’ families. And here’s how intelligence forces discovered their grisly mistake, which has reignited the drone debate. [Jason Linkins and Ryan Grim, HuffPost]

Saudi bombs make humanitarian disaster in Yemen


This video from the USA says about itself:

Yemen: Saudi strike on military base hits school instead

7 April 2015

A violent power struggle in Yemen is plunging the country into a deepening humanitarian crisis. Reports that an airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition may have hit the wrong target are circulating. CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report from Washington.

By Niles Williamson:

US-backed assault creating humanitarian disaster in Yemen

8 April 2015

The United Nations warned on Monday that ongoing fighting in Yemen combined with the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes backed by Washington is taking an “intolerable toll” on children in the deeply impoverished Middle Eastern country.

UNICEF has confirmed that at least 74 children have been killed and another 44 maimed since Saudi-led airstrikes began nearly two weeks ago. The real death toll for children is likely much higher and is expected to rise as airstrikes continue to hit civilian targets in urban areas throughout the country.

“Children are paying an intolerable price for this conflict,” UNICEF Yemen Representative Julien Harneis said in a statement Monday. “They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted.”

Grant Pritchard, Oxfam’s director in Yemen, cautioned that without a ceasefire there could be “a humanitarian disaster on our hands in the coming weeks and months.” Even before the outbreak of fighting, 16 million Yemenis relied on humanitarian aid and 53 percent of the country’s population, approximately 13 million people, lacked access to clean water.

Airstrikes began on March 26 after Houthi rebels, who had captured the capital city of Sanaa in January, advanced on the compound of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in the southern port city of Aden.

Since then, the bombardment, as well as fighting on the ground between the Houthi militia and military elements loyal to Hadi and hostile tribal forces, has resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Hadi was installed as president in 2012 by the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to quell the mass uprising against the Saleh government. Lacking any real base of support, Hadi fled the country for Saudi Arabia in the face of a Houthi assault on Aden, which has continued despite the widespread campaign of bombardment.

The Saudi regime has charged that Iran is attempting to expand its influence in the region by backing the Houthis. In reality, the Houthi rebellion was sparked in large measure by Saudi Arabia’s own repressive influence over Yemen and its sectarian campaign against the Zaidi Shia Yemenis, who make up one-third of the country’s population and are the majority in the north. While they have received some aid from Iran, they are neither controlled by nor a proxy of Tehran. …

In less than two weeks of Saudi-led aerial bombardments and fighting on the ground more than 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Many people have fled to rural villages in hopes of avoiding the airstrikes which have pounded urban areas throughout the country, including Sanaa, the Houthi stronghold of Sadaa, the western port city of Hodeida and Aden.

Airstrikes have been launched by forces from a coalition of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan. Though they have not been involved directly in the bombing, the campaign has been given support by the governments of Turkey and Pakistan.

This bloody campaign has been facilitated by the US government, which has provided the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support. Stepping up its direct involvement, the Pentagon announced this week that it would begin refueling jet fighters taking part in airstrikes.

Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters in Washington on Monday that the Pentagon had authorized tankers to refuel Saudi and other coalition aircraft outside Yemeni airspace. “It’s been authorized, assets are in place. The Saudis have not requested it. Any refueling will not take place over Yemen. Any refueling will take place over Saudi Arabia or other places,” he stated.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a diplomatic visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, told reporters that the Obama administration was expanding its support for the assault by accelerating the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the coalition.

“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center,” Blinken told reporters.

The “intelligence sharing” referred to by Blinken involves providing Saudis with intelligence from US surveillance flights over Yemen to determine what targets to strike, making Washington fully complicit in the ongoing slaughter of civilians on the ground.

The US-backed assault, approaching its third week, is severely worsening conditions in a country where food insecurity and malnutrition were already widespread amongst the most vulnerable segments of the population. According to the World Bank, more than half of Yemen’s population lived in poverty in 2012, and 45 percent were food insecure.

Airstrikes as well as fighting on the ground has knocked out electrical infrastructure, cutting off power in many urban areas and stopping the operation of crucial pumps that supply Yemen’s cities with drinking water. “We’re worried that this system will break down shortly; Aden is a dry, hot place, and without water people will really suffer,” UNICEF representative Harneis told reporters.

