Aletho News


Saudi Arabia’s War on Yemen Comes Home

By Eric Draitser – New Eastern Outlook – 24.06.2015

When Saudi Arabia launched its war against Yemen in March 2015, it presumed that a short, quick, and clean air war would be enough to degrade the alliance of Houthi forces and those loyal to former President Saleh, thereby giving the Saudi-backed government of former President Hadi the necessary space to regain control of the country. However, that simply has not been the case. In fact, not only has the Saudi campaign not achieved these objectives, it has instead precipitated a much more dangerous war which has now spread to Saudi Arabia itself.

Reports from Yemeni sources have confirmed that the Houthis and their allies have launched a number of rockets into Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province while also launching an assault on three military bases in various parts of the country. Of course, the attacks have sent an unmistakable message to Riyadh that there will be a price to pay for the continued bombardment of Yemen; that the Saudis cannot simply act with impunity.

War Spreads Beyond Yemen’s Borders

The fact that Houthi and Saleh forces are able to successfully attack key Saudi military installations has undoubtedly rattled a few nerves in Riyadh. While the recent assaults have not been the first, they have been perhaps the most open demonstration of the military capacity of the Yemeni forces to strike at Saudi assets.

It has been reported that the Houthi-Saleh combined forces have attacked and possibly taken control of a military base in the Southwestern province of Jizan, strategically located on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. While of course embarrassing for the Saudi government, this development is far more than simply a public relations nightmare; it is a strategic disaster. While Yemeni forces have pounded the base in Jizan, there have been scattered reports of Yemeni attacks against other Saudi military installations, including in the East of the country, as well as in the Northwest. If these reports are to be believed, then nearly the entirety of Saudi Arabian territory is within the range and capability of Yemeni rockets.

There is clear progress from the perspective of the Ansarullah movement (aka the Houthis) and their military allies if one compares the attacks they launched back in April, and those they are carrying out today. While there were a number of high profile attempts to break through Saudi defenses on the borders and make significant gains at the time, all such attacks were either entirely repelled or were mostly unsuccessful; however today, less than two months later, Houthi offensives are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, quite predictably, increasingly effective. Although Ansarullah has fired rockets and made offensive moves towards a number of key Saudi installations throughout the country, their major breakthroughs have come in the strategic Jizan province, right near the Yemeni border.

And it remains the areas closest to the border with Yemen where the real concrete gains have been made by the anti-Saudi coalition. Whether the Houthis and their allies are able to take operational control of the Saudi bases, or merely to attack them and flee is somewhat secondary. What is of primary importance is the simple fact that essentially the entire southwestern portion of Saudi Arabia is now under direct threat from the combined Houthi-Saleh forces, in addition to newly formed militias quietly developing inside Saudi Arabia in the area near the Saudi-Yemeni border.

A Saudi Civil War?

The formation of militias committed to waging war against the House of Saud may be the single most troubling development for Riyadh. Perhaps the most significant of these is the so called ‘Ahrar al-Najran’ Movement, a coalition of regional tribes in the southwest of the country that have combined forces with anti-Riyadh Saudi political activists to create an independence movement that has taken up arms against the Saudi government.

Ahrar al-Najran presents a complex problem for the Saudis because it is comprised primarily of tribes whose lands were originally within Yemeni territory until they were occupied by Saudi forces in 1934. According to Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) :

[The] Ahrar al-Najran Movement [is] calling for independence from Saudi Arabia…Abu Bakr Abi Ahmed al-Salami, a leader of Ahrar al-Najran, says the movement which brings together different tribal groups is set to launch its first battle in parts of south Najran occupied by the Saudi army… There are four main reasons why the movement wants to declare independence from Saudi Arabia:

1. General dissatisfaction in Saudi Arabia with the way officials in Riyadh handle day-to-day administration of affairs,

2. Riyadh’s policy to keep the south impoverished,

3. Aggression against Yemen and the massacre of defenseless people there by the Saudi regime,

4. Failure of the Saudi government to view the residents of the south as first-class citizens, thus violation [sic] of their legitimate rights.

Needless to say, from the perspective of the Saudis, a nascent independence movement within their borders is just about the worst possible outcome of their decision to wage war on Yemen. And considering the already tense situation in the majority Shia province of Qatif, it seems Saudi Arabia has become a political powder keg just waiting for a spark. Undoubtedly the Ansarullah Movement understands this perfectly well, and is now preparing to make its move, matches in hand.

