Saudi war on Yemen means more terrorism, more refugees


This video from London, England says about itself:

Stop the bloodshed in Yemen is theme of protest in London

25 April 2015

Hundreds of Yemenis marched to the Saudi Embassy to protest against Saudi Arabia and US imperialism, and to stop the bloodshed in Yemen. Yemenis [should] choose their own government, not the Saudis or the West.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 26 April 2015

Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe’s problem

World View: Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign

Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns ($150) and AK-47s ($150) has increased eightfold. Whatever else happens, the war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry.

Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26 March, is irrelevant to the rest of the world. Already the turmoil there is a breeding ground for al-Qaeda type attacks such as that on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The collapse of the country into a permanent state of warfare will send waves of boat-people towards Western Europe or anywhere else they can find refuge. It is absurd for European leaders to pretend that they are doing something about “terrorism” or the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean when they ignore the wars that are the root causes of these events.

Yemen war has been left to the Saudis and the Gulf monarchies, with the US ineffectually trying to end it. The reality of what is happening is very different from the way it is presented. The Saudis allege that they are crushing a takeover of Yemen by the Houthi Shia militia backed by Iran and intend to return the legitimate president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to power. In fact, the Houthis’ seizure of so much of Yemen over the past year has little to do with Iran. It has much more to do with their alliance with their old enemy, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who still controls much of the Yemeni army. This enabled the Houthis, whose strongholds are in the north of the country, to capture Sanaa easily last September, though UN experts note that the capital “was guarded by no less than 100,000 Republican Guards and Reserve Forces, most of them loyal to the former president”.

The Saudi air campaign is geared more to inflicting severe damage on the units of the Yemeni army loyal to Saleh than it is to weakening the Houthis. The Houthi militiamen are experienced fighters, their military skills and ability to withstand air attack honed between 2004 and 2010, when they fought off six offensives launched by Saleh, who was then in power and closely allied to Saudi Arabia. It was only after he was ousted from office in 2012 that he reconciled with the Houthis.

The Saudi war aim is to break this alliance between the Houthis and the Saleh-controlled military units by destroying the army’s bases and heavy weapons. The more lightly armed Houthis are less likely to be hard-hit by air strikes, but without the support or neutrality of the regular army they will be over-stretched in the provinces south of Sanaa. In Aden, they are fighting not so much Hadi-supporters, but southern separatists who want to reverse the unification agreed in 1990.

The problem with the Saudi strategy is the same as that with most military plans. The 19th-century German chief of staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, said that in war “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. The same warning was pithily restated more recently by the American boxer Mike Tyson, who said that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

The danger for Saudi Arabia is that wars build up an uncontrollable momentum that transforms the political landscape in which they are conceived. Had the Saudis not intervened in Yemen, it is unlikely that in the long term the Houthis would have been able to dominate the country because they are opposed by so many regions, parties and tribes. Yemen is too divided for any single faction to win an outright victory. But the air war has been justified by Saudi Arabia to their own citizens and the Sunni world as a counterattack against Iranian and Shia aggression. It will not be easy for Riyadh to back off from these exaggerated claims to reach the sort of compromises required if Yemen is to return to peace. A further danger is that demonising the Houthis as Iranian puppets may well prove self-fulfilling, if the Houthis are compelled to look for allies wherever they can find them.

Yemenis insist that their society has not traditionally been divided along sectarian lines between the Zaidi Shia, a third of the population, and the two-thirds of Yemenis who are Sunni. But this could change very quickly as the Yemen conflict gets plugged into the wider and increasingly warlike regional confrontation between a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia and a Shia counterpart led by Iran.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been one of the main beneficiaries of the militarisation of Yemeni politics, because it can present itself as the shock troops of the Sunni community and its fighters are no longer under pressure from the regular army. As many Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans have discovered to their cost, Sunni-Shia sectarian hatred and fear is often only one massacre away.

The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies worry so much about Yemen because it is very much their backyard. But there is every reason for the rest of the world to worry too, because Yemen is joining Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia as places where warlords rule in conditions of anarchy. They are places where life has become unlivable for much of the population, who will take any risk to escape.