Aid workers have been unable to access many areas where fighting has taken place; hospitals are overflowing with casualties, while bodies have been left to fester in the streets. Hospitals and aid workers have also come under repeated assault; at least three health workers have been killed in separate attacks.

“Conditions are very dangerous right now,” Doctor Gamila Hibatullah, a UNICEF volunteer stationed in Aden said Monday. “Hospitals are overflowing, and even ambulances have been hijacked.”

Adding to the death toll on Tuesday, Yemeni officials reported that three students were killed in a Saudi airstrike that hit the Al Bastain School in Maitam, 100 miles south of Sanaa. The airstrikes were reportedly intended for the Al Hamza military base, a third of a mile from the school, which has been taken over by members of the Houthi militia. No casualties were reported at the base.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Tuesday that it had finally reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to airlift 16 tons of medical supplies from Amman, Jordan into Sanaa by Wednesday morning, and a further 32 tons of supplies by Thursday afternoon. The no-fly zone and blockade enforced by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners has effectively blocked the delivery of medical aid and supplies for the last two weeks, exacerbating the developing crisis.

Yemen: «We are living through pure horror» was how one man described the aftermath of nightly aerial bombardments: here.

The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length: Seumas Milne. Barack Obama is playing all sides against each other, but support for the Saudi war in Yemen will only spread conflagration in the Middle East: here.

TO SUGGEST that United States policies in Yemen are a failure is an understatement. That would imply that the US has at least attempted to succeed. But succeed at what? Here.

Stop killing my people with warplanes and drones, Yemeni human rights activist says


A Yemeni boy stands in front of a damaged house in the village of Bani Matar, a day after it was reportedly hit by an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Huthi rebel positions. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Baraa Shiban is a Yemeni human rights activist.

Today he writes in daily The Guardian in Britain:

US-backed airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians – and hopes for peace

America saw my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens, which was a mistake. Instead of fixing the problems, drone strikes only made them worse

You can’t bomb a country into existence, however much America seems determined to try.

In the last week, 164 Yemeni civilians have lost their lives in the Saudi bombardment of my country. In media reports – full of geopolitical talk of “proxy wars” and “regional interests” – the names of the dead are absent. As always, it is ordinary Yemeni families who are left grieving, and forgotten.

The US has a central role in all of this. As US officials told the Wall Street Journal, “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb”.

Investigating US drone strikes on my country, I have seen the aftermath of aerial bombardment time and time again. The weeping father; the young girl unable to walk from shrapnel wounds; the mother, mute from shock. I try to record what has taken place; most of them just ask in return what my questions will do to bring back their loved ones. The few that find words express powerlessness and confusion as to why the might of a distant US military has been visited on their simple lives.

I represented the youth in Yemen’s revolution in 2011. I had never been particularly politically interested before the revolution, but those remarkable days changed my life forever, and I was proud to take my place in the process that was set up by the international community to guide my country to democracy. Over months of hard negotiation, we created the framework for Yemen’s new constitution.

Meanwhile, inexplicably, US drones continued to drop bombs on communities across the country . The blanket claims by the American government that these attacks were clinically picking off terrorists were patently untrue: I went to the attack sites, and met the bereaved relatives of builders, children, hitchhikers.

I know my country, and my fellow countrymen; the people I was meeting were simple souls, scraping a living in Yemen’s tough agricultural hinterland. Large political questions were far from their minds. When asked, they would all condemn the terrorist groups who had provided the pretext for the attacks.

We took reports of our investigations to President Hadi, and begged him to stop the attacks. They clearly destabilised all our genuine political efforts. Hadi would try and change the subject: he knew full well that the US economic support propping up our country was dependent on turning a blind eye to American counter-terrorism activities.

Even last week, as Saudi warplanes were refuelling to fly more sorties, anti-aircraft guns were barking over the capital, and President Hadi was fleeing the country, the White House Press Secretary was still trying to defend the so-called “Yemen model” of counterterrorism that was founded on these drone attacks. I listened to his words with incredulity, that he could so blindly ignore the evidence of his own eyes.

I understand that Yemen’s problems are complicated, and need time to resolve, but America’s desire to see my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens was a grave mistake. The National Dialogue was the forum for mending Yemen; US drone attacks consistently undermined our claim to be the sole, sovereign forum for Yemenis to resolve Yemeni disputes.