Indeed, while the Saudis will likely move quickly to assert control over the southwestern regions, the Shias of the east – undoubtedly with a bit of tacit and/or overt support from the Houthis – might find this an opportune moment to begin organizing themselves into more than just periodic demonstrations and upsurges of righteous indignation to be quickly met with vicious force.

It should be remembered that recent months have seen violent raids and clashes between Saudi security forces and residents throughout the Qatif province of Eastern Saudi Arabia, the most violent of which having taken place in the town of Awamiyah. In response to protests against Riyadh’s war on Yemen, the regime’s security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown that perhaps most accurately could be called violent suppression. As one activist and resident of Awamiyah told the Middle East Eye back in April, “From 4pm until 9pm the gunfire didn’t stop… Security forces shot randomly at people’s homes, and closed all but one of the roads leading in and out of the village… It is like a war here – we are under siege.” A number of videos uploaded to YouTube seem to confirm the accounts of activists, though all eyewitness accounts remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

Such actions as those described by activists in Awamiyah, and throughout Qatif, are nothing new. Over the last few years, the province has repeatedly seen upsurges of protests against the draconian policies of the government in Riyadh. Were such protests to once again erupt, and were they to coincide with the burgeoning Sunni independence movement in the Southwest, one could then rightly characterize the unrest as a general uprising: truly a nightmare scenario for the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has taken a tremendous toll on that impoverished country, with untold thousands of casualties, countless families displaced, infrastructure devastated, and the delivery of basic services slowed to a trickle, if not cut off altogether. The Saudis have perpetrated a flagrantly illegal aggression against the nation and people of Yemen, committing a laundry list of war crimes that the world has, by and large, completely ignored. But the Saudis may have to pay a price for this crime, a price far higher than they likely ever imagined.

The House of Saud may have control over the oil, and thereby control over the peninsula, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it does not have total control over its people. And, while no one knows whether a true general uprising in Saudi Arabia will come to pass, the war in Yemen might possibly be the spark that finally sets the oil drum ablaze.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

EU drafts plan to counter Russian media ‘disinformation’, targeting RT

RT | June 24, 2015

The EU has drafted a plan to counter what it sees as “Russian disinformation activities” calling for the promotion of EU policies in the post-Soviet space and the implementation of measures against Russian media, including RT.

The nine-page paper drafted by the EU Foreign Service and obtained by EUobserver was prepared ahead of the June 25-26 summit and is set to be voted on by EU leaders on Thursday.

The plan is aimed at tackling Russia’s “use and misuse of communication tools” and the “promotion of EU policies” in former Soviet states as well as support for “independent media” and “increased public awareness of disinformation activities by external actors,” the report says.

It specifically mentions RT, which according to the report broadcasts “fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities.”

“The EU … will work to improve co-operation between national regulators, including through meetings of the European Regulators Group”, it adds.

The European Commission also plans to “table a new legislative proposal to improve the regulatory environment and take account of current challenges,” according to the draft.

The plan says that the EU Foreign Service will create a special cell to spearhead the activities called East StratComTeam by September. It will distribute information in Russian and in local languages in the EU’s eastern neighborhood, in countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at the EU over the report, saying that the proposed plan is violating the right to freedom of expression and creating conditions of total discrimination against Russian media.

The draft plan presented on Tuesday is “clearly aimed at pushing out Russia’s presence in the international media field,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “Following the introduction of restrictive measures against Russian journalists the EU is trying to create conditions for the total discrimination of Russian media.”

While the Western media is speaking in one voice, the EU is trying to push out one of the few alternative sources of information, said RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.

“The EU is actively trying to shut out RT, to stifle a rare alternative voice in international news media,” she said.

“It’s not enough that there are hundreds of Western newspapers, TV channels, websites and radio stations, all beaming the same take on what is going on in the world. The UK has created a 1,500-strong army unit to, among other things, fight Russia in the social media space. NATO has a special taskforce dedicated to countering Russia’s influence. Deutsche Welle just launched a 24-hour English-language news channel that’s supposed to compete directly with RT – despite the global presence of Euronews, BBC World News and CNN International.”

“If despite all these efforts the EU is still concerned with “losing the information war” to Russia, perhaps the time has come for it to realize that people around the world simply no longer believe their same tired, one-sided narratives of current events,” said Simonyan.