This is the sort of national calamity that is filling the boats and rafts crowded with desperate emigrants that are heading across the Mediterranean for Europe.

And this calamity is particularly bad in Yemen, because the country was in crisis even before the present conflict. According to UN agencies, malnutrition in Yemen is about the same as in much of sub-Saharan Africa and only half the population has access to clean water. The country imports 90 per cent of the grains used for food, but no ships are coming in because its ports are blockaded by the Saudis or caught up in the fighting. In any case it is difficult to move food supplies because of a chronic shortage of fuel. Lack of electricity means that essential medicines in hospitals cannot be stored.

This is not a short-term problem, Yemen is finally falling apart, but it may take a long time doing so, which means that there will be a vacuum of power. AQAP and other jihadi groups are already taking advantage of this. America’s much vaunted drone war against AQAP has not prevented the organisation taking over whole provinces.

The Sunni-Shia confrontation has a fresh injection of venom. Yemen has endured many wars that the rest of the world has ignored, but this one may well prove uncontainable.

The Saudi royal air force bombed Sanaa, capital of Yemen, again today: here.

SAUDI coalition warplanes launched dozens of air strikes on Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Saturday: here.

Why Pakistan said no to King Salman. Pakistan’s unanimous decision to stay out of the conflict brewing in Yemen, and to push for a political resolution rather than a military one, puts significant strain on bilateral relations, complicating Saudi-Pakistani diplomatic relations: here.

How the U.S. contributed to Yemen’s crisis. Washington’s support for Yemen’s former dictatorship — and of Saudi efforts to sideline the country’s nonviolent pro-democracy movement — helped create the current crisis: here.

Saudi air force resumes killing Yemeni civilians


This video says about itself:

We’re dying every day’: Yemeni civilians paint grim picture of suffering amid Saudi-led strikes

20 April 2015

RT gets eyewitness accounts of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen as civilians bear the brunt of the Saudi-led airstrikes. Freelance journalist Muhammad al-Attab reports.

After the good news earlier today of the Saudi air force stopping killing Yemeni civilians (well, ‘good’ news in the context of the disastrous consequences still continuing of the Saudi bombings), now disastrous news again.

From the BBC today:

Yemen conflict: Saudi-led coalition resumes air strikes

25 minutes ago

Saudi-led coalition jets have bombed Houthi rebels in Yemen‘s third city of Taiz, hours after announcing the end of a military campaign against them. ..

The UN says at least 944 people have been killed and 3,487 injured in air strikes, fighting on the ground and attacks by jihadist militants in Yemen since 19 March.

THE reactionary Saudi regime – the pride and joy of the United States and UK ruling classes that have armed it to the teeth – and its allies in the Gulf are about to learn a lesson that its US-UK sponsors should have been able to explain to it. This is that it is easy to leap into a war, but that it may well prove to be much harder to get out of than it was to get into, and that the tendency could well be to get deeper and deeper into the quagmire, until the contradictions that are sharpened explode under the feudal princes that rule Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states: here.

Saudi air force stops killing Yemeni civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Bombing Yemen, Still Our Ally

13 April 2015

Sheila Carapico, professor of politics science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia, and author of the recently written piece: A Call to Resist Saudi and US Aggression in Yemen, joins David to discuss Saudi military action in Yemen, and the hypocrisy of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia.

By Niles Williamson:

Saudi-led coalition halts air assault in Yemen

22 April 2015

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that it was ending the nearly one-month-old air assault it spearheaded against the Houthi rebels and their supporters throughout Yemen. …

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, backed by the US, have been dropping bombs on targets throughout Yemen for the last four weeks with the aim of defeating the Houthi rebels, who have taken control of most of the country’s western provinces.

The United States government facilitated the continuous assault by providing the coalition with logistical and intelligence support, approving possible targets and refueling jet fighters after bombing raids. The Saudi monarchy and the US government have been expressly seeking the reinstatement of President Hadi, who fled the country for Riyadh in the face of a Houthi assault at the end of last month. …

According to an official estimate from the United Nations, the Saudi air campaign, in addition to fighting on the ground, killed at least 944 people and wounded a further 3,487 between March 19 and April 17. Many of the casualties have been civilians, including women and children, killed when air strikes in residential areas destroyed their homes.