Truly concerning is President Obama’s belief that Yemen should act as some sort of model for other conflicts – notably the one being waged in Iraq and Syria. Reporters have already revealed Centcom’s efforts to cover up a drone strike in el-Bab in Syria in which 50 civilians died, as well as the botched attack on Kafr Daryan in which 12 more were killed.

When I read those reports, I am taken straight back to the awful drone attack sites I have visited in Yemen: 12 dead when a wedding convoy was hit in Yakla; a mother, father and young daughter all blown up together when a minibus was hit in al-Saboul.

The surest way to ensure America’s security isn’t bombing my countrymen and women; it’s to help countries build strong institutions, which doesn’t happen through the crosshairs of a drone feed. It’s been tried in Yemen. Please take our current pain as proof it won’t work anywhere else.

Pentagon to train Ukrainian neo-nazi militias


This video is called Battalion Azov: neo-nazis in Ukraine.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US Army to train Ukrainian fascist militias

1 April 2015

The US Army will begin training Ukraine National Guard battalions on April 20 at a site in western Ukraine, near the Polish border, according to an announcement made Sunday by the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov.

“American commandos, numbering 290, will come to Yavoriv training ground, Lviv region, on April 20,” Avakov wrote on Facebook. “This is where a long-term military exercise of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the US Army and combat units of the National Guard will be held.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed the deployment earlier this month, without giving the exact date of its commencement. “This assistance is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations,” she said. “In particular, the training will help the Ukraine government develop its National Guard to conduct internal defense operations.”

This suggests that the paramilitary units, most of them created by billionaire oligarchs who financed and recruited fascist and neo-Nazi volunteers, may be used for suppression of popular protests within the government-controlled portion of Ukraine, in addition to joining the battle lines in eastern Ukraine if fighting breaks out again with pro-Russian separatists.

The US role in training and equipping paramilitary forces that openly venerate Ukrainian nationalists and fascists who collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces and facilitated the Holocaust during World War II, and who sport swastika-like insignias, exposes as filthy lies the US claims to be championing democracy and human rights in Ukraine.

The training program will include Washington’s first direct and open provision of lethal weaponry to Ukrainian military units. Pentagon officials said that uniforms, body armor, night vision devices and tactical radios would be supplied—all classified as “non-lethal”—but Avakov revealed that “our American partners” will present “special ammunition” to the Ukrainian National Guard troops at the conclusion of their training.

Before the end of 2015, Ukrainian forces could be killing pro-Russian separatist troops—or Russian soldiers—with American-supplied bullets, grenades and other “special ammunition.” This increases the danger of the conflict over eastern Ukraine and Crimea escalating into a direct military clash between nuclear-armed Russia and US-NATO forces.

A total of 1,500 US troops, 600 soldiers from other NATO-member countries, and 2,200 Ukrainian soldiers will take part in a series of exercises. The first, dubbed Fearless Guardian 2015, will extend over a seven-month period, from April through November. The second, Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015, begins in July and extends through October.

The US troops will be drawn from the 173rd Combat Brigade, the spearhead of US forces in southern Europe, based in Vicenza, Italy. It specializes in offensive and air assault operations, making a mockery of the claim that the Pentagon is training Ukrainian troops for defense against supposed Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Avakov said that agreement on the military exercises was reached in talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US Vice President Joseph Biden during Biden’s recent visit to Kiev. He paid special tribute to the role played by Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and officials at the US embassy in Kiev, saying, “Without their vigor, the important and complicated preparation of training would have been impossible.”

On March 17, the Ukrainian parliament approved a bill submitted by Poroshenko permitting foreign troops to participate in multinational exercises in Ukraine this year. The operations in Ukraine coincide with similar drills being carried out in nearby countries that are NATO members, including Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

A total of 1,200 Ukrainian regular army soldiers and as many as 1,000 from the National Guard will take part in the training. Many of the 50 battalions that comprise the National Guard will send troops. Avakov listed the Azov, Jaguar and Omega battalions, as well as battalions drawn from the cities of Kiev, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia.

The inclusion of the Azov battalion has the most ominous implications. This is a military force of more than 1,000 soldiers founded and led by the neo-Nazi Andriy Biletsky. It carries banners bearing a modified swastika insignia drawn directly from World War II German SS units.

This battalion has played the leading role in fighting in Mariupol, the second largest city in the Donetsk region and the largest still held by the Ukrainian government. It is a center of steel manufacture and the main port on the Sea of Azov, a branch of the Black Sea.