The EU project was previously discussed in March, however no details were revealed at the time. The EU announced its plans following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea to lawmakers for more money to tackle the so-called Russian propaganda in February.

Speaking before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on February 26, he urged for the setting up of “democracy promotion” programs around the world.

“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry said apparently forgetting that Voice of America has been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.

Though the US government media receives $721 million a year, in the budget proposal submitted by Kerry, the Department of State asked for “$639 million to help our friends in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek to strengthen their democracies, withstand pressure from Russia, and to integrate more closely into Europe.”

By contrast RT’s budget for 2015 is about $225 million. The BBC World Service, which complained about RT “winning the information war” in January, is funded to the tune of $375 million a year.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

Not OK, Google! Covert installations of ‘eavesdropping tool’ raise alarm

RT | June 24, 2015

Open source developers and privacy campaigners are raising concerns over the automatic installation of a shady “eavesdropping tool” designed to enable ‘OK Google’ functionality but potentially capable of snooping on any conversation near the computer.

When one installs an open source Chromium browser, as it turns out, it “downloads something” followed by a status report that says “Microphone: Yes” and “Audio Capture Allowed: Yes,” according to an article by Rick Falkvinge, Swedish Pirate Party founder, published on the website Privacy Online News.

While the Chromium, the open source basis for Google’s browser, at least shows the code and allows user to notice it and turn it off, the same installation is included by default in the most popular browser Chrome, used by over 300 million people.

The code was designed to enable the new “OK, Google” hot word detection, which lets the computer do things like search or create reminders in response to human voice. Yet, some users are worried that the service could be activated without their permission, eventually sending recorded data to Google. The worried users describe the Chrome Hotword Shared Module as an audio-snooping “black box”, with only the corporation that provided it fully aware of what the injected pre-compiled code is capable of.

“Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room,” wrote Falkvinge.

“Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by … an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.”

“We don’t know and can’t know what this black box does,” he added.

The users’ complaints were received with the Google developers’ words that: “While we do download the hot word module on startup, we do not activate it unless you opt in to hot wording.” They also underlined the fact that “Chromium is not a Google product. We do not directly distribute it, or make any guarantees with respect to compliance with various open source policies”.

However, according to Falkvinge, the default install will still “wiretap your room without your consent, unless you opt out, and more importantly, know that you need to opt out, which is nowhere a reasonable requirement.”

While the fact that the voice recognition module is always listening does not mean it transmits all the data to Google’s servers, Falkvinge argues that no one knows what other keywords could trigger the feature on.

The only reliable measure against mass surveillance, according to the first Pirate Party leader, is a manual disabling of the microphone and camera on the computer with a hardware switch.

The latest voice search functions have raised the concerns of privacy advocates, as their use presupposes the sending of voice recordings to company servers, as well as the controversy over the continuous recognition to catch the moment a user says the ‘hot’ phrase.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Former Colombian Commander Investigated for Extrajudicial Killings

teleSUR | June 23, 2015

The former commander of Colombia’s National Army, General Mario Montoya, was called in for interrogation on Tuesday over his alleged role in thousands of extrajudicial killings that were carried by the country’s security forces to be presented as guerrilla fighters killed during clashes.

His interrogation is set for July 16. The scandal, dubbed False Positives, began in 2008 and is still being investigated by the Colombian authorities. But already more than 400 army commanders, 800 unit commanders and almost 3,000 soldiers have been formally indicted.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Montoya would be questioned given that the killings occurred under his authority, and could be charged for failing to effectively overview the actions that led to the killings. Another three retired commanders were also called for questioning by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Montoya has still pending charges, regarding his links to the now defunct paramilitary group Colombian Self-Defense Force (AUC), a group that killed tens of thousands of civilians throughout its existence. The false positives became such a common practice during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe that by 2007, more than 40 percent of registered combat kills were in fact murdered civilians dressed in fatigue.

In exchange for the killings, generals were awarded vacations and cash prices. Uribe vowed to destroy the FARC guerrilla using military strength, instead of trying to negotiate with the group through peace talks as other presidents had done in the past.