Two air strikes on Tuesday killed approximately 40 people, mostly civilians. A strike on a bridge in Ibb province killed at least 20 people, while an air strike in the northern city of Haradah killed 13 civilians and seven soldiers. The death toll from the bombing of a weapons depot that flattened a residential neighborhood in Sanaa on Monday was raised to 38. The Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry reported that in all 84 people were killed by air strikes throughout the country Monday. …

As the Saudi-led operations entered a new phase Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement warning that Yemen, already deeply impoverished prior to the Saudi assault, faces the “imminent collapse” of its health care system.

Fighting on the ground, as well as a naval blockade being enforced by the Saudi-led coalition and the US, has resulted in a serious shortage of medical supplies, clean drinking water and fuel. Aid flights have been limited by a no-fly zone enforced by coalition warplanes over the country, creating the conditions for a potential health catastrophe.

Vital power infrastructure throughout the country, necessary for pumping clean water from underground aquifers, has been knocked out, contributing to a deepening of the shortage of clean drinking water in the country.

Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, the WHO Representative for Yemen, stated that over the last four weeks the number of cases of bloody diarrhea in children under the age of five had doubled due to a lack of access to clean drinking water. He also reported that there had been an increase in cases of measles and malaria, in addition to heightened rates of malnutrition among women and young children.

The WHO statement warned that power cuts threaten the country’s blood banks and vaccine stockpiles. The loss of Yemen’s vaccine stockpile would increase the risk of the widespread outbreak of communicable diseases such as measles and polio.

The lack of electricity or fuel for generators has severely hindered the maintenance of crucial hospital operations throughout Yemen. According to the WHO, without the return of consistent power, kidney dialysis as well as cardiac and cancer treatment programs are threatened with complete collapse.

SAUDIS STOPS YEMEN BOMBING CAMPAIGN: “Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it was halting a nearly month-old bombing campaign against a rebel group in neighboring Yemen that has touched off a devastating humanitarian crisis and threatened to ignite a broader regional conflict. The announcement followed what American officials said was pressure applied by the Obama administration for the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations to end the airstrikes.” [NYT]

Translated from Dutch NOS TV correspondent Sander van Hoorn today:

The Saudi bombings did not have any results, except many victims.

Bahrain and the Saudi war on Yemen


This video says about itself:

Yemen: Sanaa’s children protest Saudi-led campaign outside UN building

13 April 2015

A group of Yemeni children gathered outside the United Nations (UN) office in Sanaa, Monday, to protest against the continued Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen. One of the children, Al-Kassim ibn Hussain, condemned the Saudi [royal] family as “filthy and corrupt” and vowed that “they will witness defeat very soon”. Despite the ongoing fighting, protester Kassam al-Gharah swore to continue to smile to show that “we are not a people of hate or animosity”.

From the International Business Times:

Bahrain Grand Prix: War in Yemen will have major repercussions in Arab Gulf and beyond

By Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

April 17, 2015 12:31 BST

Six children were among the first to die when Saudi Arabia began its war with an air strike against Yemen’s Houthi rebels on March 25.

The actions of Saudi Arabia and its allies – including Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain – are facilitating a humanitarian crisis in the fractured country.

Yemen was already in a bad enough state when Saudi Arabia declared its intervention. Internally, it was a tinder box and only a week before the war began, Islamic State-aligned terrorists bombed a mosque in Houthi-controlled Sana’a, killing at least 137 people.

For Saudi [Arabia] and its allies to intervene in Yemen is a tragedy upon an already tragically fractured country.

It isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has intervened in the affairs of one of its neighbours. Just as President Abdrabbuh Mansour fled to Riyadh and (so the Saudis claim) asked for their help, in 2011 the Saudis sent troops into Bahrain, also on the ‘invitation’ of its ruler, where they helped the government forces crush Bahrain’s nascent democratic uprising.