Biletsky has publicly denounced the February 15 ceasefire agreed upon by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the pro-Russian separatists, and has threatened to march on Kiev and install a pro-war government. His battalion is equipped with artillery and tanks, as well as other heavy weapons.

According to a report by Reuters last week, published in Time magazine, “The Azov battalion originated from Biletsky’s paramilitary national socialist group called ‘Patriot of Ukraine,’ which propagated slogans of white supremacy, racial purity, the need for authoritarian power and a centralized national economy. ‘Patriot of Ukraine’ opposed giving up Ukraine’s sovereignty by joining international blocs, called for rolling back of liberal economy and political democracy, including free media.”

A March 22 article in USA Today describes a visit by a reporter to the Azov Battalion in Mariupol. It carries the headline, “Nazis Among Kiev’s National Guard.” The article includes an interview with a drill sergeant who openly praises Nazi ideology, while quoting a spokesman for the battalion who says, “It’s his personal ideology. It has nothing to do with the official ideology of the Azov.”

The spokesman, Andrey Dyachenko, adds that “Only 10 percent to 20 percent of the group’s members are Nazis,” meaning that at least 100 to 200 Nazis may be about to receive intensive military training from US commandos.

The same article quotes a member of the Armed Forces of Ukraine general staff in Kiev, Col. Oleksy Nozdrachov, who “defended the Azov fighters as patriots.”

A report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights covering a single month, November 2014, found that Ukraine’s Office of the Military Prosecutor had done nothing to investigate a “considerable” number of human rights allegations, “including looting, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by members of certain voluntary battalions such as Aidar, Azov, Slobozhanshchina and Shakhtarsk.”

An earlier report by Amnesty International described members of the Aidar battalion engaging in “ISIS-style” war crimes, including beheading several pro-Russian separatists and sending the head of at least one victim by mail to his mother. Ukrainian nationalist militants “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions,” the group said.

But during a recent visit to New York, the first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, said the National Guard battalions consisted of “disciplined Ukrainian warriors about whom films will be made and books will be written.”

These reports underscore the utterly reactionary character of the US-NATO intervention in Ukraine, which has unleashed ferociously anti-democratic and fascistic forces against the Ukrainian people, both in the eastern region and throughout the country.

After a convoy across Eastern Europe from their base in Vicenza, Italy, nearly 300 soldiers from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Ukraine Monday, to begin training members of the Ukrainian National Guard. They took up positions at a camp in Yavoriv, a few miles outside of the city of Lviv, the main center of western Ukraine. The Ukrainian troops working with the Americans include members of the Azov Battalion and other units notorious for their links to neo-Nazi groups. They have marched with modified swastikas and other insignia modeled on the Waffen SS forces that fought alongside Ukrainian nationalists against the Soviet Red Army during World War II: here.

Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians, help ISIS


This video says about itself:

26 March 2015

Saudi-led air strikes against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. Anti-aircraft fire over Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Heavy destruction in a civilian neighborhood of Sanaa. Some pictures are too graphic to show.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 29 March 2015

Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf’s fire

World View: Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis

Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.

The US position becomes even more convoluted. Washington had sought to portray its campaign in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a success. Drone attacks were supposedly wiping out important AQAP operatives, but the humiliating end result of America’s covert war in Yemen came last week when US Special Operations personnel blew up their heavy equipment and fled the country for the US base at Djibouti. AQAP is becoming a stronger force as the shock troops of the Sunni.

US policy across the Middle East looks contradictory. It is supporting Sunni powers and opposing Iranian allies in Yemen but doing the reverse in Iraq. On Thursday US aircraft for the first time started pounding Islamic State (Isis) positions in Tikrit, 87 miles north of Baghdad. The city has been under assault for four weeks, with 20,000 Shia militia and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers pitted against a few hundred Isis fighters. The Shia militiamen are now reported to have withdrawn but they do not appear to have gone far. Effectively, the battle for Tikrit is being waged by Iranian-directed Shia militia backed by US air power, even if the two sides are rivals as well as allies.