It is estimated that around 3,000 civilians were extra-judicially murdered by the Colombian army.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Pentagon rewrites ‘Law of War’ declaring ‘belligerent’ journalists as legitimate targets

RT | June 24, 2015

The Pentagon has released a book of instructions on the “law of war,” detailing acceptable ways of killing the enemy. The manual also states that journalists can be labeled “unprivileged belligerents,” an obscure term that replaced “enemy combatant.”

The 1,176-page “Department of Defense Law of War Manual” explains that shooting, exploding, bombing, stabbing, or cutting the enemy are acceptable ways of getting the job done, but the use of poison or asphyxiating gases is not allowed.

Surprise attacks and killing retreating troops have also been given the green light.

But the lengthy manual doesn’t only talk about protocol for those on the frontline. It also has an extensive section on journalists – including the fact that they can be labeled terrorists.

“In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents,” the manual states.

The term “unprivileged belligerents” replaces the Bush-era term “unlawful enemy combatant.”

When asked what this means, professor of Journalism at Georgetown Chris Chambers told RT that he doesn’t know, “because the Geneva Convention, other tenets of international law, and even United States law – federal courts have spoken on this – doesn’t have this thing on ‘unprivileged belligerents’.”

This means that embedded journalists, who are officially sanctioned by the military and attached to a unit, will be favored by an even greater degree than before. “It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side,” Chambers said.

Even the Obama Administration’s definition of “enemy combatant” was vague enough, basically meaning any male of a military age who “happens to be there,” Chambers added.

The manual also deals with drones, stating that there is “no prohibition in the law of war on the use of remotely piloted aircraft (also called “unmanned aerial vehicles”).” Such weapons may offer certain advantages over the weapons systems. It states that drones can be designated as military aircraft if used by a country’s military.

The book includes a foreword from the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Stephen Preston, who states that “the law of war is part of who we are.” He goes on to say that the manual will “help us remember the hard-learned lessons from the past.”

The manual is the Pentagon’s first all-in-one legal guide for the four military branches. Previously, each sector was tasked with writing their own guidelines for engagement, which presumably did not list journalists as potential traitors.

The Pentagon did not specify the exact circumstances under which a journalist might be declared an unprivileged belligerent, but Chambers says he is sure “their legal department is going over it, as is the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.”

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

New documents yet more evidence of UK & European role in US drone strikes

Reprieve | June 24, 2015

The Guardian and the New York Times have today revealed the existence of documents showing the contribution made by UK intelligence agency GCHQ to US drone strikes in Yemen.

The British Government has to date refused to comment on its role in such strikes, describing them consistently as “a matter for the Yemeni and US Governments.”

However, legal charity Reprieve has previously raised concerns over European complicity in covert drone strikes – considered by many experts to be in violation of international law – through the sharing of intelligence and the provision of infrastructure.

In Germany, Reprieve has helped civilian drone strike victim Faisal bin ali Jaber to bring a case against the Government over the role played in Yemen strikes by the military base at Ramstein.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Reprieve unearthed a contract showing that a high-tech data link had been provided between RAF Croughton – a base leased by the US in Lincolnshire – and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, from where US strikes against Yemen have reportedly been launched.

Commenting, Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “This is yet more damning evidence of the key role played by the UK in the illegal US drone war. This campaign has taken place in the shadows, killing hundreds of civilians while leaving their families with no access to justice. President Obama won’t even confirm it is taking place; while the UK and Germany follow his lead by stonewalling questions on the part they play. It is time Europe came clean on the support it provides to this misguided campaign, which the evidence suggests is making the world a more dangerous place for all of us.”

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt to burn all books by Brotherhood scholars

MEMO | June 23, 2015

The head of the religious sector at Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments, Mohamed Abdel Razek, has announced that the ministry will burn all books and exegeses written by Muslim Brotherhood scholars.

In a press statement released on Monday, Abdel-Razek said that his ministry plans to burn the “poisonous books” written by Sheikh Hassan Al-Banna, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Sayyid Qutb and other Brotherhood leaders, as well as books written by other Islamist groups.

The Minister of Endowments Mohammad Mukhtar Juma on Saturday issued a decision to examine and conduct an inventory of the books at religious and public libraries across the country so as to “cleanse” them of books considered to contradict the tolerant nature of Islam.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Israel backs bill to allow secret police interrogations to continue

MEMO | June 24, 2015

The Israeli Knesset is to extend a temporary bill that permits police interrogators not to use audio or video recordings to document interrogations of people suspected of security offences, reported yesterday.