In the four years between these two interventions, Saudi Arabia has also involved itself in the Syrian civil war and joined the coalition against Islamic State, the religious intolerance of which can be directly linked to Saudi Arabia’s own state ideology.

The UK, which under the current government has striven to build economic and military ties with the Gulf (the UAE and Saudi Arabia top the list of importers of British arms, spending over £10bn between them since 2010), has been quietly supportive.

The Foreign Office’s website reveals no statement on Yemen, and the war broke out the week parliament dissolved ahead of the elections, so public statements have been understandably limited.

The only statement I’ve found is on the FCO’s ‘UK in Yemen’ Facebook page which in one paragraph states: “We support the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen following President Hadi’s request for support”, but in another that “the solution to the crisis must be a political one.”

It further argues: “the international community will continue to use diplomatic and humanitarian support to achieve long-term stability, avoid civil war, economic collapse and a deeper humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

‘There are 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia, making up 12% of the population. Ruled by a Sunni monarchy and under a strict interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, Shia are often portrayed as heretics or agents of Riyadh’s major rival, Iran.’

Read Orlando Crowcroft’s take on the language of hatred used against Saudi Shia here.

How these statements can be reconciled with each other is anyone’s guess. Saudi Arabia’s war is short-sighted, opportunistic and wholly self-serving. The only thing it will achieve in Yemen is to ruin any chance for stability and accelerate civil war and economic collapse.

As for a “deeper humanitarian crisis” – Yemen is already at the precipice.

Obama told the New York Times last week that the biggest threats facing the Gulf kingdoms “may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.”

That dissatisfaction is born of the autocratic models of governance in each kingdom. Bahrain, with its active political and rights movements, has already seen that dissatisfaction on the public stage.

Paranoid

The government of Bahrain is so paranoid about political discourse that it has criminalised criticism of the war in Yemen. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is the latest victim, and is now in police custody after criticising the human cost of bombing Yemen.

Two politicians were also arrested after their party criticised the war as unconstitutional, which is an indisputable fact. Whether one sees it as an aggressive or defensive war, article 36 of Bahrain’s constitution forbids aggressive wars and requires parliamentary approval for defensive wars, and the latter was not sought in this case.

Bahrain was the first to consider criticism of the war a crime and to act on this criticism, but the other Gulf States will likely treat dissent in the same way. Does the UK remain supportive of this war in spite of its clear humanitarian and rights repercussions in Yemen and in the Gulf?

Saudi Arabia says it is supporting the legitimate government in Yemen. But it is farcical that a dictatorship should be going around deciding which government is legitimate. These are countries which must look to their own problems before they try to ‘help’ others.

The Obama administration did a good thing when they called for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release, while the UK Foreign Office has made no statement. The US and UK must hold their Gulf allies accountable on all matters. To not do so would be a betrayal of the people of Yemen struggling to survive and to the people of the Gulf struggling for their rights.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and served six months in prison in Bahrain in 2011.

Formula 1’s annual Bahrain Grand Prix opened April 17 to global fanfare, but demonstrators in the small Gulf kingdom off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia have been protesting the motorsports event for weeks, accusing Formula 1’s management of ignoring longstanding human rights abuses in the country: here.

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]

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of President Obama’s announcement Thursday that two hostages of Al Qaeda, an American and an Italian, were killed in a US drone missile strike in Pakistan is the lack of any significant reaction from official political circles or the media. There was a certain amount of tut-tutting in the press and expressions of sympathy for the family of Dr. Warren Weinstein, the longtime aid worker in Pakistan who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda in 2011 and killed by the US government in January 2015. But there was no challenge to the basic premise of the drone missile program: that the CIA and Pentagon have the right to kill any individual, in any country, on the mere say-so of the president. Drone murder by the US government has become routine and is accepted as normal and legitimate by the official shapers of public opinion: here.

On Sunday, the New York Times published a lead article devoted to the Obama administration’s drone assassination program. The article describes a mechanism for state-sanctioned assassination that has become thoroughly bureaucratized and institutionalized: here.