Ultimately, the US may not have much choice. If it refuses to back anti-Islamic State combatants for whatever reason it will be to the benefit of Isis. The numbers tell the story: there are between 100,000 and 120,000 Shia militiamen in Iraq compared with only 12 brigades in the Iraqi army capable of fighting, about 48,000 soldiers, although this total may be inflated. Isis has been conscripting young men across its self-declared caliphate since last October and may have over 100,000 fighters. If the US relies on Iraqi government and Kurdish Peshmerga ground forces alone to put Isis out of business, it will be difficult.

Why did the US finally use its air power at Tikrit, formerly a city of 200,000? First, it was the only help the Baghdad government formally asked for this week. The US may have concluded, as it did with the 134-day siege of the town of Kobani last year, that it could not allow Isis to succeed in Tikrit. Second, if the city did fall, Washington did not want Iran and the Shia militia to get all the credit.

A further motive is that both the US and Iran want to restore some credibility to the Iraqi government and army after their crushing defeats by Isis forces last year. So far the Iraqi army has not recaptured a single city or substantial town from Isis since the fall of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad in January 2014. Such limited military successes as there have been were won by the militias in the provinces neighbouring Baghdad.

The US-led international coalition opposing Isis also needs to do something to bolster its own credibility. Despite some 2,500 coalition air strike launched against it since last August, the Islamic State has lost little territory. Isis may be battered but it shows no signs of being anywhere near to defeat.

The Independent conducted a series of interviews in February and March with people who had recently left Isis and, while none were sympathetic to it, there was nobody who believed it was going to be destroyed by mounting internal discontent or external military pressure. A prime reason for this is that the Sunni Arab communities in Iraq and Syria are not being offered an acceptable alternative to Isis rule. They are all terrified of becoming the victims of a pogrom that does not distinguish between Isis supporters and ordinary Sunni.

A further feature of life in the Isis caliphate that emerged from these interviews is that it is well organised: it taxes salaries and sales, it conscripts young men of military age, controls education and mercilessly strikes down any opponents. Its stability might be shaken if it suffered a string of military defeats but so far this has not happened.

Air strikes have made it revert to semi-guerrilla tactics, not holding ground against superior forces backed by airpower but counter-attacking briskly when they have moved on or their lines of communication have become longer and more vulnerable. Given the difficulty in capturing Tikrit, it does not look as if an assault on Mosul will be possible for a long time. There seems to be no enthusiasm on the government side [to] retake Fallujah, although it is so much closer to the capital.

Whatever happens in Iraq and Yemen, the political temperature of the region is getting hotter by the day. Looked at from a Saudi and Gulf monarchy point of view, Iran and the Shia are on the advance, becoming either the dominant or the most powerful influence in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria have linked their futures inextricably and fatally to Isis and other al-Qaeda type organisations. These have military strength, but they make many powerful enemies.

The confrontations between Sunni and Shia, and between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran and its allies, is becoming deeper and more militarised. Conflicts cross-infect and exacerbate each other, preventing solutions to individual issues. Thus Saudi intervention in Yemen reduces the chance of a US-Iranian agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme and sanctions. As these conflicts and divisions spread, the chances of creating a common front that is capable of destroying the Islamic State are getting fewer by the day.

ARAB LEADERS ANNOUNCE JOINT TASK FORCE FOR ‘ARMED INSURGENCIES’ “Arab leaders announced Sunday that they would form a joint military force to intervene in neighboring states grappling with armed insurgencies. It is a dramatic step to quell the unrest that has broken out in the wake of the region’s uprisings, but some analysts warned it could exacerbate the conflicts that have polarized countries and left hundreds of thousands dead.” [WaPo]

Saudi bombing ‘worst ever’, Yemeni civilians say


This video says about itself:

25 March 2015

Saudi Arabian forces, joined by nine other countries, have launched a military operation in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels. READ MORE: here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“This was bad bombing”

Today, 08:17

“Residents of the Yemeni capital Sanaa speak of the heaviest bombardments that they have ever experienced,” says correspondent Sander van Hoorn. The past few days Houthi rebels progressed in ever larger parts of the country. Saudi Arabia began therefore tonight, along with allies, a military operation in which some 150 bombings were carried out.

“The Saudis are supported by the United Arab Emirates and Jordan says they also sent fighter jets,” says Van Hoorn. …

US support

The support of the Americans, according to Van Hoorn, is more important. “They say they were aware of the operation. They do not actively participate in the bombing, but give, in their own words, information and logistical support.”

Already in 2009, the Saudi air force attacked Yemen.