The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) condemned the measure and sent a letter to the Israeli Public Prosecutor and the government’s Judicial Advisor demanding they appeal against the bill.

“This amounts to severe violation of basic prisoners’ rights, including the legal right to remain dignified and have just judicial measures,” Adalah said. “Extending this bill clearly undermines any opportunity to monitor the legality of interrogation measures and confessions raised to the court.”

The Israeli Knesset approved a bill in 2002 demanding security services document the questioning of any prisoner who may get more than ten years in prison for his crimes. The bill included an article which made such documentation unnecessary in cases of security-related offences.

According to Adalah, this article was a temporary measure agreed to remain in place for six years. In 2008, the Knesset extended it until 2012 and then it was extended to 2015. Adalah said Palestinian prisoners are affected most by this article.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel issues 30 administrative detention orders during June

Palestine Information Center – June 24, 2015

9c9350ee-bac7-4b6b-be4e-00270b836e3bAL-KHALIL – Israeli courts issued, since the beginning of June, 30 administrative detention orders against Palestinian prisoners from al-Khalil, Prisoners Media Center said.

The center stated that 43% of administrative detainees held currently without charge or trial in Israeli jails are from al-Khalil.

As a whole, there are 450 administrative detainees in Israeli jails including four MPs.

The center pointed out that Israeli administrative detention policy mainly targets youth activists, students, MPs, and prisoners’ defenders as an attempt to prevent them from exposing the reported Israeli human rights violations.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UNHRC report restricts Palestinian anti-colonial struggle

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | June 23, 2015

Following its insensitive and macabre efforts to downplay the repercussions and atrocities of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has now attempted to ridicule the UN Human Rights Council report on last summer’s aggression. The report, which Israel pronounced as “morally flawed”, has accused both Israel and Palestinian resistance groups of war crimes, contradicting Israel’s “internal investigation” that justified every intentionally targeted civilian death as collateral damage and thus, bequeathing impunity to the state’s false morality conjectures.

While drawing attention to state complicity with regard to war crimes committed by Israel, the report employs the same non-committal rhetoric that shifts evidence towards the realm of probability. “Directing attacks against civilians constitutes a violation of the principle of distinction and may amount to a war crime.” Such statements indicate that the report’s value will probably serve as some form of heightened awareness and confirmation of the massacre that took place last summer but fail to provide a foundation with which to hold Israel accountable for its premeditated actions.

A statement released by the Israeli Foreign Minister criticised the UNHRC report, stating it was “commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate.” Additionally, the statement attempts to reinforce the internationally-adopted drivel that seeks to create a false dimension of morality and terror. Quoted in the Times of Israel, the Israeli Foreign Ministry statement reads: “It is regrettable that the report fails to recognise the profound difference between Israel’s moral behaviour during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organisations it confronted.”

So moral, in fact, that the report juxtaposes widespread destruction, displacement and murder committed by the Israeli army, against the “trauma” allegedly endured by Israeli settlers of siren sounds and fear of being “attacked at any moment by gunmen bursting out of the ground” – the latter with reference to the tunnel network utilised by Palestinian resistance and which was annihilated by Israel in its quest to prevent Palestinians from making legitimate use of their territory within historic Palestine.

Predictably, Israel deemed the report biased, despite its refusal to participate and cooperate with the commission during its investigations. Netanyahu has instead accused the UNHRC of slander – a predictable response that is well ingrained in Israel’s international repertoire and also rendered evident in recent altercations with the organisation.

It is disconcerting, albeit expected, to observe that the UNHRC’s use of language falls into the same confines of affirming war crimes yet at the same time allowing Israel to navigate the obscure parameters that still provide impunity. This is particularly evident in the report’s recommendations to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, as well Palestinian resistance movements. Calling upon Israel to abide by international law when its very existence is an infringement of that law renders the recommendations ludicrous, allowing Israel the opportunity to colonise further territory as long as certain requirements and definitions are implemented.

Conversely, the UNHRC report expects Palestinians to relinquish their anti-colonial struggle – in other words, “to stop all rocket attacks and other actions that may spread terror among Israeli civilians.” The UNHRC report is indeed biased, yet employs hypocritical subtlety in order to disguise its role as part of the international agenda that makes no distinction between civilians and a settler population willingly complicit in Israeli state violence.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment